For decades, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) served as the libertarian conscience of Congress. After 12 terms stretching across four decades and three runs for president, Paul chose to retire in January. Now a handful of Republican congressmen are stepping into the breach. Endorsed by Dr. No himself and the Paul-inspired Young Americans for Liberty, Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, Ted Yoho, and Kerry Bentivolio are headed to Washington (or back, in the case of second-termer Amash), where they say they’ll defend personal freedom and fiscal responsibility. reason interviewed them in December about their governing philosophies, the state of Congress, and whether they seek to be national leaders for a post-Paul liberty movement.
Justin Amash: Bringing the liberty perspective to light.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) enters his second term in Congress as the favorite surviving congressman of the “liberty movement” that arose around Ron Paul. Amash, 32, came to Washington in 2011 after a single term in the Michigan state legislature, where he brought a unique perspective informed by Frederic Bastiat and F.A. Hayek and became known as probably the first American legislator to explain all his votes on Facebook. In December, the second-generation American of Palestinian descent made headlines when the House Republican leadership booted him from his seat on the Budget Committee. Amash and his fans say he was rebuked for being more fiscally conservative than his colleagues, refusing to vote for bills he thought would bust the budget even if that meant defying GOP marching orders. Other congressmen anonymously told the press that it was because Amash and three other demoted colleagues were uncollegial “assholes.”
reason: So, are you an asshole?
Rep. Justin Amash: I’ve never been aggressive toward colleagues in any way, never been rude to anyone here. But I do explain my votes. And if that differs from the direction leadership wants us to go in, they take offense. Leadership doesn’t want someone out there explaining that a particular deal increases debt by $100 billion.
I think leadership has reverted to a smear campaign, calling us “assholes” for the purpose of misleading the media into thinking there is some overwhelming resentment toward us, when it’s not true. The resentment is toward leadership. I’ve heard from dozens of colleagues who are behind us 100 percent, and not just conservatives or libertarians. I was back home this weekend and I’ve never seen so much support for what I’m doing and so much anger directed toward [Republican House Speaker John] Boehner, not just for what he’s doing to me but for his leadership.
I’m a pretty mild-mannered person. I’ve been a mild-mannered congressman and state legislator. I don’t go out and make a lot of noise. When I was a state legislator, I could go and explain my votes on Facebook and leadership would give me leeway to do so without coming after me. Now they have made it clear a different paradigm exists here. I have to evolve the way I operate as well. I think it’s important for me to be more vocal about the issues and be more clear about problems going on in Congress and not really take a back seat like I’ve been taking up to now.
reason: What is so important about those committee assignments?
Amash: When we are working on budget deals it’s important to have liberty-minded people who can press leadership and press the chairman from a more pro-liberty perspective. That’s certainly happened in the last year on the budget committee. A number of us pressed [Rep. Paul] Ryan on the budget and it ended up better than it would have been. On things like military spending, for example, it’s important to have people on the Budget Committee willing to talk to Democrats and negotiate on that issue because the message we get from leadership is that that’s off the table.
reason: Do you see any hope for changing that attitude on military spending in the Republican Party?
Amash: New members have a different take on it than the more senior members. We can’t count on all the new members to be open to compromise on military spending, but there is a much higher percentage among [last term’s] freshmen and the incoming class as well.
We are just a reflection on what’s going on back home, which is that voters are telling us we need to be more cautious about our foreign engagements, that we should be using our armed forces for defense and not to impose our will on the rest of the world, that we are putting ourselves at risk continuing the strategy we are engaged in. We hear a lot from military families telling us please bring our troops home, we are putting lives at risk without getting the results we’ve been promised and with no clear goals.
reason: Were you worried your redistricting might prevent you from getting back to Congress?
Amash: I was never concerned about losing. I knew redistricting would make my district a little more challenging in terms of logistics. It’s a larger district now and I’m traveling to areas I hadn’t spent lots of time in before. The biggest challenge was I had an opponent [Steve Pestka] who was self-funding and outspent me about two to one by the end of the race. But we still won with a healthy margin. I outperformed both Mitt Romney and [Republican Senate candidate] Pete Hoekstra in my district.
