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Al Hunt: This week on Political Capital, will the third time be the charm? Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas is making his third bid for the Presidency. Will his Libertarian views in a TEA Party era resonate? We’ll ask him. And on the Last Word, the Sarah Palin juggernaut rolls on—and maybe over—some other 2012 contenders.
We begin the show with 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. Congressman, thank you for being with us.
Ron Paul: Thank you.
Al Hunt: Let’s talk about legislative matters first. The Debt Ceiling, as you know, is up there right now, for running out of money, the US Treasury says, on August 2. You say it’s no big deal. No, I mean, the Debt Ceiling is a big deal, but this urgency is no big deal. Do you think the Congress will pass an extension of the Debt Ceiling by August 2?
Ron Paul: I do. And that was the type of prediction I made about the C.R. Remember, it went up to the last minute? And nobody knows exactly what will happen. But I said, “Yeah, they’ll probably do it at the last minute.” And I think that’s what’ll happen. It’ll go up to the last minute, and they will raise the Debt Ceiling. But the reason I don’t—I’m not going to vote for it, and I don’t think it’s going to be a catastrophe, because I think the catastrophe comes regardless, because as long as they encourage more spending, then we go over a cliff. So I want to stop us.
Al Hunt: The Speaker—your Speaker, John Boehner (R—OH) says he will absolutely adamantly insist on a dollar of spending reduction for every dollar of the Debt Ceiling going up. Number 1: Do you take that seriously? And, will it make a difference?
Ron Paul: I don’t take it seriously. Even in the 1980’s, when our good friend, Ronald Reagan, had a tax increase—which a lot of people forget about—he said he wanted two dollars of cuts for every dollar. Nothing happened; the deficit exploded. So do you think the American People are going to believe that we’re going to cut in the future? The only budget that counts is this year. It’s not what’s happening next year or the year after, or a five-year program or ten-year programs. That’s all pie-in-the-sky talk, and the only thing that counts is what it’s going to be this year. This year our obligations, when you add up everything: $5 Trillion, additional obligations.
Al Hunt: So therefore, the idea of putting a spending cap on that takes effect in ten years, that wouldn’t have much appeal to you?
Ron Paul: No. I think it’s too little too late.
Al Hunt: All right.
Ron Paul: And nobody’s going to believe it. You know, what they argue is, they want to prevent the default; we don’t want to not pay our bills. But we’re defaulting constantly. All governments, when they get this much debt, default. But they don’t default by not paying the bills; we’ll always pay the bills. The default comes from the devaluation of the currency. And we devalued our currency, so the inflation rate right now is as 6%. And therefore, people are losing their purchasing power, so the common person, the average person, the middle class and the poor—especially the people that lose their jobs—we’re defaulting on them all the time. So, I think other people ought to wait in line; if we have to, just pay the bills as we can. But I don’t want to keep piling on—the unemployment and the high inflation rate and the default—on the average person.
Al Hunt: Let’s carry some of these issues over to the presidential campaign you’re waging. Now you have a pretty good sense of what the field is. There’s a couple people that’s certain yet. On these kind of issues—spending and debt—are you different than the rest of the field? Or are some of the other candidates—you’ve commented on a few, like Mitt Romney.
Ron Paul: Yeah. I think if you just listen to words, you’d say, “Oh, he said what Ron says,” and “He says what Ron says.”
Al Hunt: Right.
Ron Paul: But I think there will be a credibility gap. Because a lot of people who watched me four years ago said, “Boy, it sounded good what you were saying, so I went and checked your record.” And their eyes would get open and they said, “You actually voted that way!”
Al Hunt: You don’t see anyone else who has that kind of a record right now?
Ron Paul: I’m always amazed—I’m impressed and I’m pleased—because very often they do it. And I think they’ll be saying more things, because they talk about “printing press money,” and they’re even talking about coming back from overseas and things. But no, I think there’s something that has to do with credibility, and they know that I’m leveling with them, and I’ve done it all along, and I’ve expressed these concerns for 20-30 years.
Al Hunt: Let me ask you about a couple issues to see if you can get that on the agenda during these GOP Presidential debates. One of which is foreign troops—Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya—it looks to me like most of the others are taking the John McCain (R—AZ) line, as opposed to the Ron Paul line.
