Neal Conan: Republican Representative Ron Paul of Texas has been called the Godfather of the Tea Party. He ran for president on the Libertarian Party line, but returned to Congress as a Republican. He ran twice again more for president, and along the way, he sparked what some call the ‘Ron Paul Revolution’. It promotes smaller government, less regulation and spending, and a greatly diminished U.S. role overseas. Congressman Paul retires at the end of this present term, and, Ron Paul supporters, we want to hear from you: where do you go once your leader has retired from Congress? Call us at 800-989-825 or email us at [email protected] You can also join the conversation at our website www.npr.org and click on ‘Talk of the Nation’. Of course, political junkie, Ken Rudin, is with us and Congressman Paul joins us from his office in Lake Jackson, Texas. It’s good to have you back on the program, sir.
Ron Paul: Thank you, it’s nice to be with you.
Neal Conan: I wonder, what advice would you have for your supporters, where should they go once you’ve retired?
Ron Paul: Well, you know, I think about that in a different way. I don’t think people have to have leaders, because I emphasis so much about the individual. If there is a revolution, it’s going to be spontaneous. So much of what happened in our campaign didn’t come from a well-organized campaign, it came from a lot of individuals getting together on the internet and spontaneously doing things. They raised money spontaneously, they would come out to rally spontaneously, with the help of the internet and with our encouragement. So I think they’ll have plenty of places to go, I think they’ll act as individuals, so they’re going to create a whole new atmosphere, and they’re going to propel the revolution in a very healthy way.
Neal Conan: Inside the Republican Party, or inside the Libertarian Party?
Ron Paul: It’s irrelevant, and I hope it’s inside the Democratic Party as well, because I have as many supporters coming in as independents and Democrats as I do Republicans. This foreign policy that I believe in, and my position on civil liberties is much better supported outside the Republican primary. I mean, that was a tough place to sell what I was believing in, I’m sure you were aware of all the resistance to some of my foreign policy on those debates.
Neal Conan: Indeed, some of your foreign policy positions sit better on the left side of the Democratic Party.
Ron Paul: That’s right, and I recall one quite by Nixon many years ago after we went off the gold standard, he said, “We’re all Keynesians now”. So the Keynesian type of economics has been taught and accepted in this country for a long time, so both parties follow it. So I think if you truly have a change in attitude and understanding of foreign policy and economic policy, it will change both parties. And it’s ideas that count, not so much political leaders and politicians; they think they’re very important, but they more or less are a reflection of a prevailing intellectual attitude.
Neal Conan: Ken?
Ken Rudin: Congressman, given the fact that you said that many supporters of yours come from the Democrats and independents as they do from Republicans, and given your positions on civil liberties and foreign policy, and given the fact that you refused to endorse both, John McCain 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012, why do you stay a Republican?
Ron Paul: Because of the system, the system is very biased against the democratic process where you can compete. I tried it, as mentioned in the introduction, I did it as a Libertarian in 1988. I spent more than half the money just trying to get on the ballots. And you think Gary Johnson who ran this time, he was Governor for 8 years, and he got no credibility, he didn’t get into the debates. We spend more time and more money and more lives are lost by us going to foreign countries saying that we’re going to spread democracy, and yet here at home, if you come to the conclusion that Republicans and Democrats never change policy when they get into office no matter what they say, then really we have a one-party system which is biased against anybody, whether it’s the Green Party or the Libertarians.
Neal Conan: You and your supporters worked inside the Republican Party to, as you say, infiltrate it and take over state party mechanics and state parties, and then were roughly shove down that road during the Republican convention.
Ron Paul: Well, in the convention, yes, though on the surface it looks like we were pushed out forever. But I had a all last night from the chairman of the Republican Party in Iowa who’s a strong supporter for the last 4 years, and this is happening around the country: in Alaska, I believe, in Nevada, in Maine. We have a very, very strong presence within the Republican Party. I just don’t want to limit it to that, I see it as a much bigger picture. And yet, at the same time, you just saw this week when we saw the Speaker kick out 2 or 3 supporters who endorsed me off their committee. But I think that hurts them and it helps us, because it emphasizes our independence and our willingness to stick to principles.
