I'm no Ron Paul fan. He's a conspiracist crank, an economic Austrian, the most ineffectual multi-term Congressman in recent memory, and perhaps a racist, too. Add to that his supporters' obnoxious tendency to infer victory from stuffed Internet polls, and we have a man who this dyed-in-the-wool, Nozick-reading, third-party-voting, ACLU card-carrying classical liberal considers more of a shame than a credit to his end of the political spectrum.
But reports that he handed victory in the second "debate" among the contenders for the Republican nomination for President to Rudy Giuliani are premature. Giuliani may have gotten the best possible knee-jerk response, but on reflection he's being taken more and more for, well, an idiot, an empty-headed reactionary.
Credit goes to Paul for staying on message, for stuffing the nuttery in the closet, and for making it obvious to us all that having been Mayor of New York City on 11 Sept 2001 is no substitute for having read the 9/11 commission report. And the credit is coming in. CNN commentator and former Chicago Defender editor Roland Martin took it on himself to flesh out Paul's argument and nail Giuliani with a haymaker. To quote: "First, Giuliani must be an idiot to not have heard Paul's rationale before. That issue has been raised countless times in the last six years by any number of experts."
Now Pat Buchanan has entered the fray, too, taking the Republican Party to task over rejecting Paul's message. Republican dissent is now in the open and mainstream. Thanks to Paul, the problem can't be ignored, and Rudy for his part made it clear just how stupid the hawks' reasoning has been.
Worst case: The Republicans lose because of this and we end up with a social-democratic disaster under Obama or Edwards.
Mediocre case: The Republicans nominate a "moderate" and beat the Democrats, giving us gridlock and maybe some domestic policy reform.
Best case: The Republican mix gets shaken up, with America's favorite authoritarian and seething hawk McCain off the table as well as Giuliani. Romney gets some book learnin' about the conflict. The Democrats get fed up with slogans and waffling and push the knowledgeable and nuanced Bill Richardson to the fore. We end up with two acceptable choices plus perhaps a reasonable, respectable Libertarian for a change.
A man can dream, right? It's clear that Giuliani opened Pandora's box. What's inside remains to be seen.