Ron Paul and the Debate: Some Friendly Suggestions

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.

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  • Win

    Dr Woods, 
    You did great. You are doing great. 
    Dr Paul is a GREAT PERSON – economist, medical doctor…as good as one can get. 
    However, in order to win the masses, he NEEDS your suggestion.
    Thanks for your help.

  • win

    Hey Buddy,
    Tom is doing great job. At least, appreciate it. 

    You said “I hope you will consider that there are others much more experienced and qualified for this particular type of work and that that does not include you or me”. You can ONLY talk about you, mate. 
    From the quality of suggestions, Tom is in different category. He just proved that he is qualified to make suggestions! ;)

    Hope you “get” the constructive criticism, and let Tom continue doing the great work. Peace and Liberty! 

  • Jack Slate

    Many good suggestions. One thing that Ron has lightly touched on but could be fleshed out is at some point bringing his points into the living room. What I mean by this is an emphasis on the personal impacts of failed policies. The single mom who is working to support her kids, the dad who works extra hours to make ends meet, both parents struggling to stay afloat. The inflationary impacts for food, gasoline, utilities. People understand and FEEL these things. 

    The suddenly widowed young lady with a toddler – her husband killed in a far off land for no good cause. The vet with half his face blown off, or missing limbs – lives forever changed, robbed, and lost. People relate to this.

    These personal issues tie right in to what Ron says, but they are not so intellectual. I am thinking there will be opportunities to weave the more personal into the intellectual that Ron already articulates so well.

    The average working class person can more easily latch on to such items. Not that they are less intelligent, but the time demands to learn the intellectual side of what is behind the principles of liberty are often too great.

  • Mark Atkins

    I will add my $.02 about Dr. Paul.

    I wish that he could do three things:

    1. Emphasize that his campaign contributions are mostly private donations from individuals like you and me while the others are “bought and paid for” by special interests. He can ring up a million bucks pretty regularly through a “money bomb” just by asking. That, in itself, is pretty awesome!

    2. Emphasize the points that he does not participate in the congressional pension program, gives money back to the Treasury every year, does not take “junkets” on our dime, never voted to raise taxes, and all those other things that illustrate that he is ABOVE the rest in his stewardship of our money.

    3. Explain his viewpoints a little better. Most of his views are so misunderstood that even most of us do not fully understand them very well. He is an intellectual and assumes that Joe Six-Pack is going to understand monetary policy, “blowback”, and our corrupted foreign policy that HAS bankrupted us. The $1.6T “default” in interest SHOULD be a “no brainer” once people understand HOW the money is created! The pundits can easily “spin” this to do immeasurable harm to the message! “Joe” is ignorant and oblivious to the real story!

    That’s about my only “gripes”. It is kind of selfish on my part because it makes MY JOB of promoting him easier on ME!

    RON PAUL 2012!!!

  • B. D. Styers

    I vote for Ron Paul, but I believe he can better serve us as an educator than a president. As Tom Woods points out very accurately here, Ron will have to put his beliefs aside in order to impress the mainstream. To play that game would simply amount to business as usual. When the mainstream is educated well enough, a leader like Ron Paul will have a strong chance of leading the congress to real solutions. Until then, we are making our beds and must sleep in them.

  • jody

    Tom, I sympathize with your desire to see Dr. Paul fully realize his debate potential and do his ideas justice as you say.  Hopefully some of your suggestion will be helpful to him to realize that aim.

    But I sense you have fallen into a bit of a trap of wanting Dr. Paul to be someone else or perhaps just more than he is.  As another poster said, he isn’t Christ and he does have warts.  

    Dr. Paul’s personal debating preferences are part and parcel of the overall man.  Part of why we hold him in high regard is his consistency.  It is a demonstration of his character.   Do you know what sold me on Dr. Paul back when I first saw him, in a debate in 07?  His humility.  Over time as I came to understand what an impressive man he was I became more and more motivated to support him, not so much because of his intellect and record but because of his character and humility.  Humility is a powerful, powerful force for good.  Don’t underestimate it.  

