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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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Moving on to other important information we're following, including a new presidential candidate. Republican Ron Paul launched his third presidential campaign today, saying the time is right for his libertarian views.

I spoke with the congressman about some of his more controversial positions as he kicked off his bid for the GOP nomination in New Hampshire.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: On the whole issue of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, do you want to see that agency ended?

REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: Well, if you want to live in a free society, if you want to pay attention to the Constitution, why not? I think it's bad economics. I think it's bad morality. And it's bad constitutional law.

Why should people like myself, who had, not too long ago, a house on the Gulf Coast and it's -- it's expensive there and it's risky and it's dangerous. Why should somebody from the central part of the United States rebuild my house? Why shouldn't I have to buy my own insurance and protect about the potential dangers?

Well, the reason we don't have market insurance is it's too expensive. Well, why is it expensive? Because it's dangerous.

Well, so why should -- why should we take money from somebody else who don't get the chance to live on the Gulf and make them pay to rebuild my house?

I mean, it's -- it's a moral hazard to say that government is always going to take care of us when we do dumb things. I'm trying to get people to not to dumb things. Besides, it's not authorized in the Constitution.

BLITZER: But if there's a disaster, like flooding or -- or an earthquake or Hurricane Katrina, what's wrong with asking fellow Americans to help their fellow citizens?

PAUL: Nothing. And I think Americans are very, very generous, and they have traditionally. The big problem is Americans are getting poor and they're not able to voluntarily come to the rescue. But to coerce people, to ask them to help, that is fine and dandy. But when you bankrupt our country and nobody has a job and then they say -- well, FEMA needs to bail out everybody, then, all we're doing is compounding our problems.

BLITZER: I think on the whole issue of -- I've been getting a lot of tweets and e-mails from viewers out there. They want to know, is it true that Ron Paul wants to legalize heroin in the United States?

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: Well, you know, it's amazing. I spent about 20 minutes on this sort of mocking this type of attitude. You know, I've never mentioned heroin. But if you live in a truly free society, that's what it would lead to. People would make personal choices.

But the reason I want to legalize freedom of choice is so that you have a freedom of choice on picking any type of treatment you want for your cancer treatment, to smoke marijuana if it helps you, to be able to drink raw milk if you want to, to go and get nutritional substitutes, you know, if you want to, without government regulation. So, it's the legalization of freedom that I'm talking about and people's personal choices and personal responsibility. That is what is so important.

So to summarize my position, that -- oh, he wants to legalize heroin, that -- that is the greatest distortion. I want to legalize freedom. People make up their own decisions. The states write their own regulations. It's like what we do with the alcohol. That's a much better way.

Kids can get marijuana easier than they can get alcohol. So, the war on drugs, we need to assess -- reassess and we have to make a decision --

BLITZER: All right.

PAUL: -- just as we need to make it on foreign policy and monetary policy and economic policy. But it is all based on the principle of personal liberty and obeying the rule of law, which is our Constitution.

BLITZER: So, I guess the problem out there is on the issue of abortion -- do you support a woman's right, freedom, to have an abortion?

PAUL: I support the protection of all human life. And it's -- the big question is: who speaks for that individual which is a live human being that has a heartbeat and brain waves and has legal rights? It isn't so much there's one right over another. It's how do you protect all rights?

And the fetus does have human rights and deserves rights. But the problem is, is who speaks for them?

I'm for repealing Roe versus Wade. And it's not an attack on women's rights. Women have rights, but they also have responsibility if they're responsible for life.

It, to me, if there's something wrong with the baby and they don't like it and the baby is in the crib, nobody accepts the notion -- well, there's justification, it's in my house and -- and we don't want to violate a person's privileges in the house, so, therefore, we can just throw that baby away.

If we don't have respect for life, there's not much left to have respect for liberty.

BLITZER: Let's wrap it up with a couple of political questions and I'll let you go. Last time around, 2008, you raised a lot of money, but in Iowa you came in fifth -- fifth in New Hampshire, fourth in Michigan, second in Nevada, fifth in South Carolina, fifth in Florida.

What makes you think you'll do better this time?

PAUL: Well, I think there's a lot of changes. The country has changed. Before, I was trying to get people's attention about the seriousness of our economic crisis and the financial bubble and the housing bubble. But that became very clear, you know, in -- in 2008. People are starting to realize that that was the case.

BLITZER: And -- and you're 75 -- almost 76. I guess that must have been a considerable issue for you. At this stage in your life, do you want to put in all this work, and then if you're elected, you're obviously going to be late '70s, early '80s.

Is that -- was that an issue for you?

PAUL: Well, I mean, it's -- now if I felt old, it would. But, you know, where do I get my energy and where do I get my support, and the enthusiasm? It comes from the young people. That really excites me because this issue is so important. It's important to my kids. It's an important point to all the kids of America.

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BLITZER: He ran a surprisingly strong campaign in 2008. Now supporters of Congressman Ron Paul are hoping 2012 will be his year. The 75-year-old congressman from Texas announced today he is making another run for the White House.

But just as they were four years ago, some of his views put him at odds even with his own party. He's even critical of the mission that took out bin Laden.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now from New Hampshire, Republican presidential candidate Congressman Ron Paul of Texas.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. Congratulations.

PAUL: Thank you. Good to be with you...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right, you made the announcement today.

Let's get through some of the substantive issues that our viewers are really interested in.

Osama bin Laden, did President Obama do the right thing in ordering his death?