Neal Conan: Let’s see if we can get some callers in on the conversation. Our guest, of course, is Republican Congressman Ron Paul, who retires at the end of this term, and we’ll start with Joshua. Joshua is on the line from Cleveland.
Joshua: Dr. Paul, I can’t say what an honor it is to speak to you, first of all. I supported you in two presidential campaigns. I voted for Gary Johnson this year and if he runs again in 4 years, I’ll be voting for him also. I guess my question to you is, who do we have left, because Representative Dennis Kucinich who I voted for also here in Cleveland, and yourself, seem to be the only people in all of Congress who have a problem with Obama running the War on Terror the way Bush did with the drone strikers and murdering a 15 year old American child. Who do we have left to advocate for peace in Congress with you and Representative Dennis Kucinich leaving?
Ron Paul: Well, we weren’t the only two, I think we were more visible and e worked together and he was a good friend and we will continue to speak out. But I am cautiously optimistic that we picked up several more that will be in the Congress. Justin Amash, for instance, who was one of the individuals who was punished by Boehner, will be there and he will stand out. He had to work a little harder this year to get reelected. I think people will elect people to go to Washington not only to be an errand-boy, but to fight for something different than to just see how many benefits they can get back into their district. So I know what you’re talking about, I’m a little bit cautious about it, but I’m still more positive about it. I think things are changing, not so much in Washington, but when I go around the country, I think our numbers are growing, I think there are more people involved at the state-party level, there are more people in state representation and the state Senate. And I’m very optimistic about the young people accepting these ideas of liberty and civil liberty and foreign policy, that makes a lot of sense. I think they’re sick and tired of the debt that they’re facing. So I wouldn’t be too discouraged.
Neal Conan: Joshua, thanks.
Joshua: I appreciate it.
Neal Conan: I have to ask you, Congressman, about some remarks you made after the election. There have been some petitions sent about secession, and you said this was an American tradition, you talked about 1776 but, of course, there was also 1862. People were taken aback by that.
Ron Paul: Well, I don’t know why they should, what if today Greece seceded from the Europe Union, and the European Union got together and invaded Greece and killed about 50,000 people? We would frown on that. So I think the freedom to leave is the description of whether or not you’re free. The Soviet System was so bad, you could not leave, if you left, you got shot. So you have to have the right to leave, and leaving and coming together is voluntary. So, once you can’t leave, you lose your right of independence and self-determination, which is a very bad situation. If you study history carefully, I think you’ll recognize that it was well-accepted and recognized. The New-England states were much more into secession than the South was early on in the 19th century.
Neal Conan: During the war of 1812, yes.
Ron Paul: Yes, they were sick and tired and they wanted to get away from the South.
Neal Conan: Yes, because the South was dominated by slavery, and slave senators.
Ron Paul: But they recognized it, it wasn’t like they were an evil people because they wanted to separate themselves.
Neal Conan: Well, then the principle of nullification is there. If the federal government passes a law, and the states don’t like it, they have the right to say “No”.
Ron Paul: I think so, because just having the right to secede or nullify would restrain the advancement of the central state. Now, if you lean towards saying, “Well, no, we need a stronger, more centralized control”, then, of course, you don’t want that. But those of us who are strict constitutionalist and libertarians, want government that is local and at home and not at the central level because we don’t believe in central economic planning, whether it’s social planning or economic planning.
Neal Conan: A lot of people would say, Congressman, that without the role of the federal government, maybe we would not have slavery, but we would still have Jim Crow on the books in many states?
Ron Paul: Why, why would that be the case?
Neal Conan: Because it was on the books until the federal government said you couldn’t do it.
Ron Paul: The government passed all the Jim Crow laws, the federal government does have a role in that sense, you can repeal Jim Crow laws. But that doesn’t mean you have to take over medical care and education and everything else in the world to the point where nobody has any privacy and the CIA and the FBI spies on us, and the government gets so big and cumbersome. I think getting rid of bad laws is one thing, but after that, you should leave people alone. If you enforce this idea, what you do is you say, “Well, government is important to make people better, and therefore we endorse Obama’s policy of arresting people who use marijuana for medical reasons, even if the state allows them to. And this is where liberals and conservatives should company together, it’s the states’ rights, we want the states to be able to say that the people can have their liberties back and take their own risks. And, right now, this is a growing issue, I think the states are practicing nullification right now when they legalize the recreational use of marijuana. There’s a revolution going on and I think it’s great. But we don’t hear the progressives speaking out condemning Obama, just like they should condemn the Republicans for having this strong monolithic state that doesn’t allow some of these problems to be sorted out at the local level.