    So in spite of my great respect for you and my great appreciation for the work you do, and my agreement with most of your good suggestions in this piece, I say you are off track with your desire to see Paul change his personal debate preferences.  His personal debate preferences are a reflection of the man of character that Paul is.  The fact that he never acts like the children in adult bodies that surround him is a huge part of what sets him on an entirely different level.  I think the part of your piece that suggests Dr. Paul change his style offers poor advice.  

    I understand your desire to see Paul decimate these fools and liars around him.  I feel the frustration too because I know if he did fully capitalize on every opportunity the debates would end in 20 minutes with the other candidates completely exposed and silenced.  But that is not our man.  Dr. Paul is not a decimator.  He apparently does not operate with that intention.  When he does dismantle someone in a debate (which happens fairly often) he never disrespects.  He never stoops.  He doesn’t need to and he shouldn’t.  In the end wisdom is proven right by her actions.  This is true of Paul’s debate style.  In the end his ideas find their opportunity to implode the house of card positions his opponents maintain without him having to behave in the grotesque manner that they do.

    So let’s be careful not to presume to try to change who Dr. Paul is.  I don’t think we want to.  He is the way he is.  I’m glad for it.

  • Patty Hankins

    Bravo!  I posted a comment much like yours last night. One idea I would add to both my comment and yours is something I have been thinking about – that all these “limitations” in style and delivery can be addressed by his supporters getting the word out about his wonderful voting record, the fact that he gets more contributions from veterans than the others, etc.  Dr. Paul is indeed a humble man, and that is a Christian virtue.  Our Oklahoma City Ron Paul group is e-mailing, faxing, calling local talk radio shows, everything we can think of to tell people good things about Ron Paul, and also serve notice to the media about respecting Dr. Paul.  I want to support Dr. Paul, not “fix” him.

  • William Soco Mcalister

    I agree!!
    Also, Iran is NOT a third world country..

    Enough is Enough!

  • MadMardigan

    And the jab at Mormonism–classy, friend.

  • Patty Hankins

    Wow.  You have some great ideas.  I  am going to cut and paste your comments to take to my weekly Ron Paul meetup group. The gladiator family fight idea is hysterical.  Your empathy for other working families just trying to live is also what drives me to get involved. I have never felt so connected to other people. I am also scared of getting on the List. It’s strange how driven I am to fight for liberty.  It doesn’t even really seem like a decision, it’s like I can’t NOT fight for liberty, I can’t sleep, I have a hard time being interested in anything except trying to warn people that our house is on fire.  We are being attacked on so many fronts I get brain dead thinking about all the calls I need to make to my reps. I just read a comment on INFOWARS with the interesting idea that we need to stop reacting and only go on the offensive, like with Nullification. Actually, we are powerful spiritual beings and there are ways that we can take control of our interaction with the insane Federal government. I’m thinking real hard about that….

  • Anonymous

    Wow- am surprised and encouraged by all the comments here.

    Deanne- Kristen is right- I’m saying if we inserted Tom or Peter in Paul’s shoes, the results would be incredible.

  • Em_pty Skin

    Why would Woods not just send this to Ron Paul.  Good God, these are good ideas and would prove SUPER effective.

    Paul is modest, but not modest enough to run for PRESIDENT.  There is no reason why we should not want him to be a ‘politician’ on debate nights, when everyone is watching!

    I also, think that we need to come up with a catchy slogan for the campaign.  See this:

  • Roland

    I was reminded again recently of Ron Paul’s honesty when I heard Bachmann proclaim, “I am not a politician!” Oh really? Dr. Paul freely admits that he’s a politician, since by definition that’s what he now is.
    Hmmm, an honest politician. How about this for a slogan: “Vote for Ron Paul, the Oxymoron!” Uh, maybe not. J

  • Anonymous

    ” I would be glad to draft such a statement.”  

    If Tom is indeed prevented by doing so by PAC restrictions, I’m guessing that he’d know that.  He very smart guy.

