Some old stalwarts—Gary Ackerman and Howard Berman, for example—are leaving the U.S. House of Representatives, Ackerman voluntarily and Berman after an election defeat. The 112th Congress will also see the departure of some its most eccentric members: Dennis Kucinich lost a bitter primary battle, and Ron Paul is retiring. On November 14, Paul gave his farewell address, and it was vintage Paul. While I’m sympathetic to his libertarian approach on social issues, value individual liberty, and embrace the concept of a small, lean government, I also believe in the necessity of a strong military. Paul’s rambling conspiracies regarding AIPAC and his fierce isolationism have always turned me off as have, frankly, the even nuttier approaches of some of his followers.
Still, Paul’s address should be a must-read. As Alana Goodman pointed out, his son, Senator Rand Paul, is a likely presidential candidate in 2016 and wants very much to revamp the Republican Party. Paul can count on his father’s supporters, and then some, as he understands how to package himself as a mainstream candidate without any of his father’s “crazy uncle” excesses.
President Obama’s re-election only delays the inevitable: economic reality is going to hit, and hit hard. Ultimately, the Republicans—and frankly the country—will have to choose between two camps: A Paul Ryan-type embrace of fiscal realism, or a Ron Paul-like melding of libertarianism, isolationism, and conspiratorial ramblings about those who do not agree that isolationism is in American national interests. Ron Paul was courteous enough to pose dozens of questions. Perhaps it is not too early to push Rand to answer them and stake out clear positions early on his father’s most conspiratorial beliefs, especially when it comes to insinuations of his opponents’ lack of patriotism and dual loyalty.