It was a chance to get a sense of Dr. Paul that went beyond the short sound bites and brief television appearances that is the way we generally get to gauge presidential candidates. I met him in Reno, NV where he was on the campaign trail. I came up from California for the meeting.
Because of Dr Paul's tight schedule, Jesse Benton, Paul's communication director, gave me 30 minutes at 7:00 in the morning. Since Paul had given a speech the night before at the University of Nevada-Reno, I wasn't sure how much energy he would have that early in the morning. But at 7:00 when I sat down with Dr. Paul at the Silver Legacy Hotel, he was wide awake and clearly ready for a full day.
On television the gentleman that Ron Paul is comes across, but in person there is more. There's a personal warmth and almost a Ronald Reagan-like charm about him. (There's pluses and minuses to Ronald Reagan, the president, but he did have that charm, and so does Dr. Paul) When we sat down to talk, it was almost like we were life long buddies.
Without waiting for any questions from me, he told me that the week was the busiest in his life. On Monday, he was in New York promoting his new book. He also appeared on "The View", on the "Sean Hannity Show" and the "Colbert Report". On Tuesday he announced the formation of his exploratory committee and also began handling reporters' questions about Fed Chairman Bernanke's upcoming press conference. On Wednesday, there were more news interviews from reporters wanting to know his view after Bernanke's briefing.
Dr. Paul told me that his new house is an hour away from Houston and that he had made the decision not to go into Houston for short news media interviews. He told me somewhat excitedly, as an indication of his growing following, that on Wednesday the television stations sent trucks from Houston out to his house to get his reaction.
On Thursday, he landed in Reno, Nevada for the speech at the University of Nevada-Reno. He told me that he was excited to see a crowd of between 600 and 700 in attendance for his speech.
He told me the event was organized by the Young Americans for Liberty, and he seemed very excited about the work they are doing across the country. He also pointed out how well organized the Reno event was, which was coordinated by YAL Southwest Regional Director Adam Weinberg.
We then went on to discuss the economy. He told me that he again planned to propose a bill that would specifically call for the auditing of the Treasury holdings of gold at Fort Knox.
He also told me that he may propose a bill that calls for the prevention of the Federal Reserve from buying Treasury securities and other assets. This could be his best idea ever. It would, of course, halt the Federal Reserve's ability to print money and, thus, halt the price inflation that is caused by Fed increases in the money supply. It would also prevent the Fed from shoveling money to Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and the like.
We went on to discuss the current state of the dollar, price inflation and so on. I found his understanding of markets remarkably sophisticated. At one point, he said to me, "You know, these markets can all very rapidly just take off and the dollar can collapse and prices climb very rapidly." For emphasis, he moved his hand horizontal and then quickly vertical.
In my many years of trading and talking to investors, one of the most difficult concepts to get across is how quickly markets can change and move dramatically. Most people tend to think of investments as trading within ranges or a slow move in one direction or another, not quite realizing that the moves at times can become very spectacular. Ron Paul seemed to understand this possibility very clearly.
I've written before that in watching the way Fed Chairman Bernanke deals with the money supply that he does not appear to have a lot of experience trading stocks. He seems to react to market moves at odd times. Ron Paul, on the other hand, seems to have a trader's understanding of the markets, and an in depth understanding of how quickly markets can change.
At one point, Dr. Paul speculated with me as to how much Bernanke understood the tight box he is in, with the potential for serious price inflation, on the one hand, and the alternative being very high interest rates to stop the inflation. Dr. Paul said to me, "You know he may believe that it's not as if he can say what he is exactly thinking, since if he really understood the problems, and said so, the markets would react dramatically."
As we talked, he told me that interest rates may climb a lot quicker than Bernanke and other Fed members expect, because of the price inflation that is likely.
The talked turned to politics and he told me he had some advisers telling him that he should alter his message slightly to attract the attention of larger groups. He said, "You know, they don't want me to actually change my view, but the way I say certain things. I can't do that."
He said it appeared that his following seemed to be growing and catching on with some mainstream Republicans. It was at this point that he invited me to a Republican breakfast where he would be giving a speech. He said, "You'll see this is a different group from last night. It's a mainstream Republican group." And so with that, I was off to a Washoe County Republican Party breakfast.
In the car, I asked Dr. Paul what did the public not know about him that he thinks they should know. He couldn't think of anything, but Benton was sitting in the front seat and said that it is remarkable how conservative Dr. Paul is personally, given that he is in favor of, for example, legalizing marijuana.
Benton said that Dr. Paul did not drink in high school, college or medical school. Dr. Paul confirmed this and said that even later when he worked in a hospital emergency room and was on call he never drank because he had to remain alert. He said it wasn't until much later that he started to drink red wine. With a twinkle in his eyes and a tiny smile, Dr. Paul said, "I drink it for my health." But he added, "I really do enjoy the wine."
I asked Dr.Paul what books on economics he has read. He told me he has read all the Austrians, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Friedrich Hayek and Henry Hazlitt. He also told me he has a copy of The General Theory by John Maynard Keynes. He said he still uses the book as a reference to check a quote when he is preparing a speech.
He then said that he tells people that the real problem isn't Bernanke or President Obama, but John Maynard Keynes. "It's the thinking of Keynes that is causing the real problems," he said.
We started talking money again and I mentioned that the nickel had almost 7 cents of metal in it. He quickly replied, "The nickel will disappear from circulation real soon."
We reached the venue for the Republican breakfast and there were people outside waiting to greet him. One woman ran up to him and gave him a big hug. Dr. Paul was correct, this crowd could not be mistaken for a YAL crowd. It was much older and appeared very mainstream and they all seemed very excited to see him.
During his speech, he told the crowd that when Alan Greenspan was Fed chairman, he got Alan Greenspan to sign a copy of a paper Greenspan wrote in 1966 where he called for a gold standard and against the concept of a central bank.
Dr. Paul said that he asked Greenspan if he still held the beliefs as outlined in the 1966 paper, and Greenspan said that he believed every bit in them. Dr. Paul then said he has still not been able to square how Greenspan held those beliefs and could hold the position of Federal Reserve chairman.
|Ron Paul answers questions from a television reporter in Reno, Nevada at a Republican breakfast for Dr. Paul.|
On the way to the airport, we talked about the metal in coins again. I mis-spoke and said the current penny had 75% copper. It's really the nickel that contains 75% copper and Dr. Paul caught my error immediately and politely said, "Oh I think it is a lot less than that." When I corrected myself and said the pre-1982 penny (which is 95% copper) now has almost 3 cents worth of metal in it. He said with some glee. "They [The Fed] have turned the copper coin into a coin with real value."
At the airport, an airport employee asked to have his picture taken with Dr. Paul. At the hotel earlier, Dr. Paul posed for a couple of pictures with me but the pictures were a bit dark because of the hotel lighting. I had forgotten, but Dr Paul remembered and said to me, "Let's get another shot here in the light."
Dr. Paul then gave another radio interview with a Reno station, and reported back to us that the interviewer asked him to come to the studio next time for an interview.
My visit with Dr. Paul was just about over. I was prepared to head back to the hotel and catch a quick nap, when Dr. Paul leaned over to me, and after what he had called the busiest week of his life, said to me, "I can't wait to get home so I can go bicycling."
Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.com and author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank.
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