His dovish stance on the war on terror and his support for earmarking (the gateway drug to huge spending) won’t wear well with newly inspired activists worried about federal spending and the debt. Either you are a fiscal conservative, or you’re not. Unfortunately, Ron Paul is not at the most basic level. ~Sean Noble

This nicely captures the incoherence of the Republican anti-Paul critique. In this view, Paul is far too hostile to the warfare state and the tremendous costs it imposes on the public, which are not just fiscal but extend to lost civil liberties as well. Somehow, this is seen as incompatible with being “worried about federal spending and the debt,” as if military spending had nothing to do with either one. Despite his career of voting against pretty much every expansion of government and constantly voting for spending reductions, Paul is deemed insufficiently fiscally conservative because he has defended the use of the dreaded earmark. Earmarks are the targets of people who like to pretend they care about spending so that they can avoid advocating genuinely unpopular spending cuts. So-called fiscal conservatives who obsess over earmarks but ignore real entitlement reform, which would be almost all of them in Congress, have no business lecturing anyone about fiscal responsibility or fiscal conservatism. Obviously, if Ron Paul does not qualify as a fiscal conservative, no one does.

It has never made much sense to me that there can be people who are furious with “big government” for excessive spending but who simultaneously have no problem vesting the same government with virtually limitless power to seize, detain, wiretap, attack and kill just about anyone it wants to target. Paul is “dovish” on these things because he applies the same skepticism and opposition to unchecked and concentrated power used in the name of national security that he applies to the government’s other activities. Noble’s “worried” activists are people who are very familiar with the old line about a government big enough to give you everything you want, but they seem not to understand that the same danger of unchecked power is even greater when it applies to the government’s power to spy on communications, imprison and mistreat suspects, and start wars. If Paul’s opposition to these government encroachments and abuses of power do not “wear well” with many activists, it is the activists who ought to reflect on how they reconcile their deference to the security and warfare state with their stated desire for reducing the size and scope of government.

We may hope that the movement Ron Paul began does continue on beyond his time in office. As he said many times during his campaign and since then, it was the message he was delivering that inspired the movement. Even so, it would be a serious mistake to try to run off or marginalize the most visible political leader in this movement, and it would be especially misguided to do it for the reasons Noble gives here.