Ron Paul, the Clock

When people remark that “even a clock is right twice a day,” they are of course folksily commenting on wrong a person to whom they’re referring can be.

When I compare Ron Paul to a clock, I mean that he’s right at least two times a day, or in a speech, or in a debate–but that he’s incorrect, or at least bewildering, the rest of the time.

In this way, he seems to have an interesting rhetorical effect on people. I saw/heard a clip of him speaking to a GOP gathering a few days ago, and in it, he claimed that Republicans were as much “corporatist” as Democrats. The line was not a applauded, but neither was it derided. If his claim were followed, however, it would necessarily disrupt almost everything the GOP (and the Democratic Party) stand for. But those in the audience who favor Paul’s libertarian, isolationist stance probably experience and then ignore cognitive dissonance when they hear “corporatist.” Something similar may go for Tea-Party folk, who rail against big government but not against big corporations, even when big corporations control their lives as much and cost them as much money as big government. The government did what did with TARP funds because large corporations did what they did. (And big corporations don’t even provide interstate highways, labor-safety, and national parks.)

I might add that at the GOP gathering, Mitt Romney (uber-corporatist) and Ron Paul virtually tied to lead the pack of early presidential candidates, but I don’t think those in attendance or the party at large has any stomach for trying to sort out the contradictions this vote suggests.

In any event, when Paul asserts something plain like the remark about corporatism, he seems as right as the most accurate clock. But then, as in the presidential-candidate debates, he will go off on a rant about returning to the gold standard, which seems as likely as replacing cell phones with the telegraph. Or, as was the case when he was testifying to the testifier, Bernanke, during a House committee meeting, he will raise his voice an octave, start speaking very fast, and get into a highly arcane litany of economic theories. Bernanke looked at him and smiled thinly, as if he were listening to a daft uncle.

Probably Ron Paul’s True Followers can absorb and appreciate both kinds of RP rhetoric, but Bernanke, the attendees at the GOP meeting, debate-watchers, and the rest of us may think of Paul as an unusual digital clock that’s right and readable only occasionally. And maybe someone like Kucinich is a rough clockish counterpart in the Demo camp.


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