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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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MATTHEWS: We"re back.

Libertarian Congressman Ron Paul of Texas has spent decades espousing his views, and once again, he"ll do so on the national stage. This morning, today, he announced he"s running for president for the third time. He joins us now from New Hampshire. Welcome, Congressman.


MATTHEWS: Well, Ronald Reagan ran three times. Maybe this will be the one for you. But here, this has been a sticking point, about how far you go with your libertarianism, sir. Here you were talking about heroin use last week on Fox News. Let"s watch your question and answer to you.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS, DEBATE MODERATOR: Are you suggesting that heroin and prostitution are an exercise of liberty?

PAUL: Well, you know, I probably never used those words. You put those words someplace. But yes, in essence, if I leave it to the states, it"s going to be up to the states. Up until this past century, you know, for over 100 years they were legal. What you"re inferring is, You know what? If we legalize heroin tomorrow, everybody"s going to use heroin. How many people here would use heroin if it was legal? I bet nobody would put their hand up, Oh, yes, I need the government to take care of me. I don"t want to use heroin, so I need these laws!



MATTHEWS: Well, your people out there in the crowd certainly agree with that. But let me ask you, as a citizen of Texas, if that came up for a vote, if you had to vote on the issue as a citizen supporting a candidate or whatever, do you think the state of Texas should legalize heroin and prostitution?

PAUL: I think that under the right circumstances, we should legalize freedom, and that is part of it. As long as people don"t force things on other people, I don"t feel threatened by that. It"s sort of like legalizing gambling. I don"t gamble and I don"t get involved, but I"m not going to take that right away from you. So all these things are things that you can do in a free society.

But today, I gave a long talk about this very issue and I emphasized the fact that the reason I argue for freedom of choice is I want people to decide what medications they can take and whether they want alternative medicine, whether they can drink raw milk, whether they can use marijuana when they"re sick, and that we shouldn"t depend on the government for that guidance. But if you do need guidance with children, if a law is the there to try to protect children, that"s a different story.

But it"s the concept of legalizing freedom, making choices by individuals and assuming responsibility for themselves. And even though that was a special statement about how many people would do it if it were legalized, you know, most people aren"t going to use heroin. More people use heroin because it"s illegal. So making it illegal doesn"t help that much. Kids can go out and get marijuana easier than they can get beer, so beer can be regulated in a way to prevent the kids from getting it. Most of our history, our early history, there were no laws against this--


MATTHEWS: I guess I have to get down to the question--you think--you"re saying--I"m not sure what you"re saying. If a mother who has children to be responsible for, a husband, a father, should they be allowed to be heroin addicts? Because this is how far you"re going with your libertarianism, it seems, even now.

PAUL: Well, the whole thing is addictions are a disease. We don"t put alcoholics in prison. So I"m just against the war on drugs the way it"s happening. There"s other ways you can handle it. But if you treat it like a crime and throw these kids, like we have for decades, in prison because they smoked a little bit of marijuana, and they come out violent criminals, that war on drugs has failed. And believe me--

MATTHEWS: OK. You want--

PAUL: -- the people know that. And so I"m against the federal war on drugs. I"m not pro-drug usage. As a matter of fact, I"m very critical of the carelessness of doctors who give way too many pain pills. There"s more people addicted to prescription drugs than they are to illegal drugs.

MATTHEWS: OK. Just to finish this conversation on this point--you have complete freedom to answer this question, yes or no. Should we legalize--legalize heroin?

PAUL: I want to legalize freedom and let--


PAUL: -- and the states deal with the regulations.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about how far you would go in terms of the Constitution because I understand libertarianism--most of us as young people were very much were enraptured with it as kids, in our teens, I think.

PAUL: Why did you lose it?


MATTHEWS: Hillary Clinton was a--


MATTHEWS: Well, I"ll tell you, because the idea of total freedom doesn"t seem to work.


MATTHEWS: Let me ask you. The "64 civil rights bill--

PAUL: Total--total--

MATTHEWS: The "64 civil rights bill, do you think an employer, a guy who runs his shop down in Texas or anywhere has a right to say, if you"re black, you don"t come in my store?

PAUL: Well, I believe--


MATTHEWS: That was the right under--that was the libertarian right before "64. Was it the better society?

PAUL: I believe--I believe that property rights should be protected.

Your--your right to be on TV is protected by property rights, because somebody owns that station. I can"t walk into your station. So, right of freedom of speech is protected by property. The right of your church is protected by property.

So, people should honor and protect it. This gimmick, Chris, it"s just--it"s off the wall when you, I"m for property rights and states" rights; therefore, I"m a racist. I mean, that"s just outlandish.

MATTHEWS: No. I"m just asking you--


PAUL: Wait. Wait, Chris. Wait, Chris.

People who--let"s say that law was there, and you could do that.

Who"s going to do it? What idiot would do that? What idiot would do that?

MATTHEWS: Everybody was in the South. I saw the white--I saw the "white only" signs driving through the South in college. Of course they did it. You remember them doing it.

PAUL: Oh, yes, yes. Yes, but I also know that the Jim Crow laws were illegal, and we got rid of them under that same law. And that"s all good.


