By Francis Wilkinson
Every Republican candidate on the stage in Ames last night would've looked slightly better had Ron Paul been elsewhere. Debating Paul is a losing proposition for any conventional politician -- even though his peculiar ideology puts him on the losing side of virtually every argument. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, for example, relished his debate battle with Paul over Iran, knowing that few Republican primary voters share Paul's nonchalance about a nuclear theocracy in the Middle East.
Yet regardless of the topic, Paul always seems to be the most honest person on the stage; his sincerity emits a harsh light on his rivals and, by extension, on virtually every national politician. He doesn't fudge like Mitt Romney, whose past performance (on health care or abortion or . . . ) is no guarantee of future returns. He doesn't fib like Newt Gingrich, who managed to blame Fox News for exposing his contradictory -- and expedient -- improvisations on U.S. policy in Libya.
You could say that Paul has the luxury of staying true to his course because he's not a legitimate contender for the nomination. But that's a status he shares with others, including Gingrich. Paul is unquestionably an ideological outlier, but compared with what we normally see on the national political stage, he looks less like a politician drunk on spin and more like a guy who just swallowed truth serum.
(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)
-0- Aug/12/2011 18:31 GMT