Neal Conan: Ron Paul is our guest, you’re listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. Monika is on the line, calling from Woodland in Washington.
Monica: Hi there, it’s such an honor to speak with such an American hero. I’m hoping to represent Ron Paul, my hero, at a local level, as we approach the coming up to the state convention. And I’m speaking as a 44 year old mom who has never had an interest in politics in her life, but I had one short conversation with a Ron Paul supporter named Bryce, and it completely sparked a passion and intentionality in me of looking at liberty as not just an idea anymore, but as a total and complete mindset that meant something to my life and my children’s life. And I am so impressed with the supporters that I got to know, people of high integrity. And everybody that I’ve spoken with, it just makes so much sense.
Neal Conan: And I’m sure the Congressman appreciates your kind words, but where do you go now, Monika?
Monica: Well, we go to Gary Johnson as a second choice, and really, in my heart it’s more of a supporting him as a show that Ron Paul and all of his supporters say, “You know, let’s not quit, let’s keep Ron Paul and his ideas out in the public conversation”.
Neal Conan: Monika, thanks very much for the call.
Monica: Thank you, bless you.
Neal Conan: Ken?
Ken Rudin: Congressman, regarding that last call, earlier in the show you said this was not about people, it’s more about ideas. When you ran for president the last time, when you ran in the primaries, you more than likely finished in the last place in the primaries. But in the state conventions, in the caucuses, you guys did very well. When do you go to the point from when you try to make a statement, to actually having an idea of “We can actually win this thing”?
Ron Paul: Well, first up, we didn’t come in last.
Ken Rudin: Well, in many of the primaries you finished in 4th place.
Ron Paul: Yea, in some places the votes weren’t counted quite accurately, so I don’t want to … the thing is, we did very, very well, our numbers keep growing. We were able to organize, we were able to use the democratic process where you have representation and send them to the convention, and then they weren’t even allowed to attend. So there were a lot of shortcomings there. But you ask when do you quit being overly principled and get more practical and think only about winning.
Ken Rudin: You could do both, couldn’t you?
Ron Paul: Absolutely. Even my friends, and some of our supporters who have split, say, “I love Ron Paul, and he has a good philosophy and all this and we want him to do well, but he doesn’t even really want to be President, he wants to just spread ideas”. Well, why can’t you do both? The whole thing is, my measurement of my success and support for these views is to get as many votes as possible. So it’s not like I was overly principled and didn’t care about the votes. A lot of my friends, Republicans and Conservatives, would come up to me and say, “Ron, we love what you’re doing because you’re a good fiscal conservative and we could support you if you would just change your mind about this foreign policy”. And I would bring this up in the college crowds and I’d say this is what they tell me, that if I only change my foreign policy, then I would get a lot more support. But then I allude to the fact that how many of those individuals that come out, among the thousands on the campuses, would come if I had a different foreign policy? So they don’t quite understand. In the midst of a revolution where you’re trying to change a whole mental status about what the role of government ought to be, it doesn’t happen overnight. But this lady that just called in, she’s the reason why I’m optimistic. She’s not alone, people are so disgusted with the system we have, the spending of the money, Republicans and Democrats lying to us, starting these wars, violating civil liberties, using drones to kill people around the world, using the FBI to spy on all of us; they’re so tired of it. And young people are spreading this message and understanding this like never before, because the revolution is very vibrant, mainly because of the internet.
Neal Conan: Ron Paul, thank you very much for your time, you’ve always been accessible to us, and we appreciate that.
Ron Paul: Thank you, it’s nice to be with you.
Neal Conan: Congressman Ron Paul, who retires at the end of this term, one of the people we’re talking to in exit interviews. Politically Jockey, Ken, I guess I’ll get to see you again tomorrow.
Ken Rudin: I’m not retiring yet.
Neal Conan: Not yet, alright. “Political Junkie” is our show tomorrow, join us for that, I’m Neal Conan, and it’s ‘The Talk of the Nation’ from NPR News.