Two Ronalds: Ron Paul and Ronald McDonald


In 1988, in the waning days of the Reagan Administration, I was a cub reporter in Boise, Idaho. I covered what the photo editor called in jest the “Ronald McDonald beat.” If Ronald McDonald made a public appearance, the editor slapped my skinny shoulders and said, “Go get ‘em, Scoop.”

I was trusted with only the simplest, most innocuous subjects to interview. So one day, I sat down at the Boise Airport with another Ronald. Namely, the official candidate of the Libertarian Party, an unknown Texan doctor named Ron Paul. As I recall, he was traveling solo. If he was insulted by being delegated to the lowest-ranking reporter in a politically irrelevant state, he didn’t show it. 

He rattled off the talking points of libertarianism, which I dutifully transcribed. I noted the copy editors had already laid out the Post-Election Day Front Page, with George Bush Sr. front and center.

“So do you think you’re going to win?” I asked.

He gave me a wry smile. “Not today. But we are going to win.”

So I marvel a little, when I see today’s high-production Ron Paul television ads, bragging about how he will cut $1 trillion in federal costs his first year in office. “Department of Education? Gone! Department of Interior? Gone!”

Of course, if I were that reporter today I would ask: “Really? No more hot lunches for poor rural school kids? Yellowstone National Park, sold off to the highest bidder?”

Ron Paul’s anti-government positions drift into the right-hand breakdown lane, too extreme even in a conservative state like Idaho.

Yet, today in the far more politically important state of Iowa, Paul is running third in the polls, behind Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney among likely voters in the Republican primary.  Paul isn’t as fringe as he used to be.

One gets the sense that the Gingrich and Romney campaigns, at the core, are about little more than individual political ambition. Paul, it must be said, has a vision that goes far beyond his ego. When he dies, his son, Rand, and a legion of faithful will carry it on.

Paul followers are passionate (hell, in my county they still have their yard signs up from 2008). But Paul’s eyes are not focused on 2012, rather they aim to do damage to the conservative establishment and to advance an ideology. Just by showing up on the stage, he pushes the conversation to the right.

I disagree with Ron Paul’s ideology, but I admire his strategy. It’s something anyone with a cause can learn from.  There is something to be said for simplicity of message and dogged determination. Even if it takes 25 years or more years.

Is Ron Paul going to win? Maybe he’s already winning.

 Image: Politico Ron Paul should not be confused with hamburger pitchclown, Ronald McDonald.

Ben Long wagers on the political underdogs from a voting booth in Kalispell, Mont.   He is senior program director of Resource Media, which takes no partisan positions at all.                                  

Carl Fischer
Carl Fischer Subscriber
Dec 07, 2011 08:07 AM
Ben, you state "I disagree with Ron Paul’s ideology..." You first need to UNDERSTAND his ideology. It is a constitutional principle regarding having a small federal government. The forefathers experienced first-hand how dangerous it was to put all that power in a central government back home in England. For example, the British Empire gave a monopoly to the East India Trading Company over the cotton produced by the colonies (and the government leaders received a cut of the profits). The colonies HAD to sell their cotton to the East India Company and then they would ship it to England, make clothing and other garments, and then the colonies were forced to purchase clothing from them. The colonists were not allowed to fabricate clothing from their own cotton for risk of being arrested.

In much the same way today, the banking system destroys the economy through risky investments and outright fraud, then we the taxpayers bail them out with a 720Billion dollar TARP program plus another 7.7 TRILLION provided secretly that we just found out about, and the federal gov't leads us into the bailout and so far has arrested no one. In return, the leaders get millions of dollars to stay in power through donations and that's just the money we know about.

So the idea here, Ben, is to make the Federal Gov't so small so that it can never have that sort of power (e.g. bailing out banks, US car industry, US Airline industry, and then the middle class is left with $16 trillion in debt, foreclosures, rampant unemployment and ... a loss of hope). Get it?

