MSNBC"The Rachel Maddow Show" Interview With Rep. Ron Paul
Interviewer: Rachel Maddow
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MS. MADDOW: What we're seeing right now is a Republican Party that is fragmented, and probably still fragmenting, and it will probably be that way for a while. This is early days in their rebuilding.
But one of the people who has seen his stature rise in this somewhat chaotic power vacuum is a man who was essentially disowned by his party during this past election cycle -- Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, who ran for president this past year.
After being excluded from some of the Republican primary debates, Ron Paul held his own Ron Paul convention at the same time as the Republican National Convention, which drew 10,000 supporters in Minneapolis. It was not an adjunct event for the Republican convention. It was a competing event.
The first sign that Congressman Paul might be being brought back into the fold may have been the Republican embrace of the Tax Day tea parties last month. Tax Day protests in the theme of a tea party are very much associated with Ron Paul's supporters, some of whom were slightly miffed to see that message being coopted by national Republican figures.
And now Dr. Paul himself seems to be getting more attention on the Hill personally and in terms of policy. Consider his recent bill to audit the Federal Reserve. It's called the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009. It now has 124 co-sponsors in Congress, and counting. By comparison, the Washington Independent notes today that Dr. Paul's Federal Reserve Board Abolition Act just two years ago attracted a grand total of zero co-sponsors. What a difference political exile makes.
Joining us now is the man himself, Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas.
Dr. Paul, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight. It's a real pleasure to have you here.
REP. PAUL: Thank you. Nice to be with you.
MS. MADDOW: First of all, I should admit that my introductory remarks were not the most flattering portrait of your party's. I want to give you a chance to say what you think of the Republican Party's fortunes right now. Do you think this is a rebuilding time?
REP. PAUL: Well, something has to be done if they want to stay in existence. I don't think they can continue to do what they've been doing. You know, they sort of didn't accept what I was talking about during the campaign, but, you know, I talked about and defended -- I never voted for an unbalanced budget, never raised taxes. But, you know, I had this other silly idea that you shouldn't fight wars unless the Congress declared them, and I had all this notion that you shouldn't print money when you need it.
These ideas struck a chord with a lot of people, but so far not a whole lot in the leadership have come to me and said, "Lead the charge." But hopefully some of these ideas will stick, because all I know is the campuses are very attuned to this and will listen, and I can get still a large number of young people out to listen to a different type of Republican Party where they deal with civil liberties and they deal with a foreign policy that used to not be that strange to the Republicans, you know, where we had a strong national defense but we didn't go war-mongering. And that used to be, you know, always the Democrats that did that, but now it looks like both parties endorse these things.
So if you truly want to be interested in civil liberties, protection of civil liberties, if you want a foreign policy built on common sense and not telling people what to do and bombing them if they don't do what we want, and having come up with some common sense and say we just can't print money when you need it, all of a sudden these things do make a lot of sense, whether they're Republican or Democrat.
I think there is a revolution going on in ideas, but a true revolution has to be pervasive enough to infiltrate into both political parties. And I'm very proud that I have about 14, at least, of Democrats who are on that bill dealing with the Federal Reserve, and I think I'm going to get a lot more.
MS. MADDOW: Dr. Paul, in asking you about the Republican Party, you're pointedly using the word "they" to talk about them.
REP. PAUL: (Laughs.)
MS. MADDOW: (Laughs.) And I imagine that's not an accident. Do you think about -- you obviously have been a part of the Libertarian movement in this country. You've run as a Libertarian for public office before. Do you think now about the prospect, the likelihood, that a third party really could be having its moment right now? Something like only 20 percent of people identify as Republicans. The party does seem to be in chaos. Is this a time for either the Libertarian Party or some other party to break off from the Republicans?
REP. PAUL: Well, I think, politically speaking, in terms of the need for one, yes, it exists. But the bias is so much against it; there's no competition. You know, we go and die overseas claiming we're spreading democracy, but, you know, if you come to the conclusion, which I have and many others have in this country, that you elect Republicans to balance the budget and it doesn't happen, you elect Democrats to change foreign policy and it doesn't happen, we only have one party, and they write all the rules. So it's very hard to get on the ballots. You spend most of your money trying to get on ballots.
And do you think anybody would have noticed me last year if I had been running third party? No, I had to do it within a larger structure. But even though I used the word "they," I have been elected all these times as a Republican, and I was out of the party for one year. But nevertheless, it is very difficult. It's not going to happen unless the laws get changed. And unfortunately we don't have a very good democratic process here in this country because of that.
MS. MADDOW: Dr. Paul, I want to ask you about one figure specifically who's trying to be part of the Republican rebuilding/rebranding effort right now, and that's Newt Gingrich. And he is somebody who has actively worked against you in the past. He supported a challenge to you in your district in Texas.
If he makes a bid to replace Michael Steele or if he even makes a bid to run for president, to run for the Republican nomination, would you support him? Do you two see eye to eye these days?
REP. PAUL: No, not really. His policies are very much opposite of mine. I mean, he's very much of an internationalist when it comes to foreign policy. He believes in a lot of that. He's never had an interest in monetary policy. And I remember early in his career he took a more sensible approach about, you know, allowing medicinal use of marijuana and letting the states make these decisions, but now his attitude is not that way.
And these are the kind of issues that young people are interested in, and that's why the Republican Party can't reach the college kids with the current status quo of the party. They need to change their attitude about personal liberties. If they talk about personal freedoms, they have to believe in it, you know. And if they talk about, you know, not policing the world and no nation-building, you just can't get in office and do exactly the opposite.
But, no, Newt and I are, you know, friendly. We talk to each other. And I'd be pleased to debate him on foreign policy or something. But, no, he wouldn't be my candidate for the presidency. It would be more of the same. He's had his chance. And, you know, there was no Republican revolution from '94 on. There wasn't any after the year 2000. So that is the shame.
The Republicans had good rhetoric about limiting government. Nothing happened. And that's how they lost their credibility. But now they said, "Well, we didn't act like Democrats enough, so we have to be like Democrats." Democrats get in and they say, "Well, we've got to appease the right wing of the Republican Party," so they start acting like Republicans.
So I would say they ought to live up to their true beliefs. Just believe in freedom and believe in the Constitution. Believe me, this country would be a lot better off if we just dealt with it in as simple a fashion as that. Believe in freedom. That's what built this country. We don't have to decide which country to invade next -- I mean, that's preposterous -- or which new welfare programs that we have to have. But I just don't think that either party right now offers a whole lot to the American people, who want to see some really serious changes.
MS. MADDOW: Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, who, more than any other sitting Republican politician right now, has galvanized and inspired a broad-based movement of young people.
Congratulations on your success, sir, and thanks for your time tonight.
REP. PAUL: Thank you very much.