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Originally published Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Bruce Ramsey / Times editorial columnist

Paul's stubborn consistency on Iraq deserves respect

On the day of the New Hampshire primary I root for Rep. Ron Paul, Republican of Texas. I don't buy all his statements; I am not, for example, for dismantling NAFTA.

On the day of the New Hampshire primary I root for Rep. Ron Paul, Republican of Texas. I don't buy all his statements; I am not, for example, for dismantling NAFTA. I also have no illusions about him winning the nomination. But Paul is for following the Constitution and ending the war, and on that I am for him.

No other major candidate voted against the invasion of Iraq. Hillary Clinton didn't. John Edwards didn't. Paul did, defying the president of his own party. While the other Republicans hold out for "victory," or for "taking responsibility" for a country that doesn't want us, Paul is for adiós. And not just in Iraq: he is for a foreign policy of minding our own business, generally.

I don't know why our president started a war with Iraq. He offered up some reasons, and when those evaporated, he offered some other ones. People have said the war is about WMD, democracy, terrorism, Bush family honor, Israel, Islam, empire and oil. Several of these are plausible, but I don't know. And what does it tell you about a war when you don't know why you're in it?

Recently I met a general who had served over there, and I asked him why we had started a war with Iraq. He paused, dropped his voice, and made me promise not to quote him. Then he only hinted at an answer, which seemed to be that we invaded Iraq because George W. Bush wanted to.

What is the matter with Republicans that they get us into wars like this? Rarely does war achieve conservative ends. It pokes holes in the rule of law. It flouts morality. It sunders families. It unbalances budgets and undermines currencies. Look what it has done to the dollar.

My theory about Republicans is that the Cold War damaged their DNA. For decades they were the party that was ready to fight, fight, fight. Well, communism is dead. The Red Army is gone. The new enemy is a man hiding in a cave somewhere, and other men in Baghdad who make bombs in little rooms. To protect me from these guys, Republicans have declared a War on Terra, and I don't need it.

Somebody has to make this party wake up.

That would be Ron Paul. See what he has done. He started at zero in the polls. And yet his supporters are the most fervent and Internet-savvy of any candidate. For months there have been more Ron Paul signs in Seattle than for any opponent, including Barack Obama.

On the East Coast, the Paulistas have hired a blimp. In November, they cooked up a "money bomb" on Guy Fawkes' Day, and did it again in December on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. In the fourth quarter, Paul raised more money than any other Republican. He also has received more money from active-duty military than any other candidate.

In Iowa, Paul got 10 percent of the Republican caucus vote. That is not victory. But for a candidate of nonmainstream ideas to go from zero to 10 on the eve of the New Hampshire primary is significant.

Some of his support is self-conflicting. At Paul's rally at the Seattle Westin in September, one of the loudest cheers was for his attack on the Federal Reserve. Paul believes the Fed makes it too easy for the government to create money. But his attack ropes in the greenbackers, who believe the Fed makes it too hard for the government to create money. The late Rep. Jack Metcalf was one of those — and Metcalf's chief of staff, Lew Moore, is Paul's campaign manager.

That is a side issue. Paul is important now because of foreign policy. He offers Republicans an idea for rebranding themselves as the nation's conservative party by scaling back on world management and foreign war. Paul will not decide the outcome in November, but his ideas matter for the future of America's conservative party.

Bruce Ramsey's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His e-mail address is bramsey@seattletimes.com; for a podcast Q&A with the author, go to Opinion at seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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