Our forefathers knew that humans (along with our many good qualities) had a propensity toward greed and control, and the most greedy and power hungry would vie for positions of power if such a huge federal gov't were set up. So, instead of trying to hope that everyone would be "good," the forefathers of this Country set it up so that power could not be concentrated like that. Well, our country has lost that battle. The government is so big now, that if someone like Ron Paul campaigns to reverse the size of government to something nearing what was called for in the Constitution (the supreme rule of law in our Country that EVERY elected official SWEARS to uphold - yet totally ignores it) - he gets comments like ... "Ron Paul’s anti-government positions drift into the right-hand breakdown lane, too extreme even in a conservative state like Idaho."

You don't know what conservative means. You don't know what following the Constitution means in regards to having a small Federal government. You have a responsibility to know since you are a reporter and influence your readers. Your ignorance in this area is dangerous and I appeal to you to do something about it.

Regarding your naive comments... "No more hot lunches for poor rural school kids? Yellowstone National Park, sold off to the highest bidder?" Let me answer those for you. 1) Hot lunches are to be provided to poor rural school kids by the slightly richer neighbors, friends and the overall community - either through setting up Associations, just reaching out to your neighbors who are in need, or by the local board taxing the local people to feed the local hungry people. (No inefficient power hungry Federal Gov't being involved - and somehow, yes somehow, your neighbor gets fed. BTW, have you fed your hungry neighbor lately? My guess is probably not because you think "I pay taxes to the Federal gov't, let them handle it." Making the Federal Gov't in charge of welfare programs (BTW, NOT a power granted by the Constitution to the Federal gov't) makes us more callous insensitive neighbors - yes, there is a social impact too. 2) Yellowstone National Park would be RETURNED to Wyoming, Montana and Idaho - the 3 states that Yellowstone inhabits. Local people will deal with their local park and honor and respect the land locally. It is NOT in the constitution for the Federal gov't to own and run national parks.

Remember, a federal gov't large enough to feed you is also large enough to take it away.
Stephanie Paige Ogburn
Stephanie Paige Ogburn Subscriber
Dec 07, 2011 09:21 AM
A comment on this thread has been deleted because it violated the High Country News comments policy. You must use your real name when commenting. See for more information.

Thank you,

Stephanie Paige Ogburn, online editor
Henry Orugman
Henry Orugman
Dec 07, 2011 09:27 AM
If resource media takes no partisan positions, I just saw a fluffy pig fly by my window. Mr. Long, your not-so subtle attempt to put Dr. Paul down is scorpion-like. The comparison of an iconic figure like Paul to a grease-pandering corporate clown is insulting. Your biases come from wearing those rosy-tinged socialist glasses but fear-mongering is your journalistic coup de grace. The reasons why you don't support Paul are your own and you are entitled to your opinion but I call them simplistic, uninformed and without merit. You seem to advocate for a welfare state. Your argument is consistent with: give people fish; give them other peoples fish but never teach them to fish or give them the fishing rod. Your question re: the privatization of a national park is also uninformed and simplistic. These are arguments that partisan neoconservatives and liberals make when they don't understand libertarianism. No national parks will not be sold off to the highest bidder Mr. Long, just as children will not go hungry under a Paul presidency--dare I call you ignorant. If you are so inclined to help out in socially unjust issues, start a charity or donate to one; Rather than giving the power and money to bureaucrats with our collective and involuntary tax money to do as they please. You're right, Paul has won;the revolution is here.

