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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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BLITZER: All right. Let's get some more now on the surprise debate all of a sudden over capitalism unfolding in New Hampshire. The Republican presidential candidate, Congressman Ron Paul, is joining us now live from New Hampshire.

Congressman, always good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.

BLITZER: And I want to play the clip, the full context of what Mitt Romney said yesterday, that's causing some of your Republican colleagues out there to condemn him for what he said. I'll play the whole thing and then you and I will discuss.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have incentive to keep you healthy. It also means if you don't like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services for me. If someone doesn't give me the good service I need, I want to say, you know, I'm going to get somebody else to provide that service to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Several of your Republican counterparts on the presidential campaign trail have condemned him for saying he wants to fire people, but you're stopping short of that. Give us your perspective on what's going on here.

PAUL: Well, if the other candidates that are criticizing Mitt are serious, then they don't have the vaguest idea about the market, because he's talking about is the market.

If they do have an understanding of the market, they're just politically demagoguing this to try to get a political point, but to pick and choose your consumers and your customers, that's the basis of the free market.

Also to condemn him for restructuring and making some money, if somebody restructures and doesn't get any money from the government, doesn't commit fraud, restructuring is a very important part of the free market.

This is how you cleanse the system. This is how you clean up a corporation. If you don't restructure when they're on the ropes, everybody loses. As a matter of fact, that principle ought to be applied to the federal government.

That's what I've been trying to do, do a lot of restructuring at the federal government and get rid of all the wasteful departments and the wasteful spending.

BLITZER: If you don't -- and I totally understand what you're saying. You obviously don't want to criticize Mitt Romney on the issue of when he was CEO of Bain Capital. He was involved in capitalism, if you will. Where do you have your biggest problem, though, with Mitt Romney?

PAUL: Well, I think it's been not knowing exactly where he stood in the past. I mean, he's flip-flopped. I mean, he said different positions on quite a few things. Of course, the single mandate that he had in Massachusetts, that worries me a bit.

And he's supported TAPR bailouts and he's pretty supportive of the monetary system, which is friendly to banks. Those are the areas, and of course we have strong disagreements on foreign policy.

So, yes, we have our disagreements. But in this case, I just think that it was undermining some basic free market principles that annoyed me a little bit. That's why the made those comments.

BLITZER: Newt Gingrich really launched the broad side against you today in New Hampshire. I don't know if you heard it, but I'm going to play it. A lot of our viewers probably did not. Here's what he said about you and your supporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're young, enthusiastic, and at some point, you know, people will figure out this is actually the legalized drug group, and once that becomes clear enough, I think you'll see Ron Paul support shrink rather than (inaudible).

You know, Paul has two great driving groups. Don't worry about Iran's nuclear weapons and you know, legalized drugs. Each of those ultimately shrinks his appeal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you want to respond to the former speaker?

PAUL: Yes. I guess he's worried, because his appeal isn't quite as good as our appeal because we're talking about freedom, freedom of choice, freedom across the board, individual liberty and economic liberty, and a foreign policy that makes sense.

But when he says I don't care about the Iranians, that's nonsense. I'm just trying to avoid another war. But to say I don't care about them getting nuclear weapons, that's complete nonsense.

So, yes, I think he's struggling and probably pretty desperate, so he's saying those kinds of things. But when he talks about the supporters, that gets a little annoying. I don't like him to attack my supporters.

As a matter of fact, there are a lot of them. I don't know why he would want to annoy supporters if he wants to be a Republican candidate. So he's attacking a lot of people by saying supporters do this and that.

The one thing is they believe in freedom. I'm not so sure that Newt clearly understands what that is all about.

BLITZER: Is he right, though, when he says a lot of supporters support you because of legalizing drugs?

PAUL: No, I think he's wrong on that. I think there are some, but legalizing freedom of choice. This is sort of like saying if they support me because I believe in the first amendment of legalizing freedom of choice and religion.

That means that -- and they know I wouldn't interfere, that means Ron Paul is legalizing atheism. Because you legalize something, you don't endorse it. That's something a lot of people have no understanding on. Legalizing freedom of choice doesn't mean you endorse the choices people make, whether it's personal or religious or economic.

The way people spend money. This is why -- this whole idea of liberty that I talk about is so important, and it allows people to make choices on economic choices as well as personal choices. This is what the young people really like.

Because they might want to make a choice, go off and gamble, do something else, they have to assume their own responsibility for themselves. If we allow people to pick their own religion and their own intellectual pursued, I argue the case, why is it that people don't have enough brains to make their own choice being their own body?

I mean, today you can hardly pick up any food without getting permission from the federal government to tell what's in it or not in it. We depend on the government to take care of us, yet we allow a lot of freedom of choice when it comes to intellectual matters and when it comes to religious matters so why the obsession with telling everybody what they can do and not do.

As far as people say they support me mainly because they want to legalize drugs. As a matter of fact that is not exactly my position. I just want to get rid of the federal drug war. That's the disaster.

Trillions of dollars of expenditures and the prisons are full with non-violent people and if you want to regulate drugs like alcohol, that is fine, that would be up to the state.

That's quite a bit different than him demagoguing saying everybody wants to legalize drugs and that's why they support Ron Paul. He's completely off base on that.

BLITZER: Explain, Congressman, will you campaign aggressively in Florida, or are you effectively going to bypass Florida and move on to some of the caucus states that are going to be taking place in February?

PAUL: Well, at the time moment we're going to move to the caucus states. We've been a little concerned. Of course, we get a lot of money in, about you we spend it. That's why we've been doing well in Iowa and we expect to do well here tonight.

So it's hard to commit to, you know, a candidate -- our lead candidate gets a lot of money from Goldman Sachs. He's going to have a lot of money to run a campaign, winner take all. There's a bit of logic to this.

Besides, they gave up half their delegates, but that doesn't mean we won't doing anything, and we'll weigh this as time goes on. I'll be in South Carolina tomorrow and we'll see how we do tonight and see how we do in South Carolina. Who knows what will come about? I'm always amazed how much money the supporters send. So much is spontaneous, but still even with their generosity.

It's hard to compete in a state like Florida in advertising when you need $50 million or $60 million in the bank all the time. So we have to use strategy and going to the caucus and going to the states where you get a proportionate share, why not use common sense rather than going and spending money that might not bear fruit.

BLITZER: One final question, we're out of time. Do you think you'll come in second tonight?

PAUL: I do. I really expect to, but, you know, a real, real close third I guess is conceivable, but I think the polls are holding up, and we're pretty optimistic about tonight.

BLITZER: Good luck, Congressman. Always good to have you back here on the program.

PAUL: Thank you.

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