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TAPPER: Thank you to Jon Karl.
TAPPER: Now let's turn to Congressman Ron Paul. Many political observers say he's on track to win in Iowa, but today he's back home in Texas. Congressman Paul, welcome, and happy new year.
PAUL: Thank you. Nice to be with you.
TAPPER: So your rivals have really started to unload on you in the home stretch, given your prominent perch in the polls. Newt Gingrich says your views are, quote, "totally out of the mainstream of every decent American." Jon Huntsman has a web ad calling you unelectable, citing a decade worth of newsletters published under your name containing bigoted statements against minorities. And even the Des Moines Register poll that shows you essentially tied for first with Mitt Romney says that you are leading the pack in terms of who is least electable in a general election.
This is a real area of vulnerability for you. How do you convince Republican voters that you are, in fact, electable against President Obama?
PAUL: Well, that whole thing is a contradiction in terms. If I'm leading in the polls, that means I'm electable. I've been elected 12 times in Texas, when people get to know me. We're doing well in the polls. Our crowds are getting bigger. And the people who are complaining are the ones who are way down in the polls, so they don't have a whole lot of credibility about my electability.
But, indeed, nobody can prove anything until we have a real election. And we're going to have a real caucus vote, straw vote on Tuesday night. That's going to tell us a whole lot. And as a matter of fact, our campaign feels pretty good about how things are going.
TAPPER: But certainly, Congressman, you would concede that -- that some of your views, some of the principles you hold in terms of drug legalization, or in terms of -- I don't -- I know you wouldn't call it isolationist, but a non-interventionalist policy in the world, these are views that are not shared by a majority of Americans. And I think the concern among Republicans is, once they are better known, that would hurt you.
PAUL: Well, see, I think that's where the contradiction is. Quite frankly, I don't believe that statistic, because I think the majority are with me. What percent want to come out of Afghanistan? It's like 75 percent, 80 percent. How did George Bush win in the year 2000? He talked about a humble foreign policy, non-intervention, no nation-building, no policing of the world. I mean, Obama was seen as the peace candidate just three years ago.
So I would say the American people are with me more now than ever before. They're with me on cutting spending. Nobody else is proposing cutting spending. I'm cutting -- I want to cut $1 trillion out of the budget. And this support -- gets support from all the Republicans on this.
And I would say that it remains to be seen, but I feel very comfortable with the growing number of people that come out to our rallies and the enthusiasm -- I'll tell you what, I think it's -- it's a mistake if people want to write me off and say that I am not with the -- with the people. As a matter of fact, it's so appealing that we get a lot of independents and a lot of Democrats coming to our rally, and that's what you need in order to win an election.
So I'm pretty optimistic about what's going on. And, of course, I've always been optimistic about the message of liberty and the Constitution, limited government. And I think it's catching on. I think the people have come around to believing that the government fails in their efforts to do good. They want to be a good policeman of the world. They want to provide goods and houses for everybody, and look at what happened to the housing bubble, and look at the prolongation of these wars overseas. So people are looking now more carefully at a constitutional approach to government.
TAPPER: Well, you've proposed ending Social Security and Medicaid. That's an issue I think that a lot of Republicans would be concerned about as a -- as a platform for a nominee. And just to dig a little deeper on that, you've said that seniors and the poor could receive care from charity hospitals that the -- under the Paul administration you would help build these charity hospitals.
But we've called a number of these charity hospitals that exist already, and we've spoken to them. They say they're already overwhelmed and that your proposal doesn't square with the world as it is and charity hospitals as they actually exist. So wouldn't that proposal theoretically put lives at risk, the lives of seniors and the poor?
PAUL: Well -- well, you know, you're comparing what we have today, which is a consequence of 40-some years of government. And I practiced medicine when hospitals did take care of people, and it was quite different, and medical care was -- was very, very cheap.
But I -- I just -- I just think that this -- this whole idea that the government has to take care of everybody doesn't -- doesn't really work. I mean, they try to give us housing and all these things. So it isn't -- it isn't very successful.
And I'm arguing the case that there's a better way of doing it. As a matter of fact, this -- your introduction about my wanting to get rid of Medicare and Medicaid, as a matter of fact, if you look carefully at what I've been saying, I'm the only one that has a way of -- of preserving it in a transitional period.
Yeah, technically these programs aren't constitutional, but at every speech, I talk about a transition. I want to cut $1 trillion, but I have priorities. I want to cut from overseas. I want to stop these wars. I want to get rid of several departments. I want to go back to 2006 budgeting.
At the same time, I say the priorities that I would protect -- Medicare, Social Security, health care for the children -- and the only way you can work out a transition is cutting spending. Otherwise, we're going to continue to erode the purchasing power of the dollar. And the people who are getting these -- these Social Security checks won't have any value. They already know the value of their check is going down.
