“I don’t get paid not to win”
Penny Freeman, former Ron Paul’s staffer
Let’s face it: Ron Paul has sold out to the republican establishment. He was playing nice all the time with Romney, Rand Paul endorsed Romney even before Ron threw in the towel, and all that was justified by the possibility to influence republicans from within, and especially to have a say over the Republican Party platform. Eventually, Romney campaign and the RNC ended up beating and cheating the Ron Paul people on the ground, stripping Ron of many duly elected delegates for Tampa. The nice behavior of Ron Paul was awarded by insults and by purging the Paulites completely from the Republican Party, the scene to which Ron Paul reacted with a real Buddhist peace and indifference, without a single complaint or objection. And the famous “platform” in its final form called for auditing the Fed, but not too closely, because that could jeopardize its independence. So, Ron achieved nothing, and in return for achieving nothing his supporters have been beaten, humiliated and purged from the party! Am I missing something?
However you slice it, Paul’s campaign was a huge failure, on its own terms, judged by the criteria Ron Paul and his supporters themselves laid out in advance. Now, Ron and his minions are trying to obfuscate this obvious failure by pointing out the “educational” and motivational effects of the campaign, inspiring the young people and similar crap, but that was not their argument from the beginning; they claimed Ron was going to win, and he was fighting to win, not to educate the public. The first question that anyone should ask is –what happened in the meantime to change so drastically Ron Paul’s priorities? Should we attribute this pathetic result to a deal with Romney, as some rumors would have it? But, if so, would not be a weird and strange thing to claim that a man known for his impeccable intellectual and personal integrity throughout his life and career would become a sell out at 77?
Good questions: with no obvious and self-evident answer. On the one hand, nobody could deny what has been said about Ron Paul’s credentials and achievements in advancing the cause of liberty in the past; on the other hand, nobody in good faith could deny that something was really fishy about this campaign from the beginning, and that it ended just pathetically. And that it is not convincing at all to excuse Ron himself for this pathetic outcome and blame various Judas and saboteurs who acted alone (Jesse Benton, John Tate, Rand Paul and so on).
The solution for this dilemma is I think, simple: yes, Ron Paul did indeed sell out, and what I mean by ‘selling out” in this context is not that he suddenly became a crook, but rather that he allowed his personal, family and nepotistic imperatives to trump his calling of a statesmen and a champion of liberty. He participated during this campaign in a deliberate scam of his own supporters, by refusing to fight for the nomination, while still pretending in public to be doing that. I think that Ron Paul essentially was blackmailed; if he would not give up, Rand would be politically finished within the GOP machine. Ron decided to betray his supporters, his principles, his message of liberty and his legacy in order to secure the political future for his son within the republican establishment.
What is the evidence for this? There is a plenty of evidence, and actually it is difficult to see any other explanation for Ron Paul’s behaviour in the last six months of the campaign or so. Many of the direct pieces of evidence were given by Ron himself, only his impassioned devotees did not want to see them, and did their best to suppress the plain truth about Ron’s betrayal by trying to find all sorts of scapegoats – Jesse Benton, John Tate, Rand Paul – everyone and his cousin, except the main culprit, the man who hired and instructed all those people to act on his behalf, to conduct his campaign and to speak in his name. Forgive me for the comparison, but I remember in my young years a man called Slobodan Milosevic, a dictator of my home country Serbia, who was admired in the first few years of his rule: as time went on, however, and people started to discover all sorts of crimes, plunders and betrayals committed by the regime, the real crisis of confidence ensued. But, “Sloba” was at first excused for all the problems, and “crooks and thieves around him” blamed. This changed only much later, when the people finally, after couple of wars, trade sanctions and crippling deterioration of the living standard, got to their senses and understood that there were no crooks and thieves, that there was only Sloba. These fervent Paulistas who excuse the old man while blaming the “crooks and thieves” such as Jesse, Rand or Tate for all misbehaviour and betrayals of the recent campaign remind me strongly of the naïve, self-delusional supporters of Slobodan Milosevic in my European childhood. They were for a harsh landing soon. I am afraid that the same crude awakening awaits the Paulistas now.
