A reader writes:
You, more than any other writer I know, have stressed flexibility as a quintessentially conservative trait. That's why I was quite surprised to read your post mulling support for a Ron Paul candidacy.
Granted, his liberterian positions are admirable, especially in an era of unchecked executive power like the one we live in today. But Ron Paul is unabashedly dogmatic on issues where he is hopelessly out of touch with mainstream America. I'll list two here: He favors a return to the gold standard, and repeal of birthright citizenship (currently protected by the 14th Amendment).
Ron Paul is even worse when it comes to foreign policy, the key issue of 2008...
Yes, his position on Iraq has been both principled and consistent and he has been one of the few outspoken critics of this administration's torture policy. But we need to view all of this in the context of his larger foreign policy vision. Look, for example, at his insistence that we withdraw from the United Nations or the ICC or his unwillingness to aid Darfur. Do we really want an administration that shows even more contempt for international law and institutions then the one we have today? When it comes to foreign policy, the truth is that Ron Paul's much closer to Pat Buchanan style isolationism than anything else (complete with an irrational paranoia of illegal immigrants). At times, it's sounds like he's trying to channel Washington's Farewell address, as if the past 200 plus years of American history never happened.
All in all, I find Ron Paul to be radical, uncreative, and inflexible -- all traits I don't associate with the particular brand of conservatism you've espoused in the past.
I take the reader's points. My main intent is to take some of the ideas of Ron Paul seriously, and not to dismiss him immediately as the MSM have. His doctrinaire libertarianism is precisely why I am not a libertarian. But in the context of the current field of candidates, I find him a refreshing change. Here's a great profile from the Texas Monthly in 2001.
(Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty.)