There must be something in the Iowa air that impels politicians to give off-key speeches after the votes have been cast in the caucuses. Twelve years after Howard Dean committed political suicide by screaming out the names of states and four years after Hillary Clinton put so many oldsters on stage that she looked like she was taping an AARP commercial, the Republican candidates Tuesday night gave us so many fresh memories to cherish.
There was Ron Paul declaring, "I'm waiting for the day when we can say we're all Austrians now." The Texas congressman was referring to the Austrian school of economics and his favorite economist, Freidrich von Hayek. But television viewers could be excused if they wondered whether the rally would break into a rousing singing of "Edelweiss." And Paul wasn't finished with the strangeness. In a first in modern American politics, he welcomed to the stage an active-duty soldier wearing his camouflage uniform and critical of American foreign policy.
Corporal Jesse Thorsen, of West Des Moines, is only 28 years old so perhaps he could be excused for forgetting the Defense Department regulation hammered into all members of the Armed Forces that they may not "participate in partisan political... rallies" and "cannot appear at any kind of political forum in uniform." But Paul, himself a veteran, should have known better than to put Thorsen in a position where he could be disciplined by the Army.
A lighter - but also odd - touch was in Rep. Michele Bachmann's valedictory after her sixth place finish. She praised her husband, Marcus, but drew a wince from him when she disclosed that on the day before the caucuses "he was out buying doggie sunglasses for our dog Boomer."