Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is the New York Times bestselling author of 11 books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History and Meltdown (on the financial crisis.) A senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Woods has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, FOX News, FOX Business, C-SPAN, Bloomberg Television, and hundreds of radio programs... (Read More)
Gang, you know I would crawl over broken glass for this guy, and that I consider him a giant in terms of his intelligence, his courage, his honesty, and his integrity. Here’s my post-debate commentary, saying just that. And standing on a debate stage alongside creeps and liars, getting 30 seconds to discuss complicated matters, must be unspeakable. It’s easy to be a Monday-morning quarterback, for sure.
Having said that, I want to share a few thoughts on what I would recommend if I were a debate coach:
(1) Remember the level of economic knowledge most Americans have: pretty much zero. They have never even heard the term “business cycle.” One must be less ambitious in a debate, in terms of what he can expect to get across, as opposed to a more leisurely magazine or television interview.
At the same time, the candidate has to differentiate himself, and can’t simply repeat that he favors low taxes, reduced spending, and a balanced budget. That’s what they all say.
I would say something like this: “By my count, we have tried at least sixteen forms of economic stimulus. And most of them were tried under Republicans, so be skeptical of the pretty speeches you’re suddenly hearing from the other candidates tonight. None of it gives us real prosperity. Just a sugar high that we’re now crashing from — and all the president can suggest is more sugar.
“My supporters are always on me to boast more. After all, they say, I predicted long ago that this system of unpayable debt and money created out of thin air would come to grief. Now I do hate boasting. But the current crisis is too important for me not to level with you. No one on this stage saw the economic crisis of 2008 coming. I’m flattered that they’re at least trying to sound like me, but I actually have the track record to show that I warned about this long ago and have fought a lonely battle, without much help from people on this stage, ever since.”
(2) If the Federal Reserve comes up, I would keep it very simple. Two major points:
(a) “If you were given the power to create all the money you wanted to out of thin air, I bet you’d use that power. Now think about it: what group in society would we least trust with that power? If you said politicians, go to the head of the class. But no one, and I mean no one, will talk about the Federal Reserve. The less they talk about it, the more important you know it must be. And that’s why I want to talk to Americans about it, whether or not the focus groups say I should.”
(b) “The Fed benefits the economic elite at the expense of the general public, as I’ve explained in my books. And it encourages what we call moral hazard — which means these big firms take excessive risks in the expectation of a bailout in the future. Well, why shouldn’t they expect a bailout under the current system — it’s so easy to print the money! Enough is enough. If you’re going to cry and whine about bailouts on this stage but not utter a peep against the institution that makes the bailouts possible, you are a fraud.”
(3) It is necessary to call out the other candidates. I know this goes against Dr. Paul’s style. But here is where his humility comes in: this movement is not, in the final analysis, about Ron Paul. It is about his ideas. And those ideas have to be allowed to penetrate the fog of a presidential debate. Whatever Dr. Paul’s personal debating preferences, they have to be secondary. The ideas, and the welfare of our country, simply demand it.
He doesn’t have to pick on any person in particular. But it would be an extraordinary moment, and one that would intrigue countless Americans into making that fateful first Google search of Ron Paul, if he said: “May I have a show of hands, please, of all the people on this stage who predicted the crash of 2008, and who were critics of the Federal Reserve and its destructive effects on our economy before I made it fashionable to be? Economic convulsions are being felt all over the world. The system is coming unglued. My colleagues on this stage have been taken by surprise. I wasn’t — not because I’m a clairvoyant, or because I have some exclusive insight. I knew it because I actually read the great free-market economists, and because I have written and spoken on these issues for over 35 years.
“We have a very bumpy ride ahead of us, and we’re going to need a team that has been knowledgeable and alert. I invite you to examine my record for yourself, and then decide whose ideas are most likely to bring us through this crisis swiftly and effectively.”
(4) On matters relating to health care, I would have Dr. Paul repeat until it’s second nature, for every single time the issue comes up, “As a medical doctor myself, having delivered over 4,000 babies in my career….”
(5) As for how Ron Paul would deal with a divided Congress, I would say this. Ron Paul is calling for real changes, not the usual pile of nothing his opponents are calling for. If the country has decided it’s ready for a truth teller of his caliber, and someone who intends to change things root and branch, that would mean he had been elected with a serious mandate. He could then appeal directly to the public to help him with Congress, perhaps asking them to inquire with any recalcitrant congressmen whether any of them were as prophetic on the economy as the new president had been.
(6) A very effective 30-second closing statement has to be written, memorized, and rehearsed. This is absolutely mandatory. As he is flying to an event, or finding himself with a few spare moments, he can go over it. The statement last night was much better than the one in the first debate. But again, Dr. Paul owes it to his ideas to blow the other candidates off the stage with his closing statement. Thirty seconds is enough time to make clear that he is different, that he is telling them the truth, and that he isn’t a plastic man like the rest of them. I would be glad to draft such a statement.
I cannot emphasize enough that Ron Paul is a far more courageous person than I am, and that we deeply admire his vast knowledge, his personal integrity and his extraordinary, unheard-of record from twelve congressional terms. All we want is for more people to become aware of this great man, and I hope some of these suggestions can help make that possible.