Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Representative Ron Paul left the campaign trail Wednesday for a more important previous engagement: his semi-annual date with Ben Bernanke.
As Binyamin Applebaum of the New York Times explained, the Federal Reserve chairman appears before the House Financial Services Committee, of which Paul is a member, twice a year to discuss the country’s monetary policy.
Wrote Jon Parkinson of ABC News:
Paul, a passionate critic of the Fed who has made its demise a cornerstone of his campaign, was recognized by the chairman of the committee, Rep. Spencer Bachus, as Bernanke’s “thorn in your flesh.”
“I guess over the last 30 or 40 years I have criticized the Fed on occasion,” Paul, R-Texas, admitted as he began his opening remarks. “But the Congress deserves some criticism too. The Federal Reserve is a creature of the Congress.”
The 12-term Republican said that the financial crisis is a sign of the “end stages of a grand experiment” on currency that derives its value from government regulation or law.
Paul’s so-called “Q&A session” with Bernanke (which was separate from his opening remarks) began with the following exchange:
PAUL: “Mr. Bernanke, if you don’t mind, would you tell me whether or not you do you own shopping at a grocery store.”
BERNANKE: “Yes I do Sir.”
PAUL: “Okay so you’re aware of the prices…”
The congressman then spoke for nearly four minutes about inflation and the debasement of currency, eventually producing a one-ounce silver coin to make his point about paper money’s value.
“First of all, good to see you again, Congressman Paul,” Bernanke said when he finally got to speak a second time, to much tittering.
At Forbes, Agustino Fontevecchia said Bernanke “was forced to sit down and listen as Ron Paul scolded him for “debasing” the currency and “destroying” the wealth of millions of Americans” and that Paul was in “full campaign mode.”
But that seems off the mark. Ron Paul generally doesn’t grandstand, especially when it comes to issues like the Fed and gold and silver currency. That’s just who he is, with or without presidential aspirations. If anything, he cares more about challenging the Fed than being President.
But according to Jon Hilsenrath of the Wall Street Journal, “after the brief exchange, in which Mr. Paul did most of the talking, the Fed chairman moved on to the next questioner and Mr. Paul left.”
Now that–not sticking around to hear out Bernanke or his House committee colleagues fully–you might call “full campaign mode.”
Watch the video here: