An Exclusive Interview with Ron Paul
The Libertarian Dark Horse is Still Kicking
By WAJAHAT ALI
“Who the heck is Ron Paul?” asked many Americans over the course of the past year. The 70 year old, Texas Congressman’s name and face adorned web pages, blogs, email spams, posters and pamphlets throughout the nation. Out of nowhere, the Republican Presidential candidate appeared on television for the Primary debates giving blunt, hard hitting, no nonsense answers and lacerating jabs. He criticized fellow candidates for their foreign policy, corporate cronyism, and support of “big” government. His candid demeanor, especially in calling out the Administration for its failure in Iraq, helped win him over many independents, jaded Republicans, and “on the fence” liberals who found his voice a refreshing and legitimate “third option.” He dominates the Internet search engines, wins most of the online polls, maintains an overwhelming presence on Youtube, and recently scored a number one bestseller with his manifesto: “Ron Paul: The Revolution.” Through independent, grass roots activism, his campaign received over $6 million dollars making it the largest one-day fundraiser in U.S. political history.
However, his detractors suggest Ron Paul is more of an “internet sensation” than a practical solution. His followers are seen as mindless and rabid “acolytes” whose repetitive mantra of “smaller government, de-regulations, pro free market” is naïve and blind to the economic and political realities of the world. Mostly, people suggest Congressman Paul’s rhetoric is simply old school libertarianism masquerading as a “revolution.” Regardless of your opinion, most admire his willingness to speak his mind. In this interview, he discusses a gamut of subjects in his characteristically frank and honest demeanor.
For nearly an hour, we tackled The Republican Party, President Bush’s legacy, Obama, Illegal Immigration, Abortion, Race in America, Foreign Policy in the Middle East, Gay Marriage, the Housing Crisis, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the American Media.
ALI: Many people are asking: “Are you still in the race?”
PAUL: Well, technically I am. I mean there’s not much of a race since McCain has all the votes. But I am participating. And we still try to get his votes. Like yesterday we got 15% in Oregon [Primary] and that represents a solid base that we have.
ALI: Next logical question, why still stay in the race?
PAUL: I think what we’re doing is real important. I think the message is important. The people who are involved, the volunteers, are enthusiastic. Our numbers keep growing. We still have money in the bank. They want to see the campaign continue to maximize our efforts and at the same look forward to continuing this project even after the election and make sure we reach as many people as we can.
ALI: It’s going to be, most likely, Obama vs. McCain. Who do you think will win? Who do you think should win? Can you move beyond partisan loyalty to support Obama?
PAUL: I think Obama will probably win the primary, but I wouldn’t bet money on it. At one time, I thought it would be impossible for any Republican to come close, but with the Democrats beating up on each other, it’s given time for McCain to recover a bit. But I can’t see how a Republicans can win, because this country does not like it when we have a long drawn out war and a bad economy, and that’s what we have.
So I think Obama certainly has the edge. If I had to bet money, I’d bet on Obama. As far as supporting Obama, I wouldn’t be able to, because he has a lot of positions I don’t agree with. His rhetoric is much closer than McCain on foreign policy obviously, but his foreign policy is not a whole lot different than what McCain and the Republicans have. You know, even the leadership in the House, the Democratic leadership has done nothing to really change things since they took over the House in 2006. I wouldn’t expect Obama to really change foreign policy. I still think they’re very much anxious to do something against Iran. [Nancy] Pelosi [Speaker of the House] has been pushing that, and that’s the position of both parties.
ALI: I want to ask you about the Republican Party. What is Bush’s legacy for the Republican Party, and what harm has he done to not only the nation but also the Republican Party? Can the Republican Party rebound in 2008 and, if so, what is its identity and how does it define itself?
PAUL: Well, they’re going to have a tough time, because they had their chance. The culmination of it was in 1994 and 2000, when they finally got the total control in preaching the gospel of less government and balanced budget. Even in the year 2000, Bush talked about no nation building and not playing the role of world policeman. The failure of that is so overwhelming: that is the legacy. So, getting credibility back is the main thing. And then going back to what they claim they believe in: smaller government, balanced budgets, personal liberty and the Constitution. They have a long way to go.
ALI: The name of your new book, a manifesto, is entitled “The Revolution.” These are bold words – no subtlety there. But many say your positions are merely rhetorical window dressing for old school libertarianism.
PAUL: Well, I don’t know where the old school libertarianism came from or where it is. It’s old school Constitutionalism. And the Constitution is very libertarian, so I guess you could connect it that way. But when thinking of conventional politics and Republican politics, it’s old school Republican politics. When we had a Robert Taft who was head of the Republican Party, he argued much of what I argue today. As a matter of fact, another interesting person who took that position was Warren Buffet’s dad, Howard Buffet, when he was in Congress. His position was very similar to mine. So, that may be old school Republicanism, but it just means that we believe the government should be really small in size and we should follow the Constitution.
ALI: Let’s talk about your foreign policy positions. You clarify in your book that you are not an isolationist but more of a non-interventionist. Your opposition to the Iraq War and pre-emptive strikes against Iran is now well known and quite popular with many progressives, independents, the Left and the youth. However, you are also critical of foreign aid to countries as well. If international actors, such as The IMF, WTO, or even Super Powers were to abandon predatory corporatism, couldn’t aid, such as educational aid to Afghanistan, deter future blowback and help create friendship? Are you averse to this form of “intervention?”
