‘Twasn’t a fit night out for man nor beast — early evening storm raging, rain coming down in the proverbial buckets interspersed with torrents of hail, tornado warnings and emergency sirens the order of the day.
None of which stopped a thousand or so mostly young folks from filling historic Lee Hall auditorium on the Mississippi State University campus for the evening’s headline event.
Ron Paul! Ron Paul! End the Fed! End the Fed! The chants revved up as introductions commenced, then intensified as the septuagenarian Texas congressman strolled onstage.
Paul, known as Dr. No — he’s a physician and is credited with more “no” votes on issues and legislation than any other politician in U.S. history — made it official May 13 that he will, at soon-to-be age 76, mount a third campaign for the presidency (he ran as a Libertarian in 1988, as a Republican in 2008, and this time also as a Republican).
One could only wonder at the relentless fervor of the college crowds here and on other campuses for a senior citizen type who looks as if he’d be more at home on a creek bank, fishing with grandchildren and reminiscing about the 4,000-plus babies he’s delivered.
The answer, of course, is: youthful idealism.
Paul is the consummate iconoclast, the guy who stands up to the system, who says virtually all government is a waste of money, that most “unconstitutional” federal agencies (including Agriculture, Education, Energy, Commerce, Homeland Security, Labor) should be eliminated, that U.S. foreign policy has basically been a waste of time and money, that the Federal Reserve’s uncontrolled capacity to print money is the prime reason for the nation’s economic mess and that the Fed should be abolished, that the Patriot Act takes away liberties rather than conferring them, that monetary policy based on Keynesian economics should be replaced with Austrian free market economics, that Social Security and Medicare are just other names for welfare, and on and on.
“Both parties are to blame,” he says. The two party system is “a farce,” because Democrats and Republicans “share too many similarities in foreign policy, deficit policy, and economic policy.”
“We’re not even on the verge of solving the nation's financial problems," he says. "If you look at the Obama projections, in 2016, the national debt would be $20 trillion. The budget by the ‘conservative’ Republicans would be $17 trillion." He smiles. "I voted no on that." The audience roars.
"We’ve had way too much bipartisanship — about 70 years of it," Paul declares. "The foreign policy doesn’t change, the monetary policy doesn’t change, the welfare policy doesn’t change, the protection of our private property doesn’t change; the bipartisanship has been for all the wrong things.
"Both parties are equally bad when it comes to spreading wars around the world and violating civil liberties. We’ve been overseas for the wrong reasons since Woodrow Wilson — a century of killing and war. Congress spends our money on war and welfare, so the military machine and the welfare machine keep growing, and we dig ourselves into a deeper and deeper hole.
"We now have 900 overseas bases in 130 countries. We spend $1.2 trillion a year on our foreign policy and foreign operations. Instead of expanding the Bush doctrine of preventive war, we could spend a lot less and be a lot safer. I think before we need to solve the world’s problems we need to solve our own economic problems. We’ve accepted the notion that we should be the policemen of the world. We need to look at foreign policy, monetary policy, and economic policy with a new lens."
Geez, what’s not to love in all that for a college kid brimming with change-the-world enthusiasm? Grampa Ron touches all the right buttons, jousts at all the windmills of what he sees as an out-of-control government that needs to be drawn and quartered.
Absent a cataclysmic rent in the fabric of the universe, he hasn’t the proverbial snowball’s chance of becoming president. And even positing such a miracle of miracles, no Congress would acquiesce to the chaos that would result from so radical a demolition of government as he espouses.
Meantime, he seems to relish the adulation of the young, poking a thumb in the eye of the establishment, the TV appearances (even Comedy Central), and the opportunity to hawk his new book, “Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom.”