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PBS "Bill Moyers Journal" - Transcript


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MR. MOYERS: In politics, it's usually the insurgent who carries the discontent of people of who feel excluded from the mainstream. This campaign, Ron Paul is the insurgent.

Congressman Ron Paul from Texas placed fifth in Iowa with 10 percent of the vote. But turn on your computer and you'll find him at the top of the world's most watched video posting site.


MR. STEVE GROVE: Congressman Paul, it's nice to meet to you.


MR. GROVE: My name is Steve Grove. I'm over at YouTube; News and Politics Editor over there.

REP. PAUL: Oh, nice to meet you.

MR. GROVE: Yeah, welcome. You have quite the following on YouTube. We're excited you could -

REP. PAUL: Yeah, I've heard about that.

MR. GROVE: Yeah, I'm sure you have: more subscribers than any other candidate on the platform.


MR. MOYERS: Some 7 million viewers, at last count, have clicked on Ron Paul's YouTube offerings; more viewers than tuned into the first two Republican debates on cable television.

Whatever happens now, this libertarian Republican has become a phenomenon in his own right, taking on the powers that be in party to argue against the war in Iraq, among other contrarian positions.

He stopped in our studio en route from Iowa to New Hampshire. Congressman Paul, thanks for coming.

You've got quite a following on the YouTube and on the internet, generally. What's your explanation for that and the difference between that and what happens in the primary?

REP. PAUL: You know, every time I meet some of the young people who come and join the campaign, I ask them that question. The answers are generally very similar. And I've been very pleased and very surprised. A lot of them will just say, well, you're a strict constitutionalist. We like your respect for the constitution. That's, sort of, very encouraging.

And others will say we like your respect for personal liberty and even monetary policy. I talk about monetary policy and they're interested in that. And I think it's very important policy, so that excites me when I see young people responding to it. But I think they realize the financial condition of this country much better than those who work around Washington. They condition themselves to be convinced that there's no serious problem.

MR. MOYERS: As you were coming in, I was reading another story on the internet about Fox News excluding you from the Republican debate this weekend in New Hampshire. What was the rationale they gave you?

REP. PAUL: They wouldn't give us one. We kept calling and - matter of fact, even the Fox affiliate in Houston came and interviewed me and they were interested in the story and they called and they couldn't even get an answer. Of course, they were getting a lot of calls from our supporters in Texas and wanting to know why he's excluded. But the affiliate wasn't even told why. They don't tell us what the criteria is. So it's all speculation. But, I think in the long run, they're going to be more embarrassed than I will be.

MR. MOYERS: You are on the ABC debate this weekend, right?

REP. PAUL: That is right.

MR. MOYERS: Because you met their benchmarks?

REP. PAUL: Well, evidently, but they don't describe them. But I've all the debates so far, you know, and we've done rather well. You know, we always do real well in the post-debate polling, even on Fox.

MR. MOYERS: You and Dennis Kucinich, usually, are said to be the winners of those debates.

REP. PAUL: And yet, some people don't like us and they don't want to hear our message.

MR. MOYERS: How would you encourage more substantive discussion of ideas by people like you in the mass media that is primarily owned by five or six major companies in America today? Do you think that's a free market?

REP. PAUL: Well, not really because the radio waves and the TV waves were never totally free. You know, they're allocated by the government and then they're licensed by the government and there's regulations there. So I see that less free.

And I think you could make a case for what you're saying and I understand what you're saying, but fortunately, we have more competition today than ever before. That's what's exciting. All of the sudden, you know, I can a message out on the internet. And what I fear, and what I talk about a lot is, will the government come and have regulations on what you can say on the internet like they can have what you say and - you know, maybe there's a narrow little group who gets to buy all these TV and radio stations, and Clear Channels and things like that. So are they going to control it?

So that's why I fear the regulation. I don't want the government in the business of regulating. And I don't want them to regulate the internet, because we've become competitive. Just like you've indicated a few minutes ago, we reach a lot people. We haven't translated that into the conventional polls. We still have a challenge in this campaign. But there's still a wonderful opportunity with the free market in disseminating information.

MR. MOYERS: It isn't the government that's requiring Fox News to keep you off the airwaves. It's not the government making those decisions about who gets heard or not. It is these companies who own - as you said - a lot of the media outlets.

REP. PAUL: But I think it's still to the philosophy they believe in. They believe in war and they believe in the military industrial complex and some of these companies are mixed in with making profits off wars. They're not going to have the same attitude about going to war as I might have, but I think that's still a reflection of their philosophy rather than the fact that they're a media company.

MR. MOYERS: You remind me of something you told Tim Russert on "Meet the Press." You talked about fascism.

