In praise of the also-ran


Every election cycle brings with it the loonies, the flakes, the also-rans. This is no exception. It makes life easier for us who comment, as they tend to cast light on the inconvenient truths that leading candidates would prefer be left covered up.

A recent example is Ron Paul, perennial candidate, Republican congressman from Texas. As has been widely reported, he provided much fodder when, during the second Republican Presidential debate, he commented of Al Queada that “They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years… We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us,”

While he may have been slightly off the mark he was close: al Queada was more upset about our permanent placement of military bases in Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi government’s choice to rely on the US for protection instead of hiring al Queada themselves. Of course, Rudy flew into a rage and excoriated Paul for his temerity to suggest that there might be a cause. We don’t know how Rudy explains it happening, unless he just buys wholesale W’s contention of unremitting evil.

An interesting side effect of the whole affair has been the spectacle of seasoned political and foreign affairs punditry being forced to grudgingly admit that Paul is closer to the truth than Rudy. Now we have Ron Paul coming back to take another crack at the media circus brass ring with a press conference at which he proposed a reading list for Rudy G. Alongside him the former CIA al Queada desk chief, Michael Sheuer. Here is Paul’s reading list (as per The Times):

  • “Blowback” by Chalmers Johnston
  • “Dying to Win” by Robert A. Pape
  • “Imperial Hubris” by Michael Sheuer
  • The 9/11 Commission Report

Rudy’s team responded with a classic non-response, “Mayor Giuliani said it best – it is extraordinary and reckless to claim that the United States invited the attacks on September 11th… And to further declare Rudy Giuliani needs to be educated on September 11th when millions of people around the world saw him dealing with these terrorist attacks firsthand is just as absurd.”

This is like the kid caught in a fight on a playground; “And why did Tommy hit you?” “I dunno.” “Did you provoke him?” “No, Ma’m. I wasn’t doin’ nothin’ I was just sittin’ there. Honest I was.” Even worse, the second part, that he was in New York so he doesn’t need to be educated — is just patently absurd. Just because he handled the aftermath of the attacks doesn’t make him a specialist on why they happened in the first place.

But enough of that. Mr. Paul has now decided to join forces with Sens. Byrd and Clinton in promoting rescinding the original use of force authorization:

Mr. Paul also announced today his plans to introduce legislation that would sunset the use of force authorization in Iraq after six months. He said “basically I would support” a similar measure sponsored by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Robert Byrd that would set Oct. 11, 2007 but noted that his legislation would give Congress more time to take action. David All, the founder of a Republican consulting firm specializing in “modern media strategies,” and Jerome Armstrong, a liberal blogger at the influential MyDD, were there to film Mr. Paul for the next episode of “Under the Dome,” their politics show on YouTube. They asked viewers whether they’d prefer to see the Texas congressman or Mike Gravel, an underdog Democratic candidate, and Mr. Paul won handily, the net gurus said. The web video is available here.
Paul Offers Giuliani a Few Policy Tips – The Caucus – Politics – New York Times Blog

Let’s hope that Mike Gravel, the former Senator from Alaska has a similar effect on the Democratic side.

UPDATE:  See the comment, below, from Gravel’s campaign.

3 thoughts on “In praise of the also-ran

  1. Borg Blog

    Great post and comments!

    Dr. Paul’s press conference and suggested reading list for Rudy is a brilliant move, as this post suggests. Thanks for the quotes showing how the Giuliani is left twisting in the wind as a result!

    What most commentators on this story have missed is perhaps bigger and more important news, though. And that is the story about the man who was standing by Dr. Paul’s side at the press conference yesterday.

    To learn more, please see my post: “Terrorism and Bin Laden Expert Has a Lesson for Giuliani (


  2. Spencer

    Very interesting. What do you make of this proposal from Mike Gravel? United States Armed Forces Withdrawal from Iraq Act
    Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Gravel has a plan that will end the war in Iraq by September 2007 with all US troops home by Christmas. This plan recognizes that under the United States Constitution the power of the Congress is superior to the power of the Presidency.

    Mike’s plan is to pass a law in the Congress making the war in Iraq illegal. Failure to comply with the law would be punishable by 5 years in jail without possibility of parole. Understand that the President of the United States is required to follow the law just as is any other American citizen.

    Of course, once the law is passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, it is likely that President Bush will veto it. Mike Gravel’s plan would call for the Senate and House Democratic leadership, Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to bring the bill to a vote day after day, 7 days a week, 30 minutes per day, forcing the media spotlight to shine on those Senators and Congressman who are prolonging the war until pressure from their constituents produces a two-thirds majority sufficient to override the Presidential veto. (If the law is filibustered in the Senate initially, the same procedure would apply.)

    What is important to understand is that Mike served two terms in the US Senate fighting for “unpopular” causes and winning against the odds. Mike is a legislative strategist and you will see that his plan for ending the war will work, if adopted. Most other options for ending the war fall into the “do the right thing” category or involve timelines that extend far off into the future. Rather than wait, let’s force our elected representatives to listen to the will of the American people by introducing Mike Gravel’s draft legislation, the United States Armed Forces Withdrawal from Iraq Act, and end this destructive and unnecessary war now.

  3. Dar

    On June 7 Ron Paul introduced his sunset bill with cosponsors from both parties.

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