    Mr. Woods makes some great points above; I found myself asking the same questions during the debate (while pulling out some hair, nonetheless).  Dr. Paul could benefit from a little self-promotion (yes, I know it’s not in his nature, but if it’s rooted in truth, then he should have no problem making a case for himself, right?) and the short phrases Mr. Woods is suggesting are just the thing.  I talk to a lot of people curious about Ron Paul, and you’d be surprised at how many do not know that for example he was in the military, or that he’s a medical doctor, or that he’s been elected 12 times, or that he gets more support from the military than all other candidates combined.

    Even Reagan had speechwriters.  The message doesn’t change.  On the contrary, the message is stronger when tailored the right way.  

  • Jovan Galtic


    This is great. Peter Schiff could also use a few advices on how to be patient and deliver the message. If you guys are in contact that could be a topic to discuss.

  • Ramon Johannessen

    Very well said! I can see in the few years since I saw him for the first time, he has come a long way. These are all good suggestions and I’m sure that he’ll pick up on them the more we talk about them and put them out there. Keep up the good work Mr. Woods! As always, you put your money where you mouth is, I salute you!

  • mimi

    I hope people are practice-debating against Paul using the most common liberal talking points:  that there is too big a gulf between the rich and the poor;  that we did prosper during times of high taxes in the 50s, 60s;  that the problem with the tea party influence is that they are obstructionist……

    Ned I list all of them?

  • mimi

    Why shouldn’t we feel a reverence for “the Thomas Jefferson of our time”? 

  • mimi

    Why shouldn’t we feel a reverence for “the Thomas Jefferson of our time”? 

  • Kevin Wright

    Wow, I agree with everything you have just said here. And your story of seeing the light of Liberty is very touching, Thank you for posting.


    Tom why don’t you enter the race to parrot Ron’s ideas? I think you could help the campaign greatly in that manner

  • Michael Pierone

    With another debate now having gone by, (Tea Party debate) we know even better what the lame-stream media is and is not prepared to do about Ron Paul.

    One thing they are definitely NOT prepared to do is allow Ron Paul to speak the truth about the Federal Reserve.  It was pretty sickening to watch Wolf Blitzer talk to candidate after candidate about the Fed, then SKIP talking to Ron Paul altogether, especially since they all told the exact same LIE,ie that the Fed’s real purpose was to provide us with SOUND MONEY!!!  Really??  Cause they seem to be doing the exact OPPOSITE for their ENTIRE EXISTENCE. sorry about the CAPS I’m calming down now.

    I especially disliked how they refused to answer the very telling question, “How much of my money do you think I should be allowed to keep?” They give this to Huntsman, who true to his name hunted for any answer other than one that addressed the question, then Blitzer moves on without letting ANYONE attempt to answer this question, quite clearly because the ONLY person who could answer would have been Ron Paul.

    Ron Paul HAS to call them on this.  Even if he has to interrupt.  And he SHOULD have interrupted in both cases to remind the moderator that he has a unique perspective on these questions.

    In the second instance, he should have interrupted Huntsman to say that he actually HAS an answer to the question that was asked, rather than a long double shuffle  of a NON answer that Huntsman offered.

    In the case of the question on the Fed, EVERYONE KNOWS that this would not even BE a question were it not for Ron Paul.  HE HAD TO INTERRUPT to beg equal time on that one. 

    He is too polite for his own good.  Even he doesn’t stand up for himself, people will start to wonder if he can stand up for them.

    I LOVE this man.  I hope he will consider this constructive criticism.  I share all of Tom Woods hesitations on criticizing him.  I deeply admire him.  I consider him our last best chance to save this country…  But he needs to take these people on when they try to shut him out. For his and all our sakes.

  • Jeffrey ten G.

    The frustrating part is that he is so different form the other candidates but he doesn’t capitalize on it enough. Also, he has too much respect for the intelligence of the average American.

  • John

    Your response about Ron Paul mirrors almost exactly my feelings about him and the Libertarian
    movement. It took a long time for me to get the message but I am hooked for life. Thanks again
    for sharing your insight.

  • Byork

    Absolutely wonderful. I totally agree and wish they would take his advice and make him part of the campaign. 

