"What difference does it make to be elected or reelected if you don't stand for something?"
~ Grover Cleveland
The following interview took place in Congressman Ron Paul's congressional office in Washington DC in February 2002, It is as timely today as it was when it was done, and given the political events in the last 2 1/2 years, maybe it is even more so. This article is a chapter in my upcoming book on the importance of character, in which about a dozen notable people talk about the development of their character, values and perspective on life. In addition to that main theme, I asked each person to provide me a quotation that summarized themselves, their view of life, or had special meaning to them which I have placed at the beginning of their respective chapter. Everything in the first part of the article, up to the heading "commentary" is the interview verbatim. It is composed only of Ron Paul's words. All I have done is organize it into a chronological and topical order. The commentary is just that; my comments. Any incidents I report were given to me from other sources. For example, Ron did not tell me about the election shenanigans. But then, given his character, he wouldn't would he? I decided to include these in my commentary because they shine a light on Ron's character and give us further insight into this fascinating and admirable man.
RON PAUL: I never had much interest in politics. My interest is in policy, economics and foreign policy. I was looking for a forum to ventilate and politics has allowed me to do that. I never thought anyone would listen. My goal was not to be in politics or be elected but to present a case for what I thought was important. My wife warned me that it was dangerous because I could end up getting elected. I told her that would never happen! She was right. I came to Congress, but on my terms.
I was raised in Pittsburgh. I don't recall anything dramatic in my childhood. I am from a family of five boys. We had supportive parents but they didn't over-indulge us. They made sure we knew what the work ethic was all about. The greatest influence on the development of character is from your family and the way a person has been brought up. I was influenced over the years not by any one particular event.
I went through regular public education and then Gettysburg College. Overall, my education was uneventful. The public school system and also college made it clear to me that the way things were was not the way things should be. I had instincts toward the idea of a very limited government even then.
Early exposure to war and several specific incidents dealing with issue of war left a huge impact on me. I heard about people going and not coming back. I had friends and relatives dying in various wars; WWII, Korea or Vietnam. I asked myself, did they really serve a just cause? The families so often have to say their loved one was serving their country and put it in noble terms. I was never convinced of that. What else can you do? The alternative is that you have to admit that your government wasted someone's life. To me that is so tragic. I became even more determined to see that some of these terrible things that are so unnecessary wouldn't happen. We drift into these conflicts and they could be prevented. I couldn't figure out why our country was so stupid to get us involved in some of these wars that I didn't think we should be involved in. Then it dawned on me that the government was not really following the rules. Korea and Viet Nam weren't even declared wars. That is an awful lot of violence that was done without real proper authority to do it. This all has had a lot of influence on me and helped formulate my views.
I have no idea why some people react to war and violence one way and some the other way. I don't have anything special to make me look at it this way. It just seemed natural to be opposed to violence. That was one of the reasons that I went into medicine. Throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s, it was known that if you were male, when you became 18 you were going to have to go off someplace. So many went off and didn't come back. I knew my personal make-up was such that not only did I not endorse these programs but it would have been hard for me to pick up a rifle and shoot people. These conflicts were not what I considered to be real self-defense. That helped motivate me to go into medicine instead. If I was going to have to be trapped into war, I would rather help people who were injured than trying to find someone I could shoot.
In medical school I was still fascinated with ideas. I got interested in sorting out some of these things I had always felt and thought. I wanted to find out what the principles were. I remember having the book Dr. Zhivago sent to me from my mother. It had come out in 1957. One person who stimulated me most to put the whole philosophy together was Leonard Reed who founded The Foundation for Economic Education. He was a very lone wolf after WWII. Everything had become big government and internationalist. He wrote a lot of articles himself and revived some classic articles that were forgotten like Frdric Bastiat's The Law. Henry Hazlitt was associated with him and von Mises as well. Von Mises and the Austrian economists influenced me the most on policy. He was also close to Hayek who wrote Road to Serfdom. Then I read Ayn Rand's books. They all had a strong influence on me.