I’m completely transparent which is extremely helpful; everyone knows exactly why I vote the way I do. I think it’s more important that my philosophy is just common sense. When I go back home people don’t find my views extreme, they find the views of Congress in general extreme. That’s why Congress has a 10 percent approval rating; so many members of Congress are completely detached from the real world. People find it extreme not to balance the budget for 30 years, not to include military spending as part of negotiations. They don’t find it extreme to want to balance the budget in the near future or to want to work with Democrats on things like military spending. If my colleagues realized that common-sense approach works back home, more would take it. They are caught up in this whole D.C. universe where they are basically catering to lobbyists and not their constituency.
reason: Do you see yourself in a national liberty-movement leadership role?
Amash: I do view my role as important in bringing the liberty perspective to light. I am chairman of the House Liberty Caucus and we are trying to use that as a tool for getting some of these ideas out to our colleagues and constituents across the country.
My constituents are all very concerned about their liberty, so I don’t see the roles [of being a national leader and a local representative] as incompatible. It’s the same role. I was elected to Congress to follow the Constitution and defend my constituents’ economic freedom and individual liberty.
reason: In theory, given the Republican Party’s rhetoric, more congressmen should feel free to be like you. Why aren’t they?
Amash: I think a lot are afraid if they are too bold they will be voted out of office. My message to them is that’s not true. People don’t vote you out of office for being too bold. They vote you out for being stupid. Sure, if you vote in a way different from other members and are unwilling to explain yourself, you might have a problem. But as long as you are willing to explain, you can be very bold and get new people involved in the process who will also be bold. Lots of new members, I think, will be inspired by the kind of work I’ve done in terms of transparency.
reason: Any surprises about your experience in Congress after your first term, pleasant or unpleasant?
Amash: I’ve been surprised by the level of unwillingness to work on issues like our debt in a serious way. I would have hoped that when Republicans were swept into office in 2010 we’d make some real gains in reducing the size of government or at least explaining to the American people why we need to have much smaller government. I look back on two years and see essentially no big accomplishment; it’s been two years of treading water and deals made that only serve to grow our government.
I’ve been surprised how many new members are aligned with the principles of limited government and economic liberty and individual freedom, but we don’t have the position in leadership yet to make an impact on the Party’s direction, at least directly. We are impacting people back home that will eventually translate into a new direction for the Party.
reason: What are your biggest priorities for your second term?
Amash: My top legislative priority is my balanced budget amendment. It has 14 Democratic co-sponsors, which makes it among most popular bipartisan balanced budget proposals we ever had. I’m going to continue to work with Democrats and Republicans and maybe get a vote on it eventually. My amendment requires current year spending to balance with the average revenue of the previous three years. It requires you to make tax decisions for the future rather than the current year.
My other role over the next two years will be to continue to fight to defend civil liberties and ensure our foreign policy is one of defense. We need people who will make the case that Republicans and Democrats are not doing a good enough job protecting our rights and in fact protecting our country. Especially with Ron Paul retiring, it’s important to have a voice there fighting for civil liberties and a sound foreign policy.
Thomas Massie: A lot of domestic programs I cannot find a constitutional basis for.
Rep. Thomas Massie, a new congressman from Kentucky’s 4th district, had retreated to a life of cattle and timber ranching after a successful career as a tech entrepreneur. But Massie, 42, developed an interest in politics while fighting some agricultural zoning changes and new tax initiatives in his county. He became a local hero to those annoyed by government regulation and overreach by spearheading citizen victories in those fights. This paved the way for a congressional race in which he was mentored by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul—Ron’s son—and heavily funded by national liberty-minded superPACs.
reason: What led you to run for Congress?
Rep. Thomas Massie: When Rand Paul started running in the primary [for Senate] I decided to do a fundraiser at my house. His message resonated with me. I was a supporter of Ron Paul’s but I never knew his son was living in my state; when I found out he was running for senator, I backed him. At the same time people in the county were encouraging me to get in a local race for county judge-executive. That’s a bit of a misnomer; the judge function no longer exists, so it’s basically like being mayor for a county. I put my name on the ballot and beat the Republican incumbent two to one on the same day Rand won his Senate primary.
I won the general election and went after waste, fraud, and abuse. Then our Republican congressman, Geoff Davis, decided not to run again, and set off a seven-way primary race. I knew many of the Tea Party leaders in the district from helping Rand and as judge-executive. I’d speak at various Tea Party and 9/12 groups, about waste in local government and how to find it and fight it. These people recruited me to get into the race for representative.
reason: You won a special election to fill out the rest of your predecessor’s term when he resigned early, so you are in Congress ahead of your fellow freshmen. How’s that going?
