Nystrom: What I learned from my conversation with Ron Paul - Part ISubmitted by Michael Nystrom on Tue, 02/02/2010 - 22:06
Note: As I mentioned yesterday, I got a phone call from Ron Paul yesterday that was very educational, and I want to share it with you. I had to work today, and didn't get to start on this until around 5:30. I also didn't get to specifically address why Sarah Palin endorsing Rand Paul is a good thing, but I think you should be able to figure it out. Anyway, I'll write that probably Thrusday. I won't have the time tomorrow. Thank you for your patience.
Here's how the phone call began:
Me: Hi Ron.
Dr. Paul: Michael! How are you?
Me: Fine, how are you?
Dr. Paul: Not good! he said with his ironic laugh.
We both had a laugh at that one, and the ice was quickly broken. He was calling, of course, about the firestorm that had erupted over the C4L Ken Buck ad. He was not at all happy about it and in fact was personally quite hurt by it. "Don't people trust me?" he asked.
"Of course we trust you. There is no question about that," I told him. "I don't know how many times people have told me that they would take a bullet for you." The problem, I told him, was some of us were less certain about the Campaign for Liberty itself, and the motivations behind the ad.
This is when he gently handed me the grenade, to blow myself up with:
Dr. Paul: Michael, how much do you know about that race in Colorado?
Truth be told, I didn't know much, except what I read... on the Internet. But in my mind, I had already spun some fantastic stories and jumped to some rash conclusions without any evidence at all, as many of us did. Rather than waiting for an explanation, we let these spill & fester in public, on the Internet.
At this point, let me reiterate that I am a political neophyte, and my real political education began only three years ago, when I started this website basically on a whim. I am inexperienced both in politics, and in handling a website of this size. This is in no way an excuse, just some objective background information. From my perch behind the screen, I can't say that I understand everything I have seen over the last three years. And this is where Dr. Paul helped me out.
I wanted to take detailed notes of our conversation, but in the end, there were only two items on my notepad, and some doodles. Unfortunately, I cannot reconstruct the entire conversation from memory. For one thing, I was nervous - I was talking to Ron Paul after all, and about this very charged subject. For another, there was a lot of information. Imagine listening to Ron Paul talk on a YouTube for 20 minutes, then try to recall exactly what he said, in the order he said it. I'm just not able to do it. He's smart, he talks fast, and made connections that I only caught up to later. So what I will give you is my interpretation of the conversation. Any errors, or misrepresentations of Dr. Paul's words or ideas are mine, and completely unintentional.
One of the two items on my pad are the scrawled words, "The Campaign for Liberty is a political organization."
This seems like an obvious statement, but I've never considered what it means. Many of us here, myself included, were concerned that the C4L was 'selling out' its principles. In one of my very critical posts, I was quite vocal in stating that "noninterventionism is something that we do not compromise on."
But politics is about getting things done, and you can get things done without selling out principles. "Take for example," Dr. Paul said, "something that you're very interested in - the audit of the Federal Reserve. We have been effective on this issue because I work with people across the political spectrum, people like Bernie Sanders and Alan Grayson."
I doubt anyone could be ideologically further from Ron Paul than Bernie Sanders. Sanders is a self-described socialist. Alan Grayson is a Democrat who believes in big government, and government sponsored health care. And yet Grayson was one of the first Democrats to cosponsor HR1207 and is responsible for getting over 100 more Democrats to cosponsor the bill. Sanders is the sponsor of the Senate version of Ron Paul's bill to Audit the Fed (S604).
I doubt anyone here would think that Ron Paul 'sold out' his principles by working together with either Sanders or Grayson. They don't agree on other issues. Fine. On this issue, they're getting big things done by working together. The Fed has been around since 1913, and no one has made the kind of progress that Ron Paul has made on this issue. Members of Congress have wanted an audit of the Fed for decades, and nothing has ever come of it until now. In December of last year, the House passed a financial services regulatory bill with the full language of Ron Paul's HR1207 as an amendment, called the Paul-Grayson Amendment. Does anyone think Ron compromised his principles because the amendment has Grayson's name on it, and Paul and Grayson are now associated? I don't think so.
