Ron Paul: The Voice of Reason?

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He certainly has his eccentricities, but in last night's Republican debate, he seemed to be the only grownup in the room.

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I know Ron Paul can be zany, especially when it comes to abolishing the Fed, returning to the gold standard and reducing the federal government to a mom-and-pop-sized enterprise.

He certainly has his eccentricities, such as refusing to wear a seat belt in a car, or a helmet when bicycling, both of which he apparently regards as nanny-state interferences in his constitutionally-protected right to kill himself.

But in last night's Republican debate, when his fellow candidates were falling over themselves in declaring their willingness to bomb Iran back to the stone age, he was the grown-up, the one voice that warned that what they were talking about would be "another Iraq," or worse. He also repeated his call to get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and generally to avoid meddling in other nations' affairs.

Later, when Newt Gingrich was rolling out his idea for Congress to subpoena federal judges who make controversial rulings, and Michelle Bachmann was cheering him on, it was Ron Paul who spoke up and reminded the former Speaker that the constitution has this thing about separation of powers.

Watching at home, I suddenly found myself agreeing with Ron Paul. Ron Paul! He was making sense while the others on the stage were coming unhinged one-by-one. And I was nodding in agreement! Fortunately, no one saw me. My wife was wrapping Christmas presents and the dogs were sleeping. I switched off the set and watched a re-run of The League on my iPad and felt better right away.

The Republican debates can do that to you. I find myself talking back to the television set, laughing and shaking my head. Imagine how Republican contributors feel watching this gong show. Last night's, the 16th in this series of reality shows, apparently was the last before the Iowa caucuses, now that Donald Trump has withdrawn. Finally, we'll get to hear from some voters.

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Terence Smith is a special correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

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