Look at this piece of tape.


REP. PAUL: We're not moving toward Hitler-type fascism, but we're moving toward a softer fascism. Loss of civil liberties, corporations running the show, big government in bed with big business, so you have the military industrial complex, you have the medical industrial complex, you have the financial industry, you have the communications industry. They go to Washington and spend hundreds of millions of dollars. That's where the control is. I call that a soft form of fascism, something that is very dangerous.


MR. MOYERS: Do you think we're heading in -

REP. PAUL: Yeah. Now we're living in an age today, in the post- 9/11 atmosphere, for where our civil liberties are being undermined constantly. All in the name of safety and security, we're supposed to give up our rights of our privacy. We are allowed, now, to accept the idea of secret prisons and secret renditions and the loss of habeas corpus. This is very, very dangerous and I don't want to get to the point where it's hard to reverse.

As a matter of fact, right now it's more difficult every day to reverse this trend because the American people seem go off and say, you know, I can't be free if I'm not safe, so I want my government to make me safe. And they're willing to give up their liberties and I'm convinced that you never have to give up liberties to be safe. I think you're less safe when you give up your liberties.

MR. MOYERS: As you speak, I'm curious about how you as a libertarian feel that the winner in Iowa, and possible leader of your party in the fall, in the presidential election, is a man who openly identifies himself, defines himself as, quote, "a Christian leader." I'm speaking, of course, of Michael Huckabee who, as you know, wears his religion on his sleeve, talks openly about it; doesn't proselytize particularly for it, but he is a man who has identified himself as a Christian leader. Does that make you uncomfortable given the fact that most libertarians I know are disturbed about any entanglement between government and religion?

REP. PAUL: Well, it bothers me to a degree. I happen to be a believer. I'm a Christian. And I do write about it, but I specifically say I don't carry my religion on my sleeve. Sometimes had been annoyed about the prayer breakfasts in Washington. I never attended a prayer breakfast in Washington. Although I am a believer, I just thought that was more publicity. And, you know, the Bible does teach us that we should say our prayers in a closed room and flaunt it and not to pretend you're holier than others.

So I've approached it that way and I haven't accused anybody of doing that. But it is - when it's overly used, it does annoy me. I mean, the idea of a theocracy very much annoys me.

MR. MOYERS: Do you see Michael Huckabee in that direction?

REP. PAUL: He hasn't said anything specifically that I would say we've got to defeat Mike Huckabee because I think he's a theocrat. I haven't said that, but I think that there are a lot of people who may interpret it that way.

MR. MOYERS: And, are you nervous?

REP. PAUL: I'm nervous about the way our country is going because they don't understand the First Amendment. You know, because I'm a strong defender of the First Amendment and that says the Congress shall write no laws and that's I think is the most important thing. I sometimes even worry about they've - I don't like the idea that Mitt Romney might lose, you know, because of his religious beliefs and if you understand the First Amendment, we shouldn't even be asking him what his religious belief is. So I'm sympathetic with that and I don't like that, the we he's been treated, or at least subtly behind the scenes, and how people might react to that. Because what the First Amendment says, we're not supposed to be dealing in that and that should never be a litmus test for be elected.

MR. MOYERS: And the constitution - and you believe in the constitution - says that there can be no religious test for office, right? Doesn't some of the things that Mike Huckabee is saying get close to and imply religious test?

REP. PAUL: I think for some of the supporters might be doing that and I think they have a right to know what you're religion is, but that shouldn't be a test. And I think for some individuals it becomes a test, but I don't think we've quite gotten to the point where we have to make a public statement of what our religious beliefs or the rejection of our religious beliefs. I think the most important thing is make sure they understand the First Amendment.

MR. MOYERS: You know, you're against the war that your party cheered. You're scared of this big debt building up under your party's leadership. You opposed the big spending that President Bush has encouraged on the drug industry and education. Wall Street thinks you're a crank, or your beliefs. Why do you stay in the Republican Party?

REP. PAUL: Well, I've been elected as a Republican for 10 times and Republicans have a platform and had a better platform, in the past. They expressed these views. As a matter of fact, George Bush, if you remember, ran on a foreign policy not too far from what I'm talking about. So it's not like I'm completely a stranger to the Republican ideas of - you know, they've talked about balanced budgets and limited government and they're strict constitutionalists and I think the ones who are in charge right now have left the Republican Party and the platform, which makes it more difficult because people in the party, the hardcore base which, unfortunately for the Republicans, is getting smaller. But they stick - they're loyal to the leader and they're loyal to maintaining power. They're not loyal to a principle or the constitution and doing what is right.