Early on I thought I was the only one to think this way. I had a natural instinct for this view and then I discovered other people who had done a lot of serious writing and explaining on how government and society works. After studying other peoples' thoughts on these topics, I found out there was a hard-core position that could be defended morally and constitutionally. I was not by myself! I thought I would just talk about politics and economics, but I ended up doing more than I ever expected.
For those who think this way, it just seems that we are alone, but it is just that the establishment has totally rejected these views. Whether it is the political establishment or the media establishment or the university system, they are saying how things are going to be, how we should be. I think that is not the way it is supposed to be.
It has always been part of my nature not to want to engage in violence and that led me to libertarian philosophy and my views. I hold strongly to the view that libertarians commit to. You should never use force to impose your will on other people. You should never use the government to do it either. That is a sound principle. You would not have to be a pacifist. If everyone decided to follow these rules and never to use force, it would be a pretty peaceful and good world. It is good advice to follow. I don't know why I hold those views. I think some of us are born that way. Some of us just like to be left alone.
I finished my two-years residency training of internal medicine after medical school. Then I went into the Air Force. When it comes up in the district, I make a joke about how I got into the Air Force. I always say that I volunteered and served 5 years. Then I laugh about it. The real story is when I was a medical resident two years out of medical school I got a notice saying that I was hereby drafted to go into the army as a buck private unless I volunteered. If I volunteered, I could practice medicine and be a captain. I capitulated rather easily and became a volunteer.
I stayed a little longer than I had to because it wasn't too bad. It was a break from the tedious task of college, medical school and residency. I stayed in the reserves as well. I tolerated it well because the physicians were treated differently than other people. I was interested in flying so I became a flight surgeon and got to fly. I took care of pilots and flying personnel because they have special problems. Whether they were enlisted or officers, all flying staff came through the flight surgeon's office, my office.
After the military service, I went into an OB-GYN residency at the University of Pittsburgh. My personal feeling was that delivering babies would be fun, and it was. I finished my residency and opened up medical practice 1968 in Texas. That was great and very challenging. I did exactly as I wanted to do. I was very busy in a growing county, a suburb of Houston. I was the only obstetrician there. The first day in the office I had 35 patients! I had a huge practice and loved it.
I like practicing medicine. I like delivering babies and doing surgery. I really like the independence. When I went to Texas and started a practice, doctors had a lot more responsibility and I was expected to do a lot more than doctors today. For example, we didn't have an anesthesiologist or urologist. We did all of that ourselves. Now everything is more specialized and you are not allowed to do that, mostly for legal reasons.
I took a career right angle to get my beliefs expressed. I have been here in Congress on two occasions. The first was 19761984. In the 1970s I was more involved in medicine than now. I would see patients on the weekends and do some surgery. After 7 years in Congress, I went back to medical practice. Now I have been back here since 1996. It is not as easy to keep involved with medicine now because medicine is different. I have stayed interested and when in my district I go to a medical center one day a week and work with residents and interns. I don't actually deliver babies or do surgery any more. The transition out of medicine was easy and I didn't notice it was a problem. I just did what I was supposed to do.
What helped motivate me to run for Congress were some of the stupidities in economics I saw and our involvement in armed conflicts that could be prevented. When it comes to monetary policy the underlying issue was the idea of personal liberty. The government was getting too big. People became dependent on government instead of being responsible for themselves.
Here in Washington DC, people are totally confused. They think the force of government is always legitimate. They think that whatever government does is legitimate. I think they are wrong. It is not legitimate even under our Constitution. I am out of the mainstream in Washington because they all think that way. My position here is considered odd-ball. Yet, I can't quite comprehend the others who are so willing to use guns, force and violence to tell everyone what to do and how to live their lives. They are going around the world dropping bombs. To me, that is so bizarre. Very few here agree with me. They don't have any idea what I am trying to do. Whenever people write about me and what I am doing, the terms they use are always "out of it" and "totally ineffective." I think there are other ways to be effective, like trying it influence people in their thoughts and in what they believe.
