Kiran Chetry: Republicans are now looking ahead and eyeing a major political comeback. They rallied their troops at a leadership conference that took place this weekend in New Orleans, where a straw poll gave us an early indication of potential GOP candidates in 2012.
John Roberts: Mitt Romney topped Ron Paul in the ballot by just one vote. There you see all of the results. Sarah Palin was third, Gingrich fourth. Both well back of the frontrunners though. Congressman Ron Paul joins us this morning now from Clute, Texas. Congressman, great to see you this morning. Thanks so much for being with us.
Ron Paul: Thank you. Thank you, John, nice to be with you.
John Roberts: Over the weekend, we heard a little back and forth in difference of opinion between Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin about whether or not the Republican Party should be the “Party of No.” Newt Gingrich is saying, You can’t be the “Party of No”; you got to be the “Party of Yes”. You got to tell people what you’re for. Sarah Palin Is saying, no, it’s OK if you don’t like something to say “no”. Where do you, Congressman, come down on that?
Ron Paul: Well, I agree with them both. If you don’t like something, you say “no”, but usually there’s an opposite to “no”. You’re saying “yes” to something, so I have to say “no” a lot to most of the legislation in Washington, but I am saying “yes” to the Constitution and to the principles of liberty. So, in a way, they’re both right. I don’t think there’s too much of a disagreement there.
Kiran Chetry: Right, but I think what Newt Gingrich seems to be saying was that you have to sort of stand for something that you can point to, maybe it’s legislatively, maybe it’s just on principle. Standing up and explaining because I think right now, obviously when you’re the minority party in Congress it’s harder to show, “this is what we want to get done”. So what do you do? What’s your role as the minority party in Congress when it comes to trying to let people know what you stand for?
Ron Paul: Well, I think that’s the goal, and of course that has been my goal all along. Some people say that when you’re in the opposition, all you do is knock down the other side because they’re doing badly and that you’ll pick up the pieces and then you’ll tell them. Because if you tell them specifically what you believe in, they’ll start challenging you though. But if you really believe in something, you believe it’s correct you usually come across with saying, “This is what I believe in. I believe in sound money. I believe in a non-interventionist foreign policy and civil liberties. I believe in the free market.” So that’s all “yes”, and I of course believe that, sincerely, that I don’t run for office. I run to see if I can get support for certain ideas, so when I can get the support of the votes or win something, that to me is a sign that they’re accepting these ideas which I consider very positive.
John Roberts: And you were there over the weekend. You did very well, as we said, in the straw polls. Sarah Palin was there as well, and of course she’s become a very popular figure, draws huge crowds. To some degree, she has become the face of the Tea Party. Your son Rand said that she would be a great president. Did you agree with that? Would she be a viable candidate in 2012?
Ron Paul: Well, I don’t make predictions like that at all, because I’ve been watching this for a long time, but I’ve always been waiting for a great president. And quite frankly, there’s been a few getting into office that have very very few qualifications, and those who have qualifications I don’t see a whole lot of difference. To me, it’s back to the ideology of the people. The president and the Congress reflect the people. If the people want welfare and warfare, that’s what the Congress and that’s what the President gives. So to me, it’s a change of attitude. As long as the people want to be taken care of by the government, no matter what that individual says or does, whether they’re popular or they don’t think a whole lot, they’re going to do what attitudes are. But also there’s a conflict between what the prevailing attitude of people actually is versus the power of the lobbyists. The people might not want government medical care, but the lobbyists might. So then there’s a fight, and of course that fight is out in the open now, what the people want versus what the lobbyisst and the politicians want.
Kiran Chetry: One big player in that whole fight has been the Tea Party. We’ve sort of seen it evolve over the past year, especially through the health care debate. It seems like it’s hard to define. What are the main issues that the Tea Party stands for?
Ron Paul: I think clearly there’s a fair amount of disagreement on exactly where they come down on, say, the war on drugs and foreign policy. I think what unifies them is they’re disgusted with hearing promises that are not being fulfilled by the politicians. They don’t trust the government. But they also are very, very concerned about the size and scope and the failure of government, and really the bankruptcy of government. Because it doesn’t go unnoticed that the national debt is rising so rapidly. Last week the national debt went up $108 billion in one week, and the people are sensing this.
Kiran Chetry: Right, but what about all the other things we see in this Tea Party? Some have argued the elements of, perhaps, racism. Some of the other things, talking that Obama is a socialist. Obama is a communist. They’re present at some of these rallies.
Ron Paul: I think that’s 1% or 2% and it’s blown out of proportion when some person in the media can picks this up and play that up and forget about 99% of what they’re saying. They want limited government and these are good people. Yes, there are elements like that both on left and right but I don’t think that’s their theme at all. But there’s always risk in politics, whether you’re on the left or right. There are people who will join you for ulterior motives and they tend to want to discredit you. That’s why the individual who is presenting the case has to present the issues. I have to defend my views; I can’t defend the views of everybody or who ever shows up at one of my events, because that would be impossible. We don’t screen people.
John Roberts: Congressman, just before we go, let’s see if we can get you on the record with this. Michael Steele, the RNC Chairman, he was also down there. A growing number of people are calling for his resignation, saying he’s not the best person to be leading the party. What are your thoughts on that? Should he step down?
Ron Paul: I don’t think so. I think he’s doing a pretty good job compared — there’s a bluntness but once again it might be a little lack of control of some of the people that work for him, he did something, I don’t think he was personally involved but it’s a big operation. He’s been winning some elections and he’s raised a lot of money. Anyway, he’s the first Republican chairman who’s had at least reached out to me, at least would talk to me. Generally, the Republican leadership don’t want anything to do with me, and they don’t want to have anything to do with the Ron Paul people. They should be looking to us and saying, “Why don’t we help these young people who are so anxious and interested in what I’m talking about?” Maybe they can be and should be in the Republican Party instead of being excluded. He’s reached out and he has imperfections, he has admitted those. We all have those. But to kick him out of office right now, that’s not going to happen. It wouldn’t make any sense as far as I’m concerned.