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Writing in Reason’s February 2008 issue, Brian Doherty reported on the rise of Ron Paul’s eclectic anti-statist movement:
On the morning of October 30, a large group of people gathered outside The Tonight Show’s Burbank studio. According to GloZell, a local eccentric who attends every taping of the show, only the lines attracted by Hollywood heartthrobs such as George Clooney, Justin Timberlake, and Daniel Radcliffe had ever come close to matching the crowd’s size and enthusiasm. But this throng had gathered to cheer Ron Paul, a 72-year-old obstetrician and Air Force veteran turned Texas congressman. Paul was there to hawk not a movie or a record but his long-shot campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
During the broadcast, host Jay Leno respectfully attended to Paul’s calls for hard money, withdrawal from Iraq, and a flat income tax of zero. Offstage, Leno got Paul to autograph his copy of the congressman’s recent book, A Foreign Policy of Freedom: Peace, Commerce, and Honest Friendship.
Later in the show, while performing “Anarchy in the U.K.” with a reunited Sex Pistols, punk icon Johnny Rotten gave Paul a thumbs-up and a “Hello, Mr. Paul,” later adding, “When are we getting out of Iraq?” In between, more ambiguously, he waggled his ass in Paul’s general direction. But he shook hands with the congressman afterward, and according to Paul supporters on the scene he expressed respect to him privately. Paul, watching the broadcast with supporters at a Hollywood Hills fundraiser that evening, shook his head at the aging punk’s antics, noting, well, we do promote tolerance.…
That day encapsulated Paul’s surprising campaign. It featured a powerful show of grassroots support, respect from unexpected places, and an infiltration of radical ideas into American mainstream culture. There was the aging iconoclast Rotten, mixing the anarchy he stood for as a kid and the market capitalism he lived out as an adult (the Pistols had reunited to help promote the video game Guitar Hero III), symbolizing the range of liberties Paul represents to a movement that includes both Christian homeschoolers and heathen punks. And there was the question so many Americans want answered, the question central to Paul’s campaign as the only Republican candidate opposed to the war: When are we getting out of Iraq?