The libertarian congressman and his followers have become a familiar feature of Republican events
It was a typical Ron Paul speech at Saturday's Values Voter Summit: rambling, didactic, full of obscure references -- and rapturously received by his fans.
The Paul people had caravanned to the event and packed into the ballroom, as they always do. They didn't so much hang on his every word as wait for him to pause so they could chant "End the Fed!"
Once upon a time -- say, four years ago -- this might have been remarkable. But the Paul people's M.O. has become a familiar, tolerated feature of Republican gatherings. They show up, they vote in straw polls, they grumble about the media conspiracy to ignore them, they leave.
Paul, an obstetrician, began by talking about delivering babies. He went on to tell a story from the Bible that he said warned against big government. "Samuel warned that the king would want to make servants of the people. He even talked about taxes going up," Paul said.
Then it was off to the "breakdown of our monetary situation," for which Paul also found a biblical basis. "Even in biblical times, they weren't looking for a central bank that was going to counterfeit our currency," he said. Cue the "End the Fed!" chants.
Paul's talk then turned into an antiwar lecture, which seemed to divide the crowd a bit, though he knew better than to hit some of his familiar notes, such as supporting Iran's nuclear ambitions and opposing aid to Israel. Instead, he merely said foreign policy should be based on the Golden Rule. Then he detoured into fretting about military suicides and little boys who say, "I hate you, daddy!" because their fathers are being deployed again.
With its frequent touchstones in the Bible, Paul's speech was clearly somewhat tailored for the venue. But it was also stubbornly formless and devoid of crowd-pleasing sound bites. He wrapped up by lauding the founders and saying America has been going downhill for the last 100 years.
"As long as we allow the federal government to grow...things will get worse," he said. "But the good news is, a whole generation of Americans are rising up and saying, 'We were on track at one time. Let's get back on track.' Let's restore our liberty, prosperity and peace!"
Ron Paul's fans cheered, and their hero ambled off the stage.