Henry Orugman
Henry Orugman
Dec 07, 2011 09:32 AM
Is that better Ms. Ogburn?
Ben Long
Ben Long
Dec 07, 2011 09:33 AM
Wow. I hit a hot wire on this one. Like I said, Ron Paul's disciples are a passionate bunch. I'm just quoting Mr. Paul's own TV spot: "Department of the Interior? Gone!" Well, fact is that the DOI, for all its faults, does a lot of things Americans strongly favor, such as maintain and manage our national parks. Mr. Paul is a perfect gentleman, which is more than I can say for some of his followers, hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.
Henry Orugman
Henry Orugman
Dec 07, 2011 09:54 AM
You said it. He's a perfect gentleman who should not be compared to Ronald MacDonald the clown..yeah a perfect example of gentlemanship on your part. Tell me this, what good are parks if the economy tanks? You easily forget the Constitution as well. So without the DOI the parks would cease to exist? How little opinion do you have of the States to which they belong. Well, you knowingly put this out there trolling for these comments the gentlemanliness will come after you report unbiasedly.
Ben Long
Ben Long
Dec 07, 2011 10:04 AM
Henry, sorry my attempt at humor went over your head. Point was, I was a lowly cub reporter and Ron Paul was a struggling third-party candidate. Twenty five years later he's in the big leagues, because of focus and determination. That's the point of the column. Yes, I disagree with Mr. Paul (and you) about the role of government and your interpretation of the Constitution, but I do admire Mr. Paul. Fact is, Paul is taking about 10 percent of the party faithful in Iowa.
Bullet Gibson
Bullet Gibson Subscriber
Dec 07, 2011 10:12 AM
Mr. Long,
"Of course, if I were that reporter today I would ask: “Really? No more hot lunches for poor rural school kids? Yellowstone National Park, sold off to the highest bidder?”
I would have expected a reporter to know that Dr. Paul has stated that it would be wrong to take away from those that have become dependent upon entitlements and that there is a transition built into his budget to cover these individuals and families. Same for the national park systems which will go back to the states. Why do you seem to believe that the people of those states would sell these off to strip miners or something? Do you really believe that ONLY the federal government can run these? I think you should have more faith in the people around you sir. We are the individual people who give more to charity than all the rest of the world combined. We can do this.
Tim Baker
Tim Baker Subscriber
Dec 07, 2011 10:35 AM
For the commentary above stating the National Parks would go back to the states, I have a simple question: have you seen the condition of state parks lately in this country?

A follow-up question might be: how (or why) should a lightly populated state like Wyoming keep and care for a national treasure like Yellowstone? Wouldn't it be in their best fiscal interest to sell it off or develop it? Perhaps a billionaire or 2 would buy the whole thing for a private resort or an exclusive hunting camp.

The National Parks are national treasures, not just state ones. Relegating them to the individual states means they would be dealt with as best benefits those states and not the rest of the country. Only the federal government has the ability to look beyond the local interest.

That said, I do think many of the problems currently addressed at the federal level *should* be local problems with local solutions -- it's just that National Parks aren't one of those problems.
Bullet Gibson
Bullet Gibson Subscriber
Dec 07, 2011 11:34 AM
Why do you ASSUME that these parks are "national treasures" and not state treasures? Who told you this? I can't find it anywhere. And if you gave Dr. Paul's economic policies a chance you just might find the state governments in control of a lot more of their own revenue that was previously taken by the feds. Most Americans never even see Yellowstone, especially the poor, why should they pay so you and others can go to a park? Records show that a SIGNIFICANTLY higher number of state residents go to those parks than non state residents. How about they charge a fee to you out of state residents? There are a lot of much fairer and better (constitutional) ways to do this. I'm sorry but your argument is still built on a failed belief in big government.
Tim Baker
Tim Baker Subscriber
Dec 07, 2011 12:34 PM
I "assume" these are national treasures because the nation owned them prior to the establishment of the states. The U.S. government bought the Louisiana Purchase, not Wyoming or Montana and at a later point decided by Act of Congress to reserve some of these lands in the public interest rather than disbursing them to individuals or states. Why then should states be able to claim that these should belong to them and not to the nation as a whole? Just because someone at a later date decided to draw smaller geopolitical boundaries that included these lands?