Massie: I’m excited to be on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That’s what I did at the local level, looking for waste, fraud, and abuse, and I hope to do that on this committee as well. I think I can help not just my constituents but the whole country. I’m also on the Transportation Committee. I have a very transportation-intensive district; 280 miles of the Ohio River is contained within it, with all the locks and dams. Approximately 20 bridges go from my district into other states. Cincinnati airport is actually in Kentucky in my district. I look at it from a constitutional basis: I did not want to be on a committee where the constitutionality of the spending was tenuous; for instance, I did not want to be on Agriculture. I would love to see us go back to spending [only] on projects that constitute legitimate infrastructure with a legitimate interstate [nexus].
reason: Any interesting surprises, good or bad, on becoming a congressman?
Massie: I’ve been pleasantly surprised there [are more than] just one or two good small-government Republicans here in Congress. There are probably at least two dozen. These aren’t the guys on Fox News every night, not running for president, [they’re] just trying to do a good job reducing the size and scope of the federal government. That was surprising to me and very encouraging. Some of them are liberty-minded and some are just small-government conservatives.
Another surprise was the lack of planning and advance notice on the legislative calendar. You might think these things are planned out a couple of months, maybe three months in advance, maybe two weeks at least. In reality you find out about bills to vote on with less than a week’s notice. It seems like everything is a surprise. It leaves no time for hearing from your constituents, no time for them to give feedback or for you to solicit their feedback.
Another thing that surprised me was learning there is no assigned seating in Congress. Like a high school cafeteria, you can look at where people sit and see the structure. Unfortunately I sat next to four guys taken off committees! I’ve not been here long enough to read into all the things going on [with the committee-removal of Amash and others], but unless the intention of stripping them of committee assignments was to make them minor folk heroes in their district, then it hasn’t had the intended effect.
reason: Do you have a goal of making yourself a national leader for a liberty movement in the Republican Party?
Massie: This is as high as I want to go in government. I’m not looking for a national constituency or following. There are some issues that will appeal nationally that I’m interested in. Like food freedom, which comes from raising my own beef cattle. We are also missing opportunities as conservatives to show we care about the environment. Some people refer to this as being a “crunchy con.” The government shouldn’t be dictating our behavior, but there is no reason we should be against solar panels. We can be against subsidies for them, but there is no reason to hate solar panels. My house is off grid, powered by solar panels. I reserved an electric car two years ago, a Tesla, and it’s about to show up in two months. There is no reason to hate electric cars; we can despise the fact that they are subsidized but at this point all [transportation is] subsidized. I also like to point out about pollution, that it is a very unlibertarian notion to think you’re allowed to do something that harms another’s property—that’s just wrong without permission.
reason: Do you intend to be much of a bill writer? Do you have particular legislative priorities?
Massie: I’ve started with co-sponsoring two bills. One is an industrial hemp bill. In Kentucky the only elected Republican in the state capital is the agriculture commissioner, and he’s a proponent of industrial hemp. I co-sponsored a bill that would take hemp off the list of drugs in the Controlled Substances Act and leave it up to states to regulate hemp. Another I co-sponsored is something I’ve been interested in for a decade. [The Veterans Heritage Firearms Act gives] amnesty for vets who brought back firearms from World War II and Korea. There was an amnesty in 1968 that hardly anyone knew about, no Internet back then. For those who took their war trophies back, it would allow them to register them.
reason: When I asked Ron Paul if he had any advice for incoming congressmen he liked, he said making sure staff saw things your way was the most important thing.
Massie: I’ve hired one of Rand Paul’s staff and three of Ron Paul’s staff so I can be sure things are heading in the right direction even if I’m not in the office.
reason: I dinged you on reason’s Hit & Run blog in November for saying you thought spending cuts “should be more distributed toward the domestic spending…instead of military spending.”
Massie: A lot of domestic programs I cannot find a constitutional basis for, whereas there is a constitutional basis for military spending. But ultimately I am for the sequester, and the people against cuts to the military would point out the percentage cuts to military are greater than the percentage to domestic and I’m OK with that because it was a bipartisan effort already agreed to.
