If one is concerned about about Jesse Benton moving over from Ron Paul’s campaign to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s, I would advise you to forget Jesse Benton, who, if you believe Penny Langford-Freeman, is a buffoon who many members of the Paul “family” consider the sap of the tree.
But even the black sheep are useful if you have strict, defined roles for them to carry out and for Jesse that’s being an intermediary between the Pauls and the media and others persons outside of the “Family”, which is basically what he did for the 2012 campaign. He decided who got access and who didn’t, sort of a castle guard if you will as Tom Woods and Adam Kokesh and others found out to their chagrin. And it allows the media to see him as the fellow in charge (even though he never was “officially” campaign manager) and see the Pauls as a family operation while the real decisions were being made by Rand, Trygve Olson and John Tate and Debbie Hopper. Indeed if you believe Langford-Freeman, Jesse’s role was basically to speak out loud whatever Olson would whisper to him. Olson, whose former role in the politico-intelligence field was destabilizing governments, probably prefers working incognito, being the power behind the throne than having a public role. If you understand this then you’ll understand Benton’s usefulness in being a front man.
By putting it in these terms then we won’t make the mistake of elevating Benton beyond the hack that he really is. He’s the typical sort of political junkie you’ll find bouncing around the D.C. area looking for any kind of work they can scrape up for themselves (a think think, a lobbying group, a staffer for some first-term Congressman). As Kent Snyder himself said, Benton was “unemployable and willing to work cheap” which made him the perfect hire for a campaign in 2008 which wasn’t designed or planned to win anything. Benton didn’t know anything about Ron Paul. But once he did he realized that the way you get close to Paul, outside of longtime mutual friendship (ala Lew Rockwell for example), is by being a member of the Family, which is exactly what he did by marrying the boss’s daughter. As we all know RP is loath to trust anyone outside the Family. It was probably the smartest move Jesse’s made in five years.
So if Jesse’s Mitch McConnell’s campaign chairman for 2014 it’s because McConnell thinks he’s so secure even Jesse can’t screw it up. And by having him, again, out in front, it discourages any potential Tea Party challengers. His hire, along with Rand’s early endorsement, protects him from intra-party challenge. You can try but you won’t be getting any donor lists or money from the Family that’s for sure. Good luck to you.
The real story is the relationship between Rand and Mitch. This relationship is not so much friendship but one of mutual interests. Rand’s not adverse to hitching his star to an establishment figure (and you can’t get more establishment than McConnell) if he thinks it will benefit him. If McConnell wasn’t the party leader and senior senator from Rand’s home state the relationship might be different and Rand might take more of a Jim DeMint role in the Senate. But Rand is going places, DeMint isn’t and Rand probably figures, and he’s probably right, being under the wing of Mitch McConnell will help his ambitions better than being a gadfly like his father was. For McConnell, Rand is useful in keeping DeMint from challenging his leadership. He hopes to become majority leader again and doesn’t want to have to worry about someone taking it away from him. Without Rand, DeMint can’t mount a credible challenge. And when you think about it realistically, for Rand to be a part of any challenge to McConnell would tear the GOP in Kentucky apart and put his own career in peril. Rand is too smart to do that.
Go back to 2010 just after Rand won the primary. He dumps his campaign manager, David Adams, who helped him beat McConnell’s machine candidate, for Jesse. At the time it was sold was a way for Benton to get more campaign experience to help Ron out in 2012. The reality of course Jesse was fronting for McConnell’s man Trygve Olson and Olson was running the show for McConnell. But the question is why dump Adams for one of McConnell’s proteges? Because McConnell pulled out one of the oldest political maneuvers in the book: If you can’t beat em’ join ‘em. Or have them join you. And after the whole Maddow interview fiasco Rand was willing to listen as McConnell no doubt bluntly told him he would need NRSCC money (which McConnell controlled) and McConnell’s organization to beat the Democrats, who were going to use the interview and other things they dug up against Rand and spend 4-to-5 times what Rand could raise from money bombs, the Club for Growth or DeMint’s PAC for TV ads distorting Rand’s remarks and campaign positions. There’s no doubt McConnell flattered Rand, said he was the future of the party and that he (McConnell) would help him get to the top by offering money and access to big player donors and persons in high places. As I said, as Kentucky’s senior senator and Republican leader in the Senate, it was an offer Rand could not refuse. Even though Rand had beaten McConnell’s hand-picked candidate in the primary, Rand didn’t feel himself to be in a position to turn down McConell’s help. If he had, chances are McConnell would not have endorsed Rand and other Republicans in state would have taken it as a signal not to help him either. Instead of being Senator Paul he could have easily wound up like Christine O’Donnell. And the same is true if Rand wants to run for President. If he doesn’t have the backing of the state’s Republican politicians, including McConnell, he has no chance.
I’m not trying to justify Rand’s Faustian bargain. I’m just trying to explain why he made it in the first place. The danger of course with all this political maneuvering, is the message gets watered down or lost. With Ron you never had to worry about this because he was his own man and had his own powerbase. He didn’t have to rely on patrons. He could do what he wanted. But winning a CD compared to winning a state are two different things and I’m sure we’re all aware, Ron is no politician. In fact he hates politics. He only uses it as a means to larger purpose, getting out the message. But Rand likes politics and is willing to do those political things that many find distasteful but also many us find necessary to survive and thrive.
The larger question for all of us is not how we change the politics, which as part of the natural relationships between human beings does not change, but make the politics fit the message. In other words, Rand might be more willing to be like his father, especially on foreign policy or the drug war, if its was to his political benefit. And to do that, we have to change the debate, change the culture and change minds. That’s what we need to do over the next four years, not worry about what little Jesse Benton is doing or not doing. Who cares? If you change the debate to make it more politically beneficial to be non-interventionist in the Republican Party and to oppose the Drug War, then Rand will be there with you and a whole lot of other people as well.