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Paul, a 10-term congressman from southeast Texas and a pure-blood Constitution-heeding libertarian, favors relations with Cuba, so he attracts trade-minded capitalists. He vows to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, which stirs both serious-minded tax critics and the ranting-agin-the-gummint zanies. Dr. Paul is a buy with the antiwar Left because he opposed the Iraq invasion and wants the troops home immediately. And get ’em back from Korea, Japan and Europe while we’re at it. Home-schoolers cheer when he pledges to close the Department of Education. An obstetrician who opposes abortion, Dr. Paul has the pro-lifers aboard. Enviros are gleeful when he says “all subsidies and special benefits to energy companies should be ended.” Deficit worriers fist-pump in coiled passion when he calls for an end to profligate spending.
Then there’s my crowd: those pleased to take nourishment from whichever unconventional politician is dispensing mouthfuls of candor. I met Ron Paul when he arrived in Washington in the mid-’70s. Likable, he was unscripted, not a temporizer and assuredly apart from the usual dross that Texas sends to Congress: Think Tom Delay, Dick Armey, John Tower, Phil Gramm. I found Ron Paul oddly sensible and sensibly odd.
The New Republic story -- old hat and long discredited in southeast Texas but new to the country at large -- has no legs. FOX News, which staged the South Carolina debate, never bothered to ask Paul about it.
One of my favorite stories about the congressman is his vote against awarding a congressional medal in honor of Rosa Parks. As eyebrows rose -- what, you don’t like the sainted troublemaker? -- Mr. Paul explained that he was all for the medal. But instead of using tax money to pay for it, he proposed that members of Congress kick in $100 of their personal money, as he would be the first to do. He had no takers.
Campaigning on, Mr. Paul tells audiences that he has trouble figuring out how to spend all the money he gets. I’ve an idea: Put aside a few grand to strike a medal in honor of his candidacy. Call it the Ron Paul Medal of Mettle.