MATTHEWS: Right. Well, you would have voted against that law.

PAUL: Pardon me?

MATTHEWS: You would have voted against that law. You wouldn"t have voted for the "64 civil rights bill.

PAUL: Yes, but not in--I wouldn"t vote against getting rid of the Jim Crow laws.


MATTHEWS: But you would have voted for the--you know you--oh, come on. Honestly, Congressman, you were not for the "64 civil rights bill.

PAUL: Because--because of the property rights element, not because it got rid of the Jim Crow law.

MATTHEWS: Right. The guy who owns a bar says, no blacks allowed, you say that"s fine.

PAUL: No, Chris, you"re demagoguing it now. You know that isn"t what I"m saying.

MATTHEWS: No, I"m asking a question.


MATTHEWS: Well, what"s the answer? What"s your answer?


PAUL: You know, segregation was created by government laws. Slavery was created by government laws. Segregation--


PAUL: Let me go.

Let me--segregation in the military by government laws. So, what we want to do, as libertarians, is repeal all of those laws and honor and respect people with--


MATTHEWS: OK. Look, I have seen this.


PAUL: But for you to imply--for you to imply that a property rights" person is endorsing that stuff, you don"t understand that there would be zero signs up today saying something like that.

And, if they did, they would be an idiot and they would out of business. So, I think you"re just getting overboard in order to try to turn it around and--

MATTHEWS: No, I"m not. I"m asking it. I"m talking about facts.

PAUL: -- try to accuse somebody of being a racist.


MATTHEWS: I"m not calling anybody a racist. I"m saying the laws are racist.


PAUL: Yes. That"s what you"re implying. That"s what you"re implying, Chris.


MATTHEWS: I once knew a laundromat when I was in the Peace Corps training in Louisiana, in Baker, Louisiana. A laundromat had this sign on it in glaze, "whites only" on the laundromat, just to use the laundromat machines.

This was a local shop saying no blacks allowed. You say that should be legal.

PAUL: That"s--that"s ancient history. That"s ancient history.

That"s over and done with.


MATTHEWS: Because it"s been outlawed.

PAUL: Segregation on buses and all was done by law. So it was a culture. That"s over and done with, Chris.

Why do you want to go back to ancient days and ancient history? It"s past.

MATTHEWS: Because you want to come back --


PAUL: It"s past. And nobody is advocating it.


MATTHEWS: You"re running for president--because you"re running for president as a libertarian. Believe me, we don"t need laws to protect people.

PAUL: Well, look, you are concocting and you"re reading much more into it, and you"re trying to imply certain beliefs that I don"t have. And I think you"re wrong. I think you"re wrong.

MATTHEWS: No. I think you"re a libertarian. I think you"re a total libertarian. I think you"re a total libertarian. I think that is what is appealing about you. And I think people like you.

PAUL: And you"re doing it deliberately.


MATTHEWS: You know why they like you? They want to live in a simpler society.


PAUL: The comparison to being a total libertarian is believing in liberty vs. being a totalitarian.


PAUL: So, if you want the opposite, just look around. That"s what we have. We have a totalitarian world. That"s what most of history has been about, totalitarianism, dictatorship.


PAUL: We have only had a small taste of freedom of choice and the principle of private property--


PAUL: -- and contract rights. And we"re blowing it.


PAUL: So, this--this whole thing that we"re going to give up on that, what we"re doing is trying to emphasize that something good and wonderful comes from freedom --


PAUL: -- and freedom of choice, and that we should not say this, that

that liberty is disgusting, as you imply, and totalitarian should be the way we run our country.

MATTHEWS: No, I"m not. I"m asking--you"re answering your own questions.

PAUL: I think that"s absurd.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this.

We have had a long history of government involvement with Medicare, Social Security, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. And I think you are saying we would have been better off without all that.

PAUL: I think we would be better off if we had freedom, and not government control of our lives, our personal lives, and our--and policing the world --


PAUL: -- and running the economy, because we"re facing--

MATTHEWS: Well, that is what I like.

PAUL: Hey, Chris. Let me finish.

We are facing a calamity because of that. We have a financial crisis.

We have a crisis in the foreign policy. We"re losing thousands of people. Hundreds of thousands of people coming back sick because of our foreign policy.


PAUL: And we"re at a point where we cannot sustain this, and we"re on the verge of runaway inflation, because there"s too much acceptance of big government.

That is the problem.


PAUL: No matter how noble you try to make it, your good intentions will not compensate for the mistakes that people make that want to run our lives and run the economy, and reject the principle of private property and making up our own decisions for ourselves.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Congressman. I love your foreign policy. Don"t be--get me wrong. I love your foreign policy.

Thank you very much, Congressman.

PAUL: Well, you will come around, Chris. You"re coming along. You will, once you will see. And you will put it altogether. It is all one package. Personal liberty and foreign policy--

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, you"re a very--

PAUL: -- and economic liberty is one package.

MATTHEWS: You have a great following out there. Good luck in the campaigning for president.

PAUL: It is growing.


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