Ron Paul is not your typical Republican presidential candidate, and that's
unfortunate for the Grand Ol' Party. He's the only one of 10 GOP candidates
who opposed the war in Iraq and he's the only one who opposed the Patriot
Act. Even Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama voted in favor of the Patriot Act,
and Clinton voted in favor of the war in 2003. During the first debate
between the crowded Republican field of candidates, Paul was asked if he
really ought to be running as a Democrat. That's a chilling indictment on
the party of the first Ron, Ronald Reagan.
Republicans used to stand for limited government, low taxes and liberty. Is
Ron Paul the only such Republican left?
Only among the politicians. The people have overwhelmingly endorsed him to
the point where political pundits are scratching their heads trying to
figure out why Paul has such staggering Internet support. After the debates,
he is consistently voted the winner, or, at worst, the second-place winner.
The look on conservative commentator Sean Hannity's face when he saw his own
station's polls had Paul in the lead was priceless. Paul has more
subscribers on YouTube, MySpace, and Eventful.com than any other
presidential candidate of either party. His YouTube videos have been viewed
more than a million times, more than any other candidate's except Obama's.
For a while, the term "Ron Paul" was the number-one search phrase on the
Internet. Paris Hilton, by way of contrast, was fifth.
What is it that is so appealing about Paul? I think it is the same thing
that people found appealing about Ronald Reagan: a consistent and passionate
love of freedom. Both of them never wavered from their principles over a
period of decades. Both believed that in most cases, government is the
problem, and freedom the solution. Both believed in a strong military for
defensive purposes only, not empire building.
Before Paul was a United States congressman, he was a medical doctor who
delivered thousands of babies. Not once during his medical career did he
accept Medicare payments. Instead, he would lower or waive his fees.
He doesn't participate in the congressional pension program. He has never
voted for a congressional pay increase. He returns part of his congressional
office budget to the U.S. Treasury each year.
He has never, ever, ever voted to increase taxes. And he's been in Congress
for 10 terms.
I am almost jealous of people who are just hearing about Ron Paul for the
first time. It's like seeing someone start to read Harry Potter from the
beginning or watch The Matrix for the first time. You know they are going to
be blown away and their life changed forever.
I can't even remember when I first found out about him. Though we've never
met, he's been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember. When I
ran for Congress last year on the Libertarian ticket to represent Fairfield
County, it pleased me enormously to know that had I won, he and I would have
been colleagues. He is one of those people that you are glad is out there.
At least there's one decent member of Congress, you think. At least someone
will vote against unconstitutional bills.
Ron Paul does that better than anybody. He once described how he and his
staff read the bills. They start on page one and stop as soon as they see
something that violates the Constitution. Rarely do they have to read past
page two. It is a rare bill indeed that gets read to the end without
violating the rights and liberties of Americans. This process has earned him
the moniker "Dr. No," though his wife prefers thinking of it as the
less-negative-sounding "Dr. Know."
Political pundits can't figure out why Ron Paul has such strong Internet
support. They think there is some sort of gimmick because there can't
possibly be so many people who care about liberty!
Yes, there can. Large sites such as Technorati.com have confirmed the online
support is genuine and widespread.
So what is going on? Why such strong Internet support but weak polling
support? He now registers around 3 to 5 percent support in polls, up from 1
percent a few short months ago, and fifth overall behind the leading
candidates Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Fred Thompson. Even
on sports gambling sites where people can put up their own money, the free
market believes he has about a 2 percent chance of winning.
But here's the kicker: people are just now learning about this underdog for
freedom. Ron Paul has very low name recognition but very favorable appeal
among people who do know him. As more people find out about him, they
overwhelmingly support him. There are not many candidates about whom that
can be said.
The only question is if enough people find out about him before the
One thing that's helped is that he's appeared on The Daily Show and The
Colbert Report, earning large cheers every time. Last week, Stephen Colbert
listed various organizations and asked which of them Paul would abolish or
withdraw American membership from.
The Department of Education. The Department of Homeland Security. The
Department of Energy. The Internal Revenue Service. FEMA. The UN. NATO. The
Interstate Commerce Commission. NAFTA. The WTO. UNICEF.
Could you have imagined any politician, let alone a presidential candidate,
speaking so candidly about abolishing so many agencies? It's no wonder that
even though he's in his seventh decade of life and second decade of being a
congressman, Paul's still a fresh face. "You are an enigma wrapped in a
riddle nestled in a sesame seed bun of mystery," Colbert told him last week.
"I'm a constitutionalist," Paul replied. "And you haven't met one in a long
Indeed we haven't, but it seems we've been itching to.
Recently I had a chance to ask Paul some questions. True to his Internet
persona, we communicated mainly by email and text message as he was on the
train to and from taping Colbert. If I didn't know better, I'd assume he was
40 years younger. In fact, he'll turn 72 in August, about the same age
Reagan was as president.
I learned from my campaign for Congress that tough questions are more fun.
Sharper questions elicit a better understanding of the person answering
them. They also help separate the principled politicians from the wafflers.
And they are more fun to read. So the premise behind each question is to
assume Ron Paul is president of the United States.
How and when would you get out of Iraq?
I would start by redirecting our military to appropriate activities-not
policing the streets. From there, the process and logistics to transition
our troops home would have to be worked out responsibly.
If you had been president in 2000, what military cutbacks would you have
implemented in your first few months in office? Assuming 9/11 would have
happened anyway, what would your response have been?
