Ron Paul: On verge of relevance, again, in New York Times
On Sunday, The New York Times profiled U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Clute, on the occasion of his selection as chair of the U.S. House subcommittee on monetary policy, which oversees the Federal Reserve. The main thrust of the story is that the maverick Republican has finally attained influence, 34 years after he first graced the halls of Congress. Indeed, the headline reads, “Rep. Ron Paul, G.O.P. Loner, Comes In From Cold.”
In the story, Paul says there’s about a 50 percent chance he’ll make his third attempt at the White House.
Tongue in cheek, the Houston Press’ Richard Connelly observes in Hair Balls, “The New York Times has officially announced it is time to stop laughing at Ron Paul, the Sage of Brazoria County, and pay attention to his vindication.”
Be that as it may, obstetrician Paul has garnered his fair share of ink in the Gray Lady. Throughout its coverage since the 1970s, the Times has consistently treated the southeast Texas representative as being on the verge of relevancy, often focusing on his idiosyncracies and highlighting near-controversies that touched him. Its stories always read like introductions to Paul, some 30 years and counting.
The Times’ coverage dates back to Paul’s special election win over Democrat Bob Gammage in April 1976, which the Times marked with a Page 2 Sunday story on April 11. (The Times makes its archives public beginning in 1981.) Paul makes his second appearance in the Times in November 1976, when his general election rematch with Gammage ended in Paul’s defeat by about 100 votes out of 193,000 cast.
The first article focusing on Paul that’s available to the public is a June 1981 UPI story on American mercenaries’ plans to aid a coup of the Dominican government. Here’s the lede: “The Federal authorities said today that John Connally, former Governor of Texas, and Representative Ron Paul, Republican of Texas, had no connection with a plot to overthrow the government of a Caribbean island, despite a lawyer’s request that they be subpoenaed for the Federal District Court trial of three alleged mercenaries.”
Paul is mentioned in an April 1982 Times article after the U.S. Gold Commission rejected the use of gold in the monetary system. The commission did leave a window open to consider gold as currency in the future, according to the article.
The first time Paul appeared in a front page Times article was in August 1983, by virtue of declaring his candidacy for the U.S. Senate immediately after the retirement announcement of U.S. Sen. John Tower. (Paul also made it into a followup article on the next day’s front page.) Paul lost in the 1984 GOP Primary to eventual U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm.
Paul made it back on the front page of the Times in September 1987, while he was vying for the Libertarian Party’s nomination for President. The topic of the story was Paul’s stance against abortion, contrary to the party’s official platform. Paul ended up winning the party nomination out of a field of candidates including Sioux leader Russell Means, a bookbindery representative and a retired welder. The Times reported on Paul’s victory, noting that some party delegates were concerned that both Paul and Means had only recently joined the party in February of that year.
In August 1988, the Times reported that Paul’s candidacy was being pushed by supporters of Pat Robertson, at the expense of fellow Texan and then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. It wouldn’t be Paul’s final clash with the elder Bush: In April 1996, Paul defeated Democrat-turned-Republican Greg Laughlin to return to Congress. The incumbent Laughlin had received strong support from Bush and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as the Times had reported earlier in April.
Paul’s differences with the Bush family would extend to his steadfast opposition of the Iraq War during the administration of Pres. George W. Bush.
In April 1997, Paul was the subject of his first story in the Times’ Sunday Magazine, titled “Mr. Paul Goes to Washington.” The Times reporter tagged along as Paul visited various monuments in D.C. and recorded his musings, such as his visceral reaction to the Vietnam Memorial: “Just an utter tragedy,” Paul reportedly said.
In July 2007, Paul received the full treatment in the Times’ Sunday Magazine. Opening with a description of an exchange between Paul and his spokesman Jesse Benton, who was trying to explain who Jon Stewart and GQ magazine were, the story’s author wrote, “Paul has in recent weeks become a sensation in magazines he doesn’t read, on Web sites he has never visited and on television shows he has never watched.” (Benton would go on to manage Paul’s son Rand Paul’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in Kentucky this year.)
The writer also channels visions of Jimmy Stewart: “There is something homespun about Paul, reminiscent of ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.’” (That was 10 years after Paul’s first appearance in the magazine, and more than three decades after he won his first congressional election.)