Jonah Goldberg

So now it's Ron Paul's turn.

The diminutive Texas libertarian is poised in the latest polls to win the Iowa caucuses.

Obviously, this would be rough news for Newt Gingrich -- who's in third place and falling -- and very good news for Mitt Romney, who has used Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and now Paul as blockers to fend off challenges from the various "not-Mitt" candidates of the moment. (Perry must feel particularly disoriented because he's been both blocker and blockee.)

And give this to Paul: He most certainly is not Mitt.

Many of Paul's defenders insist he is a champion -- a lone voice, even -- of the "true" Constitution and the "real" principles of the conservative movement. Moreover, they are determined to tell you that, often in emails written in ALL CAPS.

For the record, I like many of Paul's positions on the role of the federal government. I find it charming that he's making a big issue about the freedom to drink raw milk. I don't believe his positions on states' rights are racist. I think he goes way too far on the Federal Reserve. He sometimes sounds like he thinks Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is sapping our precious bodily fluids. But he's also been prescient about the Fed's unchecked power.

Or maybe it wasn't prescience. Maybe it was paranoia. After all, if you worry about enough things, some of them are going to turn out to be accurate. When a hypochondriac is finally diagnosed with a disease after years of pointless worrying, it kind of takes the bite out of his I-told-you-so's.

This is the point in the standard anti-Ron Paul column where I am supposed to denounce his many bad associations, his racist newsletters -- which he didn't write, he just let them go out with his name on them for years -- his barmy national security ideas and his potted history of American foreign policy. And, should Paul go on to be a serious contender for the Republican nomination, I reserve my right to revisit all of that because -- contrary to the claims of many of his supporters -- Paul's background hasn't been scrutinized nearly enough.

But rather than get into all that, let's take the idea of a President Paul as seriously as his supporters say we should -- though the idea he could beat Obama in the general election strikes me as crazier than Joe Biden on angel dust.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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