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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. My next guest was the inspiration behind the Tea Party movement. U.S. Congressman Ron Paul of Texas is a hero to fiscal conservatives and to Libertarians everywhere. He"s been an outspoken critic of the wars we"re currently fighting. He"s known for clashing with leaders of his own party. And he had a rabidly loyal following on the presidential campaign trail back in "08.

Congressman Paul, thank you for joining us. What do you make of the extension of our military now to four fronts, Iraq, Afghanistan, the drone attacks in Pakistan, which are quite heavy, and the new war front in Libya? How do you put it all together?

REP. RON PAUL ®, TEXAS: It"s an outrage, and I can"t understand why the American people are tolerating it. Matter of fact, if you do poll them on this, about 70 percent think we ought to get out of Afghanistan. Of course, my position is we shouldn"t have gone in and we should come back from all those regions.

But you know, a lot of people voted for the president because he had indicated maybe he would have a different foreign policy, and I think they"re very disappointed because he has expanded the wars, rather than diminishing them. So yes, this is terrible.

And I think the foreign policy is a major contributor to our financial problems. I also, of course, believe the domestic spending is a problem, as well. But you know, to me, the foreign expenditures in the wars should be the easiest place to cut. And we are now spending $1.2 trillion a year maintaining our current foreign policy. And I could find hundreds of billions of dollars there, and I wouldn"t have to cut programs at home, programs that, basically, I don"t agree with, but I don"t feel like that"s where we should cut first. I think we should cut out all this war mongering and bring our troops home. And I think, politically, it would be a smart thing to do.

MATTHEWS: Can you run for office in this country and get elected in most parts of the country by saying, I don"t think we need to be the number one superpower of the world. We don"t have to have the biggest army. We don"t have to have the greatest weapons in the world. We don"t have to have all this stuff that takes us into so many fronts. Can you get elected for president, for example, talking like that?

PAUL: I--I think it would be more difficult, but one thing is, if people understand what I"m saying, I want to be--

MATTHEWS: Well, then that"s the point, isn"t it?

PAUL: Wait. No, wait, wait, wait, Chris.

Let me say there"s two different ways. One is military presence around the world and forcing our views on--but I want to be number one. I want to set the example for the cause of liberty, to have peace and prosperity and trade with people, and then we will be a number-one force, but it will be a philosophic force; it will not be a military force.

But people had pushed our--push us overseas get it mixed up. They say, we are a great nation and we are going to go over and we are going to force you to live like we do. And they go over and they say, we"re going to spread American democracy.

We have been doing that since Woodrow Wilson. My approach and the approach of many of the libertarian conservatives is quite different. It is to set an example, where people would want to emulate us. And that means spreading ideas. It"s much more valuable than spreading weapons, wasting our money, making us more vulnerable. And it all comes to end badly, as far as I"m concerned.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you the two philosophical questions. What do you make of it when you hear that there"s been a stoning over in Afghanistan, where a whole village has killed a woman because of infidelity? What do you think of backing that kind of a culture? That"s what we seem to be doing. We"re supporting that--that country.

PAUL: Well, it"s terrible. We shouldn"t be supporting. We should, you know, set an example and do better. So, setting an example might mean that we not allow the president to get away with the position now that he has adopted to assassinate American citizens.

You know, just, oh, he"s a bad guy and we can"t find him, he"s to be assassinated, and have military tribunals in peacetime, have the Patriot Act invade the privacy of the American people. So, I would say that"s what we should do. And then maybe we will influence others.

But, no, it"s atrocious when other countries do this, and especially when we support them. So, we--we claim we"re spreading our goodness. At the same time, we support countries like Saudi Arabia, and they have those kind of laws.

At the same time, we"re supposed to go to war against the Iranians, because they practice these things as well. So, it"s the inconsistency--


PAUL: -- and the contradiction of what we"re supposed to be doing under our Constitution that makes the people so upset, especially now that we"re totally bankrupt.

MATTHEWS: What do we do in the face of genocide? If it looks like Gadhafi makes a statement, I"m going to go from house to house looking for insects, as he called them, human beings, I"m going to kill everybody in my way, and he"s ready to attack Benghazi, and Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, and some other people go to the president and say, we can"t let there be slaughter like this on our watch, what would you have done if you had been in the White house?

PAUL: Well, I wouldn"t have made--I wouldn"t have made a case for preventative war for humanitarian reasons. That"s one extension of the Bush doctrine.

He establishes preventive war, which is aggression. So, no matter how noble it may sound to promote aggression, but now in Libya, we"re promoting this preventative war to prevent humanitarian problems. At the same time, they have never even been proven, let alone legitimate.

So, I would say, yes, it"s horrible. All these things are horrible around the world, but I don"t think us getting involved and using violence and bombing and killing innocent people--you know when we drop these bombs and we launch these missiles and--


PAUL: -- and drones into Pakistan, and a lot of innocent people die. So, no matter well--no matter how well-intentioned it is, you know, there is a blowback, there is a consequence, and most of the consequence are unintended, and they make our problems much worse for ourselves.

MATTHEWS: You understand the fiscal situation. Do you think it"s something we should risk, not passing a debt ceiling? Will that shatter the fiscal markets around the world? Will we have a real credit problem we have never had before if it goes down, the debt ceiling?

PAUL: Well, you know, they used a similar article--argument when they wanted to do the bailout in "08, saying there would be a grand depression if we didn"t do it. And all they did was prevent the grand depression for the--for Wall Street and gave the depression to the poor people.

So now they"re saying once again, another fear. No matter what happens, use fear after 9/11 and, you know, Osama bin--or--


PAUL: -- Saddam Hussein. We had to scare the people. But now they"re scaring again. If you don"t pass it, there"s going to be another disaster.

It is going to be a problem, no doubt. But if you don"t get our house in order, the disaster is a dollar crisis. And we"re in the early stages of it. That"s why the bond rating is going down and the confidence in our money--


PAUL: -- in our bond system is going down. That is much worse than facing the consequences of saying, you know, we have to change our way. And it is not near--just a budgetary problem. It"s dealing with what we just got done talking about, changing our foreign policy.

Are we the policemen of the world?


PAUL: Can we take care of everybody from cradle to grave?

MATTHEWS: OK. You"re--


PAUL: As long as we do that, we"re not going to solve our problems.

MATTHEWS: Ron Paul--Ron Paul, you"re a very popular guy because you"re an honest guy.

Is there anything to this birther thing? Give me an honest answer. Is it worth our time talking about it, the birther thing? Is it worth our time?

PAUL: No, I--I have no idea--I have no idea whether there"s anything to it. It doesn"t interest me.

MATTHEWS: Is it or not--is there something--is there something to it, based on what you have heard? Is there any question that our president is legitimate?


PAUL: Well--

MATTHEWS: Any question?

PAUL: -- from my view--from my viewpoint, obviously not, because I never bring it up. So I"m going to leave it to talk show hosts and to Donald Trump, and let you guys argue it out.


MATTHEWS: No, no, but, no, be a--no, be a little more--no, this is a dodge. Is there anything to it?

PAUL: Not that I know of.


MATTHEWS: Is there any doubt in your mind--OK, thank you very much. You"re not a birther, sir. Thank you. We have given you the stamp of approval. You"re not a birther.


MATTHEWS: Thank you, Ron Paul.


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