Ron Paul’s good ole days

    Ever since Ron Paul finished second in the Iowa Fraud Poll, a number of political observers have contended that he is being screwed by “the media,” that he is not receiving the serious coverage he supposedly deserves.Here’s my rebuttal: The reason Paul is not being taken seriously as a serious candidate for the Republican presidential nomination is because he is not, and never will be, a serious candidate.Paul says too many unserious things; this weekend, for instance, he reiterated one of his classics, a position so far out of the mainstream that not even his conservative Republican rivals dare to echo it.Basically, at a time when large swaths of the Northeast are struggling with the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irene, Paul insists that the federal government has no business whatsoever helping people respond to natural disasters. Here was Paul yesterday, on Fox News, calling for the demolition of the Federal Emergency Management Agency: “It’s a system of bureaucratic central economic planning, which is policy which is deeply flawed. (We need to) come to our senses and realize that FEMA has been around since 1978. It has one of the worst reputations for a bureaucracy ever.”What year would this guy prefer that we live in, 1900? When there were no federal warnings of looming natural disasters, when there was no federal help for the newly homeless?Actually, the answer to those questions is, quite literally, yes.Here’s Paul again, arguing last Friday that Washington should go back to the good ole days, when it played no role in disaster preparedness or response: “We should be like 1900. We should be like 1940, 1950, 1960. I live on the Gulf Coast. We deal with hurricanes all the time. Galveston is in my district.”What’s wrong with those remarks? Pretty much everything – starting with the fact that Paul didn’t even bother to visit his congressional district after it was hammered in 2005 by Hurricane Ike. Most notably was Paul’s invocation of 1900, which happens to be the year when Galveston was decimated by a hurricane that killed upwards of 8000 people (as vividly rendered in the book Isaac’s Storm).There was a virtual consensus, after the 1900 storm, that Washington needed to play a robust role in disaster preparedness and response; indeed, Texans welcomed the subsequent federal aid that financed the construction of a sea wall – the same sea wall that was repaired a few years ago in the aftermath of Ike, again with federal money. Which Ron Paul actually voted against.Paul can be respected for staying consistently true to his Darwinian/libertarian principles (and voting accordingly), for hewing to the notion that “freedom” is all about fending for yourself in all circumstances. Indeed, when Paul assailed FEMA’s existence in remarks last May, he put it this way: “It’s a moral hazard to say that government is always going to take care of us when we do dumb things.” (What “dumb things”? Like choosing to live in Vermont – where Irene flooded towns, destroyed bridges, and knocked homes off their foundations?)But respecting his stand on principle is not the same as taking him seriously as a candidate. Anyone who argues at this point that Washington should be laissez faire about natural disasters is by definition a denizen of the political fringe. The polls show that most Americans support a strong federal role; in the aftermath of Katrina, for instance, landslide majorities said the feds should increase their assistance to New Orleans. Republican governors routinely turn to FEMA in the wake of disasters, recognizing that cash-strapped states need recovery assistance, to rebuild homes, schools, hospitals, and roads. Haley Barbour has done that in Mississippi. Nathan Deal has done that in Georgia. During emergencies, serious elected officials are often compelled to set aside ideology in favor of common sense.Heck, even Rick Perry, that purported champion of state’s rights and secessionist sentiment, pleaded earlier this year for additional federal money to fight the wildfires that were plaguing Texas. Apparently even Perry disagrees with Paul’s contention that a federal emergency agency is unconstitutional. (Perry’s please-give-me-money letter, addressed to President Obama, was downright delicious: “Your favorable consideration of this appeal would be greatly appreciated.”)All told, this is why Ron Paul should not be treated as a serious candidate. Voters in 2012 would never choose a guy who wants Washington to turn a blind eye to natural disasters, a guy who wants to turn back the clock 112 years. In a Republican campaign already dominated by crazy talk, Paul actually walks the walk, and for that he should be rightfully consigned to the ranks of the unserious.——-Speaking of crazy talk, my Sunday newspaper column explains how and why the ever-rightward Republicans risk ceding the center to Obama in 2012.——- I did another Live Chat earlier today.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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