From the very beginning of the primary season a curious relationship between the Romney and Paul campaigns has developed. Not only that they would not attack each other during the debates and in the campaign adds, but even more peculiarly – whichever opponent of Mitt Romney would show up as a strong contender in the polls, threatening the Romney’s position as the “frontrunner”, be it Michelle Bachmann or Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum, the Paul campaign would immediately and predictably launch a strong, aggressive and often effective counter-attack against this challenger. I remember Ron attacking Michelle Bachmann – certainly the most libertarian candidate among the rest of the field, very friendly to Ron and even with some interest in the Austrian economics – extremely aggressively and impolitely for her stance on gay marriage, a completely peripheral issue for both Ron and Michelle! Those were the days when many of us still believed that Ron was in to win, or at least to seriously fight for a win, and I remember my astonishment at this apparently stupid and reckless gaffe: “had he lost his mind? If he really wants to win he would need the full support of both Bachmann and Palin, he would have to do his best to coopt and instrumentalize the “fiscally conservative” wing of the Republican Party, instead of spitting them in the face. If he could tolerate and cooperate with Barney Frank and Denis Kucinich in the interest of a higher good, maybe he could tolerate Michelle Bachmann as well”.
The theory that many of us (including even some foes of Ron’s like Mark Levin) accepted at the time was that Ron was not seeing Mitt Romney as a rival at that point, but was working tirelessly to delegitimize all those phony “conservatives”, and built for himself the position of the only credible anti-Romney. And only after that to go on fighting against Romney. However, even if this was the strategy (and, as I will show later on, it was not) still – to attack so aggressively one of the main stars of the conservatives about such a non-issue as gay marriage, did not seem to be the smartest way in the world of imposing yourself as the leading anti-Romney. Ron has never had a majority among the conventional conservatives and he simply needed in perspective a strong support of the politicians like Jim Demint, Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann. Going against any of them in such a drastic and unprovoked way seemed simply stupid and suicidal.
Now, we know that it was everything but stupid, if we take into account his real objectives. Since Ron Paul never intended to win, his behavior was perfectly rational in pursuing Rand’s long term interests and manipulating the supporters towards this goal. First, his secret contacts and negotiations with Romney campaign started very early and were well underway in the time of the bitter primary debates (not bitter between Romney and Ron, of course). One of the anonymous senior staffers of the Paul campaign, widely speculated to be Jesse Benton himself, said recently for the media: “That (the absence of attacks on Romney) made it pretty clear to anybody with brains that our side had started talking with the Romney people”. This was, of course, denied vehemently during May and June when those speculations popped up for the first time. Now we know that allegations were, of course, true. Romney and Paul campaigns were working together to secure the nomination for Romney and advance the long-term interests of the Paul family.
Here is the additional, irrefutable, evidence: what also happened very early (and was impossible to hide, even temporarily) was the proclamation by the Ron Paul campaign that they would stop competing in the states that did not yet have their primaries; this happened in the mid-May. This declaration, curiously enough, came in the same time when the Ron Paul supporters won the several state conventions and accumulated the majorities even in some states in which Romney had won initially the majority of votes during the primaries (such as Maine). Moreover, it appeared that Paul’s supporters were taking over the Republican state organizations in different states, such as Iowa and Idaho. This development worried very much the Romney campaign and the republican leadership; this dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of the Ron Paul’s supporters even leaked out to the media.
However, Ron Paul not only suspended his campaign in that very moment; even worse, in an extraordinary statement for the media, Jesse Benton, Ron Paul’s campaign manager, went so far as to condemn what he called “isolated instances of grassroots activists working toward an ostensible ‘hostile takeover’ of the GOP” in Idaho and other states! And he promised that this will not happen again! So, when the republican establishment got really upset about the possibility of Ron Paul amassing a respectable number of delegates for the convention in Tampa, Ron Paul campaign simply poured the cold water on its own supporters by first suspending the campaign, and then condemning them openly for being too successful! What kind of campaign manager is that who apologies to the rival team for the effectiveness of his own people? And what kind of candidate is that who tolerates such a traitor in his team? I remember the forum discussions at the Daily Paul website at the time, in which dozens and dozens of idealistic and energetic activists who selflessly donated their time, money and energy to the Ron’s campaign, and who spent days and nights, weeks and months, fighting for him in caucuses, rallies, conventions, were simply flabbergasted by this betrayal. They were desperate, angry and could not believe what they were hearing from the campaign.