People in my district and those who know a little bit about a constitutionally limited government, however, are very, very supportive. Those interested in individual responsibility are also very pleased, more so than I ever dreamed they would be. Up here in Washington they are all so conditioned just to getting reelected that they don't care about the rule of law, being precise and only doing those things that they are allowed to do by the Constitution. They just think I overdo it. That leads me to vote by myself many times.
They see that as an absolutely ineffective use of my vote because then I can't trade my votes. This is how it works up here. You don't vote on a principle; you trade votes. You say to another, "You need my vote on that issue and I could do that for you. What can you do for me? What can you do for my district?" That is they way the system works.
Character means that you should assume responsibility for yourself. You have no right to another person's life. We have gone a long way away from that idea. In my Challenge for America speech I quoted Thomas Jefferson, "Material abundance without character is the path to destruction." Today we have the material abundance, and we lack character. Those in government have no character because they are willing to use theft and force without even thinking about it. The founders were very keen on this idea of the character and limiting government's power to use force. They did not believe a free society would work unless people did have character and assume responsibility for themselves. If people are going to use government for the benefit of special interests, it won't work. That is why I think it is failing.
I think the population in the country lack character out of ignorance. They don't know anything differently. They think what is, is what was supposed to happen. They think the government is supposed to take care of them. Give me a house if I need it. Give me food stamps if I need them. Give me medical care if I need it. They are not deliberately evil. They have lost their way, lost their concern and lost their character.
It is felt that if someone needs something, they can get help from government. They never ask the question who in thunder is the government! They assume that government has that money to give. They separate the government from where the source of the wealth comes from and that, of course, is the people who do things, and produce things. The government is nothing more than some group that is stealing from the producers. They are willing to use government to steal and think it is proper.
I think we are in the midst of some serious problems both domestically and internationally. This is first time in our history since 1812 that we have been attacked on our mainland. The only explanation given of why they are coming and doing this to us is that they are jealous of us and don't like us to be free. That is so simplistic. There is a lot more to it than that. Today it is considered very unpatriotic if you think we had some responsibility for the predicament that we are in. Everyone else is to blame and therefore it is justification to do anything and everything we want.
My biggest concern is that the president will take it upon himself to assume that he has the authority to literally fight war endlessly even though the resolution that was passed said that he only had the authority to use force to find those who committed these acts. That is a lot different. Already going into the Philippines is an indication that he is going to take advantage of this situation. There are many in the administration that would like to have a major conflict with Iraq and change that government. I see those moves as very dangerous. There is a good minority group of people in this country that are very much aware and concerned about this. Unfortunately we are in the minority.
I have resisted these moves. There are many members of Congress who have gone along with it not because they believed in it but because they were afraid to go home to their districts without having voted to do something. Every place I go and talk, especially on the radio shows, the people I talk to and those in my district are very pleased that I make an effort to try to restrain government power.
I was talking to two conservative Republicans over the weekend. I brought up the issue of the Patriot Act. They both agreed that it was the worst vote they ever cast and that it would come back to haunt this country. Privately, they were both sorry they did it. They had been listening to the patriotic fervor and got carried up in the moment and went along too easily. They did not want to listen to criticism or someone who would challenge their patriotism. They were not doing something because it was right or wrong. They were thinking about how to act to anticipate the greatest number of supporters. If we had enough momentum here or in the educational institutions or the media or with our people, these guys would do better. They are supposed to be leaders yet in Congress most of them are being pushed here and there. That is the way it always works. The prevailing philosophy of the country creates the leaders and pushes them in certain directions. When attitudes change enough you can get rid of them.
That is what happened in the Soviet system. Finally it was recognized that it wasn't working. They had tried it and it was a total failure. The result was a non-violent revolution. It collapsed because the ideas collapsed. That could happen here. Welfare is not functional in the long term. It will collapse on itself. Although that is good there is also a danger because you might end up with something more authoritarian to replace it. With the Soviets, at least that system broke up. The world is better off without it.
