Ron Paul

The ‘other’ Republican candidate.

Is Congressman Ron Paul 'œbrave or crazy?'' asked The Economist in an editorial. Either way, he might be the most intriguing candidate now running for president. Just two months ago, Republican operatives were wondering aloud whether this eccentric, 71-year-old anti-war libertarian from Texas should even be allowed into the GOP debates. Paul's positions are, in a word, unconventional: He wants to withdraw from the U.N., legalize most drugs, and return to the gold standard. His policy on Iraq? 'œJust leave,' he advises. His unadorned populism has made him a favorite of disaffected college students, gun owners, and Internet activists, and Paul's poll numbers have tripled'”though from a mere 1 percent to 3 percent. That's because Paul is 'œthe one GOP candidate who actually backs individual liberty against government power,' said Andrew Sullivan in TheAtlanticonline. He seems wacky only because the GOP has drifted so far from its small-government, freedom-loving roots.

Paul's not wacky'”but he's wildly impractical, said Michael Dougherty in The American Conservative. The purity of Paul's principles is admittedly admirable: In Congress, he has voted consistently against unnecessary spending, even in his own district. As a practicing obstetrician, Paul even refused to accept payments from Medicare and Medicaid, treating patients for free if necessary. But he has also proposed canceling the census as a violation of privacy, and his foreign policy views come from the old, isolationist school discredited way back in World War II. His position on Iraq is particularly troubling, said Randy Barnett in The Wall Street Journal, even to other libertarians. Most of us believe that the U.S. has the right to self-defense. Whether or not we supported the original invasion, we know that success there 'œwould make America more safe,'' while pulling out would be a boon to Islamic terrorists. Paul is an interesting guy, but he doesn't speak for all libertarians.

Christopher Caldwell

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