They can't reverse their trend. You know, if we're in a bad situation in Iraq, no we can't be disloyal. And so, they're not objective enough. But I think I can be a good Republican and fight for these ideals because they have been in the Republican Party in the past and the question is: will these ideas be revived once again in the Republican Party or will people like myself be excluded?

There's indeed a lot of people would like exclude me from the Republican Party. But the party is awful small. Why would they want to exclude us if we want to work within the Republican Party?

MR. MOYERS: Because it seems hard to reconcile the presence of a Libertarian Party and you do, you've got a pretty substantial guerilla army out there of libertarians, with a government, with a party of big business, a party of war, a party of god. That seems hard for someone outside to reconcile.

REP. PAUL: Yeah, it is and yet, I imagine you could some inconsistency with all the parties. I'm sure there's some of those that - you know, the idea that liberal Democrats are so be protecting our civil liberties and keep us -


- job either. So when you get up on the leadership ladder, it seems like policies aren't a whole lot different.

Foreign policies never change. Domestic, fiscal policy, the welfare entitlement system never changes. Monetary policy won't even be discussed. And that's both parties. And the vehicle that you use, I think, is not as relevant as the message. And that has been what has driven me is the fact that we need to change course in this country. I highly respect the constitution, but I'm not even overly rigid about the constitution. There's a vehicle for changing it. I'm just overly rigid: don't ignore it. Don't go to war without declaring it. And, you know, listen to the Fourth Amendment. Listen to what it says about the privacy rights of the American people.

MR. MOYERS: How do we get these ideas into the public debate, given the tendency of the big media to want to narrow the discussion? I mean, they say that in Iowa and these debates and New Hampshire they just want to try to get the conversation down so it can be more intimate among the real candidates.

REP. PAUL: You have to just go where you can. And like I said, there is more competition. We might have Fox, which is tied deeply to the war, more say than a Wolf Blitzer. Wolf Blitzer gives me a fair shake. He interviews me and I think he's a very decent journalist.

So, I think that we just have to use the tools that we have and I try not to concentrate on those brickbats that they're throwing at me. I'll just go around it and do my best to get around it. I still there's enough freedom in the country - even though it's shrinking all the time - where we can get our message out.

And I see the young people. I'm so enthused about the young people who are excited about these views and what they see on YouTube and the internet. And they're not coming here because they're asking for student loans. They come to me and they're excited because I tell them that, you know, you're not going to get a thing out of Social Security, all you're going to do is pay for 50 years. The whole thing is broke. I have an idea and a way we can get you out of it. You can take care of yourself once again, and they love these ideas.

MR. MOYERS: You know, it's views like that cause some people - I've pulled some stories from the internet this morning. Some critics think you're a hero to liberals because you're against the war and you're constantly on the charge against George W. Bush. And they say, you know -

REP. PAUL: They don't like these views.

MR. MOYERS: No, they don't but, there's some pieces I've been reading this morning that accuse of illiberal sentiments on race, Israel and other topics. They say that you've demeaned blacks by some of your references to the Civil War and to slavery and that you are always attacking the Jewish lobby, the Israeli lobby.

REP. PAUL: Oh! I think that's completely, completely wrong. And you know, libertarianism is the enemy of all racism because racism is a collectivist idea. It's that you put in people in category. So say, well, blacks belong here and whites here and women here, but we don't see people in form - or gays. You don't have rights because you're gays or women or a minority. You have rights because you're an individual.

So we people as strictly as individuals and we get these individuals in a natural way. So it's exactly opposite of all collectivism and it's absolutely anti-racism because we don't see it in those terms.

MR. MOYERS: Do you think your views have been misunderstood?

REP. PAUL: Oh, I think purposely some people who finally get nervous about what I'm saying. But you know, back to this idea that some liberals will say, oh yeah, we like him on foreign policy but some of his welfare - we like our welfare. But the point is, if we don't do something with our financial thing, everybody's going to go broke.

I mean, how are we going to keep up with the cost of living increases for the people on retirement when they're losing at a 10 percent rate and then they get a two percent increase? I'm saying, cut all this money overseas. Save hundreds of billions of dollars. I'm against throwing anybody out on the street. Take care of the people that are dependent on government. Help them out, but spend this money here at home. But introduce some new ideas in sound money and good economic policy where we can allow the next generation to get a foothold and be able to take care of themselves once again. Because, today, when you have a dollar crisis and the currency crashes, everybody goes broke.

MR. MOYERS: What is like trying to get these ideas out in a campaign driven by press that 's in love with sound bites?

REP. PAUL: It's difficult. There's no doubt about it.

MR. MOYERS: Anything we can do about that?

