Last night I attended a small event where Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) spoke about his candidacy for president as a Republican. I found it a bit of a disappointment. On the plus side, he is making opposition to both the drug war and the war in Iraq a major part of his campaign. He also opposes warrantless wiretapping, the USA PATRIOT Act, and the Military Commissions Act. And in response to a question from one of several atheists present, he indicated his support for the separation of church and state (and opposition to Bush's faith-based initiatives). On the minus side, his stance on illegal immigration is to "secure the border," deny benefits to illegal immigrants, and eliminate birthright citizenship. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's stance on illegal immigration (double Border Patrol officers, implement a guest worker program, and provide a mechanism for illegal immigrants to pay a fine and become legal residents) makes a whole lot more sense than that. Also on the minus side, as Sameer Parekh has pointed out at his blog, his stance on free trade is to oppose anything that he sees as a compromise on free trade (like major free trade agreements), which makes him look like he's pandering to protectionists--his web page makes no indication that he support free trade, which strikes me as dishonest.
Nutjob Arizona State Senator Karen Johnson was there, and she asked a question about Bush's "stealth campaign" to establish a North American Union; Paul responded that he opposes creation of such an entity and a common currency for such an economic area (the "amero"). This is going into WorldNetDaily and Alex Jones conspiracy theorist territory, conflating the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (a meeting between the three heads of state to increase economic cooperation) with the ideas of Robert Pastor, a professor at American University, about creating a political union. If the EU can't approve a Constitution (with France and the Netherlands rejecting it) and still has holdouts on the euro (Britain and Norway), how likely is it that countries as different as the U.S., Mexico, and Canada would combine into a single political entity?
I'm glad Ron Paul has provided a consistent voice in Congress against the war in Iraq and erosion of our civil liberties in the name of the global war on terror, but I'm afraid he probably wouldn't make a very good president (though I did make a small contribution to his campaign which I'm feeling some buyer's remorse for this morning). My preference is to see a Democratic president and split control of Congress--gridlock seems to be the most effective way of achieving economic growth and slowing the erosion of our civil liberties.
UPDATE (April 12, 2007): The argument that Paul makes about illegal immigration--that we should stop it because of the impact on welfare--is aptly turned on its head in this post from last year at David Friedman's blog.
UPDATE (February 11, 2008): Here's a debunking of a number of Ron Paul claims, including the NAFTA superhighway.