Paul Jay interviews Ron Paul from the “Rally for the Republic”
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Hello, and welcome to The Real News coverage of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, St. Paul. Joining us today is Republican Congressman Ron Paul, a leading libertarian from Texas well known for his views on limited government, low taxes, and free markets. He was also the only Republican presidential candidate who opposed the Iraq War. Congressman Paul now heads up Campaign for Liberty and comes to us live from Minneapolis, where he’s hosting not a counter-convention, only a celebration: Rally for the Republic. Congressman, thank you for joining us. You’ve critiqued the neocons for going to war in Iraq, for having a vision of an American empire based on military might. My question is: Is John McCain a maverick or a neocon? And how does your vision of foreign policy differ from McCain’s?
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), CAMPOIGN FOR LIBERTY: Well, he’s closer to being a neocon. I guess you have to define what a maverick is. Sometime if you say that John McCain is a maverick because he joins liberals on programs like McCain-Feingold and joins the Democrats when he votes for higher taxes, I guess you can define that as a maverick. But his foreign policy is very close to the neocons’. He is very militaristic and believes that we should have more troops overseas, not less. So his foreign policy would be 100 percent opposite of mine.
P. JAY: Explain a little bit about your basic positions. I mean, I understand you would actually close American military bases around the world and bring troops home. That’s a very different vision than the last 50, 60 years of US foreign policy.
R. PAUL: Yes, and the last 50 or 60 years has given us nothing but grief when you think about Korea, and Vietnam, and Persian Gulf wars, and Iraqi wars, and Afghan, and on and on. And it literally has contributed to our bankruptcy. I mean, we’re spending close to $1 trillion a year maintaining our empire, and it will come to an end. Just as the economic system collapsed in the Soviet system, the system here is going to collapse, because we can’t be maintaining this with our ability to pay for it.
P. JAY: Now, the Republican Party has been pretty close to insulting with you over the convention. You didn’t get to speak; you’ve even had your movement on the floor limited. Why are you positioning the Campaign for Liberty as something fighting for the soul of the Republican Party? And let me just add to that question: there’s millions of Americans that would agree with you on your foreign-policy point of view, on your issue of defense of civil liberties within the Constitution, but who don’t agree with you on smaller government and some of your domestic economic positions. Isn’t there a much broader front to be had here than within the Republican Party?
R. PAUL: Oh, sure, but they have to come together for the one issue. Some who would be considered liberals that say they like my position of limited government, civil liberties, and less intervention overseas have to realize that that kind of force that they object to is the same kind of force that’s used illegitimately to redistribute wealth in a socialist welfare system. So it’s my rejection of the use of force to police the world or to run somebody’s personal life, it is a rejection of that that makes me reject the notion that a government should tell you how to spend your money, and what you do with it, and whether you can be involved in Internet gambling, and making these personal choices. So I believe I’m just making a consistent defense of personal liberty.
P. JAY: But why still from within the Republican Party? It seems like the Republican Party wants to distance themselves greatly from you.
R. PAUL: Yeah, that is true. It’s because Republicans profess to believe more closely to these views than, say, the Democrats do. And I guess it’s a practical thing. I’ve been a ten-term Republican congressman, so I’ve remained a Republican congressman. So the vehicle is the use of the Republican Party. But if there’s a true revolutionary spirit going on in this country—and I believe it is—it will affect all the political parties and all levels of government. So we’re hoping to effect change everywhere. But currently one of the practical things that we’re doing is working within the Republican Party. But there’s nothing sacred about that. And others chose not to work in the Republican Party. But so long as they’re true to these principles, it doesn’t bother me very much.
P. JAY: What do you think of McCain’s choice of Palin? It turns out that Palin in fact was not against the “bridge to nowhere” project. That seems to be rhetoric. And in fact she took the federal money—just decided not to build the bridge because it was costing too much. What does this tell us about McCain’s decision-making?
R. PAUL: Well, I think in some ways it was pretty shrewd politically, because she appeals to conservatives, especially social conservatives, so it didn’t hurt him politically. But I don’t think it has any real impact. She’s not going to be a vice president—if she were to be elected—as strong as, say, a Cheney, to drive foreign policy. So even if she did come around to agreeing [with] what I’m saying about foreign policy, I doubt very much if she could slow John McCain down. So it’s a tool and a technique to help him win the election, and in a way a pretty smart trick.
P. JAY: Do you see any difference between the foreign policy between McCain and Obama?
R. PAUL: No, I don’t see any difference at all. Actually, Obama was more aggressive and first on in sending more troops to Afghanistan, and then McCain said, “Yeah, okay,” even though Obama wants to come across as getting troops home on a time-line from Iraq—so does the administration at the moment, or at least the Iraqi government does. But he’s not talking about closing down all the bases in Iraq and closing down the biggest embassy in the world in Baghdad. And he strongly supports expanding our role and sending more money and influence into Georgia, which is there to protect the oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea down to Turkey. So there really isn’t any difference. He’s never said [anything] about bringing troops home from Europe or Japan or Korea. And there’s a big concern about our deficit. And we use about a trillion dollars a year to maintain this empire. And the American people aren’t offered a choice: their foreign policy are essentially the same, and we need a lot different foreign policy if we expect to really eventually have a strong national defense.
P. JAY: One final question, on your economic policies. How would the free market deal with the climate-change crisis? If you take the coal industry, which supplies the majority of American electricity and is said to provide perhaps 30, 40 percent of carbon emissions in the United States, how is there a free-market solution to reducing the effects of coal with any kind of time-frame scientists tell us, which is we have a 10-, 15-year window?
R. PAUL: Well, the free market is very protective of the environment. And if coal is a pollutant—and some people would argue with you—if it is, they don’t have a right to pollute your air or my air or anybody else’s. But the one thing the government could do is get out of the way, because we do know a source of energy which is cheap and clean, and that’s nuclear. But the government prevents us from doing that. They inhibit the development of nuclear power. At the same time, they don’t do anything to stop pollutants in the air, and they give these carbon permission and all these things, or they go and subsidize corn to make ethanol, which is not economically feasible. You need the market to operate to tell you which is the most inexpensive, and right now it’s probably nuclear energy. If it is ethanol, they ought to recognize the fact that the best source of ethanol is not corn. Sugar cane is a lot better. But the best is hemp. And what do we do? We go to jail if we raise hemp. So there’s a lot the government could do, you know, dealing with these issues of the environment and pollution.
P. JAY: In a case of national emergency, be it—let’s assume the scientists are correct about climate change crisis, it is a severe national emergency, or somebody were to attack America, which I guess you would consider a national emergency. Certainly there you see a role for strong government.
R. PAUL: Yes, but strong government doesn’t mean that we have troops all around the world, because that’s what precipitates, you know, our crisis. So, yes, there’s a role to be played, but if there is a significant problem, you might look at how much hydrocarbons the Pentagon burns. And out of 216 countries in the world, I think they’re about the 46th largest country in the world, and they’re burning all this oil. And then we go over there to try to keep our energy flowing in there. And we go over to the Middle East and cause wars. Dropping all these bombs certainly hasn’t been an advantage to the environment.
P. JAY: Congressman, thank you very much for your time.
R. PAUL: Thank you.
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