Magazine article The American Conservative

Stupid Party

Magazine article The American Conservative

Stupid Party

Article excerpt

Republicans rage against Ron Paul.

IT WAS A DANGEROUS NIGHT in South Carolina: the ten candidates for the Republican nomination gathered, and a debate broke out. Damage control was swift Party elders rushed to excommunicate the instigator. Pundits howled, bloggers convulsed: "moonbat on Kool Aid," "crackpot" "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs."

But for all that pious fury, a candidate few Americans had heard of owned the next day's headlines. Ron Paul had committed the sin of truth - and the reaction revealed much about the party that shunned him.

The evening began predictably enough. Focus-grouped down to their ties, the heavyweights managed to attach conviction to issues they rarely think about, while a pack of also-rans nipped at their wingtips. The audience inserted polite applause. Then the play went off script.

Asked if bringing our troops home from Iraq was really a Republican position, Ron Paul countered, "There's a strong tradition of being antiwar in the Republican Party. It is the constitutional position." Had 9/11 altered that, his questioner inquired. Paul responded that American foreign policy was a "major contributing factor. . . . They attacked us because we've been over there; we've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. . .". The crowd went silent. "Are you suggesting that we invited the 9/11 attacks, sir?" A more packaged candidate would have prefaced his answer with a disclaimer - "Of course we did nothing to deserve the attacks." Paul believes this, but he doesn't park on Madison Avenue. "I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it. . . "

The party men could stand it no longer, and Rudy Giuliani volunteered to chasten the prodigal: "That's an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack ofSeptember 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I've heard that before. . ." The audience thundered approval, and Rudy pressed his advantage: "I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn't really mean that."

But he did mean it - and gave no ground: "If we think we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. They don't come here to attack us because we're rich and free. They come and they attack us because we're over there."

The moderator declined to follow up and moved on to less disruptive subjects - for once the Confederate flag seemed safe - but Paul's inconvenient truth lingered in the air and led the coverage.

Less noted was the reaction of the crowd, Roman in its fervor. What were they applauding? Giuliani's sloganeering prowess? Or his profession of ignorance? Neither commends him - or them.

Believing that our enemies' motivation is beyond the scope of legitimate discussion should render Giuliani incapable of strategic analysis. Surely the old prosecutor doesn't think that discerning a felon's motive absolves him of the crime? He told Larry King that his plan for pacifying Iraq was to "Do it with more troops- maybe 100,000, 150,000 more."But on what basis did he make that decision if realists who come within ten feet are ordered to recant?

The alternative is that Giuliani really is as remote from the facts as he claimed and was rejecting something he knows nothing about. Worse, he shouted down a more knowledgeable man.

Still the crowd downed that cocktail of arrogance and ignorance, delivering the loudest applause of the night and proving Alexander Pope's maxim: "shallow draughts intoxicate the brain. …

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