Ron Paul: Yeah. They’re making—well, politically, they’re making a big mistake. Of course, they don’t think they’re making a mistake, as far as foreign policy goes. But right now there’s big debates, every week there’s a debate. The People are with me on this. I’ve been arguing to bring the troops home now for—I didn’t want them to go in the first place, and I want them to come home.
Al Hunt: You think you can force this on the agenda during these debates?
Ron Paul: I think the People will force it on.
Al Hunt: You do?
Ron Paul: Oh yeah. The People now know that we can’t pay it. And a lot of Conservatives are coming in our direction; it’s because we can’t pay it. And I’ve always said, over the years, that I’ll win this argument. Not because they’ll listen to some really great speech of mine, but we’ll run out of money. That’s how all great nations and empires end. They can’t afford it any longer. And that is what’s happening right now. And I have proposals that are different. As much as I’m opposed to all the spending—I’d cut across the board if I have to—but I’ve said, if you want to do it purposely and in a deliberate fashion, have priorities. My priority is, you cut off all foreign welfare and foreign militarism and corporate welfare before you go after child health care. And that sells. You don’t have to just address health care for poor people rather than looking at this atrocious spending that we do overseas.
Al Hunt: And you would bring home troops from Afghanistan, Libya and Pakistan, all of them?
Ron Paul: Yeah, because I believe in a strong national defense, and I think that hurts our defense.
Al Hunt: So you’d bring home all of them?
Ron Paul: I’d bring them all home. Sure. Because we have no reason to be there. The people, the soldiers we have in Korea, they went there when I was in high school. How long are we going to stay there?
Al Hunt: Yeah. Another issue, the Federal Reserve: It’s been a pet issue of yours, too. Do you see any other candidate who is talking about questions like a full audit of the Federal Reserve, or nominating—or rather, confirming—Federal Reserve—
Ron Paul: There’s no way. But they won’t laugh as much as they did last time.
Al Hunt: They won’t?
Ron Paul: Last time, they laughed. They’d scorn my foreign policy, and they’d laugh at my monetary policy. They won’t laugh any longer. Just think of the difference on the attitude of the People now about the Federal Reserve. They’re on the People’s plate.
Al Hunt: Do you think you have the Federal Reserve in retreat? You have—?
Ron Paul: I mean, have you ever anticipated, over the years, that Bernanke would be holding press conferences defending his position?
Al Hunt: Right. No.
Ron Paul: You see, he can’t defend it, because it’s a failed policy. You can’t print money and get yourself out of trouble. People know that. Grade school kids know this. You can’t use Monopoly money and make it work. So it’s a failed system, and people are starting to realize this, and the People know now that you have a lot more people to blame than high labor costs and high profits. You go to the Federal Reserve for the business cycle, the financial bubbles and the crashes, and then the bailing out of trillions of dollars for special interests.
Al Hunt: You think you can win legislatively, in this Congress, on any of those issues, though, whether it’s the audit or whether it’s the Federal—?
Ron Paul: We’re winning on the transparency of the Fed. I mean, we have a long way to go, and we’re holding our hearings, but there’s a lot of resistance. No, we’ll win when the system comes unglued and when they destroy the dollar. “Fiat” currencies last for a while, but eventually they self-destruct, and you have to start over again.
Al Hunt: Congressman, let me ask you this. There are establishment candidates. I think it’s fair to say that Mitt Romney and maybe John Huntsman, even Tim Pawlenty, are establishment candidates. And you differentiate yourself, clearly, from them. There are also some others who claim that they’re Populists, Conservatives, Anti-Fed, Anti-spending, the way you are. I think particularly Michele Bachmann (R—MN), who you serve with in the House, and Sarah Palin. Is there a dime’s worth of difference between Ron Paul and Bachmann and Palin?
Ron Paul: Well, I would think so. I mean, just our approaches, and the length of time, our interests and our intensity and all. But, I think this shows, the individuals you mentioned—the ones who are closer to the People and more Populist-oriented—I think the fact that they’re moving in this direction and now starting to take a different position on troops and even on the Patriot Act and privacy, they’re starting to move in this direction.
Al Hunt: Do you understand Sarah Palin’s economics agenda?
Ron Paul: No, I haven’t studied them.
Al Hunt: All right. Congressman Ron Paul, we’ll be watching you a lot over the next six months.
Ron Paul: Thanks.
Al Hunt: It’ll be a fascinating campaign. Thank you for being with us.