Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rand, Ron, and the Political Family

Back in the mid-1990s – and it sounds strange to say that – I wrote for a small newspaper. For one edition the editor wanted me to write about Ron Paul. Our newspaper focused on Kentucky, so as a way to make the connection, I interviewed – separately - son Rand (who was then little-known to me), father Ron (well-known to many even back then) and wife of Ron, mother of Rand, Carol.

I was not sure what to expect from them. What I got was some unhurried, down-home, very genuine conversation from which I produced the article that follows.

In 1998 I was invited to attend a rally for a congressional candidate in northern Kentucky at which Ron Paul was speaking. While mulling around this event, my wife and I ran into this very pleasant young fellow who turned out to be Rand Paul. Though it had been a few years since the article was published, when he heard my name he said, “You’re the fellow who wrote that article about my dad and me. I liked it so much I keep it posted on my office wall.”

I was flatered, to say the least. Rand and I had a nice conversation that evening, and his dad gave a rip-roaring speech. Since then Rand Paul has become a prominent political figure in Kentucky and across the nation. So I am posting the old article, unchanged, thinking that it might interest Rand Paul fans. Just in case you are still wondering, I am a big fan of Rand and Ron. We will be blessed if we are able to have Rand Paul as our next U.S. Senator from Kentucky.

Just Your Everyday, Political Family

What happens when your father is a physician who interrupted a booming medical practice to run for Congress, wins unexpectedly, and eventually runs for President? You work with your father in his Washington office while you are a boy, grow up to be a physician, and dabble in politics a bit yourself.

You also wind up in Bowling Green, Kentucky -- at least you do if you are Dr. Rand Paul, son of former Texas Congressman and 1988 Libertarian Party candidate Dr. Ron Paul. The elder Dr. Paul is contemplating another run for Congress in Texas.

Dr. Ron Paul was a gynecologist who, according to his wife, began to realize that he was delivering babies into the world and into debt -- via the ever-increasing national debt. So, at the height of his practice he decided to try to do something about that situation.

Ron says his wife, Carol, urged him not to run for Congress in 1976. "It's dangerous," she said, "you might get elected."

He ran anyway, thinking he could not win against "Santa Claus" (an incumbent bent on bringing home the "pork") but hoping to make a public statement. He won anyway, and he has been involved in politics ever since, though he has never completely given up his practice of medicine.

Son Rand Paul has always had some involvement in this process. Rand took interest in his father's political excursions. "We went door to door in his [father's] campaign," Rand says. "Of five kids, I was more involved. In the summer I worked in his office in Washington."

Father Ron agrees that Rand was the most politically inclined of his children. The elder Dr. Paul reports that his wife always wanted the whole family to show up at political events with him, but he said, "No -- let them go play." But Rand seemed to think politics was at least a little fun.

Rand's mother Carol says Rand was "a quiet young person who did a lot of reading." Rand apparently didn't need his mother's warning to her children, "If you do anything wrong, it will be on the front page of the paper tomorrow!"

Father Ron points out what Rand spent his time reading. "He read Rothbard, von Mises, von Hayek, and Senholtz -- the Austrian economists."

The political Pauls are not always in complete agreement. Wife/mother Carol contrasts the father/son differences. "His Dad is 'a little more to the right' although Rand is to the right."

Rand says he agrees with his father except on some matters of "tactics" and "approaches." "I tend to be more optimistic," Rand reports, "while he is more pessimistic."

The younger Dr. Paul is referring to his father's prognostications about near-future events in America. Father Paul sees the dollar falling apart very soon. "They will have to revamp [our money]. It will be as significant historically as the break down of the Soviet Union."

Although the elder Dr. Paul is happy that the recent shift in political winds has brought forth serious discussions of balanced budgets and tax changes in Washington, he does not think they are going to happen soon. The problem, he says, is a "size of government" problem, and "tinkering" with details of taxing and spending will not help.

Dr. Paul says his son, "thinks the tinkerers will have more success than I think they will."

Yet the father/son duo of political doctors agree on much, differing mostly on how to get where they both think we ought to go.

Concerning his father's Presidential bid Rand says, "When father ran as a Libertarian, it was a highly taxing effort that was mostly for education." Rand has had, and continues to have, his influence on the political scene. But taking a cue from his father's Presidential bid, Rand has used his efforts for political education, rather that political election.

While still in medical school, Rand started North Carolina Taxpayers United. The point of this group was to rate elected officials on fiscal issues -- taxing and spending votes -- so as to inform voters about what was happening to their money at the state level. At one point Rand was the full-time executive director of NCTU. This took Rand out of medical school for a while -- something that did not make father Ron very happy at the time.

During Rand's work in North Carolina, conservatives captured the state house for the first time in many years, due in part to Rand's efforts. With this success in mind, Rand and his wife Kelly started Kentucky Taxpayers United. They hope the North Carolina success can be repeated in Kentucky.

The work of Kentucky Taxpayers United has already had an effect. Several people used their ratings of candidates in the last election. Paul notes that "it became controversial" with some empty legal threats directed at the ratings by a disgruntled candidate.

The elder Dr. Paul's political efforts have been entirely at the national level. "All I want to do is get the Feds off our backs," he says.

The younger Dr. Paul's efforts have been directed mainly at state government for a reason. "When term limits get through -- and they will get through," Paul says, "more power will devolve to the states."

Paul has a dismal view of current Kentucky politics, but great hope for change. "In Kentucky, the few honest state officials -- those not in jail or the few who should not be in jail -- are honestly liberal." Even these "honest liberals" are, according to Paul, "people who believe government should be in every detail of your life."

Because of this, Kentucky has plenty of problems. Paul complains of "stupid taxes" that drive businesses to surrounding states.

But Paul sees Kentucky as a fertile field for conservative politics. "Kentucky is poised for change," he says, "as Texas was ten years ago. Conservative people who have voted for Democrats begin to realize that they have to make a change."

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