One thing I did agree on wholeheartedly was your headline, which said that Thomas Massie is not Ron Paul. That is appropriate to point out. I’m not Ron Paul. I’m not from his congressional district; I’m from the 4th congressional district of Kentucky. I don’t have the same background that he does, and I’m going to approach things differently. He was trained as a doctor. I was trained as an engineer. There will be lots of opportunities to point out differences going forward. I don’t even want the mantle.
I would say my views are closer to Rand Paul than Ron Paul. I don’t take offense because I often see Rand Paul attacked by Ron Paul supporters. A guy who shares 99 percent of his dad’s DNA can’t satisfy his father’s supporters, and I surely am never going to. But I do believe we should be less involved overseas, that it’s more important to think about bridges at home than in Afghanistan, and that it’s counterproductive to be engaged in so many conflicts.
I also think it’s important to focus on the domestic civil liberties issues surrounding the war on terror. I’m an opponent of the indefinite detention clause in the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] last year. I said in a speech a couple of weeks ago that we don’t need to fund more corporate loans, Obamaphones, or domestic drones.
reason: What do you see as the prospects for alliance between the more libertarian-minded and the rest of the GOP coalition?
Massie: We need to focus on things we agree on. I won my primary because I had the support of the Tea Party, the support of the liberty movement, and the support of Ronald Reagan Republicans. All of those groups are for smaller government. That’s one thing that ties us all together and we can all be pulling on the rope in the same direction. We shouldn’t have purity tests that disqualify people from helping, and that gets back to the pleasant surprise—that I think there are over 20 people here who I would say are firmly pulling in the same direction as the liberty movement even if they aren’t [pure libertarians].
Ted Yoho: Get rid of stuff we don’t need.
Ted Yoho, 57, is a freshman congressman from Florida’s 3rd district who became interested in politics after a long career as a veterinarian in the Gainesville area of north-central Florida. He managed a surprise upset primary victory over a 12-term incumbent, Cliff Stearns. Yoho sounds like an ’80s-style Reagan politician, far more concerned with what he sees as out-of-control welfare and regulation than, say, the Federal Reserve and empire. His views and the way he expresses them would sound at home on right-wing talk radio—an audience Ron Paul never managed to capture.
reason: Why did you want to run for office?
Rep. Ted Yoho: I started paying attention more than 10 years ago and saw that the country was moving away from its founding principles and core values. I could see two visions of government [at war in D.C.], a socialistic one and a republic, and that’s why you can’t get the two sides to agree; they are playing two different games.
I’m a veterinarian by profession and always will be, and I never thought of myself as a political guy other than that I’m affected by politics every day, more and more so in my business. Seeing the red tape you have got to go through to run a business, to hire employees, workman’s comp and all that, is mind boggling. There seems to be no common sense in the process. As a businessman looking back on dealing with the IRS, whether in the quarterly reports or just trying to get resolution with the IRS on something, it’s a nightmare. And talking to my clients, a majority [of them] were business owners and hearing their nightmare stories, I thought, it can’t have to be this complicated, we have to look at the bureaucracy in charge. I thought we have got to do better than this.
Talking to my constituents, that’s something I’ve been doing for the last four years; I decided to run four years ago. Every day I was out there talking to people, and what I heard is that we want to rein in government spending, so many duplicative programs. Welfare reform is an issue that comes up over and over again. Everybody that I talk to is OK with supporting people so they can get up on their feet, but not as a way of life. We have got to deal with waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid, the unaccountability of money in the military, I hear about $60–90 billion unaccounted for in Iraq. People don’t mind paying their fair share in taxes, but don’t ask us to pay more if you can’t account for the money we already gave, with things like Solyndra.
reason: Have you been following the story of those congressmen who stepped outside of GOP discipline in a more anti-spending direction and got punished?
Yoho: I’m not officially sworn in and not involved in any of those talks, so for me to speculate on why they were removed—I just read what you read in the papers. That would be pure speculation.
But let’s hope for the 113th Congress there will be a different perspective. I ran on a different perspective of being in the business world for the last 30 years practicing veterinary medicine, unlike entrenched politicians, and that’s a message that resonated that allowed us to be able to beat Mr. Stearns, that we are in a crisis that career politicians either let happen or failed to prevent, and neither are acceptable. I don’t care how it was broken; we need a plan to fix it. It’s inexcusable to not have a budget for the strongest nation on Earth because we can’t get our act together.
reason: Besides just trying to trim in waste, duplication, and the like, are there entire functions of the federal government you think should be rethought?