Just a day or so after this infamous episode, in an obviously coordinated move, Rand Paul came to the Sean Hannity show on the Fox News to openly and wholeheartedly endorse Mitt Romney, promising even to actively campaign for him! The supporters were furious – the same day when Jesse Benton and Ron Paul went out of their way to convince them to continue pouring money into the campaign since this “suspension” did not mean the end of it (God forbid), Rand Paul was seemingly stabbing his father in the back, by endorsing his rival on a show led by one of the harshest Ron Paul haters in the American media! He even went so far as to suggest that the endorsement was a kind of Paul and Romney clans joining together, as he spoke about the “family kinship” between Romneys and Pauls. And what had Ron Paul done in response to this apparent sabotage by his son? Nothing: he was silent! Or more precisely, he was not so silent, after all; on his Facebook page, Ron approvingly posted and urged the fans to read an article published on Daily Caller in which Rand’s endorsement was praised, as well as the new “pragmatism” of both Rand and Ron who, according to the article, finally understood that they have to work within the republican establishment in order to achieve their libertarian goals! So, Ron Paul was supporting his son in his endorsement of his main rival, the same day when he was still busy convincing the supporters to continue sending money to his own campaign which was allegedly not over yet! It was plainly obvious that afternoon that Rand Paul was not the Judas, as many angry a supporter would have it, but that everything he was doing, was done with the full knowledge and approval of his father. In the same time, it became obvious that the entire Paul campaign was a fake – it was never intended as a fight for the nomination but only as a ploy to protect and advance the narrow political interests of the Paul family.
However, the Paul’s supporters were not to be deterred so easily by this. In a tragicomic combination of an open sabotage of their efforts by their own candidate and their often irrational and immature worshiping attitude towards Ron Paul, they continued to make troubles, completely unaware of the wider game that was being played by their hero behind their backs. They fought hard to amass a very significant number of delegates, all the discouraging signs from the campaign notwithstanding. The new big problem for both Paul’s campaign strategists and for Romney people was how to prevent the stupid rubs from spoiling the party in Tampa by nominating Ron Paul from the floor, what they could have done if they retained the control over the majority of at least five state delegations. They controlled six, which put the entire concept of a peaceful coronation of Mitt Romney in Tampa in jeopardy. The danger had to be removed.
And it was removed by simply stealing the delegates from Paul and giving them to Romney with the full blessing of the Paul campaign! The level of cooperation between the Romney and Paul campaigns in this dirty business was simply beyond belief. For example, Ron Paul won eventually (after Santorum’s withdrawal) the Louisiana primaries – 27 out of 46 delegates. However, the Romney campaign challenged the results and eventually succeeded in stealing the elections via combination of legalistic trickery and the help from the RNC. Predictably, the local Paulistas were furious and a bitter fight ensued: finally, the two campaigns settled for a “compromise” by which Romney would get a majority of 31, and Paul a minority of 17 candidates. On his Facebook page Ron Paul praised this deal as a “good compromise”! What he failed to mention was that by this “good compromise” the Republican machine just robbed him of one of the critical state delegations necessary to nominate him from the floor. And he was happy about it! Sounds surreal? Not at all, because the days before this “historic” compromise, Jesse Benton was already promising in the media that Paul’s delegates would be “respectful” and that they would not nominate him from the floor: “Dr Paul does not want to be nominated from the floor” exclaimed solemnly Jesse. However, Ron and his cronies obviously did not have enough confidence in the moral corruption of their own people, and they had to make sure that the stupid rubs would not acquire a sufficient majority to wreak havoc on the beautiful historical coronation of Mitt Romney, by “irresponsibly” attempting to nominate Ron from the floor, and forcing him thereby to really fight against Romney! Just in case!
And then, as if all of this was not enough, RNC changed the rules as they went to Tampa to increase the number of state delegations necessary for the floor nomination from 5 to 8. Needless to say, again without a single word of protestation from Ron Paul or from his campaign.