  • Andrew Treacy

    He’s doing fine;  I read your entire piece and am glad he’s doing it his way – patience will pay off;  he’s scoring big just being himself. 

  • Andrew Treacy

    Four words into your advice and we see you can’t spell and you’re giving advice to someone else!

    Have you ever heard of paragraphing? 

    Sorry, I thought Paul did great, especially when he nailed Cain and didn’t violate any of the time rules;  Paul was the winner, Cain and Romney the losers.

  • Andrew Treacy

    Nice job, Krista!

  • Mike Abshier

    Since Congressman Paul, is not getting many questions from the Moderators (usually Democrats), is there any real possibility of having Congressman Paul answer questions given to other candidates and incorporate some of the above in a filmed interview that can be disseminated over social media and the internet? Granted there is his wonderful book “Liberty Defined” – but there a growing number of potential voters, who rarely read.

  • Peejmac

    Patty, your response is such a thrill to read. It reminds me of my own resonance with Ron Paul’s “real-ness.”  Thank God he’s not the slick, polished, fake fluff we’re so used to seeing paraded before our dull eyes. I did not think I could ever admire a man so much in this time like I’ve been able to admire those past, like Thomas Jefferson, or Patrick Henry, etc. I really had thought the days of substantive, honorable, forthright statesmanship were something I would never see. What an absolute delight it is to hear him talk about the things that REALLY matter, and offer clear, thought out solutions that aren’t just new sound bites for him, but what he’s been saying for over thirty years! Thank you for sharing your “story.” In my experience, Ron Paul supporters are the most inspiring people I’ve ever known, and your reply is another great example of that.

  • Anonymous

    There is a big difference between coaching on content and coaching on delivery.

    The Doc has the content.  His delivery could use a little polish.

  • Publicani

    Write the closing statement and make it public.

  • Michael Pierone

    Reality Check. Ron Paul IS improving at every debate.  Not surprising considering how intelligent and committed he is.  His last debate performance was magnificent. I am forever in his debt.  I’m glad too that he remains Ron Paul, and not some plastic man with rehearsed one liners.  I believe that it is because he comes off as REAL, that he persuades so many people of so many diverse backgrounds. The American people have been weaned on TV commercials, they know packaged BS when they see it.  This is why Romney can’t break out above 25 percent. He is the packaged plastic status quo candidate that we are all SUPPOSED to support as the media and the pundits tell us over and over again.  We aren’t having it.

    My biggest fear is the sheer number of people who are NOT paying attention.  I wish there was some way I could convince them to stay home. 

    On Foreign policy, it’s time we made the NEOCONS explain THEMSELVES. Just exactly what is so great about endless war, the mass death of innocents and the blow back they offer us.

    I hear them saying Ron’s way is wrong, but someone needs to hold their feet to the fire.

    I can’t help but wonder if they were raised by wolves.  My parents didn’t tell me to bribe people in order to win their friendship, nor did they neglect to tell me that I should treat others as I would be treated.

    How then can this be their foreign policy? Did they some how skip kindergarten and miss these basic lessons? 

    When they see pictures of toddlers with their limbs blown off do they even for a second wince and wonder if the results justify even one of these?

    Did they have to earn a PHD in order to learn to be so bloodthirsty?  How many years of “advanced training” does it take to wipe out the golden rule?  These are questions I’d like to see answered.

    Now that Obama has announced that the troops will be removed from Iraq by years end, the Republicans don’t really have a choice but to nominate Ron Paul if they truly want to win the election.  If any other Republican is chosen the contest will quickly become a referendum on the wisdom of War versus Peace.  Only Ron could reply that he would have ended the war much sooner and with much less loss of life.  This would allow the contest to be about wrecking the economy or saving it. The American people are for peace.  But they would also likely choose  Free markets and prosperity over socialism and bailouts.

  • Bootsy

    Excellent ideas!

