The Last of the Texas Outsiders
By ALEXANDER COCKBURN
Put together Murdoch's Fox News, a mid-May debate between Republican presidential candidates and the state of South Carolina and you have a hotbed of stupidity. But to the fury of the Republican organizers there was an intrusion of rational thought, in the person of Ron Paul, a US congressman from Texas, classed as a rank outsider in the nomination race.
Texas used to send true individualists to Washington DC. One of the brightest moments of my early years, visiting the nation's capital, was watching Rep. Wright Patman, head of the House Banking Committee, tell the red-faced chairman of the federal reserve that he deserved to be locked up in the penitentiary.
Paul is the last of the breed. As a small-government tight-money Republican this gynaecologist-obstetrician (4,000 babies claimed as a career total) regularly votes No on pork barrel projects that would put money into his own district. But as a Republican in the isolationist, libertarian tradition he also votes No, sometimes alone among the 535 members of the US congress, on war funding, on laws allowing US presidents to order arbitrary imprisonment, "coercive interrogation", suspension of freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
The throng in Columbia cheered Giuliani, Romney and the others as they roared their support for torture and rule by emergency decree. In the "war on terror" anything goes. Only Paul told the crowd and the tv cameras that No, torture is wrong and the Constitution is paramount.
Paul was asked if 9-11 changed anything. US foreign policy, he answered, was a "major contributing factor. Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attacked us because we've been over there; we've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We've been in the Middle East. So right now we're building an embassy in Iraq that's bigger than the Vatican. We're building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting.
Next came the question, had the US invited the attacks. "I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we're over there because Osama bin Laden has said, 'I am glad you're over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.'"