I believe that in Ron Paul’s behavior was something more than mere working for Rand’s future. This additional and actually more general factor was pointed out in an excellent but (understandably) ignored interview by the former Ron Paul’s senior staffer Penny Freeman with Adam Kokesh. She argued that Ron Paul has never believed he has a shot at winning the presidential elections. Penny Freeman left Ron Paul’s organization in 2007 during the initial, preparatory stage of the campaign for the elections 2008, when she was told by a colleague Kent Schneider that “Ron will never win, they’ll never let him win. We have to run an educational campaign’. The response of Penny Freeman was: “I don’t get paid not to win” and she left. She rightly pointed out that the educational effect and “getting the message out” were just the by-products of a successful campaign to win, and not the goals of the campaign itself.
This little anecdote tells us a lot about Ron Paul and his strategy. We already know that Ron Paul is not a typical politician; he is a man of ideas and theories instead of practical politics and ordinary wheeling and dealing; when it was last time that you heard a lecture about the business cycle theory by a major political figure? In a presidential primary debate? The fact that he was impossible to bribe, to lobby or coopt testifies also to this effect. Years spent in an almost complete isolation in Washington D.C. must have convinced him at some point that he was waging a lost political battle against the system. At some point he must have changed his priorities from making a political success, let alone becoming a president, to educating the public and raising the issues in public that the mainstream does not want to be raised. He had to scale back his ambitions. Being a man of ideas, this transition from political to educational mission might have been much easier for him than for most other people. In 2008 this change was plainly obvious.
And this is the first and critical deception of Ron Paul-the politician: the thousands of people supported him in 2008 and 2012 without knowing that he had never believed he could win and had never intended seriously even to fight for a win! He would raise money for the campaign, pretending that he was competing for the presidency, while in the same time never seeing his mission as winning the elections, but rather as “educating” the public. Everything was a fake from the get-go! Ron Paul testified repeatedly how much he was struck and caught by surprise by the strength of the response to his message in 2008, how many young people accepted the ideology of individual liberty and free markets.
In 2012 the situation was much more serious than in 2008; the level of support for Ron Paul was much stronger. According to the opinion polls, just weeks before the Iowa caucuses he was a serious contender to win. And this created the unforeseen problems to his disingenuous tactic of using the money raised as a politician to run the educational and a-political campaigns. Namely, at this point the thousands of young people, thousands of fervent Paulistas all over the country were convinced that Ron’s time has come, and that he will win; they were ready to spend days and nights, during the cold winter in the cumbersome primaries and caucuses, to endure insults, beatings, cheatings and all the rest in order to carry his message and help him win.
This might have created a sense of pride on his part, and also the sense that the educational tactic was working: every year the more and more young people get acquainted with Mises, Hayek and Rothbard, with the ABCT, with the ideas of gold standard and non-interventionist foreign policy, chant “end the Fed”, and all the rest. And every year the establishment is forced more and more to take this into account.
However, the dark side of this success for Ron Paul was that he created, so to speak, a monster he could not control anymore. He created an army of self-conscious, educated and radical young people, ready to endure whatever it takes to change America politically. They would donate their money, they would donate their time, they would do whatever needs to be done for his electoral success and they would never give up and they would also expect Ron to never give up. This was the last thing in the world that the Ron Paul, the pedestrian politician-educationalist needed! We now know from the horse’s mouth, from his (ex) chief lieutenant and a member of his family Jesse Benton, that Paul’s campaign started the talks with Romney very early during the primaries and that “everyone with brains” should have known that Ron’s cavalier attitude towards Romney was not a matter of strategic calculation to win, but a matter of the deal that was being made with Romney behind the backs of supporters.
It is very easy to see how Ron Paul was thinking: “I am running one of my educational campaigns, but I know I will not win, so let’s make a deal with Romney who is the establishment candidate and who will win, to push through some of my ideas into the platform and to advance Rand’s career. And let’s extract some more money for these purposes from these poor suckers who still believe that I am a new Andrew Jackson or Robert Taft”. And he was caught in a vice between this prosaic reasoning and the campaign realities on the ground, where his supporters were wreaking havoc on the republican machine. That was not a part of the plan; they took him much more seriously than he was comfortable with. He maybe even got scared of what was going on; at any rate, he simply decided that the only way out of that mess was to quietly strangle his own campaign while preserving at least a minimum of credibility as a principled liberty-fighter and Mr Libertarian. Hence, that difficult balancing between the clear signaling to the establishment that you are giving up and the efforts to convince the stupid rubs that you are actually not giving up. Imagine if Ron had said honestly: “you know what, kids, I am here to advance my nepotistic interests, and not for the reasons you are supporting me and bleeding for me. I made a deal with Romney and I will endorse him, because, you know, that will be useful for Rand and the transition from me to him in the movement. But, don’t be upset, I am still Ron Paul, the leader of your big revolution, and a great Libertarian and Mister No whom you admire, so please continue treating me as such and keep donating to my C4L as if nothing had happened”. I am guessing that the stupid rubs would not be terribly impressed by this; in all likelihood, Ron would have ended up with a barrage of deserved insults and accusations for selling out, just as Rand did, if not worse.
