The Magazine

Among the Paultards

Even they are ashamed of their candidate's supporters.

Sep 15, 2008, Vol. 14, No. 01 • By MATT LABASH
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After breakfast, I settle into the invitation-only Leadership Summit with Dasa, who's not supposed to be there himself on account of being underage ("The side door works great," he says). The summit is to highlight the particulars of Paul's new permanent organization, the Campaign for Liberty, the mission of which is to promote individual liberty, constitutional government, sound money, free markets, and a noninterventionist foreign policy. As a gentleman in a colonial outfit, complete with tricorn hat, plays "Yankee Doodle" on a fife to call the meeting to order, an organizer named Deb Hopper rushes over and tells me I've got to go, this is a closed meeting.

"We're going to get down to some of the tactics we're going to be using," she says.

"What are they?" I ask.

"Not gonna discuss it," she says.

"Just one tactic?" I plead.

"Not gonna discuss it," she fiercely reiterates, before bouncing me to the sound of fife music, giving me a taste of how the Redcoats felt in the 1700s.

The next day, I attend the "Rally for the Republic" at the Target Center with 12,000 or so Paultards. The rally intends to call "the GOP back to its roots," if by "roots," you mean lots of people in tricorn hats, whose idea of a good time is batting around their favorite economists from the Austrian School. (I'm partial to Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, but then, who isn't?)

My journalistic detachment is dealt a blow, since emceeing the event is my friend and former WEEKLY STANDARD colleague, MSNBC's Tucker Carlson. We both like to think of ourselves as conservatives with strong libertarian overtones. We certainly like to do whatever we want, whenever we want, and hate paying taxes, as our libertarian brothers do.

Tucker did a hang-out with Paul piece last year for the New Republic, and I suggest to him that he's gotten too close to the story.

"You can stay on the sidelines with the jackals, or enter the arena, your face marred by dust, sweat, and blood," he says, archly paraphrasing Teddy Roosevelt.

I tell him I've got a good seat at the press table, but that I'll keep an open mind.

"Sure you will," he mocks. "Write the story before you come. Show up, and fill in the blanks. It's like journalistic Mad Libs. I've been there, man."

My high-placed Paultard source gives me all sorts of insider dope. Former Minnesota governor/pro wrestler Jesse Ventura, who is on the speaking docket, is a serious 9/11 denier. So the Paulians have convinced Ventura to button it on the subject, since furthering the cause of liberty and sound money doesn't have much to do with who Ventura thinks may or may not have felled the Twin Towers. Tucker also won't introduce a speaker from the John Birch Society, just as a matter of principle. And though the schedule calls for a 12:30 P.M. opening bell, "the hemp activists have taken over organizing," says Tucker, "so there's not a chance that we start on time."

Though he's a little bit nervous about his uncharacteristic role-"falling off a cliff," he calls it-Tucker opens the ceremonies with a stirring explanation of why he's here: because, although he signs on to no platform and supports no candidate (especially since Paul isn't one, though somebody should tell that to crowd members holding state delegate stanchions as though they're at a nominating convention to make Paul emperor), Ron Paul, unlike most politicians, is a decent, gentle, and kind human being, who has no interest in controlling you. He stands for freedom and therefore will defend your right to do things he doesn't even agree with, taking political hits for people with whom he has nothing in common.

One of the crowd is so moved by this testimony as to yell: "I love you, Tucker!" "I love you too," he shoots back, "And I mean that in a nonerotic, but powerful way." I can't help but think that this sort of interaction is good for the personal growth of the Paultards, as Tucker will introduce them to something they've likely never experienced before: irony.

The slate of speakers move along in a slow-as-molasses fashion. This must be a stroke to their egos, as I suspect there aren't many occasions when people such as Lew Rockwell, the founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, are treated like visiting rock stars complete with foot-stomping and Ron Paul balloons being volleyed around during their speeches. "By the way," Tucker at one point tells the crowd, "if you can't get enough of [constitutional lawyer/lobbyist] Bruce Fein, he will be signing books afterward, so please don't mob him, despite the temptation."