After New Hampshire... A radical proposal
…And dark clouds began to gather over Paul Nation.
Look, when John McCain, Mr. 100 Years in Iraq, beats Ron Paul among voters who "strongly disapprove" of the war in Iraq, something is really out of whack. I'll pick apart the exit polling shortly.
In the meantime, reaction is pouring in to the not-even-double-digits performance Ron Paul turned in last night in New Hampshire. The indefatigable Michael Nystrom, founder of Daily Paul, is urging the troops to keep their chins up. Over at the Lew Rockwell blog, the attitudes are decidedly mixed — optimism because the field is wide open and Paul could still come out on top of a brokered convention, pessimism that the "Live Free or Die" state handed victory to warmongers McCain and Clinton, and recriminations at the over-the-top conduct of certain Paul supporters (9/11 "truthers," Hannity harassers) who might have turned off prospective voters.
I'll get to my "radical proposal" in just a bit.
But as for the rabble-rousers, I suppose we need to consider a couple of possibilities: 1) As with any other large group, Paul supporters fall along a bell curve, and his movement is just as likely to have a certain amount of rabble as any other movement; 2) Dirty tricksters in the mainstream of the GOP have planted agents provocateurs within the pro-Paul crowds to stir things up and marginalize Paul. I can't rule out #2; we're talking about the kind of people who bamboozled South Carolinians eight years ago into thinking John McCain's adopted Asian child was an "illegitimate black baby."
OK… Is there any insight to be gained from the exit polls? Well, while Paul won a plurality of independents voting in Iowa, McCain won that contest in New Hampshire. Even Romney won twice as many independents as Paul. Also unlike Iowa, Paul couldn't even win among people who described their feelings about the Bush administration as "angry." McCain somehow won that too. In fact, as pointed out above, McCain even won among voters who "strongly disapprove" of the war — 38% to 26% for Paul.
The only category of voter that Paul won (and it was a tie with McCain) was people who rated the national economy "poor." And this vein of sentiment ties in rather nicely with something that's bubbled to the top of my consciousness this week.
At this point, Paul desperately needs a "signature issue" — or two or three — to help him stand apart from the rest of the field, Republicans and Democrats alike, and generate some real buzz. I know this seems like an odd thing to say about the only candidate who wants to dismantle our "empire of bases" (to use Chalmers Johnson's term) and do away with the Federal Reserve, but those have been part of his platform for 30 years. I'm talking about something not so timeless, something that'll set off a minor media frenzy, give the cable talking heads something to talk about, if only for 24 hours.
One of those possibilities I mentioned two months ago — talking about the relentless manipulation of government economic statistics to make things look rosier than they really are. If Paul is successfully tapping into people who think the economy is poor, he can bring more of those people into the fold by validating their real-world experience, explain why it doesn't jibe with the happy talk. Maybe he zeroes in on the unemployment rate and says if it were still measured the way it was in Jimmy Carter's time it would be double the current 5% figure. I don't know whether this would have legs, but for at least one news cycle, it might well generate cable TV discussions about "Are gov't. economic figures doctored?"
Alternatively, and here comes the radical proposal, he could take up the cause of Sibel Edmonds, the former government translator who stumbled upon secrets "more explosive" than the Pentagon Papers, as none other than Daniel Ellsberg says. This would be a tough nut to crack — it's a wickedly complex story — but a claim that top U.S. officials are channeling nuclear secrets through Turkey to Pakistan, and ultimately to North Korea and Iran, would definitely spotlight Paul as the candidate who wants to take a flamethrower to the DC establishment. As reported last weekend by the Times of London:
A whistleblower has made a series of extraordinary claims about how
corrupt government officials allowed Pakistan and other states to steal
nuclear weapons secrets. Sibel Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish
language translator for the FBI, listened into hundreds of sensitive
intercepted conversations while based at the agency's Washington field
She approached The Sunday Times last month after reading
about an Al-Qaeda terrorist who had revealed his role in training some
of the 9/11 hijackers while he was in Turkey.
how foreign intelligence agents had enlisted the support of US
officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and
Among the hours of covert tape recordings,
she says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the
US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who
were selling the information on to black market buyers, including
The name of the official — who has held a series of
top government posts — is known to The Sunday Times. He strongly
denies the claims.
However, Edmonds said: "He was aiding foreign
operatives against US interests by passing them highly classified
information, not only from the State Department but also from the
Pentagon, in exchange for money, position and political objectives."
claims that the FBI was also gathering evidence against senior Pentagon
officials — including household names — who were aiding foreign
"If you made public all the information that the FBI
have on this case, you will see very high-level people going through
criminal trials," she said.
That former State Department official is identified here. Significantly, he worked in both the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations. Other people caught up in the scandal also straddle the partisan divide. So this is a bipartisan scandal. No wonder the Democrats don't want to touch it. U.S. media haven't touched the story either (not this aspect of the Edmonds
case, anyway). But if Ron Paul brings it up it on the campaign trail,
it'll force their hand.
And frankly, at this point, what does he have to lose by doing so? Either he blows the case wide open (and changes the whole complexion of the campaign), or the mainstream perception of his candidacy descends into LaRouchie lunacy.
Time to go for broke, I say.
Update: David Weigel at Reason has an on-the-scene report about what went wrong — not the least of which was that revolting immigration commercial — a fear-based message totally out of sync with Paul's "Hope for America" tone.