Sunday, July 22, 2012
The Honor of Ron Paul
I guess I’ve known Ron Paul for a quarter of a century now, and I don’t remember how we met. My first memory of him is a quiet dinner on Capitol Hill, during the Reagan years. He told me with dry humor of being the only member of Congress to vote against some bill Reagan wanted passed. For Ron it was a matter of principle, and he was under heavy pressure to change his vote.
What amused him was that the Democrats didn’t mind his voting against it; all the pressure came from his fellow Republicans, professed conservatives, who were embarrassed that anyone should actually stand up for their avowed principles when it was unpopular to do so.
That was Ron Paul for you. Still is. The whole country is getting to know him now, and the Republicans still want to get rid of him. The party’s hacks, led by Newt Gingrich, have even tried in vain to destroy him in his own Texas district.
They’re right, in a way. He doesn’t belong in a party that has made conservative a synonym for destructive. George Will calls him a “useful anachronism” because he actually believes, as literally as circumstances permit, in the U.S. Constitution. In his unassuming way, without priggery or histrionics, he stands alone.
He may have become at last what he has always deserved to be: the most respected member of the U.S. Congress. He is also the only Republican candidate for president who is truly what all the others pretend to be, namely, a conservative. His career shows that a patriotic, pacific conservatism isn’t a paradox.
If they can’t expel Ron Paul from the party, they can at least deny him the nomination. The GOP front-runner, Rudy Giuliani, who says he hates abortion more than any other constitutional right (or words to that effect), went into raptures of phony indignation during the first “debate” when Paul said simply that the 9/11 attacks were a natural result of U.S. foreign policy. The pundits applauded the demagogue, but millions of viewers were thrilled to find one honest man on that crowded stage. (By the way, Paul is a doctor who has delivered thousands of babies and never killed one.)
Ron — I’m very proud to call him my friend — fares well not only in comparison with the party’s sorry current candidates, but also with its legendary conservative giants, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. He lacks their charisma and of course Reagan’s matchless charm, but he excels them both in consistency, depth, historical awareness, courage, and honor. Heaven grant him some of Reagan’s luck!
Which brings us to the big question: does Ron Paul have a prayer? Well, he may have a prayer, but that’s about it. He doesn’t have a billion dollars; delivering babies, often free of charge, is not the way to amass a staggering fortune. He has nothing to offer the special and foreign interests who pour millions into Rudy’s and Hillary’s coffers. Sorry, this isn’t a Frank Capra movie.
But virtue — honor — is rare enough to be an asset, especially when the two big parties don’t have much of it. If both offer pro-war, pro-abortion New York liberals next year, there could be an urgent demand for a third option, especially since Giuliani could smash what’s left of the Bush-riddled GOP coalition while Hillary remains, well, Hillary.
What if Ron Paul runs for president on, say, the Constitution Party ticket? Who knows? I can only attest that to know him is to love him, and knowing him for many years has only deepened the esteem I felt for him when we were both much younger men. This is a man who strikes deep chords in people’s hearts.
Every attempt to portray him as an extremist, or even eccentric, founders on his palpable probity and wisdom. His words are the carefully measured words of one given to meditation. Ron Paul is a man you listen closely to.
The odds are heavily against his being elected president next year. But if he is on the ballot in November, the odds are far heavier against his candidacy’s being forgotten. He will say things worth pondering long after the votes are cast.
Until now, the GOP has been able to contain Paul by pretending he wasn’t there. But the silent treatment can no longer stifle this soft-spoken man. He has been proved right too often.