Archive for November 2007

Does anyone understand Ron Paul?

November 27, 2007

Originally Published on, 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.

Mining. Silver State. Get it?

November 15, 2007

Originally Published on, 11/15/2007 1:30:57 PM

How thin-skinned the Iowans used to seem, making a big deal out of any failure on the part of any presidential candidate to grasp any tiny detail of Iowa culture. This was before the democracy fairy swept into Nevada with her magic caucus wand and tapped the Silver State, turning it into the westernmost (and the least mentioned) of the early decision states.

Since that transformational tap, the Reasonable Reporter has developed some insight into the Iowa mind, and understands as precisely as one can, having never set foot in Iowa, why the details — even the tiny details — matter to Iowans.

And so, if the little things matter (Ne-vaaa-da not Ne-vah-da), then the truly large things should matter more. Like H.R. 2262, the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007. It seems not to matter, though. Or perhaps Nevada doesn’t matter all that much. You decide.

For politicians seeking the white house, there is no fact too arcane to commit to memory when it comes to Iowa and ethanol. But the recently-passed House mining reform bill, now in the waiting room between the House and the Senate, is not even on the radar screen for most of the viable candidates.This seems odd, because the candidates have claimed, firmly and repeatedly, that Nevada is important. That “western issues” are important. The Reasonable Reporter has the claims on tape, and if all the claims by all the candidates were strung together, they would reach from Carson City to Iowa City.

If Nevada is important to the candidates, and if hardrock mining is important to Nevada… well, then…

The question arises after Barack Obama did address the mining reform act earlier this month in a conference call with Nevada reporters where he rolled out his “rural leadership plan.” Obama said that the industry should pay for the right to mine public lands, and that the bill should exact such payment without putting mines out of business, and without putting Nevadans out of work. He said that the royalty in the current bill seems onerous, and that the industry can afford to pay. He said the bill should accomplish its stated environmental objectives. He said as President, he would push miners and environmentalists to sit down together and come to terms. And that he will work with Harry Reid to correct the bill’s deficiencies, which was probably the most brilliant thing he said.

Although coverage of the mining reform bill has spotlighted the proposed 8 percent royalty on new mining operations, which the industry says would be the highest in the world, the royalty isn’t the only threat to the health of mining, according to its national spokesman. The industry has the heebie-jeebies over an environmental provision granting virtually unprecedented authority to the Secretary of the Interior to yank permits and close down operations on environmental grounds. The industry says the cost of new exploration and development is far too great to risk having it halted at the whim of a single political appointee. The industry fears, with more than a little justification, that investment might dry up, given such a risk.

As Obama spoke, several things were clear. He knew what’s in the bill. He rode the fence. He vowed to “strengthen mining” with a regulatory scheme the industry says will weaken it. But, God love him, Obama was getting into the details.

Other reporters have since suggested that Obama should jolly well understand the importance of Nevada mining because of his campaign’s connection to Billy Vassiliadis, which is a connection to R&R, which is the lobbying firm for Newmont Mining.

Fine. Well he should. But is that what’s necessary for a candidate to notice an issue critical to the number two industry in one of four early states?

Apparently so. Ask the other campaigns, even the ones that tout their rural presence, about the mining reform bill. When the stunned silence subsides, you will hear that the candidate is, uh, still studying it, still scrutinizing it, and has no position yet.

What is this and why am I watching it?

November 7, 2007

Originally Published on,  11/7/2007 12:45:50 PM

“Please realize the magnitude of this event.” Maria Shriver’s voice is like an SOS pad being dragged across a cast iron skillet. Amplified ten thousand times.

This is a first in history, Shriver crows. It probably is a first, although the Reasonable Reporter is not inclined to spend a single moment confirming it. Five wives of presidential candidates from both major parties come together on a stage, in a cavernous meeting hall at something called a women’s conference.

As hostess of the televised event, Shriver, sometime journalist and current first lady of California, sits in a semi-circle with the women, and questions them about life with a presidential candidate.

Who supports you while you support him, Shriver asks the five participants. What dream did you put on hold so he could run for president? Realize the magnitude, indeed.

The event begs several questions. Why must perfectly straightforward material be packaged with a big pink bow for women, and why, when it is packaged for women, does it lose its punch? And why did two smart, strong, and politically savvy women, each of whom recently left her own powerful impression on Reno, seem less impressive as part of an Oprah-style televised tea party?

Standing alone onstage at the Pioneer Center in Reno, Michelle Obama’s mission was exactly the same mission undertaken at Shriver’s First Ladyfest – provide a window into the family life of Barack Obama. In Reno, she commanded the stage. She was smart, friendly, funny, and interesting.

As one of five, she was the most assertive. She seemed edgy and less relaxed than the others. Which suggested, just maybe, that she can be overbearing. Compared, that is, with the others, four women hell-bent on appearing ladylike.

Elizabeth Edwards stood alone in Reno, and did something unexpected. She extemporized. She wandered off the path a bit, responding to questions that caught her fancy. The Reasonable Reporter wondered at the time whether the campaign would continue to send her out on the road, since she clearly prefers thinking in real-time to following a script.

In the group, she remained thoughtful and original. Visually, she was the shortest, the plumpest and the least decked-out. Does this matter? Certainly not. But she must have suffered a moment of self-consciousness.

I feel like a Sesame Street character, she said. All these beautiful women and one doesn’t belong.

The mistake was saying it. She does belong. She’s not an unattractive woman. She’s accomplished and intelligent too. (The other participants, besides the striking Obama. were Ann Romney, Jeri Thompson and Cindy McCain. All tall and chic and coiffed within an inch of their lives.)

The high point: Edwards, explaining how she prepares her children for the possibility that Daddy might take some abuse during the campaign, or might lose the race. It’s not about the people, its about the ideas. It’s not so your name is after the word ‘president.’ It’s so you can promote your ideas to the nation.

Low point: The suggestion that women’s bodies “give out,” because women have so much responsibility. This, in the context of Romney’s multiple sclerosis, and Edwards’ breast cancer.

The moral of the story. Whenever possible, go solo, command the stage, and don’t apologize. The end. Hugs all around.