PAUL: No, and there still would be that I don’t want to steal money from people and give it to corrupt governments that would maybe misuse this money. A free and prosperous country would do this in a voluntary fashion. But, the point that people have to remember is that if you want to impose our will on Iraq through bombs and promote democracy: this is done with a “do good” objective. They’re always saying we’re going to promote the goodness of America, we’re going to promote democracy. They try to tell us this is all done with “good intentions.” So, if you do that and it backfires, then some of us will complain.
But doing the same thing using foreign aid, people say, “Well, this is different. This is economic aid.” So, that’s legitimate to tax poor people in this country, or inflate the currency, or borrow and bankrupt the country to do “good” on economic terms? But the whole thing is using force again. So, I reject the use of force to promote these good intentions. Besides, just as good intentions in foreign policy backfire like they did in Iraq and Vietnam and so many other places, the good intentions in helping poor people who are starving in Africa do the same thing. Because if you send them food in the midst of civil war, the government takes it over and they use it as a weapon against certain factions, so it rarely does the job it’s supposed to do. Just because economic aid is well intended, it’s matter of fact identical to the “well intentions’ of those who want to use military force.
ALI: Will you say that The Marshall Plan was a use of “good” foreign intervention and aid? Subsequently, is there any example you can give me where foreign aid was actually beneficial? Any way where the U.S. could actually help?
PAUL: Well, no, I wouldn’t have voted for The Marshall Plan for the same reason I just stated. It was pointed out that if you look at all the capital investments after WW2, the Marshall Plan came late and it was small compared to what Germany did afterwards, under Erhardt, he didn’t follow the advice of liberal economists over here who told him, “Keep on with the wage and price controls and bunch of other things,” he just de-regulated it. He created an environment where a lot of capital came in. And that’s how they got back on their feet again.
I can’t think of anything where some good will come from it [foreign aid.] There’s not a good argument for that. But there’s always some good that appears to come from it. Like, if you do anything here or domestically or overseas, you might say, “Well, look, you might be opposed to it, but we built this hospital, and it’s a wonderful hospital and it works. And we built this house for somebody.” But, so often, what is not asked is what is the expense? How much did it cost? Who lost their job? Who had to pay for this? How much debt was there? How much inflation did it cause? How long did the hospital last? Would the hospital last as long had it been developed privately? So, you can’t look and say that because it looks like it was beneficial in the short run for a small group, it never can justify the use of force to redistribute wealth at the point of a gun.
Whether you go and use a gun to take taxes and benefit Halliburton, it’s the same thing. Even when we do good here in this country, it’s interesting, we did the same thing where we had to help Katrina victims. It was terribly unsuccessful, but Halliburton was doing no bid contracts! So, that’s the kind of thing I object to. But the most important thing is that a lot of this could be taken care of and the fact that the government doesn’t do it, doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, it’s going to likely happen in a much better manner.
ALI: What is your opinion on the government subcontracting crucial public sector functions to private military firms such as Halliburton and Blackwater? We’ve witnessed several public relations debacles and overspending and waste resulting from the government’s over reliance on this outsourcing in Iraq alone. Should both the private actors and the government be blamed? Isn’t this kind of a marriage between the government and corporate actors both going awry?
PAUL: Oh, yeah. That’s what militarism and all this government activity does. Militarism encourages the military industry complex. Once the government takes over medical care, then you have the medical industrial complex. In finance, you have the banking complex, because the banks are in bed with the Federal Reserve and they control the money and the interest rates. Very often the media, because it’s licensed and controlled by the government, they become the propagandas for war. So, you have too much of this, and if you had a strict constitutional society, you’d have none of it.
ALI: Congressman Paul, you voted for the use of military force in Afghanistan. However, Afghanistan now sees the rise of the Taliban, Hamid Karzai [Afghanistan’s President] is effectively useless, there’s a beaten and wounded population, and no infrastructure. Do you regret that initial decision? Was it part of the pro war, patriotic fervor that gripped the nation post 9-11?
PAUL: Well, no, but if you go back and look at that authority, I’d probably vote for it again, but it does prove the point that even with the best intentions it doesn’t work out well. But precisely it didn’t work out well because the President didn’t do what he was asked to do. He was asked to go after Osama Bin Laden and catch the guys that had something to do with 9-11. That’s what we were targeting, and he didn’t keep his eye on the target. He dropped the ball at Tora Bora, they escaped into Pakistan, and then Bush went into nation building.
First in Iraq, then in Pakistan, and he’s been there ever since. That authority wasn’t to devise a foreign policy that ultimately was tremendously beneficial to Iran: he got rid of Saddam Hussein and he got rid of the Taliban. This was not beneficial for our interests. I would say the failure of that was because he didn’t do what he was supposed to do. The only argument against the vote would be that I don’t trust the President because he won’t use the authority right and he’ll blow it, and I’m not going to give him the authority to do this. But, under the circumstances, I thought we should’ve done something.
(Continue reading: CounterPunch)