REP. PAUL: Once again, it's raising up a new generation that understands what freedom is all about; what the Founders were up to, when they wanted minimal government, when they didn't a whole, centralized, strong government. These are all things that I believe in and that individuals - we want government, but we want self government or local government or family government, but we don't want the nanny state to tell us to deal, not only with economic matters, but also with the area of virtue.

If you think the nanny state is okay to make the society more fair economically, you use the same force there as you say - the conservative comes along and we say, well, we're going to legislate virtue, but it's the same issue. And this what we're trying to put this issue of freedom back together again. There's not two parts of it: economic freedom and personal freedom. There's only one freedom.

MR. MOYERS: The Chicago Tribune has a headline: "Paul: A seller of ideas: They call him Dr. No -- no big government, no big spending, no flouting the Constitution. And no interest in a slick political image." And the lead of this story is: "No more Department of Education. No more Federal Reserve Bank. No more Medicare or Medicaid. No more membership in the United Nations or NATO. No more federal drug laws. And, no more U.S. troops in Iraq -- or anywhere else on foreign soil."

Does that pretty well sum up?

REP. PAUL: That is a pretty good idea. I have transition programs for everything, because I think the Federal Reserve is a monstrous idea. This whole idea that if your government needs money and the politicians spend too much to run wars, oh well, we'll print up the money. I mean, it's a silly idea.

But I still - I have a transition program, just like I said, about taking care of Social Security recipients. Or money, you can introduce competition. There's a lot of ways we can work our way out.

Yeah, but that is basically it, but you can turn every one of those no's into a yes. Yes, I'm for freedom. Yes, I am for sound money. Yes, I'm free markets. And yes, I'm for a sensible foreign policy. I sure am for bringing the troops home because I am against American empire. I'm for defending this country and having a strong national defense.

MR. MOYERS: You keep coming back to the war. Since the violence in Iraq has diminished, the war has, for all practical purposes, disappeared from the news. What do you make of that?

REP. PAUL: They hope that it does, but, you know, isn't it amazing that the end of last year they turned this almost like another "mission accomplished." And, it was our worst year. You know, if you go by years, it was our worst year. We lost 900 men in Iraq, over 100 in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is blowing up. It's coming unraveled.

We're involved in two countries we're trying to nation-build. At the same time, it looks like we'll be in Pakistan. So this whole idea that there's some type of victory going on over there - and it's a disaster. And, they would like us to not talk about anymore. But, we can not hide from it because it's tied into the finances. All great countries end when they extend themselves too far overseas. And the litmus test is: what do they do with their currency?

We did not have to fight the Soviet Union. But the Soviet Union - phew - because of economic reasons. That is what's going to happened here. We won't be invaded. You know how many weapons we have. We have more weapons, probably twice as many as everybody else put together. Nobody would dare touch us. And yet, everybody's frightened. Oh, who's going to attack us and who's going to deliver it? But it's the financial thing that will finally bring us to our knees.

MR. MOYERS: Has our two party system run its course?

REP. PAUL: Well, it's meaningless. And I think, you know, we send boys over there to promote democracy in Iraq, but we don't really have democracy here, because if you're in a third party - if you're in a Green Party or a Libertarian Party - you don't get any credibility. You can't get on debates. You can't get on the ballots hardly at all. And it's very, very difficult. And if the two parties are the same, you don't really have a democratic choice here. So, yes, I think we have a long way to go to set good standards here.

This is my whole argument. I think there's a lot of goodness in America and we should spread our goodness, but never through force. We should be talking about what we can do here at home to set a good example, have a healthy, vibrant economy, protect civil liberties and have a foreign policy where we're minding our own business, but have trade with people and talk with people. Why is it we don't even talk and trade with Cuba? Everybody else is. I mean, why don't we do it? And this is what we have to do.

MR. MOYERS: But are you ever going to get ideas like that though a media that is dominated by the very corporate mentality that you so often deplore?

REP. PAUL: With difficulty. But once again, the message is getting out. It hasn't turned into, you know, a total revolution, but there are revolutionary ideas going on there right now and it's not a throw back to the old ways, because the old ways are always tyranny. We've had tyranny, most of all of history. It's only been in this recent introduction - the last couple of hundred years - where true freedom, emphasizing the individual, has only been tested and we're throwing it away.

So whether I have an obstacle with the media or not - which I'm sure I do and I face up to it since I look like I'll be excluded, you know, from the Fox debate here this weekend. But nevertheless, the amount of freedoms we have left in this country - we still have it and we have to maximize and choose.

MR. MOYERS: Thank you for being with us, Congressman Paul.

REP. PAUL: Thank you, very much.

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