The hosts, stung perhaps by widespread carping at their blatant ignoring of Paul in previous debates, did what journalists always do when put on the spot in such circumstances: We go into "You want attention? How about this!" mode, where we throw trick questions at you, hammer you on points we don't hammer others on, express a level of incredulity not visible elsewhere, and other debate tricks.
None of these had much effect on Paul, who's spent two decades putting up with ignorant media grilling and supposedly trick questions designed less to explore your positions than to force you to alienate some large interest group.
But where candidates typically hedge like mad when pushed into such stupid corners, Ron Paul is not afraid to take strong stands that make some voters mad. His strength is in his key, foundation points: Less war, less aggressive foreign policy, more paying attention to the Constitution, and more awareness that it's not a choice between property rights and civil rights.
WHAT?? YOU DON'T WANT WAR? ARE YOU NUTS?
The strangest set of reactions to Ron Paul came in response to Paul's forceful insistence that the U.S. should not threaten war with Iran.
The Fox hosts kept demanding to know what Paul is going to "do" about Iran, and kept balking at his refusal to declare war. Paul pushed back at the assertion, as fact, that Iran is close to having a bomb (Paul quoted Israeli officials skeptical of that claim), ignored assertions that Iran will attack Israel once it has such a bomb, and kept insisting that we engage in diplomacy.
He also made the mistake of acting like a statesman -- pointing out perfectly good reasons why an Iranian government would want an atomic bomb aside from wanting to attack Israel. He pointed out, twice, that we had talked Libya out of its bomb, then attacked Khadafy and he ended up dead -- hinting that the only people we invade are those who don't have a bomb. He pointed out that neighboring countries, and the US, have the bomb, so it's hardly surprising Iran would want one for defensive reasons.
This willingness to consider how things look from the point of view of other countries earned Paul contempt from the hosts and from his rivals.
Each of the other Republican candidates in turn announced their readiness to "get tough" with Iran -- Paul had provoked a most shocking display of red-meat warmongering tough talk from the other candidates.
It's clear to any American with open eyes that if any Republican other than Ron Paul is elected President, the US will go to war with Iran.
During one of the debate breaks, when commentators evaluated the "performance" of the candidates thus far, in terms exactly as if they were talking about a football game at halftime, one said Ron Paul had hurt himself with his pacifist talk -- the reason being, a majority of Americans believe Iran will soon have an atomic bomb -- which implicitly means that they would reject Paul for not talking tough on Iran.
This is inane, on many levels.
The public is being sold a bill of goods on the threat of Iran, as Paul himself pointed out several times on stage; this is exactly the kind of bullshit the administration fed the public in the lead up to the Iraq war -- exactly the same.
That should worry anyone - again, Paul pointed this out: Haven't we learned any lessons from the Iraq war?
In addition, there was that odd, automatic expectation by these experts that the job of candidate Ron Paul is to find out what the public thinks, and then pretend to attack that problem, even if the public is wrong or misled -- is this really the way they prefer the country to be run? Did John F. Kennedy have 'Profiles in Courage' ghostwritten for nothing? Pandering is apparently the obligatory strategy as recommended by the journalist experts!
The next day, analysts on NPR again raised this issue of Paul's 'pacifism' playing against the natural instincts of the Republican electorate -- a position which owes much to the reflexive belief among Democrats that all Republicans are warmongers. Then several interesting things happened.
One of the commentators disagreed, though: He said that Iowa Republicans have traditionally been the most noninterventionist in the country: He pointed to its noninterventionist Congressmen prior to World War II, and said that Iowa was one of the first states to come out against the Vietnam War.
Then they turned the discussion to the previous day's big event: The formal 'ending' of the war in Iraq, with the withdrawal of most US troops. The question was put: Was it worth it? The first commentator said no, considering what it cost us. The second said only time will tell, because it will depend on how Iraq evolves in the coming years.
But the third guy became quite heated in disagreeing: The Iraq war was undertaken under a cloud of lies: Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, they weren't harboring Al Qaida, they didn't have weapons of mass destruction, they were no threat to the United States. The war was sold to the public under false pretenses, and 'the generals' didn't support it, he said: This wasn't the Pentagon's war, it was a war pushed entirely by civilians: Bush II, his VP, and members of Congress.
I listened in amazement: The guy is, of course, right. But further: Of all the Republican candidates in the previous evening's debate, every candidate excepting only Ron Paul talked about Iran in exactly the same way they had all talked about invading Iraq only a decade go. Only Ron Paul thought the country should have learned a lesson from the mistakes of Iraq. Only Ron Paul claimed we are once again being sold a bill of goods -- just like the last time. Only Ron Paul wanted to halt the rush to war. Only Ron Paul was willing to question the claims about Iran's threat to us and to Israel.
One thing should be clear to everyone: If you want an end to the endless march to war, the constant saber-rattling by blowhards talking tough with the blood of your sons and daughters, learning nothing and believing anything -- you will only get that with a Ron Paul presidency. Every one of the other warmongers will have us heading off to war as if this were World War I all over again.
As if Flanders Fields never happened - nor Iraq, nor Afghanistan, nor Pakistan -- nor Somalia, nor Yugoslavia, nor any of the rest of our militaristic jingoistic warmongering.
This is perversity of the first water: Pols more afraid to lose an election than interested in the good of their country. And, worse, a press corps urging them on.