Ron Paul, the Republican who has some local liberals swooning because of his antiwar rhetoric and his strong support of individual liberty, arrived in Seattle on September 14 for a bit of speechifying and fundraising.
His midday event, a packed lecture at Seattle University, didn't offer any surprises or new rhetoric. But then again, a major reason people tend to like Paul is that he doesn't surprise. He's had the same libertarian positions forever, and knows that part of his cachet is his consistency—and when your reputation is built on consistency, you rarely need to change your talking points.
So the speech at Seattle University was full of classic Paul: He held forth on the Constitution and tax policy ("The original intent, of course, was never to have an income tax"); on the Constitution and calls for the impeachment of Dick Cheney ("The restoration of respect for the Constitution would do a lot more than attacking one single individual"); and on the Constitution and federal endangered-species protections ("I've been reading the Constitution now and then. I can't find endangered species written in the Constitution").
That last point took on some added significance, however, given that the overlap between antiwar lefties and endangered-species huggers in this area is considerable. Paul quickly added that his comments shouldn't be interpreted as meaning he's opposed to protecting endangered species. "It's the bureaucratic approach versus the free-market approach," he said—and he wants the job of protecting endangered species to be left to the free market.
"Private property owners would do a better job than we would through federal regulations," Paul said.
I'm not sure that's what the environmentally conscious liberals of King County want to hear. But Jeff Jared, Paul's special projects coordinator, told me: "I'm hopeful he's going to kick butt out here. A lot of his message is attractive to liberals." Perhaps, but the question remains whether the parts of Paul's message that are unattractive to liberals—say, leaving the task of protecting endangered species to the cold heart of the free market—will cancel out the attractive parts.
The free market was kind to Paul, at least, on his visit. Jared told me his candidate was on track to bring in $50,000 to $60,000 from his one-day swing through Seattle, and on September 17, the Paul campaign reported that its four-city tour through the West (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Salt Lake City) had netted a total of $350,000.
Which raises a question: What is Ron Paul, who according to OpenSecrets.org currently has more than $2.3 million in his campaign fund and zero campaign debt, going to do with any excess cash he might end up with in the (very likely) event that he doesn't ultimately win the Republican nomination?
I put the question to Paul's spokesman, Jesse Benton, who replied via e-mail: "It's a moot point. We will spend every penny we raise fighting for the GOP nomination."
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Speaking of possibly moot points: The publication on September 17 of former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan's new book, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, gave long-shot Democratic hopeful Dennis Kucinich an opening he's been waiting for. In his book, Greenspan writes: "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraq war is largely about oil."
To which Kucinich, with his typical mix of credit claiming and exasperation, quickly replied in a statement: "I've been saying that for five years... Now, the former Fed chairman corroborates that I've been right all along."
Well, maybe not. Greenspan quickly clarified. "I was not saying that that's the administration's motive," Greenspan told the Washington Post. "That would have been my motive."
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Continuing on the theme of people who might have been right at the wrong time: Two tracking polls on The Stranger's blog, one conducted in August and one conducted in September, showed noncandidate Al Gore as the top pick of our blog readers when he was included as a choice along with all the declared Democratic presidential candidates.
However, Gore's support has dropped by six points among our blog readers from August to September. A sign that the fascination with a Gore candidacy is wearing off? Could be. Or it could be that more people are becoming satisfied with the current slate of candidates—or that our poll findings (or our blog readers) are unreliable.
Stranger science columnist, Jonathan Golob, asked to weigh in on the matter, concluded that the poll was "statistically significant and utterly meaningless." Look for another significant yet meaningless Stranger tracking poll next month.