In the sea of confusion backstage at today's taping of "The View," Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul's dressing room was an eddy of calm.
While producers and production assistants for the morning gabfest scurried to and fro managing the bustle of activity in rooms designated for today's co-host, "Private Practice" star Kate Walsh, and "Little Miss Sunshine's" Abigail Breslin, Paul was quiet and speculative.
The Texas representative arrived for the show straight from New Hampshire, where he's been campaigning in recent days, mounting his spirited, insurgent, libertarian quest to fundamentally change Washington in the month leading up to the Granite State's first-in-the-nation primary.
But at "The View" studio in Manhattan, Paul was quietly considering his answers. Three staffers waited in the room; Paul's communications director could be heard outside on his cell phone.
Untouched went Paul's gift bag. While this reporter did not get the chance to peruse all the contents, on the top were several bottles of iced cappuccino, which Paul gave to a staffer.
"The problem with this stuff," he said before the show, ruminating on life as a presidential contender, "is you can't really put it anywhere. When you're traveling around, you don't have space for a lot of stuff. And that," he said, pointing at the iced cappuccino concoction, "you can't take on an airplane."
Paul Preps for Gabfest Backstage
Told that a "View" co-host would ask him about China, Paul said, "China? Did something happen overnight in China? I would have guessed they would ask about Iran and the intelligence report," he said.
Paul has long been a critic of the Bush administration's foreign policy. At that moment the president was giving a news conference at which, despite evidence that Iran has abandoned its nuclear weapons program, he would not rule out a military strike against the Islamic country.
Paul considered China and what "The View" women could be preparing to ask him. Something about the dollar and how its weakening? His support for trade relationships? His aversion to economic sanctions? Lead in toys?
Soon after, Paul was ushered into the show's green room where he waited his turn to take to the couch under the studio lights.
An Unusual Introduction
Paul's appearance on set didn't come until the end of the show, after the in-depth discussion about Jennifer Love Hewitt's cellulite and body image, the power going out at co-host Joy Behar's last dinner party and Breslin's aversion to math as taught by her tutors.
But Paul was there. The first Republican presidential hopeful to appear on the show, Paul was dubbed by Behar, an avowed supporter of Democrats, as her favorite Republican in the race because he opposes the Iraq War.
When Behar teased Paul's appearance before going to commercial, she pointed out that he is, in addition to his 10 terms in Congress, an OB-GYN. "Two treats in one," she told the audience, before poking a little fun at Paul.
As a large head shot of him smiling in front of an American flag flashed on screen, Behar asked, "Can you imagine that face staring at you from behind the stirrups."
Co-host Sherri Shepherd said she thought Paul looked nice and she wouldn't mind him delivering her baby.
Not your typical Ron Paul introduction.
Abortion, Immigration and China
But then the discussion strayed from the subjects that have given Paul most of his buzz — barely mentioned was his stance against the Iraq War or his pledges to shut down most government bureaucracy — and instead touched squarely on an issue important to "The View's" largely female demographic: abortion.
Behar likes Paul on the war, but not on abortion. Their discussion on when life begins was informed and lively but not resolved. She asked how Paul could defend personal rights, but not a woman's right to choose. Paul chose a Swiftian "Modest Proposal" style tack and asked her whether it would be OK to abort an 8-pound baby ready to be born.
The discussion continued and most of Paul's 10 minutes were spent discussing abortion. He held his own.
Next came immigration. Paul told Shepherd he doesn't believe in amnesty, but feels like it's the "weak economy," caused by the devalued dollar, that has made immigrants "scapegoats."
Whoopi Goldberg followed up with the China question, which turned out not to have anything to do with lead or the dollar, but more generally with trade and "all the things that have been going on there."
His answer, "Treat China like every other country," may not have been what she was looking for. Paul again pointed to the currency problem in the United States, which he said is one of the more serious problems facing the country.
After his appearance, Paul and his staff were off to a waiting car. After some more interviews, he'll be back in Washington, D.C., later today.
His work as a congressman will probably keep him from precious time on the campaign trail as the Democrats hash out an agreement with President Bush on how much money should be spent funding the government for 2008. As an anti-big government idealist, Paul will most likely vote against whatever compromise they hatch.