I realize this could quickly devolve into an argument about aboriginal ownership claims and the right of France to sell the land to the U.S. in the first place, which I certainly don't want to get into in the comments section, but precedence of ownership alone suggests federal priority over states in the case of National Parks (and National Forests for that matter).

And for the record, the National Parks do charge of a fee to out-of-state residents, it just happens to be the same as the fee for in-state residents because, well, we're all equal citizens of the nation.
Joe Orugman
Joe Orugman
Dec 07, 2011 12:41 PM
Oh, for crying out loud!---Ron Paul isn't in favor of taking away school lunch and selling Yellowstone to BP.

Please stop this straw-man baloney.

Ron Paul isn't against programs and regulations--he's against big bloated departments that cost more than they return.

Do we really need a special Federal government department to enforce a law or run a program?

States can run their own programs and still receive some Federal money -- that's not anti-Libertarian--it's just more efficient.

How have these departments worked so far? Can you tell me, Mr. Cub-reporter exactly what these departments do, off the top of your head?

Check into it and then tell me we need to keep them.

Joe Orugman
Joe Orugman
Dec 07, 2011 12:48 PM
Further more - we are not "disciples" -- generally, Ron Paul supporters have the same story -- we approached cautiously and did our homework.

Then, we decided to support him.

Don't take my word for it - read his books and study his positions and then come back and say that he gave you nothing to think about with regards to the status quo.

Hey, you'll be the first reporter that actually did some research on Ron Paul!

Ben Long
Ben Long
Dec 07, 2011 12:56 PM
To quote Mr. Paul: "Department of Interior? Gone!" Let's see. The National Park Service is in the Department of Interior. Yellowstone Park is managed by the National Park Service. Mr. Orugman, perhaps you do not understand the definition of "gone." Mr. Webster publishes a good dictionary....
Tim Baker
Tim Baker Subscriber
Dec 07, 2011 07:19 PM
Ben, If you look at Ron Paul's own web site and his "Plan to Restore America" you can also see where he plans on selling $40 Billion worth of federal lands in 4 years which would also strongly suggest he would like to sell the National Parks amongst other lands.

Could you imagine the "Disney Yosemite Experience" or the "Koch Brothers Yellowstone Ranch"? -- gives me the willies just thinking about it.
Robb Cadwell
Robb Cadwell
Dec 07, 2011 08:46 PM
Well he can go ahead and sell off the Parks but by gosh lets' keep the Wilderness Areas and National Forest, heck I've seen some BLM I like. Wild and scenic rivers,,, bleh.

I liked when recently Governor Perry was at a loss of which government departments were the 3 he wanted to nix so he asked for and got help from the good congressman from Texas. No hesitation there, he offered up a higher number. Since when did orphans, widows or the disabled do any one any good? Refreshing to see stingy openly embraced.

I think the term is Paulites, don't mention Colorado resort towns.
Ben Long
Ben Long
Dec 08, 2011 09:11 AM
Tim, you're right. $40B in public land on the auction block. Has he done an appraisal or is he pulling that number out of the air? What would such an action do to the real estate market? What places, if not Yellowstone, are in his crosshairs? He is out of the right-hand breakdown lane and bumping through the rhubarb.
Steve Snyder
Steve Snyder Subscriber
Dec 08, 2011 01:33 PM
1. Ron Paul is arguably a borderline racist who unarguably, for years during his first stint in Congress, sent out a borderline racist newsletter under his name as publisher.
2. On social issues, there's only one libertarian in the GOP race and his name is Gary Johnson, not Ron Paul.
3. Regular HCN readers, don't feed the Ron Paul trolls; I'm surprised there's not more of them here already.
kyle rodman
kyle rodman
Dec 09, 2011 12:06 AM
In regards to the Ron Paul supporter comments: (on the issue of welfare programs) there is no way people would, out of their own good will, provide donations to provide for the 15% of people living under the poverty threshold. I'm not a cynical person, but think about this realistically. At least some people will be more likely to use their extra money (from paying less federal income tax) to buy something for themselves than donating it to charity, leaving less overall resources available to these people. You may think this is a good thing, people on welfare are lazy right? It just gives them an incentive to work harder if they don't have the money to fall back on. I would wager that very few single mothers with hungry kids are on welfare by choice. These people work two jobs and still can't get by, I wouldn't exactly call that lazy.

