Now Playing Right Field

By Berlau, John | Insight on the News, February 10, 1997 | Go to article overview

Now Playing Right Field


Berlau, John, Insight on the News


The most libertarian Republican returns to Capitol Hill with fresh ideas and an invigorated spirit.

Pundits are proclaiming that the Republican revolution is over but, to newly elected Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, it hasn't even begun. Paul tells Insight he wants to cut taxes and spending "any way and every way I can." He says he will work to eliminate the departments of Energy, Education and Commerce "as a start."

Paul, 61, is one of three House Republican freshmen who have served previously. When he left Congress a dozen years ago he gave a memorable farewell address in which he delivered a scathing indictment. "Special interests have replaced the concern that the Founders had for general welfare," he thundered. "Vote trading is seen as good politics. The errand-boy mentality is ordinary, the defender of liberty is seen as bizarre." Shaking his head he concluded, "Its difficult for one who loves true liberty and utterly detests the power of the state to come to Washington for a period of time and not leave a true cynic."

Today Paul is more optimistic about the chances of limiting government power. "The sentiment of the country is more conservative, and the Congress is more conservative," he says.

After he left the House in 1984, it seemed unlikely Paul ever would return. He went back to his practice as an obstetrician-gynecologist in Brazoria County, Texas, and published a newsletter, books and pamphlets for his Foundation for Rational Economics and Education. In 1988 he bolted the GOP and accepted the Libertarian Party nomination for president.

Paul still calls himself a "little `I' libertarian," but decided to become a Republican again because "it was a convenient vehicle for running for Congress" and he thinks "Republicans are more libertarian now than ever before." But the GOP establishment did not exactly welcome him back. When he challenged Rep. Greg Laughlin, a sitting Democrat who had been persuaded to switch to the Republican side, the National Republican Congressional Committee, or NRCC, spent more than $50,000 on Laughlin's behalf. Texas' Republican governor and both Republican U.S. senators campaigned for Laughlin, and House Speaker Newt Gingrich went to Texas' 14th District during the primary to campaign for the ex-Democrat.

Paul still won comfortably and went on to take nearly 52 percent of the vote in the general election, but the NRCC could only give him $5,000 for the general election because the law permits "coordinated expenditure" only once during an election cycle, according to NRCC communications director Rich Galen. He tells Insight there was nothing personal about the decision to favor Laughlin in the primary. "We have a very clear rule: We will defend the incumbent," Galen says.

Paul says his treatment from Gingrich and the GOP establishment was "a tempting reason to be more opposed to him for speaker," but he nonetheless voted for Newt in the close speaker election. "I just decided that overall ... this [attempt to oust Gingrich] was a Democratic ploy to undermine what Republicans are trying to do," Paul explains. "What was between us before was sort of irrelevant."

Llewellyn Rockwell, who served as Paul's chief of staff from 1978 to 1982, says the congressman's vote for Gingrich shows Paul can rise above personal questions" to advance political principles. "He's unusual for someone in public life in that he doesn't have an ego that you have to turn sideways to fit through the doorway."

Rockwell, who now is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Ala., recalled to Insight that Paul was "a very unusual commodity" when he represented Texas' 22nd District in the late seventies and early eighties. "He actually opposed pork-barrel spending even in his own district. He always said, `How can I say pork-barrel spending is a bad thing in Minnesota if I'm for it in Texas?"

Rockwell says Paul "never voted for what he saw as unconstitutional spending. …

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