You can say a lot of things about John Rankin, but you can't deny that the man had the courage of his convictions, despicable as they were. We may very well have John Rankins in Congress today -- I suspect we have plenty -- but none of them have the guts to admit it.

The Akin spectacle capped a week in which Paul Ryan decided that his heartfelt devotion to Ayn Rand was too much of a political liability to admit, so he just lied about it. That enabled him to join the ticket headed by an individual named Mitt Romney who genuinely believes in absolutely nothing. Barack Obama may be weak and ineffective, but at least he remains ideologically consistent as he stumbles along. His failings, such as his refusal to adequately prosecute Wall Street misdeeds, are more a question of political expediency and lack of leadership than inconsistency, though I admit that this is more of a distinction than a difference.

What I think we'd all agree on is that Ron Paul has never looked so good.

The Texas congressman and perennial presidential candidate is certainly no Rankin, but he holds positions that a great many people find unpalatable. And he's not afraid to stick by them, no matter what. He's a strident libertarian and believes that government functions should be stripped to the bone. He is a strident opponent of government regulation of everything and anything, from banks to clean water. He is also against the war on drugs, and he grates against neocons by opposing U.S. military intervention overseas.

Even if you disagree with his positions, you have to admit that the man has a virtue that has never been scarcer in this year's crop of politicians: integrity and consistency. You know where he stands on the issues.

Ayn Rand, the far-right philosopher of capitalism, is an excellent example of what I'm talking about. Paul Ryan's oft-expressed admiration to Randian principles has become an issue in this campaign, less because of his devotion to Rand than due to his dishonest effort to "walk them back" (which is political-ese for "lying about it."

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