In regards to the many comments about converting the national parks to state parks. I'm sure Wyoming, Idaho and Montana would protect Yellowstone just as strongly as the feds (haha). If we didn't have a national parks system these places would be smaller, more poorly protected, and wouldn't have the same character. There would be no wolves or grizzly bears in Yellowstone, and Olympic National Park would be devoid of trees. The plans to reintegrate wolves and prevent logging in Olympic National Park had strong local opposition, but were ultimately beneficial to the country as a whole. The whole driving force for the creation of these places was to prevent the privatization of another niagara falls. Private and state control aren't ideal but federal ownership has worked well so far.

Whatever you people want to believe, the federal government does have a purpose besides national defense. The south would still have slavery if we always left things up to the states. Markets won't solve all the world's problems, because they are driven by personal wants and not societal need. This is the purpose of government, making sure human greed doesn't destroy society, and helping those that would otherwise be oppressed, whether that is people or nature.
Ben Long
Ben Long
Dec 09, 2011 09:24 AM
I think you nailed it, Kyle. Libertarianism is one of those ideas that sounds great in theory, lousy in practice. I've heard the same thing said about Marxism, all-night parties, etc.
Tom Schmitz
Tom Schmitz
Dec 11, 2011 03:40 PM
I'm reminded of the EPA finally timidly saying fracking may have contaminated those WY wells -- and the governor saying that the report was based on questionable science -- I give Ron Paul real kudos for being the most honest in the GOP field -- but, we need the feds to stand up for the little guys - even thoguh they don't do it consitently well -- they do it better than most States ever would.
Layton Carr
Layton Carr
Dec 16, 2011 04:34 PM
People bring up giving National Parks back to the states really don't know what they are talking about. Do they see that states like California and NY can barely support the state parks? Some states are closing their parks. It would be insane to give the National Parks to the states because most of them would be gone. What about the smaller historic sites and battlefields? I can just see Gettysburg being turned into an amusement park, can you imagine riding Picket's Charge roller coaster? I believe the government should protect these historic and natural history sites not just for people to visit but also for future generations. Besides the Park Service is a drop in the bucket and isn't even really a problem for the debt, so I never understand why libertarians like Paul complain about them.
Ben Long
Ben Long
Dec 16, 2011 04:46 PM
They complain because it runs afoul of their philosophy. Government is the problem, not the solution, they say. Yet National Parks are America's best idea and would be impossible without the federal government. American voters have more common sense than that, which is why it is so hard for the libertarians to break into the mainstream.
Alice C. Newton
Alice C. Newton
Dec 17, 2011 08:25 AM
If you want to know the effects of privatizing large quantities of federal land, look to Las Vegas. Oh yeah, 2005, 2006, were just peachy - look at all the economic benefit that was gained from releasing thousands of acres for development. Land prices, and subsequently housing prices, soared into the stratosphere. Just like any glory hole, boom and bust. Now we're stuck with thousands, nay, tens of thousands of poorly built, over priced, bank owned and badly neglected houses that may not ever be occupied again. Dead landscaping, boarded up windows, graffiti, and green swimming pools. Every neighborhood has one, and many neighborhoods have several. It is politically dangerous to say so, but the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act is directly responsible for making my home town a cesspool - literally. The tourists don't see it, but the residents do.
Ben Long
Ben Long
Dec 17, 2011 09:31 AM
Yup. The slots aren't the only gambling going on in Vegas...