So, instead of this honest and impractical admission, Ron started a long torture of giving the contradictory, convoluted statements and counter-statements, so uncharacteristic for him, intended to “square the circle”; to keep going with the factual betrayal and keep faking his “liberty revolution”. So, one day Ron would be “still undecided” about the support for Romney; the next day he would say that he was “not endorsing Romney fully”, which suggested that he was endorsing him partially. In the interview with Neil Cavuto he would confirm that Neil’s description of his stance as “endorsing the Romney-Ryan ticket, but not wholeheartedly” was correct. In an interview with Jay Leno after the Republican convention he would say he was still “plugging along in this campaign”. It was so sad to watch; Ron Paul in the role in which he was never good; behaving like a politician, i.e. lying.
Some of the Ron Paul’s supporters now claim that such sad end of Ron’s political career is a terrific thing: Ron Paul was never a real politician, corrupt and sold out, all we are now better off with him retiring, getting out of dirty business of politics and doing what he is best at: spreading the ideas of liberty and educating people. But, they forget that Ron Paul campaigns in 2008 as well as in 2012 did not raise the money from the donors and did not ask for volunteers and delegates for their time and resources to “educate the public about libertarianism”, but to help Ron win the presidency! Would Ron and his campaign now refund the donors for the money they extracted from them by falsely promising to fight for the republican nomination, while in practice not intending to do any such thing?
I don’t think so. On the contrary, it appears that the Paul clan is doubling down on the same profitable business strategy; Ron will play his role as an “educator”, this time around as a retired politician and a cash cow for Rand Paul, the best pall of Mitch McConnell, and Jesse Benton, the new campaign manager of the same McConnell! And John Tate is moving back at the Board of directors of the Campaign for Liberty, to supervise the financial operations of the clan. This is intended as a real family business, a liberty factory with a nice division of labor: Ron the honest educationalist and a “man of principle” to whom the army of enthusiastic supporters could still donate a few bucks, Rand as a political arm busy converting Washington DC to libertarianism by palling around with Mitch McConnell, Jesse as a double agent in McConnell’s headquarters working covertly for Ron and Rand (with the neocon operator Trygve Olsen whispering in his ear), and John as financial mastermind. What possibly could be wrong with such a nice scheme?
For those of you who still believe that everything must have been just a terrible mistake and misunderstanding, that Ron was manipulated like “Sloba” by evil or incompetent advisers, and hope to wake up one morning and get your old Ron Paul back, I would like to say: that ain’t gonna happen. If you believe in such a possiblity, you would have a lot explaining to do, to yourself primarily: to explain the persistence of Jesse Benton as a campaign manager, in spite of all his malfeasance and treason, and explain his subsequent transfer to the Mitch McConnell campaign; to explain Trygve Olsen’s presence and his friendship with Rand Paul, please explain Ron’s explicit endorsement of Rand’s endorsement of Romney, to explain the debates in gloves between Romney and Paul, as well as the mysterious campaign suspension and Benton’s apologies for being too effective in taking over the state conventions and Ron’s silence on this; to explain the silence of Ron Paul campaign about everything the RNC thugs had done in Tampa, including changing the rules five minutes before voting. To explain, after all, that Ron was still undecided five days before the lections about whom he supported, that he “did not fully support” Romney, or that he did not decide yet whether he would vote and that he “supports the ticket but not wholeheartedly”?. And to explain why Ron would not endorse Garry Johnson, after he endorsed by far inferior LP candidate in 2008? Does that sound like Ron Paul you know? Honestly?