People accept what we are doing because there is a mass psychology of patriotism and people misplace it. It is fine to be patriotic and believe in the American ideal and freedom. This patriotic zeal that says we all have to be together and do anything and everything because we have been attacked by terrorists is a false patriotism.
Samuel Johnson said, "Patriotism is the refuge of a scoundrel," and that is so often the case. People will hide behind patriotism when they want to do some of the worst things. The masses and greatest number of people get carried up in this. The support for war comes not so much from the people but what they hear from the leaders and propaganda on television.
I saw this during the time we were preparing for the Persian Gulf War. The immediate reaction of the people was proper. They wondered why do we have to go there. In the three or four months of preparations all the major networks kept pumping them up about the need for war. The people responded to this mass psychological conditioning by becoming in favor of it.
Those in leadership in the government in combination with our corporate leaders know this. When they want something they know they have to get the people behind them by rallying the people to accept the idea. They have some very special plans. For example, they might want to be in Colombia to protect oil wells. They say they are doing it to stop drugs and the people agree to that. The government always claims to have a good cause. I think those who would do harm to us deliberately are willing to use the tools of propaganda. With television, what they can do is a lot easier today than a few hundred years ago.
This was certainly the case for getting us involved in WWII. 80% of the people were "America First" and didn't want any part of Europe or its troubles. Once we were attacked, you couldn't even debate why we were attacked. You can't ask if we provoked the attack on Pearl Harbor or did we know it was coming and avoid doing anything about it. Once it happens, any opposition is absolutely neutralized. That is my instantaneous thought on 9/11; for those of us who believe government should be limited, we have just been set back a great deal.
No matter how much we are responsible for this, no one will ever listen. There are a few of us, a very few people who understand. There are others leaning this way but not vocalizing it. They listen to the same propaganda and are so easily intimidated. They are worried that their people at home in their districts will reject them. They don't want to go through the effort of explaining and teaching their constituency what is going on. So they go along with it all.
There are flaws in our foreign policy. We invite these hostilities. I feel we should not be doing so much overseas. We should ask ourselves why we have troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. Why did we embargo Iraq and bomb them incessantly? Why do we have troops in 144 countries? Why do we use military might to protect oil and commercial interests around the world? All of that leads to conflicts. There will be a lot more resentment to us than anyone realizes. All this token support that we get from other countries recently is really saying, "Please don't bomb me tomorrow! We will say what you want us to say!"
As a doctor, I was never involved with the Medicare program, even from the very beginning. I don't like interference in the doctor-patient relationship. The last thing I wanted was the government involved in medical decisions. In the early days of Medicare, before cut backs and increased government control, they promised no government intervention in medical decisions. But even then, I did not get involved because I thought the whole idea was a bad omen. As bad as the insurance system is, I thought Medicare was a worse idea. I could work with a patient and collect from the insurance company. Then I drew the line. I would not and have never taken money from the government for medical services. That was it. That hurts your practice, especially now if you are practicing OB-GYN. It is so easy to get on Medicaid now. A pregnant woman who is working and her husband is working also can get on Medicaid. Now if you don't take the Medicaid patients you don't have as much practice.
To me, there was no doubt about it, Medicare was a bad omen. I had heard stories about socialized medicine in England. There were more private obstetric doctors in England under socialized medicine because it was a personal part of medicine that people would hang on to. Maybe that knowledge slightly influenced me. Later on, I was always disappointed because it seemed that Americans didn't care. If they could get a better deal by changing their doctor or going to an HMO, they would. They didn't care. They would go where the least charge was, regardless of anything else.
In 1977, a few of us made a tour of ten cities round the country for Private Practice Magazine trying to warn people about socialized medicine. We had doctors from Canada, Australia and England. These were doctors who had gone through it, and they were really supposed to wake up the public to the danger of government medicine. I remember one doctor from Australia told a story about medical care which had became so impersonalized that the doctor no longer checked the patient. He had a window and the patient would drive up in his car and tell what the symptoms were through the window. The doctor would write a prescription and hand it out. I believe that is what it would come to.
