Republican Convention 2008

Ron Paul's Rally: The Speeches

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MINNEAPOLIS—I have never heard political speeches like these. Obviously a feature of the Ron Paul campaign was the interminable, free-form rhetoric of the man himself. No matter what crowd he was in front of—pot-lovin' college kids, fetus-lovin' religious conservatives—Paul would speak for 40 minutes about gold, Iraq, medical privacy, civil liberties, and non-intervention. And the Fed. Chatting with me and reason.tv superstar Dan Hayes, near the stage here, MC Tucker Carlson went on about how surprised he was at passion for the gold standard and anger at the Fed, cropping up at every Paul event.

So that same spirit of randomness is on display here. Speakers have been chosen for their celebrity within the Pauloverse, not their speakifyin' abilities. Lew Rockwell, introduced to cheers of "LEWWWWW!", weighed forth in an angry monotone about George Bush's attempt to "create an authoritarian government," and compared non-resistance to non-resistance during the "Stalin, Hitler, and Mao administrations." Author Bill Kauffman, pure swagger in khakis, joked about how Robert Taft would be pilloried if he showed up to the XCel Center. "They'd choke him with pages from a Mitt Romney speech!" he said. "Or worse! They'd make him LISTEN to a Mitt Romney speech!" One liners tumbled forth: "John McCain is more concerned with the Georgia of Joseph Stalin than the Georgia of Ray Charles." He started to sing a few bars: "Hit the roa-a-ad, jack…"

There was a special guest slotted at the time that we were interviewing Carlson, as he would be the first speaker NOT introduced by Carlson. He was John McManus, a John Birch Society board member who fed the crowd red meat. The Birchers are heavy into this: Rev. Steven Craft, who lectures for JBS on sexual morality, told me that Paul's been good for them. "Ron Paul, the Constitution Party, and the John Birch Society see eye to eye," he said. Both of those groups are sponsors of this event, while the LP just has a booth.

But like I said: Random. The Birch booth wasn't much more crowded than any other booth. McManus was followed by Bruce Fein, who gave the same high-strung lecture on civil liberties he makes at every ideologically compatible forum (with metaphors like "trying to get sunlight from a cucumber"). And as Nick Gillespie noted from reason World HQ, Jesse Ventura tried to draft the crowd into his 2012 presidential non-campaign.