Life as a Congressional Intern

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While
writing my Grandmother an email summarizing my summer internship
with Congressman Ron Paul,
I realized some of these stories are too good to keep for myself.
Having the privilege of being born and raised in Texas, rarely did
I have a reason to leave the great state. Considering the most north
I had ever traveled was Colorado and the furthest east was Florida,
it goes without saying that Washington DC was going to be an eye-opening
experience. When I left, I told myself that my only goal was to
find out whether I loved politics and wanted to pursue it as a career,
or become so disgusted that I could not wait to get home, take a
shower, and clean myself of government stink. Believe it or not,
what I dreaded most was the requirement of wearing slacks and a
tie to work every day. It had only been a few months earlier that
I had spent thirty minutes attempting to tie my tie before I got
so frustrated that I had to call back home and ask what I was doing
wrong. So come that first day of work, I was sure to tie
my tie the night before.

Walking
down the spacious hallway in the Cannon House Office Building on
my first day of work, I told myself to go into this internship with
an open mind. Don't let my outside-the-beltway perceptions affect
my inside-the-beltway experiences. And with that, I went to work
for the federal government. The following are a handful of stories
that shaped my feelings toward government, libertarianism, and political
discourse.

One
of the first events I attended was a lecture given by James Bamford,
author of Pretext
for War
. After listening to him, and before I got an autographed
copy of his book, I asked Mr. Bamford a question regarding the motivations
behind the terrorists who attack the US. "According to your
book, you claim the two most recurring reasons for terrorist attacks
on the United States are due to our interventionist foreign policies
towards the Middle East and our continuous support for Israel. Although
highly flawed, I can remotely see the logic behind intervening in
the Middle East, considering our interests in oil and the existence
of totalitarian regimes in the area; but I do not see the same connection
for our entrenched support for Israel. Why is the strip of land
occupied by Israel so important to the United States' interests?"
I never received a straight answer from Mr. Bamford that day, which
I assumed was probably due to the sensitiveness of the question
and the fact that he was standing in front of a full room of congressional
staff members. As time passed, I came to notice that, in Washington,
all questions pertaining to Israel's influence seem to draw awkward
tension between the speaker and the crowd.

Twice
I spent late nights hanging out at the Leadership
Institute
with a couple of staff members and Daniel McCarthy
of LRC
and American Conservative
fame. We spent hours discussing government problems, the cause and
effects of inflation, the morality of not giving a straight answer
to every question asked, how wasteful the conservative movement
has been over the past fifty years, and how there is not a single
go-to book to convince college students of the logic and morality
of libertarianism, to name a few. A staff member at LI, who has
also become a good friend, created the brain exercise of wrapping
your mind around the federal government's yearly budget. He initiated
the discussion by saying, "Contextualize 2.5 trillion for me.
Attempt to picture 2.5 trillion of anything. You can't. Your eyes
can't view 2.5 trillion of anything. Are there 2.5 trillion atoms
in my cup? Are there 2.5 trillion stars in the sky? Even if this
is true, you can't picture all of them at once! Now, realize that
this is the federal government's budget for one year. One year!
$2.5 trillion!" He makes a mind-numbing point; the federal
government spends
more money than you can mentally contextualize. Sit back and meditate
on the number 2.5 trillion for a while. That is the dollar amount
"Sam" gets to play with every year.

A
charming look into how little attention our office directs toward
mainstream political jargon and how genuine the fight for liberty
remains was the resignation of Sandra Day O'Connor and the impending
nomination of John Roberts. Expectedly, the buzz around most congressional
offices was over who the President would nominate to the Supreme
Court. But, in natural fashion, our office placed little worth in
this meaningless drama. Instead, the talk was over the Libertarian
Party's misguided "Iraq
Exit Strategy
." It was obvious from the beginning that
the President was not going to pick a justice that protected the
Constitutional Republic, so why waste time talking about it? The
fact that the LP was writing policy and acting like a pseudo-CATO
think tank deserved far more attention and outrage than any justice
that the President was going to nominate to the Supreme Court. What
is the LP doing writing policy, anyway? Especially when they can't
even handle their real job of finding effective candidates and providing
the candidates with money and resources? Shouldn't it be the role
of the candidates to draw up exit strategies, and the role
of the party to support the candidate?

One
of our responsibilities as interns is to attend and take notes at
committee meetings. Congressman Paul serves on three committees:
Committee on International Relations, Committee on Financial Services,
and Joint Economic Committee. One of the meetings I was privileged
to attend addressed the ongoing genocide in Sudan. You must realize,
words like "genocide" are not thrown around by the government
loosely (remember, this is the same government that views Iraq as
a success). But, former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, specifically
addressed the situation in Sudan as genocide,
provoking both the House
and Senate
to pass resolutions calling the situation genocide as well. Over
1.2 million people have been displaced from their homes and over
50,000 killed. In response, the United States has looked the other
way, choosing to place its resources and efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan
instead. The committee meeting was business as usual, with more
talk than action, but from the meeting, one statement stuck with
me for the rest of the summer. I can't recall who said it, but it
put this "war on terror" into perspective: "If we
are truly fighting a war on terror, please tell me of a greater
act of terror than genocide."

Another
committee meeting I attended was a "hearing to receive the
testimony of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors
on monetary policy and the state of the economy." Obviously,
that meant testimony from the infamous Alan
Greenspan
. As I settled in, Mr. Greenspan began rambling. Economic
term after economic term, his testimony was turning into a bedtime
story, slowly putting me to sleep. Here I was in the presence of
probably the most powerful man on the face of this earth, and I
could not stay awake. How can he be that dull and speak in that
monotone of a voice and still succeed in becoming the person that
controls the value of everything everyone has ever worked for (and
be married to a not-too-ugly
older woman
that is nearly half his age)? This is the person
that defines the Wizard of Oz analogy of "the voice behind
the curtain,” and I could not keep my eyes from crossing. Although
I can't recall much of what Mr. Greenspan said, the best part of
it all was sitting behind Congressman Paul rather than in the peanut
gallery with the rest of the heavy-eyed interns.

In
conclusion, I experienced history. My deepest thanks go to everyone
who made this internship possible for me. I feel very blessed for
the opportunity. These stories will stay with me forever, and that
holds the greatest value. In the end, it turns out I thoroughly
enjoyed living the professional life and wearing slacks and tie
to work every day. You feel more put together and more self-confident.
As for accomplishing my goal, not only has my passionate disgust
for government increased, I no longer see an excuse for compromise.
Give me liberty or give me death. Corruption, sinfulness, and power
dominate the political agenda. Don't get me wrong – I firmly
believe that most politicians mean well. By no means do I question
their intentions, but as proverb reads, "Hell is paved with
good intentions, not with bad ones. All men mean well."

September
7, 2005

Jeff
Frazee [send him mail]
is a Senior at Texas A&M University. He will be looking for
a real job in the spring of 06′.

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