In a recent Ron Paul interview at National Review Online, the magazine outlined some of the ways in which the 11-term Texas Congressman has always been out of sync with the mainstream Republican Party and conservative movement, determining that Paul was “unquestionably a little weird.” Is this true? Is Ron Paul “weird?”
Paul was so weird during his 2008 bid for the GOP nomination for president that the Republican Party wouldn’t even let him in the door at their national convention. Yet, Sen. Joe Lieberman — a big government liberal who’d been Al Gore’s running mate on the 2000 Democrat presidential ticket — was given a prime-time speaking role. Few mainstream Republicans thought this was “weird.”
Four months before the 2008 Republican convention, columnist Larry Kudlow gushed over Lieberman at National Review‘s “The Corner” under the headline, “Joe Lieberman: Absolutely Brilliant.” Wrote Kudlow: “Sen. Joe Lieberman gave a brilliant speech last night at Commentary magazine’s annual dinner at the University Club in New York. It was one hell of a great talk. Joe Lieberman was incredibly impressive. Absolutely brilliant. Mr. Lieberman talked at some length about how the Democratic party has completely departed from the strong national-security principles of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy… It was a tour-de-force speech that impressed me once again with the brilliance of Joe Lieberman. Frankly, he would make a good president.”
Lieberman “brilliant?” Has anyone at National Review ever called the much more conservative Paul “brilliant” or suggested he’d make a good president? At the time, did anyone think it was “weird” that someone at National Review would say this about Lieberman? Were such conservatives even concerned about Lieberman’s overall big government agenda that he had advocated for his entire political career? Or were Lieberman’s hawkish foreign-policy views so attractive to certain establishment conservatives, at National Review and elsewhere, that they were willing to form political alliances with fairly liberal candidates based solely on foreign policy-at the expense of everything else?
Ask John McCain.
In protest, Paul ended up holding a counter convention across the street from the Republican convention, the theme of which centered on returning to fiscal sanity, constitutional government, and a more humble foreign policy. Weird stuff indeed. In the 2010 midterm elections, the rhetoric from the Tea Party sounded a lot closer to Paul’s convention than the war rally the Republican Party held in 2008. In fact, today McCain and other Republicans who shunned Paul in 2008 now try to sound a lot more like him, constantly fearing the Tea Party’s ballot-box wrath.
Did anyone think it was weird that National Review would endorse Mitt Romney in the 2008 GOP presidential primaries, despite the former Massachusetts governor not having any conservative record to stand on, which included his pro-choice stance, advocacy for gay rights, anti-2nd amendment positions, and tacit support of amnesty for illegal aliens? How about government-run healthcare in Massachusetts, or “Romneycare,” which served as the model for Obamacare? Of course, Romney flipped on these issues when he decided to run for president, or as National Review would admit in their endorsement of Romney, “Some conservatives question his sincerity. It is true that he has reversed some of his positions.” Some? How about all of them, or at least those of most concern to conservatives. Romney also supported TARP and defends it to this day-which has become political kryptonite in the new Tea Party environment.
But what about Ron Paul, who is far more socially conservative, staunchly pro-life, consistently for the 2nd amendment, against amnesty and has always opposed government-run healthcare and TARP? He’s “weird.” Unquestionably.
And National Review has a point. Ron Paul is indeed weird compared to a Republican Party in 2008 so obsessed with the Iraq war that they didn’t mind supporting guys like Lieberman or McCain, were willing to embrace political chameleons like Romney, or turn a blind eye to the doubling of government and debt under Bush. Throughout all this craziness, Ron Paul’s limited government principles remained the same, making him the odd man out in a conservative movement gone mad. Now that the war narrative that was so popular under Bush has lost its luster, these same establishment Republicans are trying to play catch up ball with the Tea Party, changing their respective tunes accordingly, with McCain perhaps being a perfect example. But Ron Paul doesn’t have to play catch up ball. He’s the same old budget-cutting, government-slashing Republican he’s been since he first entered public office, a Tea Partier since day one. Weird.
Paul used to be virtually alone among Republicans in his fight to audit the Federal Reserve. Not anymore. On limiting government and voting constitutionally, Paul was considered an “extremist” even by most in his own party. Now the grassroots is closer to Paul’s “extremism” than not. On foreign policy, it is true that conservatives have not come to fully embrace Paul’s non-interventionism-but they’re not exactly embracing Joe Lieberman anymore either. Are conservatives becoming “weirder?” Or has Paul been right about many of these issues all along, something more conservatives are beginning to concede?
Truth be told, from the last election to today, the degree to which Paul has been out of sync with his party and the larger conservative movement has more often reflected where everyone but Ron Paul has strayed from conservative principles. National Review is correct to note that the congressman is weird among conservatives — Ron Paul has never been as confused, hypocritical or politically schizophrenic as the larger conservative movement. Weird.