Someone asked him once that if it is so bad, how did it happen? Why did doctors go along? He said that when the question was asked to someone in the British government about how were they going to get the doctors to accept this, the Government official replied, "We will stuff their mouths with money." And they did. They literally stuffed our mouths with money and we gave in. Now they are in so deep they can't get out. Some don't really care.
At the beginning of Medicare, it was lovely. If you joined the system you got paid for everything. You got paid for things you didn't get paid for in the past. Hospitals got paid and you didn't have to do ward work for free. You got paid for charity hospital work. Doctors got more money at the beginning. An ophthalmologist doctor was paid $2000 for a cataract surgery. He loved it. Now, several decades later, it is down to $600, in spite of inflation.
As the financial problems of Medicare got worse, the government came up with this HMO policy that was supposed to help Medicare, but it has only made more problems. You can't close it down. It won't happen politically. The country will be bankrupt first before Medicare disappears. The only answer under today's conditions is to promote medical savings accounts and give a tax credit. People could get $3000 off their taxes if they assume responsibility for their own medical care. I don't know if people are using them yet. When people get sick and tired of it enough they will get out of the system and pay their own bills and buy their own insurance. That would be the best possible answer to move away from government control of medicine.
How did we get from the self-reliance to the self-entitled? It did not just happen on a dime. Immediately after the Constitution was written, it was recognized that there were flaws in it. There was a tendency to go in that direction. There also have been a few major events in our country that made it worse. The Civil War was one. The idea that you could be independent of a strong national government was given up a lot during the Civil War periods, if it survived at all. After that war, there was a sharp uptake with the federal government. The problem was there was a great confusion between liberty and slavery. Those defending liberty were also in the camp where there were slaves. Lysander Spooner had the correct viewpoint. He was anti-slave but pro-south and the right to secede. The 20th century was also bad news. We had major wars and in times of war, just like the war now against terrorism, the government uses it as an excuse to expand substantially.
The depression had a tremendous impact on our country. There was a willingness to bring in the welfare state based on bad ideas. During the depression the government kept saying that the real reason it happened was because of the stupid people who believed in sound money and in free enterprise. Freedom had failed. That is absolutely false! We had a depression because we had government intervention that created the whole mess. The government supported by academicians insisted that we had to have this "third way," and called it "putting a human face on capitalism." They wanted to curb freedom, but not as far as communism or socialism. They believed that you could have some regulation and some taxation and some special interests and still protect liberty.
They did not realize that there is always a steady and inextricable growth of government if you don't draw your lines sharply. People cannot grant power and authority to government other than the rights they themselves have in a natural way. For example, I don't have the right to take anything from you so I can't transfer that power to the president. We do have a natural right to defend ourselves and protect our liberties. We can transfer that power to a government, which then can form a police force and an army. We can't transfer anything else. Yet government now has everything else. That is where it fell apart, especially in the 20th century. We are now suffering the consequences.
We need to go back to the fundamentals and decide what we really believe in and what the role of government ought to be. That is what the founders did at the time of the revolution. They decided what had to be done and they knew enough about history that they were able to fight the revolution based on those ideas. Fortunately for us they came up with a pretty good document.
Unfortunately, the country is moving in the wrong direction. The government is getting bigger and getting more involved in the economy and our lives. We are spreading ourselves around the world even more. The crises we have now with the terrorists' attack has given us the chance to reassess this. Instead, again we are using it to do the things that we should not be doing. The government is making further intrusion in personal liberty and a further expansion of military power around the world.
