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The Ornery Observer
January 6, 2012

The Paul Phenomenon
by Paul Gottfried

fitzgerald griffin foundation

Ron Paul

ELIZABETHTOWN, PA — Listening to Charles Krauthammer on TV explaining the surging popularity of Ron Paul, I was deeply impressed by the prudence displayed by this usually partisan commentator. Unlike other neoconservatives, Krauthammer recognizes that the Paul-phenomenon is not about to go away. Least of all can it be made to disappear by dumping toxic waste on the congressman’s reputation, a tactic being pursued by National Review, The Weekly Standard, The American Spectator, and predictably assisted by the liberal national press.

The controversial statements cherry-picked from the Ron Paul Political Report, going back more than twenty years, tells nothing about Paul’s current positions. Most of these comments came from contributors to a publication that Paul did not always read — and when he did not always with care. Perhaps he should have been more attentive to these texts but it’s not clear that what offends his critics was quite as wicked as they suggest.

Am I supposed to be horrified that during the Los Angeles riots in 1992 a comment in the Political Report mentioned that the rioters would stop rioting as soon as they had to collect their welfare checks? I heard similar quips during the riots coming from otherwise impeccably PC academic colleagues. I also discovered, from an undocumented assertion in The Weekly Standard (December 26, 2011), that Paul is the “favorite candidate” of people who believe in “conspiratorial theories.” What the denouncer, James Kirchik, a longtime Paul-detester, really means is that those who doubt the openness of the media are likely to support Paul. Almost all of those who are screaming about Paul’s conspiratorial outlook write for the same publications and appear on the same news programs.

It is also laughable to read in neoconservative publications that although Paul is tolerant of gays, he is uncomfortable with their lifestyle. I would urge neoconservative activists to go back and read the tracts dealing with homosexuals produced by their movement throughout the 1980s. As Gary Dorrien in his massive study The Neoconservative Mind (1993) shows, his subjects acquired influence on the Religious Right because of their passionate crusade against homosexual activism. The mild personal objections ascribed to the seventy-four-year old Paul pale into insignificance next to the indignant assaults on the gay movement that abounded in Commentary and other neoconservative publications, until it became politically useful to change direction in the 1990s.

As for Paul’s remark quoted by The Weekly Standard that the Martin Luther King holiday might be turned into a “hate whitey day,” this observation is all too true. I notice anger being vented every January when the collective sins of white Americans are trotted out (usually by whites). But even if this prediction weren’t true, why does the fact that someone made it over twenty years ago prove that he’s hateful? Ronald Reagan said similar things when the proposal for a King-holiday came up in 1986. The most that could be said against these reservations is that they are no longer fashionable. I’ve no idea why they should disqualify someone from becoming president.

One might further ask why the personal scruples about homosexuality expressed by Paul, a devoutly Protestant septuagenarian, are more controversial than the open opposition to the gay movement that comes from Gingrich, Bachmann and Santorum. Why are the neoconservatives more shocked by Paul’s personal discomfort with gays than with the impassioned campaign against gay rights being waged by other Republican presidential candidates?

Allow me to guess. Unlike these other candidates, Paul is against the global democratic, pro-Zionist foreign policy that is the trademark of other GOP candidates. That is the sticking point, not a medley of twenty-year-old remarks on social subjects that are attributed to Paul by way of his Political Report. Were it not for two problems, Paul’s foreign policy isolationism and his determination to close down government agencies that provide neoconservatives and GOP hangers-on with patronage, no one would be screaming over his alleged faux pas.

These hypocritical outbursts may be taking their toll. Paul’s disappointing third-place finish in the Iowa Caucuses, after leading in the polls, came after two-weeks of pounding from the mostly Republican press. If the GOP regulars and their neoconservative idea-people believe that Paul’s supporters will accept this abuse and then once he’s eliminated, vote for Romney, they are profoundly deluded. After the recent barrage, Paul’s enemies can be sure of two things: there will be a third-party bid and it will help Obama get reelected. While others have been blithely firing away at the “the company Paul keeps,” the far brainier Krauthammer has tried to limit the damage. Krauthammer has recognized that Paul is a force to be reckoned with and a focal point for those on the right who feel alienated from the GOP and its approach to international relations.

Although Krauthammer does not suggest how his side can avert the storm, he nonetheless grasps what he and his persuasion are up against.

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The Ornery Observer is copyright © 2012, by Paul Gottfried and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved.

Paul Gottfried, Ph.D., is the Raffensperger professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.
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