Ron Paul and his enemies

Ron Paul has a way of making conservatives behave like liberals.

They call him names. They grotesquely distort his record. They do their best imitation of an MSNBC host and strangely expect conservatives to join them in their two-minute hate. It is no wonder that the Texas congressman has emerged as the favored conservative alternative to Mitt Romney in Iowa.

New Hampshire Union Leader publisher Joseph McQuaid calls Paul “a dangerous man,” “nuts,” and a leader of the “lunatic fringe.” Couldn’t the newsman have done better than to plagiarize all the epithets that liberals hurled at Tea Party candidates the last go-round?

A Weekly Standard piece bizarrely dubs Dr. No “The Great Society’s Great Defender.” But Paul, who refused Medicare and Medicaid funding as a physician, bravely calls these Great Society programs unconstitutional as a presidential candidate.

Paul proposes $1 trillion in federal cuts for his first year in the White House. Alas, the magazine that touted “big-government conservatism” during the last administration labels Paul’s plan “the most timid fiscal policy put forward by any Republican presidential candidate this year.”

Weakly? Yes. Standards? Not here.

“Ron Paul the liberal, the ultra liberal,” is Dick Morris’s preposterous podcast characterization of the Texas congressman. Morris, the campaign manager for Bill Clinton’s presidential reelection, knows something about liberals. The politico-for-hire bizarrely smeared Paul, an ObGyn who has delivered thousands of babies and performed not a single abortion, as “in favor of abortion-on-demand for any reason publicly paid for.” Is this why Dr. Paul reintroduces the Sanctity of Life Act every Congress?

Ron Paul makes some conservatives uncomfortable, particularly the ones uncomfortable with conservatism. When juxtaposed with Barack Obama, one can’t help but appear conservative. But when standing next to Ron Paul, some “conservatives” start to resemble Obama. We are fidgety and insecure when we are exposed.

The critiques of Paul often tell us more about the critic than the criticized.

Conservatism the banner has never been more popular. But conservatism itself is still politically incorrect even among most people calling themselves conservatives. So many of the liberal policies harming America were spearheaded by self-identified conservatives. The same Republicans who said “yea” to the prescription-drug entitlement, the banker bailout, and McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform implore us to say “nay” to the congressman who voted “nay” to all that. Sometimes it takes a libertarian to teach conservatives about conservatism.

Like liberals, many conservatives are skittish about anyone to their right. They regard their right flank as pariahs, uncouth, beneath contempt even. In other words, they treat Ron Paul the way liberals treat you.

There is a silver lining to the dishonest attacks. They are a tacit admission that the Republican Party has moved in a Ron Paul direction. Paul’s enemies used to call him an extremist for what he actually believes. But highlighting that he seeks to end the Fed, stop nation-building abroad, and eliminate whole departments of the federal bureaucracy just increased his popularity. Now his enemies call him a liberal for positions he doesn’t hold. At least the scribes fantastically casting the congressman as “The Great Society’s Great Defender” now grasp that defending big government isn’t popular among conservatives. This is progress of a sort.

There are valid reasons why a conservative might not check the box next to Ron Paul’s name. He showed himself as an aloof executive in putting his name on a newsletter that included racially snobbish writings. His foreign policy, certainly an upgrade on the bellicose Wilsonianism of the George W. Bush administration, isn’t within the Republican mainstream.

But because one doesn’t share Paul’s gold-standard enthusiasms, or finds his federalism on narcotics laws dopey, doesn’t give one license to go fantasyland and portray him as the type of candidate who would do a commercial on global warming with Nancy Pelosi, inspire Obama to mandate health insurance, or serve as a state chair for Al Gore’s first presidential campaign.

Many conservatives reject Ron Paul for president but are grateful for his presence in Congress. Others support him. Still others resent his political existence. This fevered conservative opposition to his presidential candidacy makes the most shiny-eyed, hyperventilating “Paulbot” appear almost reasonable in comparison (And that’s hard to do). 

Hugh Hewitt condemns Paul’s “nuttery” and says he would vote for Obama over him. Newt Gingrich, whose top Iowa lieutenant likens Paul to a “crazy uncle,” also announced that he wouldn’t vote for the physician-legislator in a race against the community organizer-president.

Ron Paul’s detractors say he is insane. He’s not. But he certainly drives his conservative opponents crazy.