I used to think of Ron Paul as a thoughtful libertarian who was naive about foreign affairs. Who can forget his probing, contrarian questioning of Alan Greenspan on Humphrey-Hawkins testimony days over the years? It was nice to have someone like Paul in Congress. But Paul is a minor figure in national politics and most Americans probably didn’t know much about him until recently.
Suddenly, however, because Paul is running for president and got invited to a major debate and then made an extremely foolish statement about the war*, a lot of people are paying attention to him and his isolationist views for the first time. His public reputation is not holding up well to the scrutiny, to put it mildly. And as more people look into his background they are finding evidence that national defense may not be the only area where he has dumb ideas.
Now Paul faces a challenger for his House seat in 2008, and given his embarrassing debate performance it’s not unreasonable to expect that his constituency will punish him.
Probably none of this would have happened if Paul had not attended the debate, and it almost certainly would not have happened if he hadn’t decided to run (again) for the presidency. His isolationism was tolerable in an idiosyncratic backbencher but not in a Republican presidential primary contender. I assume that voters in the general election will not tolerate similar attitudes in either party’s candidate.
*The fact that Giuliani demagogued his response to Paul doesn’t lessen the foolishness of what Paul said.