Yoho: Sure, like the Department of Education. I don’t make this decision lightly. For three, four years I talked to superintendents, principals, parents, teachers, asked about the Department of Education and not one person from the university level down to parents says we need to keep the Department of Education. If you’ve got a top-heavy bureaucracy with money leaving the state and Washington sending it back with their stipulations, they’ll give you money provided you do things this way. Look at what’s being taught in these schools. My son is in pre-law and had a text talking about government violence in a criminology book, talking about in Serbia, the government attacking people in Kosovo, massacring people and the like. Then it talked about subtler forms of violence, for instance in the U.S. the government does not provide health care insurance for 48 million who don’t have it. They are saying for government not to provide health insurance is a crime. This is what’s being taught instead of core constitutional principles and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
reason: What are your legislative priorities likely to be?
Yoho: I’ve been placed on the Agriculture Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee. What I’d like to do is have everybody realize we are a constitutional representative republic and legislate that way within the boundaries of the Constitution and quit bending and manipulating it. Until we have that agreement we can’t resolve these problems. What pieces of legislation I’d like to introduce would only decrease the size of government in a practical way.
We can pass laws to get rid of the Department of Education over a 3- to 5-year period, back off burdensome regulations, attack administrative agencies that have gained so much power, like the Environmental Protection Agency, the branches of some others like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that are stifling businesses. The way I’d like to attack legislating is to look at what’s on the books and get rid of stuff we don’t need. We’ve got way too many laws.
reason: What are your thoughts on national security and military spending?
Yoho: The number one charge for the national government is defense and security for this country. We’ve seen our foreign policy weakened over the course of the last four to eight years. Look at the Middle East. We had four sovereign properties attacked and nothing done about it. There should have been a statement made, let people know you don’t do that again to our country. We need to have a strong hand like what Reagan said: If you mess with us, we win, you lose, and you have a nice day.
reason: Do you think we need to rethink our mission in the Middle East?
Yoho: We need to rethink what we are supposed to be doing as a country and heed the words of George Washington about entangling ourselves in foreign affairs. We have enough problems here financially. In foreign affairs, be supportive as far as moral support but not financial. We just came back from a think tank study group at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, and they were talking about the money spent in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t think they are any stabler than before we went in, and as soon as we pull out it will probably go back to what we had before. So what did we accomplish? I don’t want to say the young men and women who invested their time, blood, sweat, and tears did it for nothing, but before we get involved anywhere else we need to have a lot clearer definitions of what is our purpose, what the rules of engagement are, what outcome we expect, and when we say we are done and come home.
reason: Do you define yourself as a “liberty movement” guy? You first came to my attention through your endorsements by Ron Paul and Young Americans for Liberty.
Yoho: I think it all goes back to constitutional principles. I’ve had people in the GOP say I’m not a real Republican: Oh, he’s a libertarian. I’m for limited government, fiscal responsibility, free enterprise, and personal responsibility, our core values and founding principles in the Constitution. You can stick whatever label you want on that. On the social side there are things the federal government needs to stay out of. I’m asked about marijuana, and I think Ron Paul felt this way, it needs to be federally decriminalized and turned over to the states; let states decide.
Kerry Bentivolio: My job is to protect rights, not take them away.
Kerry Bentivolio, the incoming congressman for Michigan’s 11th district, is a former automotive design engineer and schoolteacher who currently raises animals—including reindeer for Christmas displays. He won the House seat abandoned by hapless presidential candidate Thaddeus McCotter, who even as an incumbent failed to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot. Bentivolio’s amateur status, perceived radicalism, and personal eccentricities—the occasional Santa impersonator once said he has trouble “figuring out which one I really am, Santa Claus or Kerry Bentivolio”—so alarmed elements of the GOP establishment that they promoted a write-in campaign against Bentivolio when he was the only Republican candidate officially on the primary ballot.
Bentivolio, 61, is a veteran of the U.S. Army and Army National Guard, and he served in Vietnam, Kuwait, and Iraq. One of his major concerns is veterans; he thinks the U.S. government does not take proper care of them. In his reason interview he stressed, over and over, that he is a fledgling citizen-legislator. “I want to clarify that I don’t have all the answers,” he says, but he hopes he can be a bridge between the civil liberties, privacy, and online concerns of a younger generation and the Republican old guard.
reason: Why did you decide to run for office?
