Originally Published on NevadaNewsmakers.com, 11/27/2007 10:15:46 AM
Let’s start with the premise that Ron Paul is widely misunderstood. It’s obvious, when a web search yields numerous passages describing the unassuming Texas congressman and his supporters as kooks, nuts, cultists, Paul Pods and Nazis. When a seasoned observer like Mona Charen says Ron Paul should be leading the Branch Davidians, he’s either misunderstood, or he should be leading the Branch Davidians. The Reasonable Reporter suspects the former, not the latter.
Paul says he’s promoting freedom, and he attributes the sniping – “getting ugly,” he calls Charen’s remark — to a fear of freedom, and a desire to control others. The detractors believe people wouldn’t use freedom correctly if they had it, Paul says. The idea scares them, so they lash out.
The Paul backers say they do like freedom. Ask why they’re behind him, and they’ll likely give one of two answers: because he promotes freedom, or because of his principled adherence to the Constitution. As a congressman, they say, he’s never cast a vote that would offend the document. The intensity of their support is a story already well-told.
Paul doesn’t look or sound presidential. His voice registers high, and not always steady. He speaks quickly, sometimes interrupting himself mid-sentence, then backtracking to complete a thought. This can make him hard to follow, and almost impossible to sound bite. He’s also taking on dense topics. His anti-war reasoning isn’t the simplistic brand so familiar now from constant repetition. Then there’s the Federal Reserve and the gold standard, which don’t lend themselves to the doggy-kitty-bunny simplicity that good, understandable campaigns are made of.
Wall Streeters understand gold-backed currency. So do survivalists, who appear from time-to-time in the Paul-bashing narrative, characterized as “skinheads” and “neo-Nazis.” The sound money crowd may be the best single example of what Paul has to overcome to be understood. These supporters are as far-flung as Wall Street and Idaho, and wherever else gold standard advocates may dwell. But the possibility that there could be Nazis within their ranks is delicious for pundits to chew over.
If Paul-bashing is your goal, it’s simple to reach into the menagerie of Paul supporters and pick out a faction repugnant to someone. The package includes pro-lifers, second amendment absolutists, property rights activists, drug legalization advocates, opponents of the war, and libertarian students.
Add to all of the above the mysterious force of internet evangelism and you’ve got a campaign that’s easier to explain if the candidate and his faithful are somehow off kilter. Cultists and kooks.
In Reno, the core volunteers include a paralegal, two dentists, a UNR graduate engineering student, a man who sells jewelry on a television shopping channel, and the retired owner of a credit card processing company, who has obtained a degree in psychology and hopes to do stress-reduction coaching. Brothel owner Dennis Hoff was in attendance at Paul’s Reno press conference, and said he’s committed to Paul. With him were the legendary Air Force Amy and another woman who works at the Bunny Ranch. They came to listen, and decide.
Let’s not plunge into Paul’s positions on war-health care-energy-taxation, since it’s unlikely he’ll implement those programs from the White House unless a plane goes down in the Bermuda Triangle with five of the other seven GOP candidates on board. Let’s concentrate instead on his very revealing response to questions about an odd little story still swirling beneath the surface.
Earlier this month in Evansville, Indiana, the office of a Federal Reserve abolitionist named Bernard von NotHuas was raided by federal agents. Bernard von NotHaus is also a dealer in “inflation-proof” currency, minted by a company in Idaho and backed by precious metals. As part of the haul, the feds seized copper, silver, gold and platinum coins bearing the image of Ron Paul.
Paul says he doesn’t know von NotHuas, and didn’t authorize the use of his likeness. But naturally, the headlines associated with the raid bore Paul’s name. “In Ron Paul They Trust,” said the Washington Post.
It’s clear from the facts of the story that the purveyor of the private currency appropriated Paul’s image as a selling tool, because Paul and his sound money advocacy are well-known among the target clientele. But some in the blogosphere couldn’t wait to point to the episode as evidence that Paul supporters are nuts, and by implication, so is Paul himself.
Paul appears not to bear any ill will toward von NotHaus, although he told the Reasonable Reporter during his Reno visit that he thinks it was “impolite” for von NotHaus to use his likeness without permission. He says von NotHaus may be practicing civil disobedience, and he’s in favor of civil disobedience, so long as practitioners understand the consequences. Paul went on at length about gold and silver as constitutionally-prescribed legal tender, and the technical legality of distributing competing currencies backed by the metals. The von NotHau currency business is statutorily illegal, but constitutionally legal, according to Paul.
“Philosophically,” he said, “I’m with the individuals… but they may well go to prison, which is sad, as far as I’m concerned.”
When they’re asked difficult questions, politicians default to talking points, to campaign themes, or sometimes to sheer horse hockey. For Paul, there seem to be no difficult questions. His defaults, as his supporters might predict, is to freedom, or to principle.
In this case, by brushing aside the emotion he might justifiably harbor at the theft of his most personal asset – his face – and expressing sympathy and philosophical accord with the man who ripped him off for financial gain, he calls on both freedom and principle.
Will he file an amicus brief when von NotHaus goes to court? “I don’t know, I hadn’t thought of that,” Paul says.