Ron Paul, aka the invisible candidate
In last weekend's Iowa Straw Poll of GOP presidential candidates, the Texas congressman had an exceptionally strong showing, finishing a mere 152 votes behind the winner, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.Mrs. Bachmann - or the "Queen of Rage," as Newsweek magazine dubbed her - followed her Saturday triumph with Sunday talk show interviews on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News Channel and CNN. Ron Paul appeared on none.
Tim Pawlenty, immediately dropped out of the race for the nomination, triggering daylong media coverage about his departure. Again, the fact that Ron Paul won several times as many Iowan straw poll votes as he did four years ago was, surprise, ignored.
That he won twice as many votes as Tim Pawlenty and nearly as many as Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum combined didn't prevent pundits from repeatedly claiming that a "top tier" of Republican candidates has been established in the persons of Mrs. Bachmann, Mr. Romney and Mr. Perry.
This sent Jon Stewart into one of his memorable video-punctuated rants on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." After some clips of news anchors and reporters reciting this "top tier" mantra, Mr. Stewart asked, "How did libertarian Ron Paul become the 13th floor of a hotel?"
Mr. Stewart showed other examples of media scorn for Mr. Paul, including the facial expressions of Fox News anchor Brett Baier at the recent GOP presidential debate after the candidate's excoriation of the current spate of imperial wars in which we are mired. There was a loud, mixed audience response to what Dr. Paul said, but just rolled eyes and a smirk from the moderator, Mr. Baier.
What happened this week is another vivid example of what happens to political candidates who differ with the political establishment on basic premises. Every effort is made to marginalize such people, and since Ron Paul not only opposes our wars but also calls for an end to the Federal Reserve and a return to the gold standard, he is quite the apostate.
He also believes in other things that are anathema to the establishment leadership, such as the right of individual states to decide whether to legalize prostitution, marijuana and gay marriage. It's safe to say this also distances him from the Republican base.
Debating Ron Paul on the merits is a task too difficult for the other candidates. Even the talking heads won't do it. Instead, they portray him as crazy old Uncle Ron, down from the attic. So that's what's happening now. Were it not for the Internet, this would work just fine. As it is, he'll be around to annoy the Guardians of Correct Thought for quite a while as the 2012 campaign rolls on.
I've suggested before that it's good to understand that only properly vetted pols are allowed the opportunity to win the White House. Some people, in their na?vet?, might say that's not true, that the person who wins the most votes gets the victory. Please. If the opinion shapers get after somebody, they can easily destroy or sufficiently damage a candidate to ruin his or her chances.
If circumstances are dire enough, an unapproved candidate could win, I suppose. But it really hasn't happened yet in what remains of this republic. Politics is an insider's game, often played by insiders posing as outsiders.
Presidential candidates have often found it helpful to campaign against "Washington." Ronald Reagan called the government the enemy but did nothing to curb its growth in his two terms in office. Jimmy Carter came from relative obscurity with his Calvinistic vision of purifying Washington, but soon learned he was in way over his head, though he probably thought it was a failure of the American people, not his own, that prevented his reelection.
Now in the establishment's gun sights is the newest GOP hopeful, Texas Governor Perry. He professes disgust for 'Washington." Can they shoot him down? It's going to be fun to watch.
Ron Smith's column appears on Fridays. His email is email@example.com.