Ron Paul is far from perfect. But the Texas congressman and maverick GOP presidential contender brings to the 2012 race a record far more worthy of commendation than those of his competitors for the Republican nomination.
Paul voted against the Patriot Act.
Paul voted against launching the Iraq War.
Paul has consistently supported moves to bring the troops home from Iraq, from Afghanistan and from just about everywhere else they are garrisoned.
Paul has worked with Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank on a campaign to cut the Pentagon budget by $1 trillion..
Paul has worked with Frank to decriminalize marijuana and to dial back the worst excesses of the drug war.
Paul has consistently opposed free-trade deals that have led to massive layoffs and factory closings in the United States.
Paul has worked with Vermont Senator Barney Frank and Florida Congressman Alan Grayson to crack down on the Federal Reserve's secrecy and abuses.
Yes, yes, of course Paul's anti-government rhetoric goes to extremes, and, yes, yes, of course he is an inconsistent libertarian on some vital issues.
But Ron Paul really has taken a lot of commendable stands in recent years.
And , now, he has done something truly worthy of admiration. He has chosen not to be ridiculous.
Confronted with the prospect of a participating in a debate hosted by the second most absurd figure in American public life, Donald Trump, Paul simply said "no."
The campaign of the candidate who, in the new Des Moines Register survey is running second in the field of GOP presidential contenders with less than a month to go before Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses, issued a delightfully snarky statement:
“The selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the Presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity. Mr. Trump’s participation as moderator will distract from questions and answers concerning important issues such as the national economy, crushing federal government debt, the role of the federal government, foreign policy, and the like. To be sure, Mr. Trump’s participation will contribute to an unwanted circus-like atmosphere.
“Mr. Trump’s selection is also wildly inappropriate because of his record of toying with the serious decision of whether to compete for our nation’s highest office, a decision he appeared to make frivolously. The short-lived elevation of Mr. Trump’s stature as a candidate put him on the radar of many organizations and we recall that last spring he was invited to keynote the Republican Party of Iowa’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner, yet at the last minute he left RPI holding the bag by canceling. In turn, RPI canceled its biggest fundraising gala of the year and suffered embarrassment and in addition RPI was required to engage in refunding measures. Our candidate will not even consider participating in the late-December debate until Mr. Trump publicly apologizes to Iowa party leaders and rectifies in full the situation.
“Therefore our candidate Ron Paul, the champion of the Constitution, has advised he will not attend.”
Trump was furious. The reality-TV show host dismissed the congressman from Texas as "clown-like." (Trump also took a shot at another contender who rejected the debate invite, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. But, unlike Paul, Huntsman is not a serious contender in Iowa, where the debate is set to be held.)
Paul responded to Trump's jab by sayng: "I didn't realize he had the ability to lay on hands and anoint people."
Ron Paul may not win the presidency, but he is winning the debate about the debate with Donald Trump.
But even if Trump will not have a serious presidential contender on his debate panel, he will not be alone.
The second most absurd figure in American public life will reportedly be joined December 27 by the most absurd figure in American public life: Newt Gingrich.Bio: John Nichols is the Washington correspondent for The Nation. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.