In the final Republican debate before Super Tuesday, and perhaps the last of the race, Texas Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) made quick work of his opponents.
Though not known for his stellar oratory abilities or powerful stage presence, the libertarian gadfly stood out among the remaining candidates during Wednesday night's contest for the same reason he has been able to stay in the race thus far: his consistent and convincing defense of free markets and small government.
Paul opened his time by defending his criticism of Santorum as fake fiscal conservative. In response to CNN moderator John King's question, "Why did you call Senator Santorum a fake fiscal conservative?" Paul quipped, "Because he's a fake!" After the massive applause died down, Paul pointed out that most politicians are fiscal hawks during their campaigns, but they tend to be far less principled once elected. Santorum, who admitted he wouldn't cut defense spending, and supported dozens of federal spending increases while in Congress, perfectly fits this description.
During a slap fight that broke out over earmarks between the frontrunners, Paul was criticized for sending federal money back to his district. Paul rightly pointed out that he earmarks funds for his district because the money would otherwise be spent on wars and bank bailouts by the Executive Branch. Though he prefers the money not be taken from taxpayers in the first place, Paul argued that earmarks ensure that some of the money is sent back to the people who it actually belongs to.
Ron Paul Calls Santorum 'A Fake'
On the auto bailout, Paul argued that all bailouts are economically harmful because they represent legalized theft. "Do we praise bank robbers if they are successful?" As many economists have long argued, Paul pointed out that bailouts save failing businesses at the expense of the rest of the economy, and that letting companies like General Motors fail is necessary if the economy is going to recover.
Should the government be involved in issues like contraception? Paul says no, because that's where the problem arises. Congress legislates morality; people of differing religious persuasions then fight incessantly over whose morality will be the law of the land. Much like abortion or gay marriage, the answer, according to Paul, is to return the decision to use birth control, and the cost of using it, to states and individuals.
The Texas congressman also laid into Santorum for voting for Planned Parenthood while claiming to be a pro-life Senator. Santorum didn't deny the charge, but justified his vote by claiming that he authored legislation that would fund abstinence only education. Paul responded, "There's always an excuse for the spending."
Paul used a question about immigration to criticize our foreign policy of "worrying about the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan." He also claimed that we need to eliminate the incentives, mainly welfare, that encourage people to immigrate to America illegally. Meanwhile, the rest of the candidates argued over how to successfully arrest Mexican immigrants and build big fences along the southern border.
Ron Paul Explains Why War With Iran Is Wrong
While Santorum, Romney, and Gingrich stuck to the neoconservative line that we have to keep building our military and policing the Middle East, Paul, following a long line of foreign policy experts, explained that we need to stop fighting aggressive wars and consider our role in fostering the rise of violent dictators around the world.
Because our influence in the region, and the fact that Iran doesn't have a nuclear bomb, Paul also claimed that the likelihood of Iran starting a nuclear war is minuscule. He also highlighted the enormous costs of an aggressive foreign policy, citing the Soviets as an example of what happens to countries that overextend themselves abroad.
All of the candidates took reasonable stances on education policy. Each correctly took shots at teacher unions and argued that the federal Department of Education needs to be reformed. But as Paul opined, the other three contenders didn't go far enough. Education should be a state and local issue, a position no other Republican on the stage consistently defended while in office.
At this point in the race, it's unlikely that Paul will win the Republican nomination, trailing far beyond Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum as he is. But after tonight's debate, the Texas congressman has illustrated why he's the best choice. If Republican voters, supposed conservatives, can't see that, then they deserve the champion of big government that their next president will be.
Photo Credit: CNN