  • Jillian Pierone

    revolution pac can’t have any association with the campaign… so everyone all over the internet who keeps suggesting tom woods and ron paul get together and talk shop. GIVE UP. ITS ILLEGAL

  • Jared Myers

    I agree with everything written here. I would also add that it’s perfectly fine for Dr. Paul to have a sense of humor during the debates. ;-)

  • carlc55

    I have to agree with Paurl – It’s obvious that we support Dr Paul and believe in his message. BUT, he has got to be more assertive during these “debates” (he should consider them hostile press conferences) to drive home the ideas freedom and liberty to dumbed down public.

  • carlc55

    excellant post Terry – that is exactly the type of response (in essence) that would hit a home run for him.

  • carlc55

    I would say the Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington of our time. He has characteristics of all of them.  And we have so few others we can say that about now days.

  • carlc55

    Fred – I am afraid that this is truly the problem.

  • Anonymous

    As we have not seen improvement that is needed, is it possible his campaign manger (Benton) did not relay RP the comments or provide him with quality debate coaches?

  • Anonymous

    I wonder what would happen if Paul look right at Mitt,Newt,and Huntsman and said;Do you plan on sending you son`s to fight in Iran,or,your neighbors son`s,and daughters if any?

  • Anonymous

    I would love the hear Paul say;Do you agree with the methods used to create the “FED”,and do you walk hand & hand with the Architects of the “FED”?

  • Anonymous

    I would also love it if Paul got the chance to say to Mitt;I`m not sure! how do you feel about that today?

  • Citizen

    Dr. Woods,
    As usual you are right on target and make a cogent argument for Ron Paul’s agenda.
    The Ron Paul agenda is OUR survival plan for this country.

    I’ve watched Ron Paul for decades, since 1984, and his message has been solid and consistant. But his delivery has always needed some polish and coaching.
    As you suggest, Dr Paul needs to “dumb down” the message to educate the unwashed masses, economics is no longer just a topic for egg-heads, it must become the topic of locker rooms and the kitchen tables across America.

    Dr Paul needs a campaigne with a catchy plan and phrase like “999”  (sorry) but people need something simple and easy to digest. Dumb the message down, “Can the Con” “Real Solutions for a Real Economy”  Clear the Smoke, Break the Mirrors” 
    I’m sorry… but “End the Fed” is 75 IQ points above the voters heads.

    Dr Paul needs some simple parables, anodotes and quips like Ronald Regan use to deliver. He needs to take “unfair advantage of his opponents inexperience”   Paul is much to serious and sober to a fault, he needs to lighten up.

    Dr. Paul needs a speach writer, someone to groom his message
    and lastly

    Dr Paul needs to become assertive, barge right in and answer the questions that the other dim-wits muddle through.
    Statements like…

    “That’s just plain wrong…”

    “I can answer that one…. ”

    “Excuse Me!”

    “Are you Serious…?”

     should be his cut in lines

    “Say what??”

  • Cornelius F Brantley Jr

    Some more suggestions for future debates:

  • Liberty James

    Dr. Woods, please hand control of the SuperPac to someone you trust, and urge Dr. Paul to make you his debate coach. If you do this, we will spread the message and help it happen.

  • Tom Woods

    If I had any confidence that this could happen, I would do it. Certain people will never allow it.

  • Bella350

    I like listening to Ron Paul, and I appreciate the lack of polish – the polish that most politicians have in abundance. It is that polish that makes me not believe what politicians are saying. 
    I say keep doing what you are doing Dr. Paul, I feel smarter just listening to you!!

  • myke

    I am a Canadian who is watching Dr.Paul run to the White House with the highest of hopes!
    I am not sure if most Americans realise just how much others Nations want the U.S to vote in this wonderful man. I listen to his points of view not really how he presents them and I can tell you that they resonate with me!
    Even though I am up here we as neighbours have many of the same problems and atttitudes about just about everything!
    I have never really truly cared about your politic’s before but I am now!
    Dr.Paul is genuine and articulate in his speeches. Mitt Romney must be shaking in his boots if he has to debate him by his lonesome!
    It is time for the American people to make friends with the world.
    I worry for Dr.Paul because the last time someone tried to end the FED(JFK, Linc)!