Tom Woods: My Memories Of Jesse Benton


Ron Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton is going to head up the campaign of Mitch McConnell. Gee, now why did those incorrigible naysayers have so many unkind words for him?

People who said Benton was positioning himself all along for bigger things in the GOP were scoffed at. Why, Jesse has a secret plan to get Ron Paul the nomination at the last minute!

Well, now we know the real secret plan.

Ask yourself this: how much money would you have to be paid to work for an enemy of the things you’re supposed to stand for? Maybe now people will understand why Jesse would fly into a tirade after some of Ron’s most heroic moments, when the rest of us were cheering.

I could go through a lengthy catalogue of problems with Benton. The grassroots folks already know a lot of them, so there’s probably no need. What’s done is done.

Not that the world revolves around me, but just a word about how I was treated. Early on in the campaign I posted a note that under the circumstances I thought was astonishingly restrained. I said that if the fundraising success of 2008 was to be surpassed, the grassroots would have to be persuaded that professionals would be brought on this time, that debate coaching would take place as it does in all other campaigns, etc. Nothing could have been more obvious than that. And this was obviously the note of a friend, not an enemy.

Now here’s how a professional would have handled a situation like this, in which a longtime supporter is unhappy but obviously still on the team in the broad sense. “X, we understand your sentiments, which are shared by practically everyone, and we’ll be ensuring that these changes are made. Your input is always welcome,” etc.

Jesse, on the other hand, denounced me in a series of emails, and made perfectly clear that I was to be cut off from everything — the campaign, Campaign for Liberty, etc. He referred to my “boorish behavior” (you know me — always the boor), and told me from now on to leave him and his family alone. Nice touch, that last part, implying that I was likely to stalk his wife.

Naively, I assumed another top person, whom I will not name, would be as appalled at Jesse’s behavior toward a longtime supporter as I was. So I (gleefully) forwarded the correspondence to him, only to be told that Jesse’s conduct was not unprofessional at all [!]. But I would not technically be banned from C4L, I was told.

So I just went ahead and made a whole bunch of videos, viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, and wrote a whole bunch of articles (here’s my favorite), on my own during the campaign in defense of Ron against his critics. I was not earning a five-figure monthly salary for this.

I then went ahead and signed on with Revolution PAC. (I resigned from it in March of this year, because I had said from the beginning that I would be on board only through Super Tuesday. Also, it was a very busy time in my life, and I felt I couldn’t contribute enough.) The excuse for my absolute exclusion from everything, put forth by the official yes-men, is that my involvement in the PAC erected a legal obstacle to any involvement in the campaign.

This particular lie has the sequence of events reversed. I joined the PAC only after I had been blacklisted. But I kept my mouth shut during the campaign every time I saw people say, “Woods isn’t allowed to work with the campaign because of the PAC.” I never corrected anyone. I kept the real story a secret for Ron’s sake. No one on earth can fail to understand why I might want to tell it now, to set the record straight.

And no, I wasn’t looking to be hired so I could get that five-figure monthly salary. I was prepared to work for free.

Another potential excuse would be that as a radical libertarian, I wouldn’t know how to pitch Ron to a GOP audience. This is as wrong as wrong can be, and I have the converts to prove it. As a former mainstream GOPer myself, I know exactly how to frame the argument to win them over.

For months and months, the top two people spun everything I did in the most negative light possible, in order to poison my reputation with people I respect. They don’t know I know this. But I’m happy to say I have friends everywhere, and they are loyal.

Again, I kept my mouth shut. And again, no one on earth can seriously expect me to continue doing so.

Of the various lies Jesse told about me, the least damaging was the claim that I had called him a — well, it’s a word I would never say. The actual story was this: in 2010 I was having drinks with Iowa Ron Paul GOP people, and Jesse was there. I mentioned the name of an old college friend of mine I thought Jesse might know, and Jesse shouted out, with an important Christian Right Ron Paul guy right there, “X [my college friend] is a —-sucker!” Classy. I reminded Jesse of this incident when he complained of my allegedly boorish behavior. At that moment, the story began to spread that I had called Jesse a you-know-what.

This particular lie I made no special effort to refute. I joked with people that if the grassroots heard that I had called Jesse that name, I’d be a hero.

So Benton is gone, but is Bentonism alive and well? Bentonism is the playing down of Ron Paul’s most popular and important ideas, the impatience with and purging of people who champion those ideas, and an obsessive eye to GOP respectability. Is that what the “liberty movement” is? Then count me out.

Finally, please note that I stand to gain nothing by clearing the air like this. Nothing but grief and more burned bridges. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do, regardless of the consequences for yourself. It’s quite possible that this person will make his way back into our circles at some point, and I want to urge people not even to consider donating to anything with his name on it.

Incidentally, if Rand Paul intends to run in 2016, the single most effective way he could convey to the public that he is not really serious, and that people should withhold their donations, would be to hire Jesse Benton.