Show: The Takeaway
Hosts: John Hockenberry and Celeste Headlee
Celeste Headlee: What began as the frustration of a group of libertarians over the election of Barack Obama, and then continued as loud protests during debates over healthcare legislation, is now coalescing in the Tea Party Nation Convention in Nashville which began yesterday. The Tea Party members are trying to figure out how to carry the momentum of their anger with this administration and with the government in general into an actual movement, or perhaps a new political party. But during 2008 presidential campaign frustrated libertarians flocked to a different revolution; that was the Ron Paul Revolution, in support of the Texas congressman’s small-government platform. And we are joined Congressman Ron Paul now. Welcome to The Takeaway.
Ron Paul: Thank you, good to be with you.
Celeste Headlee: So I’m wondering how you feel about this Tea Party campaign? Is it an extension of as the supporters of your presidential campaign?
Ron Paul: I think it is an extension in many ways, because there are a lot of people who are very unhappy with the current events in government and what’s happening. But that doesn’t mean everybody who goes to every one of these Tea Party groups endorses what I’ve been doing. But I think it just taps in to how many people are unhappy. And I think you have to look at each group and figure out what they’re really talking about.
Celeste Headlee: You know, you talk about going to each group. That’s kind of the essential issue here, because I don’t think they are coalescing under any one particular person or any one particular platform. They’ve touched into a strong passion and a frustration with government. But there seems to be a lot of different priorities among the many different groups of the Tea Party.
Ron Paul: But one thing is they’re unhappy with Washington. Not only unhappy, they’re angry. And they know there is something seriously wrong, and I think it’s a very healthy movement because they’re recognizing there is a problem. They’re not apathetic and they’re directing their attention in the right way, towards Washington DC, because our government there is too big, it’s totally out of control, the deficits are exploding, and we’re doing too much around the world, and it’s a failed state. But our responsibility – those of us who are involved – should try to sort this out and tell them what the solutions are. That’s what I concentrate on a lot. And certainly in the campaign I did and the meetings that I go to are generally college oriented – the young people. But I’m very precise on what we should offer as an alternative rather than just the anger.
Celeste Headlee: We saw a lot of this anger and frustration during the Bush Administration as well. That kind of coalesced under the auspices of the Democratic Party was probably a big part of what helped to get Barack Obama into office. And we spoke with a member of the Tea Party yesterday who was actually frustrated over the attempts of the Republican Party to kind of swallow up their movement also, and make this part of the Republican Party. Do you think that the Tea Party is destined to either become part of one of the major parties, or just kind of dissipate?
Ron Paul: Yeah, and that’s a mixed blessing. That shows the Tea Party Movement is very strong, but it also can issue a real challenge. Will they come in to the Tea Party Movement and dilute it and go back to typical Republican politics? Or will they be influenced by what the Tea Party people demand? The real frustration comes from the fact that we don’t have true democracy here. If you’re not a Republican or Democrat, you can’t get very far. How many congressmen are in independent or third-party members? It’s just difficult because it’s hard to get on the ballot, it’s hard to get into debates, it’s had to get the coverage, and it’s hard to raise money. It always bothers me that we go overseas and fight and kill and “we’re going to spread democracy”, and we have a lot of shortcomings here. So movements like this can go into a party. But I also believe that if there’s a true revolution, a change in ideas, that it will pervade both parties. You know, if there is a change in attitude about the economic system and what we should do with foreign policy, we will eventually influence both parties.
John Hockenberry: But Congressman, that’s just my worry here. I mean, everyone is waiting for the independence to coalesce under some political program. But you’re talking about something that we’ve heard really since before Ronald Regan: running against Washington, calling for smaller government. It’s the same sort of message. Bill Clinton had this message, the Bushes had this message; run against Washington, then you get into Washington, and all of a sudden you’re co-opted by Washington and we have this situation that we’re dealing with here.
Ron Paul: Yeah, but there’s a difference this time because there is greater anger and the movement is outside that party structure.
John Hockenberry: So was Ross Perot.
Ron Paul: Yeah, and that was a start and there was no follow through. But his philosophy wasn’t as precise. He was only able to do it because he was wealthy. I mean, he tapped into it, but there was no follow through. Once he was gone, it was over. But I think right now this is not going to go away because government has failed. They’re not going to get out of this mess soon. The deficits are not going to go away; they’re going to get worse. The monetary system is going to get worse. The dollar is going to have bigger trouble. We’re going to have inflation. The foreign policy is deeply flawed and the people know that we don’t get any change regardless of the party.
Celeste Headlee: I think there is a hunger and an appetite out there for a departure from the two-party system. But, you know, what I’m seeing with the Tea Party is it is a party that most likely may get swallowed up by the Republicans. I mean, the people speaking at the convention are, for the most part, Republican politicians or Republican activists. There are a lot of Tea Party people boycotting the convention because they don’t get along with the other people in the Tea Party. They don’t agree on what’s important.
Ron Paul: It’s pretty messy business, there is no doubt about that. But when you look at the big picture, there are still some benefits from this. And I think that’s the reason that my efforts have been directed towards trying to get a certain crowd out. I’m not looking for what you’re talking about, because that gets a little mixed up. But I’m talking to young people who accept the idea that personal liberties are important, that a foreign policy change is necessary, that the Federal Reserve is important, that deficits are horrible. And if you go to some of these Tea Party Movements, it’s all mixed up. I mean, they might want to expand the war overseas and we can’t solve our problems if we don’t change our foreign policy. Bush was elected because he was complaining about Clinton doing too much overseas. He didn’t like nation building. Obama was elected because he was the peace candidate to stop the war, and he’s expanding the war. The people I talk to are sick of this, including many people in the military. I have a lot of support for the military. So this is my emphasis. So yes, I certainly don’t have control on what all the Tea Party people are thinking, but I compete with the Republican Party that wants to go in and make them adapt to the typical Republican message. But they have to regain credibility because they had their chance. And like you said earlier, everybody runs against Washington and nobody does anything about it. And that’s why we have this Tea Party Movement. So it’s real […] philosophical challenge
Celeste Headlee: We’ll have to see if it actually results in third party politics. Ron Paul is the Republican representative for the 14th congressional district of Texas.