Ron Paul: The Greatest Master of Political Rhetoric
by Gary North: You
Are Washington's Collateral
Ron Paul is
a master of rhetoric. The average TV commentator does not understand
this. I do. That's because, ever since age 16, I have been a very
effective speaker. I always wanted to be a master of rhetoric. "Nice
try. No cigar." Ron Paul got the cigar.
In 1976, I
wrote a speech for him: 2-minutes long. He
decided not to use it. That was one of his wiser moves. He never
has used a speech writer. That, too, has been wise.
I hear the
criticism that Ron Paul is not a polished speaker. This criticism
is correct. But he is a nevertheless a master of rhetoric.
How can both
positions be true? Because rhetoric is all about persuasion. Great
oratory is not necessary.
It is usually
assumed that a spellbinder is a master of rhetoric and vice versa.
This is not necessarily the case. The mark of mastery of rhetoric
is this: the speaker persuades a crowd to accept something that
it had previously opposed. A supreme master is a person who has
not only changes their minds but persuades the listeners to take
action. This is so rare as to be unheard of.
master of political rhetoric in American history was William Jennings
Bryan. He was also a great orator. He made a fortune on the lecture
circuit after 1896. With one speech in 1896, he changed American
history. He converted the low-tariff, low-tax, pro-gold standard
Democrat Party into a Populist, statist political organization.
It was captured by Progressive Woodrow Wilson in 1912. Nothing like
this had happened before. Nothing like it has happened since.
The Wiki account
of his "Cross of Gold" speech is accurate.
Bryan was ready to conclude the speech, and according to his biographer,
Michael Kazin, step "into the headlines of American history".
behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world,
supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests,
and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for
a gold standard by saying to them: You shall not press down
upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify
mankind upon a cross of gold.
spoke his final sentence, recalling the Crucifixion of Jesus,
he placed his hands to his temples, fingers extended; with the
final words, he extended his arms to his sides straight out to
his body and held that pose for about five seconds as if offering
himself as sacrifice for the cause, as the audience watched in
dead silence. He then lowered them, descended from the podium,
and began to head back to his seat as the stillness held.
described the silence as "really painful" and momentarily
thought he had failed. As he moved down the aisle, the Coliseum
burst into pandemonium. Delegates threw hats, coats, and handkerchiefs
into the air. Others took up the standards with the state names
on them with each delegation, and planted them by Nebraska's.
Two alert police officers had joined Bryan as he left the podium,
anticipating the crush. The policemen were swept away by the flood
of delegates, who raised Bryan to their shoulders and carried
him around the floor. The Washington Post newspaper recorded,
"bedlam broke loose, delirium reigned supreme."
In that brief
time of silence, a thousand delegates reconsidered a political legacy
going back to Thomas Jefferson, extending to Andrew Jackson, and
still in office Grover Cleveland. Then they switched
sides. That was rhetoric in action.
Ron Paul possesses
this gift. He is persuading people to change their minds. He is
gaining support where it should not be available: among recent graduates
of the tax-funded school system.
in Time is indicative.
clad in his black leather Led Zeppelin jacket, rode his bicycle
into the middle of the Iowa Speedway in Newton. There were no
drivers on the track, but there was a different kind of race under
way in a small building at the center of the facility one
fueled by money and votes instead of gasoline. Texas Congressman
Ron Paul was there on Wednesday afternoon to make his case for
becoming the next President.
at Richardson, a 28-year-old factory worker, and it was clear
he had already been won over. Along with a thick nose ring, he
sported a Paul beanie and a Paul T-shirt bearing Iowa's state
motto: "Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain."
Richardson is one of many young people rallying to the 76-year-old
Republican's candidacy. Some, like Richardson, have volunteered
for him and are committed to voting for him; others are just intrigued.
But the appeal is undeniable, and it could well determine where
Paul finishes in Tuesday's first-in-the-nation caucuses.
his age, there is an air of rock 'n' roll around Paul. One supporter
even flashed the rock-out-horns sign when asked on Thursday whether
he was sold on the candidate: "Hell, yeah, for Ron Paul!"
he said. "The message of liberty is really appealing to younger
people," says Richardson, a heavy-metal fan who got interested
in politics through battles over music censorship. One can spot
dreadlocks or "Paul is my homeboy" T-shirts in the crowd
at his campaign events. American Idol pop star Kelly Clarkson
recently endorsed Paul on Twitter.
This is surreal.
Paul is the oldest person ever to be a serious contender for a major
party's nomination for President. (Mike Gravel was older, but he
was never a serious contender. Harold Stassen in his last
try in 2000 had been a joke ever since 1964, and he knew
it. He was doing a recurring Pat
Paulson routine.) Reagan, playfully referred to as "geezer,"
was 73 when he ran against Mondale in 1984. He had already won once.
Yet Paul does not seem old. Everyone knows he is 76, but it's not
a major topic in the media. It helps that, except for his knees,
he is in better physical shape than the talking heads. He has always
been in top-flight physical condition except for his knees.
In a swimming pool or on a bicycle, he is not to be trifled with.
an idea for a YouTube ad. Paul is riding his bicycle. He is wearing
a gold colored jacket. On its back we see this in red: Judgment
Day. He is carrying a pole. As he rides down a bicycle
trail, he passes a series of signs. Federal Reserve System.
Whack! Down it goes. Department of Education. Whack! Department
of Energy. Whack! And so on, as he rides off into the sunset.
There would be a pirated version that goes viral. A voice-over
is heard. "I am Ben Bernanke, and I do not approve of this
continues. The heart of his message is optimism. (Note: that was
also true of Reagan's rhetoric.)
are parts of Paul's stump speech that communicate youthful earnestness
and optimism. "What you want to do with your life, what your
religious beliefs are, what your intellectual pursuits are, what
your private habits are that's part of freedom," he
said in Council Bluffs on Thursday. Paul's campaign manager, Jesse
Benton, says young people have an "amazing BS meter,"
and they often say they see Paul as more sincere, more reliable
than the other candidates. "He's somebody that will solve
the problems going on right now," says 17-year-old Aaron
Schoppe, who will attend his first caucus this year. "They
haven't had time to become cynical yet," says Benton.
They are young.
They do not really understand the Austrian theory of the business
cycle: "Intense pain now, permanent relief later." They
may not have mortgages. They may not have wives and kids. But they
do see what's coming if the federal deficit is not brought under
control: disaster. No other candidate hammers on this.
the rest of the article
North [send him mail]
is the author of Mises
on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com.
He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible.
2012 Gary North
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