I would have started to remove any unnecessary troops stationed abroad and
bring them home. In the aftermath, when Congress was deciding how to
respond, I proposed we implement the constitutional option of issuing
Letters of Marque and Reprisal to target Osama bin Laden and others
responsible, instead of bombing civilian populations while he runs free.
If an Arab country attacks Israel, should America react with military force?
Under what conditions?
As a general principle I support a foreign policy of non-intervention. I
would respond if the conditions of the attack on Israel threatened U.S.
national security. On the other hand, I would not violate Israel's
sovereignty by telling her how to handle her own foreign policy.
What would you estimate would be the average household's tax bill with you
I have not crunched the numbers on what that estimate would be; however, we
could easily reduce government spending by reducing our commitments overseas
fighting wars, policing the world and subsidizing the security of other
wealthy nations. We could save hundreds of billions of dollars every year,
allowing us to cut taxes and balance the budget.
Should hedge funds be regulated at all? Should mutual funds be regulated?
Should the Securities and Exchange Commission continue to exist? If not, who
will protect unsophisticated investors from making poor choices?
There is no such thing as an unregulated market. Markets should be regulated
by free choice rather than by government. History strongly suggests that the
private markets react faster than governmental regulations and therefore are
more likely to correct problems when they are smaller and do not threaten
systemic risk. Certainly anti-fraud provisions are justified and provide a
sound basis for the mutual fund industry. Subjective valuations of "poor
choices" should depend on the consumer and their advisers complying with
state consumer laws.
You plan to eliminate the Federal Reserve. How would that transition happen?
Would you allow competing currencies to the dollar? What would happen when
people want to withdraw more money than a bank has on hand and there is no
Fed for them to borrow from overnight?
My plan would be to first legalize the use of gold and silver as legal
tender for major transactions. Legalizing commodities to compete with
dollars will help stabilize the dollar and fight inflation.
You plan to eventually eliminate Social Security, Medicare, and other social
services. How long would that take? What would the transition process be
Since generations of Americans have been raised to depend on government
entitlements, I recognize the need to move in responsible steps. We
currently spend nearly $1 trillion a year overseas. I would cut that
substantially and apply the hundreds of billions of dollars of savings to
fund Social Security and Medicare while at the same introducing market-based
solutions as options for younger people. I would also never, and have never,
raided the Social Security trust fund. That money belongs to the American
people and should never be used as a slush fund for politicians' pet
If you abolish the Department of Education, does that mean there would be no
taxpayer-funded schools at all, on all levels? What if some parents are not
able to pay and no charity is available to them?
Education policy should be set by parents working with state and local
governments, not bureaucrats in Washington. Abolishing the Department of
Education would eliminate only the federal role in taxpayer funding, which
is a small percentage of total education funding; moreover, the conflicting
federal strings on this funding often outweigh the benefits to the education
of our children. My efforts to reduce the cost of government would create an
environment where more people could afford the education of their choice and
Americans would be better able to help others in need.
A person is bleeding. He comes to a hospital. He has no insurance and no
money. There is no charity available. Can he be turned away?
While this is clearly not a federal issue, professional oaths, missions of
the hospitals, etc., would prohibit an injured patient bleeding from being
turned away. In my own medical practice I routinely gave free or discounted
care to patients less able to pay.
Should abortion be a state issue? Wouldn't that make abortion essentially
legal everywhere, since pregnant women in a pro-life state could just go to
a neighboring pro-choice state for an abortion and come back?
The Constitution does not authorize the federal government to regulate
abortion. Murder is illegal all over the country, with variations across the
states regarding manslaughter versus murder and its degrees. Similarly,
abortion should be decided at the state level.
What would you do about the environment, especially on public lands? Would
you sell off Yellowstone and other national parks to the highest bidder,
even if it meant the land would be drilled for oil?
This is a multi-faceted question. As a medical doctor, I took an oath to do
no harm. Similarly, I have worked with the Green Scissors coalition to
eliminate harmful government spending and regularly rate at or near the top
of Congressmen on their scorecard. Obviously, I would never to go war over
oil. Also, I would end special interest favors and subsidies that harm the
environment; I have opposed programs to subsidize development in
environmentally fragile areas with taxpayer-subsidized flood insurance. One
of the lessons of Katrina is that oil exploration and development have
progressed in ways that environmental concerns are mitigated even under
severe natural disasters.
Would you start deporting the seven to 20 million illegal aliens in America
today? And what would you do to prevent them from just coming back?
Since we get more of what we subsidize and less of what we tax, we are
reaping today the effects of our immigration policy that encourages illegal
immigration. The incentives of birthright citizenship and federally mandated
education, medical care and welfare assistance for illegals are powerful
incentives for people to come here illegally. While identifying and
deporting all of the so many millions of people here illegally today (many
of whom came legally and overstayed their welcome) would be nearly
impossible, we should enforce the law. We should also tighten citizenship
requirements, reject amnesty and end welfare-state benefits for those here
Everybody talks about freedom, peace, smaller government, fiscal
responsibility and so on. The Republican Party traditionally talks about it
and when people vote for them, they do practically nothing that they
promised. Once we vote for them, the size of government increases and the
debt increases. Why should we believe you now? Can you offer something more
than just promises?
Excellent question: as a 10-term Congressman active in public life for three
decades, my record has been one of consistency. I say what I mean and mean
what I say even if I'm the only correct vote in the Congress.