PAUL: Oh, you know, I actually endorsed that when I voted for this authority in 19 -- or 2001 to go over and deal with the people that, you know, orchestrated 9/11. So, I actually am on record for that.

And, you know, overall, nobody can defend it and say, well, you know, it is terrible that he's dead. So -- but I think the process is what I'm so annoyed about, the fact that we didn't do the job in 2001. I really think we had an opportunity. We got distracted. We did not keep the eye on the ball. We went into Iraq and fought a useless, unnecessary war, compounding our problems.

Then we went in the nation-building. And, finally, we are getting caught up with him. And I think the process could have been much improved. And, you know, I keep thinking about, you know, that, in the past, we have dealt with sovereign nations a little bit differently.

When we -- when we caught Mohammed, Sheikh Mohammed, it was done with the cooperation of the Pakistanis. That's what they resent. So, we -- we have stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest there. And, yet, in the past, they have delivered to us many of these criminals.

And we have brought them here, convicted them, executed some of them. And I just think that we should make an effort. But, you know, to be a strong...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt -- let me interrupt you for a second, Congressman. The White House, the Pentagon, they make the point that bin Laden, even though he wasn't armed, he was resisting when those Navy SEALs killed him.

PAUL: Yes, you know, and that's where the problem comes, because, at the beginning, you know, there was the great resistance and a firefight, and then you can say little.

But, yes, that -- that is the case. But I -- I keep thinking about how we -- we got hold of the real ringleader in that. And that was Sheikh Mohammed. And... BLITZER: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

PAUL: Yes. He was -- he was the real ringleader. And we have him in prison. And we've gotten some information from him. But you know, why should it be automatic that we shouldn't even talk to people? Just think of what happened after World War II? I remember that, and I remember the Nuremberg trials. You know, we got the really bad guys that brought on the Holocaust and put them on trial. And they were executed. And -- we know they're dead.

But -- there's going to be -- I think they've set the stage for the conspiracy people to go forever. You know, when was he killed? And what happened? And the story keeps changing. I don't think there's anything extremely wrong with suggesting that there could have been another way of doing this and maybe would have settled a little bit better.

But my big beef is really the wasted ten years, 5,000 American lives, a trillion dollars, tens of thousands of American casualties, hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, and we have created a lot of enemies. Because that's what the -- that's what the Taliban is all about. They're -- they're organized and they're motivated by the fact that we're occupying their land. So if we don't understand that, we just keep, you know, like in Pakistan, we -- we both are -- want to be their allies and we want to help them, we send them money. At the same time we're bombing them.

Even today, a bomb went off from a drone and killing civilians over there. It doesn't always just kill somebody that we determine ...

BLITZER: Well, let me ask you this, Congressman. If you're president of the United States and your military or your intelligence leadership, they come to you and say, "Mr. President, we know where Anwar Awlaki, the American-born cleric in Yemen, is located," the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader. Or we know where Ayman al- Zawahiri, the No. 2 al Qaeda leader, is. And they say, "We can get these guys, kill them." What would you say?

PAUL: Well, I would say where and when and how? If he's in Yemen, I don't think we should violate the sovereignty of Yemen. We should deal with it and come up with it.

I mean, to talk about an American citizen and establish a precedent where we -- just say, well, he's an American citizen so we'll assassinate him. That is so dangerous as far as I'm concerned. And there are three Americans on the list and -- now that is policy now. But -- we need to wake up to this. You don't casually drift in that, because we know there's a very, very bad guy out there.

But you know, if you work with the rule of law, an American citizen is supposed to at least have a little bit of his day in court. I realize that they're bad. I don't care about protecting the bad people. I care about protecting American citizens so that they're never treated this way in court. And we are drifting in that way when you think about the enforcement of some of our drug laws, how our -- our police barge in houses and shoot people that were totally innocent. So I don't -- I don't like that idea. I think we should protect the rule of law, because we want to protect all Americans. Not because we have sympathy for these very bad people.

BLITZER: If you were president, what would you do about Moammar Gadhafi and Libya?

PAUL: I'd let them fight it out themselves and stay out of there. Why should we go in there and protect the oil interests? We're not in Syria. We're in Iraq, because there's oil. And there's interest there. So yes, we're over in Libya. No. That's a -- that's an internal fight. It's a civil strife going on. And now it looks like we'll be helping the rebels and there may be al Qaeda there. There have been pretty good hands; al Qaeda's involved.

I just think the principle of nonintervention, minding our own business, no entangling lives, don't get involved in these civil wars. That's what George Bush won on in the year 2000. How quickly we forget. The American people like that message. Of course, when they are riled up and they can have a target, you know, they get careless on -- on how things are done because, you know, we can get up so -- built up so -- much emotion.

But no, we shouldn't be over there. We -- and this is one of the reasons why this country is bankrupt. We spend over a trillion dollars a year maintaining our empire. We're too many places. And I just think -- and you know, Obama was elected with the idea that he would, you know, end some of these wars, and he's expanding these wars.

And I really dread the fact what what's going to come out of Pakistan now. We're going to -- work it to the day that there's going to be a justification for us to invade and occupy Pakistan, because they're going to say, "Oh, you know, today, there's some breakdown and more people killed and we'll have to go in and they'll say well, it's in our best interests. It's national security interest. We have to go in and I -- I don't like that. We don't need to be occupying another country. We're flat-out broke, and we ought to start taking care of our own business here at home.

BLITZER: He escalated U.S. involvement, the president, in Afghanistan, although he is dramatically curtailing it in Iraq, down to less than 50,000 troops right now.

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