To turn that tide and get us disentangled we would have to have a different type of Congress. Unfortunately, we don't have a different type of Congress so it will continue. The next group in will be influenced by the same people who think it is our oil over there and we have to keep a navy in the Persian Gulf and so forth. I don't think in the next generation that Congress will become wise enough and brave enough to do the right thing. We could just deny them funds and then it would be all over! That may happen anyway. It could be during that next generation that we will go broke and not be able to afford it. That is the way it will most likely happen. The government is only going to be held back when the people tell them they won't put up with them any more.
Technically we are broke now but our credit is still good. A lot of people are broke and lots of companies are broke but they keep going. Enron was broke but they functioned rather well until September 2001. They said they were making a lot of money but it was all fictitious. There were not any real assets. That is the way the country is. There is a false confidence in our economic system, our dollar and our military might. The economy perks along, although slower. We can borrow and tax. We have a strong currency because there is a lot of trust in it. If people decided that there is something seriously wrong and panicked, they would dump our dollars. That would give us a huge inflation and no matter how much we taxed, we would never keep up with taking care of all of the people on welfare, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and subsidies. There is no way that just printing money would save us that if the confidence in our dollar is lost. Now we are moving into a new era. Our homeland has been attacked and that means that we are more vulnerable. If our dollar gets attacked there will be major changes. I would not be surprised if those changes come in the next ten years.
Individuals have to live within their means. You and I are limited by the market, and limited much faster. For example, banks stop loaning to us or we lose our job or something like that. The government doesn't live within its means because it has two tools we don't have. They can print money and they have guns to collect money. If we did either of those we would go to jail. The government gets away with running huge deficits for a lot longer but the economic principles are the same. When it finally hurts and there is a correction they cause a lot more harm. What you do to yourself is only hurting yourself. When governments mess up and suddenly it doesn't work, that is really dangerous. We have people dependent and conditioned to think they are entitled to the benefits from the government. When the government can no longer take care of everyone getting benefits, many are really hurt. They will demand it and there will be riots, screaming and gnashing of teeth because the politicians have not taken care of them.
In an effort to curb welfare dependence, they are trying to link more job placement and marriage requirements to the welfare system. You might be able to find people here and there that claim these measures are effective. I think they are dangerous because that is social engineering by giving and withholding. You are saying, "Do as we say and then we give it to you." When our government comes in and has these conditions, they are saying that welfare is there if you believe and act in a certain way. That is bad because it shows that they can give or withhold depending on what you do. Even if I agree with the ideas like employment and marriage, this is all based on the person doing what they tell him to do. You should never be tempted because the conditions being set up sound so nice. Sure it sounds good that people should go to church every week and maybe they would be better people. It might later become some evil monster that might make the conditions something that I really detest. That is even more mischief than before. Force is not the way to change people.
Recently, I heard a government ad on radio. A young man comes in an office and wants a job. They ask him if he has registered for the draft. When he says he has not, they close the door on him. Next he goes to a bank to ask for a loan and they tell him, no, you haven't registered for the draft. This is the notion that if you do what we tell you, then you can get ahead in the world and you will be taken care of. This reminded me of a story told to me by someone who came from the Soviet system. I assumed that if you spoke out or had an unapproved meeting that you immediately would go to prison. He said that is not the way it worked. Certainly, at one time there were purges and prisons. In these later years everyone was controlled through economics. If you challenged the government, they would not come and arrest you. Instead, you would lose your job and apartment and become destitute. They punished you through economic means.
Now we are criminating certain thoughts. For example, if we think the motive is hate, we have designated hate crimes. The danger is that the government assumes they know what you are thinking and can understand peoples' motivations. They are determining that some peoples' lives are worth more than others. Consider the killing of a heterosexual in contrast to a homosexual. The penalty is greater for those who killed the homosexual because the motive is assumed to be hate. Instead of saying that it is a horrible crime to kill anyone, they are saying it is a worse crime than killing a heterosexual; that the heterosexual's life is worth less. It also introduces an arbitrariness that is horrible. These are "thought crimes" and that to me is a dangerous trend.