So, as a matter of fact, I have a much more attractive position now. I have a way of at least not throwing people out in the street. So people who need something that we've conditioned them over decades, I say those are priorities. I say take care of the people here at home before we continue to pretend we can police the world and go on with these long-lasting, undeclared, unwinnable wars. That's where we can save the money, by bringing our troops home.
TAPPER: All right. Congressman, we have a lot of issues to discuss and only a few more minutes left. I do want to ask you about those newsletters published under your name in the '80s and '90s. In the '90s, you defended them. In 2001, you said you did not write them. You now say you did not write them, you did not read them, and you disavow them.
So just if you could give a straight answer on this, who wrote these newsletters? And do you still associate with these people?
PAUL: OK, I -- well, I think your -- your assessment there is mixed up, because the reporting has been bad. I did not -- I wrote a lot of part of the letter. And I've never said I didn't. I wrote some of the -- you know, the economic parts.
I was not the editor. I was the publisher. And there were some very bad sentences put in. I did not write those. I did not review them.
TAPPER: Who wrote them?
PAUL: And that is an error on my part. I condemned -- I condemned them. I don't know exactly who wrote them. It's -- you know, I had eight or nine people working for me back then. And a lot of people wrote a lot of different things. So I've condemned them and -- and did not write them. And I've said this quite a few times.
So I just don't think that that in itself is going to have long legs, because people who know me know exactly what my thoughts are. People know everything about that in my district. It's -- it's never been, you know, a big issue at all.
And most importantly, on the issue of race relations, I'm the one that really addresses it. When we look at the drug war and the imprisonments, the court systems, the death penalty, the imbalance on the suffering of the minorities in our military, whether we have a draft or no draft. So I think the court system is very, very biased, whether -- whether it's the issuance of the death penalty -- if you look at it, it is unbiased (ph). I'm the only one who's talking about that, so I'm the true civil libertarian when it comes to this.
And I think that people ought to, you know, look at my position there, rather than dwelling on eight sentences that I didn't write and didn't authorize and have been, you know, apologetic about, because it shouldn't have been there and it was terrible stuff.
TAPPER: Well, I think it's more than eight sentences, but -- but moving on, one of your former close aides recently said that you, quote, "engaged in conspiracy theories, including perhaps the 9/11 attacks were coordinated with the CIA, and that the Bush administration might have known about the attacks ahead of time." So have you ever expressed in front of anyone...
PAUL: Now, wait, wait, wait, wait. Don't -- don't go any further on that. That's complete nonsense.
TAPPER: It's nonsense?
PAUL: Just stop that.
TAPPER: Not true?
PAUL: Yeah, no. I did not -- I never bought into that stuff. I never talked about it.
PAUL: About the conspiracy of Bush -- of Bush knowing about this? No, no, come on. Come on. Let's be reasonable.
PAUL: That's just off-the-wall.
TAPPER: And then lastly, on the newsletters, I just want to ask this. You published a for-profit newsletter under your own name for decades, didn't know it included extremely offensive statements. Assuming what you're saying is 100 percent true, you did not see these sentences, doesn't this call into question your management style?
PAUL: Well, yeah, I think so. But nobody -- I don't think anybody in the world has been perfect on management, everybody that's ever worked for them. So, yes, it's -- it's -- it's a flaw. But I think it's a human flaw. And I think it is probably shared by a lot more people than myself, because, you know, when you have hundreds of people over the years that have worked for you, and it's happened even in big corporations or big newspapers or on TV stations, you can't monitor -- every once in a while, somebody on a TV station will say something, but as the owner and (inaudible) you know, get blamed for what the person says. So, no, you can't monitor every single thing, but it is a flaw. And, of course, I -- I admit that I'm an imperfect person and -- and didn't monitor that as well. But to -- to paint my whole life on that is a gross distortion, because we have to remember, I didn't write them, I didn't see them before that, and I have disavowed them. That to me is the most important thing.
The only other thing that we should do is you and others should look at all my other statements and my defense of civil liberties and race relations. Believe me, if anybody cared about, all they have to do is go to the Internet. The defense is honest and straightforward, and you will get an honest assessment of my views on race relations.
And that's all I ask for people to do, because I feel quite comfortable with myself. I know where the shortcomings were. But I'm very comfortable with my viewpoints, believing very sincerely -- those people who know me know exactly where the -- the defect is in race relations today. It's in the judicial system, where minorities are mistreated more so than anybody else.
TAPPER: All right. Congressman and Doctor Ron Paul, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much. Good luck on Tuesday, and hope you have a great 2012.
PAUL: Thank you.
TAPPER: Congressman Ron Paul, confident heading into Tuesday's caucus. My next guest sounds just as confident, but her path forward is a lot more murky. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann joins me from Des Moines.
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