(The irony is that as hard as Ron Paul fought for this, the language of his lean bill was rolled into a monstrosity of federal regulation called the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (HR 4173) that he simply couldn't vote for. On principle. But it passed.)
The same conventions - of working together on mutual interests - apply to the C4L. This is what it means that the C4L is a political organization. In Washington DC, the name of the game is politics, like it or not. Which brings me to the second word scrawled on my notepad, which is "tactics." Tactics, if you look it up in the dictionary, means 'the art or science of deploying and maneuvering forces for battle.' With Audit the Fed, Dr. Paul got his bill through the House with skillful tactical maneuvering. One of the forces at his disposal was the Campaign for Liberty, which according to Ronnie Paul's statement, played a major role. Tactical maneuvering does not imply sacrificing principles.
Requiring a 100% agreement litmus test on all issues would make it impossible to get anything done. For Buck's part, he is on record as giving 19 good answers on the survey. This is where the tactics come in. Ron Paul is proud of the C4L, and the gains it has made, as we all should be. Sometimes we forget that, but look at the organization, not from your own perspective, but from that of the status quo political establishment: The C4L is huge grassroots army, over 250,000 members strong and growing with great media exposure, big fund raising ability, and a vocal and activist membership with chapters in every state. To any outsider, it is a formidable competitor. The more it grows, the more it is feared. The more it is feared, the more it is respected. The more it is respected, the more influence we have in pushing our own agenda. It becomes a major force in our tactical battles.
This is where the Buck ad comes it. It was a tactic to put pressure on the other candidates, as well as a show of force to the mainstream political establishment. Listen to the interview of Jesse Benton with Kurt Wallace, where he talks about what they're trying to accomplish. Buck is with us on the issue of auditing the Fed. Benton admits the C4L made mistakes in the wording of the ad, and in the lack of communication with the membership. It was also a mistake for the grassroots, myself included, to jump to such harsh conclusions and make unfounded attacks.
This explanation of political tactics might sound trite - I don't know. For me, coming directly from Ron Paul, it was educational, if only because I heard it directly from him. Additionally, what he reminded me of, not with words, but actions, is the importance of kindness and patience. As important as what we accomplish is how we comport ourselves as messengers of Liberty. Dr. Paul sets a high standard, and it is one that I did not live up to.
What was most heartbreaking for me about my conversation with Dr. Paul was how he characterized his feelings over the whole thing. He said it was very depressing to him. This has special significance for me because I once had a conversation with him about this. It was the day before the Revolution March in 2008, and I had gone to DC a day early to meet him. I was riding in the back seat of his car - we were on the way to dinner. Tom Woods was riding shotgun, and Dr. Paul was driving. I told him that I knew people in our movement who were almost crippled with depression over what was going on in the world. I asked him if he ever got depressed about it all. His answer came quick: "Nope. Not at all." I was intrigued. "Why? What is your secret?" I asked. His reply: "Low expectations!"
At the time I thought it was funny, but he was serious about it. He followed up by saying that all the times he was on stage during the debates, when people laughing at him, ridiculing him and jeering him, it never affected him. "I was a little worried that it didn't affect me," he said.
I've had a year and a half to think about his words, and I've thought about them often. How would it feel to be on that stage and not be affected? It made me imagine him as some kind of a zen master, doing what he does not for any expectation of gain or reward, but simply for the doing of it, because it is the right thing to do, unswayed by the criticism of the world around him.
This is why it was particularly crushing for me to hear him say how depressing it was for him.
Imagine working diligently towards something for 30 years, being in striking range, with all the accumulated tactical wisdom under your belt of how to achieve it, having a huge organization that you built up at your disposal, being completely focused on your goal, and then suddenly, some of your most ardent supports turn on you, start second guessing you, rabidly attacking you, and threatening to tear down everything you've built.
I imagine it would be depressing.
I certainly don't want that for Dr. Paul, and I don't think any of us here want it either. I hope we have all learned something valuable from this whole experience, and are ready to move forward, stronger in our understanding and our focus.