What strikes you first when meeting Ron Paul is his quiet, courteous and gentle manner. It is a peaceful quality. As I talked with him, I began to realize it is a quality of "no force." There is nothing forceful at all about him. His views are expressed with the strength of the well thought out, cogent argument. Yet, there is not the forcefulness of "you have to think my way" that one often is subjected to in a discussion. You are free to think your way and he is simply saying what he thinks. Don't mistake that genteel manner for being wishy-washy. He is very clear, direct and resolute when it comes to his principles. Those are non-negotiable. That is where his tough, surety of purpose is foremost.
"No force" extends far beyond just the idea of not dropping bombs on people, it is the basic foundation of how you treat every single person in every interaction every day. It is simply letting others live their life exactly as they want as long as that does not include forcing someone else. It is about courtesy, kindness, respect and leaving others alone! Peace is more than his political philosophy, more than his libertarian background, more than his stance on conflict: it is the way he lives.
The opposition to war, violence and force is the taproot of his thought and life. At best war is unnecessary, and at worst it is a criminal waste of a precious life. How strong were those early impressions of seeing friends, relatives, neighbors and acquaintances "go off someplace" and never come back? They were so strong as to carry him to the high moral, unyielding principled stands he has always taken. From the choice of becoming a doctor, to the choice of sitting in Congress twice can be traced back to these formative events. As he stated it in his 2001 commencement address to the University of Texas at Houston Medical School graduating class, "I definitely knew at an early age I preferred a medical bag to a gun, healing to maiming, life to death."
So innate are these views of non-violence and standing for principles, that he declared several times that he just didn't know where they came from. He has always been that way. It is not something pasted on the outside, it truly comes from the very deepest part of him and is him. To him, non-violence is a way of life as natural, self-evident and universal as eating or sleeping, so no inner questioning, introspection or rationalization is needed.
This brings out one of the most fascinating aspects of character development: different people experience the same events in entirely different ways. As had hundreds of millions of men and women, Ron Paul was exposed to one of the most basic facts of war, that people are killed. For him, the result has been a stance of non-violence so basic and obvious that he regards it as self-evident. People should not kill other people. That seems obvious to all of us too. However, this reaction is not inherent in the event, it is the way this single individual has reacted to that event. Others exposed to the same event have turned more bellicose, others have become angry and cruel, others have chosen the military as a profession, others avoid force but will use it when they need to and others justify even more killing. There are literally as many reactions as there are people. If the loss of a loved one, friend or colleague to the violence of war caused a single, "normal" reaction of absolute opposition to violence and force of any kind, then there would be no war. There would be no oppression, no battles and no governments, simply because everyone would be free and living in peace with everyone else. I hardly need mention, that is far from the case. As much as Ron Paul's views appear to him to be universal, they are his individual, personal reactions to life's events that have made him a unique individual, unlike any other person. The same is true with each and every one of us. Our reactions to life have also made each of us individual and unique.
Ron Paul freely admits that he is a Washington outsider. He never introduces himself as Congressman, he simply says he is Ron Paul. He is exceedingly kind, courteous and respectful to his staff. Contrary to Washington culture, he never expects them to do personal errands or act in a condescending way to others in Washington or elsewhere. He assumes the best motives in people and may point out simply that he just disagrees with them. He hates personal or emotional attacks and never participates in that kind of behavior. When it is done to him, he never takes it personally. Nothing written that goes out of his office will have the name of someone else in an unflattering way. His libertarian philosophy reaches beyond political thought and encompasses a way of respecting others and he does. He is forever the gentleman and maintains his dignity and that of his office at all times. There is nothing manipulative, duplicitous or sneaky about him. What you see and hear is exactly what he is. How refreshing!
Ron Paul's election to return to Congress in 1997 to represent the 14th district of Texas was an interesting one. He had left Congress in 1984 and now, 12 years later wanted to return. A democrat, Greg Laughlin, was holding the seat. You would think that his party, the Republicans, would be glad to have him run against the Democrat. Unfortunately it was not as simple as that, but then is it ever simple in politics? It all started when Ron Paul announced his candidacy. The Republicans wanted the seat, certainly, they just didn't want Ron Paul in that seat. He was an embarrassment to them and he certainly was not what you could call a team player.
