By Brian Doherty
Ron Paul: People talk about him. Here's some recent highlights:
*The Washington Postgives establishment cred to the Paul campaign by profiling his professional adman, the mind behind those anti-Gingrich ads (that this Paul fan fails to love). Some highlights:
Back in July, Republican ad man Jon Downs met with fellow veterans of George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign at a local IHOP for their quarterly professional catch-up.
“He said, ‘Unbeknownst to you guys, I’ve been working and I’ve signed with Ron Paul,’ ” Scott Douglas, a Republican political operative and Downs’s first boss in politics, recalled. “And my mouth dropped.” Douglas said others in the breakfast crew “twitched and laughed” and “rolled their eyes.”
Not anymore. Paul has inched in from the margins to position himself for an unexpectedly strong showing in the Iowa caucuses. His radical economic views are getting a fresh hearing in awful economic times, and his highly organized and well-funded ground game has attracted support beyond his base of young, committed Paul zealots.
But as much as Paul likes to claim that the mainstream has come to him, he has also pursued it. Exhibit A : Downs, a media mercenary who is about as far as it gets from a traditional Paul revolutionary.
“I wouldn’t consider myself a member of his army,” said Downs, a self-described mainstream Republican, as he reclined on a recent evening in his downtown D.C. studio.
But Downs is engineering the campaign’s broadsides......
“Driving eyeballs to our stuff maybe takes a little more work or creativity than if you are Barack Obama or Mitt Romney,” explained the 34-year-old Downs, characteristically rumpled-looking in jeans, a blue sweater and Mephisto shoes. Voters appear to be watching. An American Research Group poll released on Monday showed Gingrich’s lead down five points to 22 percent among Iowa caucus-goers, while Paul and Mitt Romney both climbed to 17 percent.....
Working for Paul is “a great opportunity for me,” Downs acknowledged before pivoting to talk about his admiration of Paul.
It’s also a ticket into the top echelon of sniping media consultants.
“The ads are better than Ron himself — more presidential, substantive and slick,” said Fred Davis, a veteran Republican media consultant who is known for his unorthodox ads — remember “Demon Sheep”? — and who is working for Jon Huntsman.
The ads are, of course, far worse than Ron Paul himself (and despite what Downs says, I think the evidence of Paul action on YouTube both amateur and pro shows that Paul material requires less work or creativity to draw eyes than stuff involving the more boring candidates), who actually has a consistent record of understanding the nature of the fiscal and governing crises we face and how to hack out of them, which the ads don't really demonstrate rigorously, for all their pro color and "serious" attacks on Gingrich while not really explaining, Why Paul?.
This consistent understanding has not won Paul love from Rush Limbaugh, who calls his foreign policy "disastrous" and "just nutty." Does this mean Paul does not fall under the Limbaugh penumbra of protection from all the unconservative nonsense that, say, a Gingrich believes but which Rush professes to not want to attack him on for reasons of preserving the GOP nominee's ability to best best Obama? (What Rush said in the context of attacks on Gingrich last week: "We look at this list of Republican nominees and we take any of them over Obama. So while you and I may have problems with each candidate, some of them more so than others, we still take every one of them. Whoever wins this we're gonna support them." Limbaugh explicitly said this did not mean he was defending Gingrich from the content of the attacks; merely that he thought it was a bad idea for GOPers in good standing to be tearing down any potential candidate.) In possibly related news, Limbaugh seems to have shed nearly a third of his listeners in the past half year.
*Andrew Sullivan openly endorses Ron Paul, over early choice Jon Huntsman:
For a long time, I thought Huntsman would be my ideal candidate. And indeed, his tax reform proposals - modeled on Bowles-Simpson - are dead-on....
On foreign policy, Huntsman also favors a more realist correction to neocon excess, and would build on Obama's remarkable successes, without invoking some of Obama's more worrying bleeding heart tendencies. His longstanding ties to America's most important global partner, China, make him uniquely qualified to take that relationship to a new level. Unlike Romney, he is not for starting a trade war....
So why not Huntsman? The sad truth is: he simply hasn't connected with the voters, generates little enthusiasm, and has run a mediocre campaign. He started timidly, and failed from the get-go to make a clear distinction between him and Romney....
What's most interesting about the language of his Paul endorsement is that it's a guy who absolutely does not agree with Paul on everything and is bothered by aspects of his past being able to treat him like a normal political choice, someone who after deliberation seems on balance best, an act of comparative political intelligence that I've found many Americans can't seem to do with Paul.
I've noticed many people find Paul's very solid ideological consistency proof in some sense that if they disagree with him on anything at all they can't get anywhere near him (a problem that other politicians, more clearly a random grabbag of stances largely based in sociology and the type of people they want to appeal to, don't face--most Americans' political views are similarly a random grabbag of stances). Back to why Sullivan likes Paul:
Which brings me to Ron Paul. Let me immediately say I do not support many of his nuttier policy proposals. I am not a doctrinaire libertarian. Paul's campaign for greater oversight of the Fed is great, but abolition of it is utopian and dangerous. A veto of anything but an immediately balanced budget would tip the US and the world into a serious downturn (a process to get there in one or two terms makes much more sense). Cutting taxes as he wants to is also fiscally irresponsible without spending cuts first. He adds deductions to the tax code rather than abolish them. His energy policy would intensify our reliance on carbon, not decrease it. He has no policy for the uninsured. There are times when he is rightly described as a crank. He has had associations in the past that are creepy when not downright ugly....
[But]I see in Paul none of the resentment that burns in Gingrich or the fakeness that defines Romney or the fascistic strains in Perry's buffoonery. He has yet to show the Obama-derangement of his peers, even though he differs with him. He has now gone through two primary elections without compromising an inch of his character or his philosophy. This kind of rigidity has its flaws, but, in the context of the Newt Romney blur, it is refreshing. He would never take $1.8 million from Freddie Mac. He would never disown Reagan, as Romney once did. He would never speak of lynching Bernanke, as Perry threatened. When he answers a question, you can see that he is genuinely listening to it and responding - rather than searching, Bachmann-like, for the one-liner to rouse the base. He is, in other words, a decent fellow, and that's an adjective I don't use lightly. We need more decency among Republicans.
And on some core issues, he is right. He is right that spending - especially on entitlements and defense - is way out of control. Unlike his peers, he had the balls to say so when Bush and Cheney were wrecking the country's finances, and rendering us close to helpless when the Great Recession came bearing down.
*Bonus Pauliana: why even an anarchist can feel morally justified in voting for Ron Paul.