Rep. Kerry Bentivolio: Oh my goodness, that’s a long, drawn-out story. I could write a book. But quickly, I see our rights eroded by legislation outside the purview of the Constitution. You start to ask questions. And when you start writing your congressman and he doesn’t reply, you get angry, then say: This guy’s not doing his job. I could do a better job. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s what happened. I see a congressman’s job as to protect our rights, not take them away.
reason: Any one particular thing set you off?
Bentivolio: The one thing doesn’t have to be a big thing. It could be that one straw that breaks the camel’s back. I’m a rancher, and the state came out and said I have got to do a fence inspection once a month and turn in reports to them once a year. Now why would the governor of the state of Michigan think I’d allow $35,000 worth of animals to roam free in the neighborhood? Another personal issue that worked me up was requiring me to have a license for animals on my property for 15 years. Why are they doing this? Did I do something wrong?
[On a national level], the NDAA Section 1021, that’s a real travesty. I’m a veteran of three wars, and I saw some things I didn’t agree with, but something is really wrong here.
reason: What formed your beliefs about politics?
Bentivolio: I was a teacher, taught American literature. I knew about the radical writers of the late 18th century—Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, Ben Franklin. I taught social studies and taught about three branches of government that were supposed to be checking and balancing [each other]. Now the government’s just writing the checks and we are getting the balance.
reason: What committee assignments did you get?
Bentivolio: Small Business, which will help our district quite a bit, and Oversight and Government Reform. I was very interested in Armed Services [but] we don’t have a military installation in the district so that was a shot in the dark.
reason: How do you see being on Small Business as helping your district?
Bentivolio: People might expect their congressmen to have all the answers but to be quite frank I don’t have all the answers. We’ve got two ears and one mouth so we can listen more than we talk. I’d like to have a roundtable, a council of businessmen from my district come and meet and instead of the congressman telling them, let them tell the congressman what their concerns are. I work for them—why should I be the person with all the answers?
reason: When thinking about what your constituents might want from you, will you be mindful of constitutional limits on government power?
Bentivolio: Absolutely, you have to think about not what laws you can pass but what you can repeal. I will spend lots of time looking for what you can repeal.
My job is to protect rights, not take them away, and if [any law is] violating a right in the Constitution I can’t vote for it. But I have to be very diplomatic. I have to be a bridge between conservative constitution-minded Republicans and some of the middle-of-the-road [people].
I’d like to be that middleman, a Ronald Reagan type. I worked for Reagan in ’80 at the convention here in Detroit. One reason I think I won this election was I could bridge the gap with common issues that Tea Party folk and liberty folk in the district had in common; every [Michigan] Tea Party group supported me. Liberty folk came out in droves, worked hard door-to-door. The Republican Liberty Caucus group—I firmly subscribe to what [they stand for]. Not going to create departments, going to eliminate them; not going to raise taxes, but do everything in my power to eliminate them; not violate people’s rights, but protect them.
reason: Do you see a role for yourself as a national liberty movement leader, not just a representative for your district?
Bentivolio: It is not a goal to be a national leader. I greatly admire Ron Paul, he’s a legend, but asking me to fill his role.…
[In the election someone] called me “Ron Paul on steroids.” I am not Ron Paul on steroids. Those are big shoes to fill, and there’s no way.…He’s an inspiration and someone I greatly respect.
I’m a regular guy who managed to get elected. You can say it was because McCotter mismanaged things, but I think it was divine providence. But I’m just going to Congress to do my job. I don’t want to be president or speaker of the House. I don’t even care to be chair of a committee. I really don’t want to be a national spokesman. I just want to represent the people of the 11th district the best way I can. I’d like to be a citizen-legislator, do my job and then go home, but I’m not going to [term limit myself] with a hard deadline. If the citizens of the district think I’m doing a good job and want me to stay, that’s entirely up to them. I’m 61, and when the time comes I will groom someone to take my place. I’m going to raise the bar on constituent services. I’ll know I’ve done a good job when other congressmen tell freshmen, “If you want to know what to do with constituent services, see Bentivolio—he’s got it down to a science.”