Ron Paul honored as small-government crusader, minus pesky specifics

Charles Dharapak/AP

The tribute video to former presidential candidate and retiring 12-term Rep. Ron Paul of Texas at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday featured soaring music, testimonials from his conservative colleagues in Congress, and footage of Paul’s devoted fans.

“It’s the American story, forging your own path. Not because it’s the easy, way but because it’s the right way,” the narrator said in the opening seconds. “And for those with dedication, character, faith, and conviction, sometimes that lonely path paves the way forward for millions.”

Fade to Paul emerging from the shadows to address his fervent supporters, like a 77-year-old rock star.

The notably brief tribute to the libertarian icon focused almost entirely on his push for smaller government. Not mentioned: Paul’s controversial positions and many clashes with the Republican Party over the last two decade, right up to the current convention.

He has advocated killing off federal agencies, from FEMA and the IRS to the Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Interior, and Education departments. He is a passionate opponent of American military intervention abroad. He has refused to fully endorse nominee Mitt Romney, and his supporters have caused a ruckus in Tampa this week.

It’s a safe bet that many in the GOP still agree with the initial assessment of South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint. “When I first got to the House, I thought Ron Paul was nuts,” he said in the video.

The reason there was a video tribute at all is because Paul refused the speaking slot offered to him in Tampa, unwilling to allow convention planners to vet his speech. It was far from the only point of conflict between Paulites and the party.

During the roll call of states on Tuesday, when delegates officially nominated Romney,  the former Massachusetts governor was the clear winner with 2,061 votes. Paul received 190 votes, but his name was never mentioned from the stage. Convention secretary Kim Reynolds refused to read out the final delegate counts for any candidate other than Romney. The Texas delegation revolted and began shouting out the Paul totals themselves after each state, with others in the hall also taking up the cry.

Earlier that afternoon, Paul backers booed House Speaker John Boehner when he pushed through a rule change that will require all convention delegates to vote for the winner of their state’s primary or caucus, making it harder for insurgent candidates like Paul to accrue votes in the future. And the convention refused to seat Paul delegates from Maine altogether, ruling that their election was invalid. They didn’t go without a fight. From the balcony in the arena, they chanted "Seat Maine now!"

By Wednesday, a long chain of Paul supporters had turned Maine's plight into a hallway chant: "As Mainegoes, so goes the nation. As Maine goes, so goes the nation.”

Inside the hall, there was mostly harmony as Paul supporters watched the best Republicans could muster for their hero. One man held aloft a sign that read, “It's More Than a Man. It's a Movement.”

Harrison Whitaker, a 24-year old Texas delegate from Ft. Worth, was unimpressed.  “I’ve seen better YouTube videos,” he said of the tribute.

He added that he hasn’t felt welcome or respected by Romney delegates all week. “I can feel the hate when they look at me, and I don’t like it,” he said.

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