A symbolic, inconsistent stance from Ron Paul

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is proud of what he sees as his truly conservative credentials. He's for smaller government. He's for foreign trade but not foreign military involvement. He wants to spend that money wasted on empire-building right back here in these United States of America.

His followers -- who reverently call him Dr. Paul -- see a gentle humility in the weathered hands of the 72-year-old ob-gyn. But there seems to be another side to Paul. A side that sees millions of humans, Burmese afflicted by a devastating cyclone, and couldn't care less.

Last week, when a congressional resolution merely offering "condolences and sympathy" to the people of Myanmar, also known as Burma, came up for a vote, Paul was the only member of the entire House of Representatives to vote "No." The resolution was the kind of publicity trick that elected legislators waste countless hours on each session.

So in that sense Paul's symbolic stand looks good.

But then along come the sharp-eyed folks over at Radar, who find out that Paul is not quite so principled when the silliness is closer to home.

Come to find out, Paul has voted in favor of similar empty resolutions to congratulate the University of Kansas football team for winning the 2008 FedEx Orange Bowl, as well as the Louisiana State football team for winning the 2008 Bowl Championship Series. And he celebrated the New York Giants' come-from-behind victory in Super Bowl XLII.

Seriously, what Texas congressman wouldn't want to get on the official congressional record wishing all the best to every one of the good folks up in New York City?

Wait till the Houston Texans find out about that one.

Obama's Bosnia moment

Is this another Bosnian sniper incident, where a Democratic candidate for president describes a scene involving some personal courage, but later videotape shows that maybe perhaps it wasn't really quite all like that exactly?

Barack Obama is very fond of telling receptive audiences the story about how in May 2007 he walked right into the automotive lion's den of Detroit and told those industrialists they were going to have to shape up, change the way they do things and start making more fuel-efficient vehicles to protect our environment.

"And I have to say," Obama tells his chuckling followers, "that when I delivered that speech, the room got really quiet. Nobody clapped."

Well, in honor of Obama's return campaign visit to Michigan last week, someone -- perhaps Republicans, perhaps someone closer to home politically -- assembled videotape of Obama's oft-told tale and spliced it side by side with videotape of that actual Detroit speech.

The room wasn't quiet at all. Obama, in fact, got a loud round of applause. And at the end of his address the camera's view of him at the podium was partially blocked because the audience of local businesspeople and automotive executives rose to give him a standing ovation.

Every little bit helps

As 11-year-old Dalton Hatfield set about selling his earthly possessions, his parents thought he was doing his part to help pay for a family vacation. Instead, he was doing his part to help his favorite presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton. And the other day, the young fellow presented a stunned Bill Clinton with a check for $440.

The former president, according to one account, "seemed to nearly come to tears" as he accepted the donation at a fire station in Williamson, W.Va.

The campaign was so taken with the boy's gesture that it posted the story on its website. Every little bit helps, after all, when it comes to erasing the $20-million debt the Clinton camp has acknowledged.

Killjoys that we are, we checked federal regulations just to ensure everything was on the up-and-up with Dalton's contribution. And we're relieved to report it passes muster.

The key, according to the law, is that the "decision to contribute is made knowingly and voluntarily by the Minor" and that the "funds, goods, or services contributed are owned or controlled by the Minor."

Dalton generated his money by peddling his video games, bicycle and anything else that "I could make money with."

It's just as well he didn't cast his lot with Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential race; otherwise, his initiative might have been squelched. The Times' resident expert on campaign finances, reporter Dan Morain, reminded us that on its fundraising pitches, Obama's campaign says it will not take money from federally registered lobbyists, political action committees or anyone under the age of 16.

In his own words

"In his/her own words" is a regular feature of The Ticket in which we print some public remarks in total without interruption or comment. Here are some "straight-talk" thoughts on the symbiotic relationship between politicians and press from a recent speech by John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

"The hectic but repetitive routine of presidential campaigns often seems to consist entirely of back-and-forth charges between candidates, punctuated by photo ops, debates and the occasional policy speech, followed by another barrage of accusations and counter-accusations, formulated into the sound bites preferred by cable news producers.

"It is a little hypocritical for candidates or reporters to criticize these deficiencies. They are our creation. Campaigns and the media collaborated as architects of the modern presidential campaign, and we deserve equal blame for the regret we feel from time to time over its less than inspirational features.

"Voters, however, even in this revolutionary communications age, with its 24-hour news cycle, can be forgiven their uncertainty about what the candidates actually hope to achieve if they have the extraordinary privilege of being elected president of the United States. We spend too little time and offer too few specifics on that most important of questions.

"We make promises, of course, about what kind of policies we would pursue in office. But they often are obscured, mischaracterized and forgotten in the heat and fog of political battle."

No tattoos on Obama

From the no-question-gets-unasked department:

While he was blowing off West Virginia, Barack Obama spent several recent days campaigning in Oregon (where Tuesday's primary now looms as his latest must-win). As part of his foray into the state, he made time for a brief chat with Portland's alternative newspaper, the Willamette Week.

The session wrapped up with this query:

Question: "If you had a tattoo, what would it be and where would you put it?"

Obama: "Uh, I cannot imagine any circumstances in which I would get a tattoo."

The candidate then allowed that, if held at gunpoint about it, "then I suppose I'd have to have [wife] Michelle's name tattooed somewhere very discreet."

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Excerpted from The Times' political blog, Top of the Ticket, at www.latimes.com/ topoftheticket

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