For the primary leading up to the 1996 election, the Republican leadership approached Democrat Greg Laughlin, and offered him a seat on the coveted, powerful Ways and Means Committee if he switched parties and ran against Ron Paul in the primary and then stood as the Republican candidate in the election. It was an offer that Laughlin did not refuse. He switched sides and ran as a Republican. There was Republican soft money and heavy-hitter Republican support for his campaign. Newt Gingrich traveled all the way to this small farm district in the underbelly of Texas to garner support for Laughlin. With their powerful support and an incumbent running, they were confident of a win, notwithstanding that they had bought a turncoat. Ron won the primary anyway and went on to capture the seat. It is hard to feel any sympathy for Laughlin who sold what principles he had for a bribe that turned to dust.
What ever happened to Laughlin? Following the footsteps of many former politicians, he became a lobbyist. Interestingly, he often visits Ron Paul in that capacity. As you would expect from Ron Paul, Laughlin is received with courtesy and given time and attention. If there was ever an example of his qualities of civility and accepting people as they are, this is one.
When Ron Paul took his hard-won seat, the Republicans defied convention and did not give him back the seniority he had accumulated during his 7 previous years as a Congressman. He had to start over as a freshman, which meant that he would begin all over again in his committee appointments. The Republicans turned their back on one who did not play the political game according to their rules.
There are other ways that Ron Paul is a Washington outsider, namely he much prefers being at home with family and grandchildren, all 17 of them. He is not taken in by the glamour and power-tripping that so often goes on with elected officials. When the House is not in session, he is not there. He doesn't cozy up to other members, doesn't attend lobby meetings and doesn't hobnob or socialize at all. He comes up to Washington and just works. Then he goes back home.
Ron Paul is one of the few who has not lost sight of his district. His constituents love him. He delivered a great many of them himself and they haven't forgotten that or his caring for them as their doctor. As the 1996 election demonstrated, those personal bonds are stronger than political shenanigans. With their support of him he has often pulled off the politically impossible. For example, he represents a farm and agriculture district yet he votes against agriculture subsidies every time. His constituents understand his principles and vote for him because of them.
People in his district like that he is not playing the political games. They like that he has never, ever changed a vote or voted against his principles or buckled under constant pressure. For example, Reagan was in office during Ron Paul's first seat in Congress. He was a big fan of Reagan in a broad sense. It was the beginning of the B-1 bomber program, which was a pet project of the Reagan's. It was terribly expensive and Ron Paul thought it was a waste of money. The vote for approval in the House was very close. Reagan called him personally to ask for his vote. Reagan had never called him before and as a junior congressman that call was a very big deal. Ron said he couldn't vote for it. That was a hard thing to do; to say no to your president. It was also not a wise thing to do politically and it certainly didn't endear him to his party. There are not too many junior members who would stick to their principles like that.
Another example of the extent to which Ron Paul adheres to his principles above all other considerations is the issue of congressional pensions. These very generous pensions are scaled according to the time served. They are even more impressive when you consider that our legislators don't even pay the Social Security tax they impose on the rest of us. Ron Paul's pension is valued at approximately $100,000 a year. The exact amount is actually not important because he has refused to take it – any of it. It is against his principles.
Members from both sides of the House have agreed with him and even admired him from time to time. They see a principled person and sense that he is the real deal. He stated that he has never been interested in politics, just principles. That is exactly the way he conducts himself. Most on the hill think compromise is the name of the game. Ron Paul thinks differently. The popular Apple Computer ads encourage us to "Think Different." Ron Paul always has.
October 28, 2004
Linda Johnston, MD, DHt (send her mail), a graduate of the University of Washington School of Medicine and certified in Homeopathy by the American Board of Homeotherapeutics, is in private practice in Los Angeles. She is the author of Everyday Miracles: Homeopathy in Action.