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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ron Paul on Capitol Hill - Jeff Deist

Mises Daily: Saturday, June 21, 2014 by Jeff Deist
[Editor’s Note: This is a transcript from Jeff Deist’s interview with Tom Woods on June 3, 2013.] 

WOODS: I want to talk about the time you spent as Ron Paul’s chief of staff. I can’t imagine that could be dull. So first of all, what was that like, and how would you compare it to what the likely experience of other politicians’ chiefs of staff would be? 

DEIST: It was amazing, and in part simply because over time Ron had risen up to become such a national figure that the political class in D.C. had to start to begin to give him grudging respect. Because if there’s one thing that they respect, it’s fundraising ability. So as much as they might disagree with Ron, these poor congressmen were all plagued in their home districts by people coming up to them and going, oh, I’m a huge Ron Paul fan, or can you get me Ron Paul’s autograph? Or can you vote more like Ron Paul? They all hate it. And one of my favorite, favorite parts of the job was, again, in D.C. there’s this ludicrous hierarchy of absolute, absolutely unaccomplished nobodies sort of strutting, feeling their oats, and so there is this unspoken rule among chiefs of staff or members of Congress that when they want something, they reach out to the other member’s chief of staff. In other words, you can’t just talk to the receptionist or something. Absolutely pathetic. So I would sometimes get these calls or emails from other chiefs of staff shyly saying, hey, I’ve got some Ron Paul books. Can you get them signed for me? Or stuff that their constituents had requested.

WOODS: Funny. 

DEIST: Yeah, it was funny, and the other thing I always loved was when these — oftentimes members of Congress themselves or their lowlife political operatives would come to me as a channel seeking Ron’s endorsement for their candidate. I would always ask very innocently or innocuously, “I am just curious: did he or she endorse Ron against Romney and the others?” Of course, I knew the answer was an abject, resounding, no. But yeah, so we stuck it to them, but Tom, what people need to understand is if you go back to the ’70s, when Ron first decided to run for Congress and got in there, and then late in the ’80s ended up running for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination, he was flying around on horrible Southwest flights, and he was talking to 30 or 40 people in some back room at a Denny’s restaurant somewhere, and there was no way to coordinate all this via email and websites and Twitter and social media. He was in the wilderness. He was all alone.

Okay, so now you fast forward 30 years, and he goes to Berkeley. He goes to Utah. Wherever he goes, he’s treated like a rock star. People have to understand that there were years and years in the wilderness, and the degree to which he was treated shabbily by folks in Washington and by the Republican Party. He is finally getting, in my view, what he deserves, which is admiration and adulation, because he carried the banner of liberty for so many years and was just mocked and derided and belittled for it. So young people today, especially the millennials, college kids, they see him as a star, but what they don’t see is all the years that he had to work and be away from his family and be away from his wife and be away from his medical practice and give up income he could have made as a physician. So God bless him. I certainly love the guy, but I am a little biased, to put it mildly.

WOODS: To me that’s what made him a star, were all those years, those thankless years, pouring in all that energy, doing everything he could and not caring, frankly, if people listened or not. That’s not his concern. He has no control over that. What he does have control of is how hard he fights, and he fought, and fought, and fought. And I tend to think, and maybe I am being unfair here, Jeff, but I tend to think that some of his more, I don't know, pygmy detractors — if they were in a similar situation, where year after year they got no recognition — when all these people in the libertarian world who attack him, thrive on attention — could you imagine them year after year getting no attention? Could you imagine them sticking to their guns and not compromising? To the contrary, they would all be rationalizing in their minds why it’s okay to co-sponsor Santorum’s bill in the Senate if they were working for senators or whatever. They would all have some reason that being part of the machine was probably the best thing for liberty. They would have all rationalized their absorption into the machine years earlier. And he didn’t. I can’t even be absolutely confident that in that situation I would have held out. 

Maybe I would have had some way of having mental reservations that it’s okay to be part of the machine just this once, and he resolutely refused to do it year after year.

Now let me talk about what life was like in his office. Now, he’s got—the people I know, or three of the people I know and really respect from his office — were Paul-Martin Foss doing monetary policy. Talk about — I don’t want to say that he was superfluous, but that’s the only congressional office I could think of that the candidate could probably have gotten away without one, because he knew the stuff. But Paul-Martin did fantastic research. Then you’ve got Daniel McAdams — civil liberties, defense policy, etc. And then Norm Singleton — just overall legislation. What a dream team he had. What was it like working in there?

DEIST: Yeah, well, Norm really deserves a lot of credit. He’s been in this and been behind Ron for decades, and Norman is really one of those unsung heroes of Washington, a stalwart, stand-up guy, and also beloved, really, in his own way. But it was so interesting working there because during the time when Ron chaired the domestic monetary policy subcommittee, I thought some of those hearings that he had were epic.

WOODS: Oh, absolutely!

DEIST: He had this ability to have these incredible guests as witnesses, and then, of course, a couple of chances every year to speak directly to Greenspan, previously, but then Bernanke. A lot of that stuff, thanks to YouTube, will go down in history. If nothing else, he was sort of laying down historical markers as we went along, and you got to think back. We had serious calamities from a monetary policy perspective and from a financial perspective during Ron’s tenure. We had the tech stock collapse in the early 2000s. We had the Enron accounting scandal issue. We had the housing collapse. We had a disastrous war in Iraq and all the deficit spending it entailed. So these were all bad things, and I think it’s very important—people discount this—how important it was that Ron was there making the case for posterity, to say, look, these are the grave errors, the grave sins of our time, because if we just sort of keep repeating the mealy-mouthed stuff about monetary policy that both the demand-side Keynesians believe and the supply-siders — the Chicago monetarists — believe, then it’s awfully hard for future generations to do it better and to understand what went wrong. Certainly, there’s a whole generation of young people out there who not only were introduced to, let’s say, Rothbard because of Ron, but were also introduced to monetary policy generally because of Ron. And you’ve got to remember, monetary policy was considered this boring, wonkish, backburner issue that wasn’t really political and that egghead economists would sort of — even amongst economists it was considered sort of a dull niche. So for Ron to bring monetary policy to the floor and to put it in the news and put it in the lexicon of average folks who read End the Fed, or whatever, that is an enormous service to America, in my view.  READ MORE