The Republican Party has a history of using desperate times to call for drastic measures. When bailing out AIG, bolstering Medicare, or bombing Iraq, the GOP is not afraid to go big and bold in its effort to expand the size of government. But what about when the times call for cutting spending — you know, that stuff GOP politicians always talk about during the campaign season?

One might think that in a political environment in which so many are desperate to reverse what they see as unsustainable government growth, Republican rhetoric might at least attempt to reflect that desperation. But when GOP leaders unveiled their Pledge to America last month, the only thing revealed is that these Republicans remain what they have always been: pansies. In a nutshell, the old Republican guard now pledges to save America from the excesses of Obama by basically returning to the level of government we experienced under Bush, back when these exact same Republicans were doubling the size of government. The pledge has little to no substance. There’s not even a mention about earmarks or even a balanced budget amendment. Even Lindsey Graham supports a balanced budget amendment. This “pledge” is a joke.

When asked to give his take on the Pledge to America, Congressman Ron Paul stated the obvious on Fox Business: “I don’t hear enough precise things we would cut. I never hear that the military-industrial complex should be addressed. I don’t ever hear that the discretionary and non-discretionary funding is all the same. I never hear which departments they really want to get rid of, so, it goes on and on.”

He added, “As long as we want big government, you can’t just tinker with the edges.”

Tinkering indeed. In a Tea Party environment in which so many are tired of conventional GOP politicians screwing around with the irrelevant, why shouldn’t conservatives look to the one Republican who has never screwed around? Instead of wondering if John Boehner is now serious, trying to figure out what Sarah Palin is saying, hoping that Scott Brown turns out to be something special, or wondering which version of Mitt Romney might run for president, why shouldn’t those serious about limiting government get fully behind the one conservative leader who has always been dead serious?

Paul’s pledge to America is three decades old, and he explained it in full during a 2007 Republican presidential debate: “Hello, my name is Ron Paul. I am the champion of the Constitution.” Virtually every Republican claims to be for the Constitution, but most only do so with the moral authority of a cheating husband claiming to be a champion of marriage. Paul’s unwavering fidelity to this nation’s founding charter and his peers’ rampant infidelity can be measured by the countless votes in which the Texas congressman stood as the sole opposition to the entire House of Representatives. This distinction is important as so many new Tea Party candidates are now criticized by the mainstream for being “extreme” in suggesting that we should follow the Constitution to the letter of the law, including dismantling the IRS, phasing out Social Security, or abolishing the Department of Education. Such constitutionally minded, nuts-and-bolts suggestions should be included in any serious conservative “pledge” to America.

Some conservatives take issue with aspects of Paul’s constitutional philosophy when they should really look at their own. For example, many say they like Paul but part ways with the Texas congressman when it comes to his non-interventionist foreign policy. Fair enough, but in their support for undeclared wars, the Patriot Act, and the expansion of power in the executive branch, such conservatives shouldn’t kid themselves that they actually stand for the Constitution or limited government in any substantive manner. In fact, they stand with the bulk of the GOP, which has long made these constitutional exceptions and has helped expand government every bit as much as the Democrats.

So how comprehensively constitutional are conservatives willing to be? Those who wrote the Pledge to America obviously aren’t the least bit serious even as the Tea Party continues to show unprecedented conservative will. If the big-government establishment now considers the Tea Party too radical, perhaps conservatives en masse should finally and fully consider the constitutional philosophy of the one man the establishment has also long considered too radical. There’s a reason Paul’s influence continues to rise in conjunction with the ascent of the Tea Party. And to the extent that the movement adopts his philosophy, it will pledge itself to limiting government in a far more serious and comprehensive manner than it would listening to any other figure who now speaks in its name.

Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the “Morning Buzz with Richard Todd” on 1250 AM WTMA.