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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript


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Dr. Paul, welcome back to the program.

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX): Thank you, David, good to be with you.

MR. GREGORY: Did Newt Gingrich do anything to diminish his chances in Iowa last night?

REP. PAUL: Well, I don't know whether he did it, but I think because he had to face a lot of serious questions about, you know, his change in positions and what he has to defend, I would think that he shouldn't have gained from that, but that remains to be seen. I guess somebody's going to do a poll rather quickly. But, you know, we've had people, you know, leading the pack off and on this whole past year, so it'll be interesting to see just what happens here in the next week or two.

MR. GREGORY: The question of, the question of who's the consistent conservative. The issue of him receiving payments from Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant, this was the subject of where you took him on last night and his response. Watch.

(Videotape, last night)

REP. PAUL: Well, he's been on different positions, you know, on so many issues, you know, single payer. He's taken positions that are not conservative. He supported the TARP funds. And the other thing that really would annoy--should annoy a lot of people, he received a lot of money from Freddie Mac. So, in a way, Newt, I think you probably got some of our taxpayers' money. They got taxed, and they got money, and they're still getting bailed out. But you're a spokesman for them and you received money from them.

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: I was never a spokesman for any agency. I never did any lobbying for the agency. I offered strategic advice. I was in the private sector, and I was doing things in the private sector.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Congressman Paul, this week you said that Gingrich should apologize for taking that money. Are you satisfied with how he answered that last night?

REP. PAUL: No, not really, but what can you do in politics? That's the best he could do with it, but the crowd didn't welcome his answer very well because, obviously, it is seen being playing a role of influence, and a lot of money, what was it, $1.6 million that he received? And, you know, this is the epitome of the bailouts and the problems. And, of course, it annoyed me a little bit more because it was a subject I had worked on for so long. You know, having been on the Financial Services Committee and deal so much in the formation of bubbles and why we have distortions and why we have recessions. So this was rather annoying. Then, he also, you know, tried to make the point, well, it's the Federal Reserve that causes the business cycle. Which is correct, but I'll tell you what, when you make the credit, somebody has to distribute it and somebody has to benefit. And it was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and they're still in business, receiving taxpayers' money. It's a deeply flawed system. So we can't expect the housing bubble and the correction from that to resolve itself until we look at this in a more serious manner.

MR. GREGORY: But, but just to pin you down on this, because you were very direct about this this week, should he give the money back? Should he apologize for receiving the money from Freddie Mac?

REP. PAUL: Well, legally, he doesn't have to. But I would think, morally, he having received this money. Yes, I wouldn't--I wouldn't have taken their money. You know, just for the fact that I think it was an immoral thing to take, take money. Besides, I don't like this idea that you're going to influence somebody that is a pseudo-government agency. And this was my argument over the many years that because they got subsidies and they had a line of credit and they were guaranteed a bailout, it was written all over that this would come about because it was artificial, there was a line of credit, and the Fed was involved. So it was, as far as I'm concerned, about as close to the government as you can get. To call that private is, is not exactly accurate.

MR. GREGORY: Well, let's come back to the key point in the debate last night. Who is the consistent conservative? The issue came up about health care and support for an individual mandate in Massachusetts by Governor Romney, whether he supported it nationally, as is the case in the president's healthcare legislation, something that Newt Gingrich supported as well in the early '90s. It was Michele Bachmann who, who took them on as whether they're real conservatives, coining the phrase "Newt-Romney." Listen.

(Videotape, last night)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): If you want a difference, Michele Bachmann is the proven conservative. It's not Newt-Romney.

FMR. GOV. ROMNEY: I know Newt Gingrich and Newt Gingrich is a friend of mine, but he and I are not clones, I promise, so.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Do you buy that? Who is the real conservative out of those two? You've got to go through one or both of them to win in Iowa.

REP. PAUL: Well, I think they're, they're--they come from the same mold. They're about the same. They're, they're both on the defensive. They're both explaining themselves. And I even said that last night that why should we have a nominee that's going to spend most of their time explaining themselves and deciding what, what position they were on and when? I think that's too much on the defensive, and I think if you're consistent, it speaks for itself. You know, nobody ever challenges me that, but I don't have to brag about it, either, because everybody knows exactly what I'm going to do, exactly what I've done for 30 years. So it goes without speaking about it.

MR. GREGORY: Well, but, I just want to be clear on this point. You consider both Gingrich and Romney unacceptable as consistent conservatives?

REP. PAUL: Well, I would say they're not consistent. I think they more or less admitted that they've changed their positions on--it's not that they're in denial. It's just that they admit that they were on one side of a position here and the other side of a position on another time. So I think that's, I think, pretty clearly understood. It's just that, you know, that's not considered, you know, a litmus test. It seems like people are rather tolerant, "OK, he did that 10 years ago"...

MR. GREGORY: But Congressman...

REP. PAUL: ..."but he doesn't do it now."

MR. GREGORY: Congressman, you've been tough in you ads that are up in Iowa. You do go after Gingrich, flip-flopping, being all over the place on issues, like climate change, when he cut an ad with Nancy Pelosi. You never specifically go after Romney. Are you more comfortable with Romney as a standard-bearer of the party, should it come to that, should you not beat him?

REP. PAUL: Well, I think their philosophies are pretty close; but, you know, I think the answer that was given last night, I think Romney comes back a little more diplomatic. I think that he handles himself a little differently than Newt. And, Newt, you know, Newt's living up to this. As a matter of fact, he's addressed this subject the he is a very determined person and can rub people the wrong way. I don't think he's been saying that he doesn't do that. I think Mitt has a little bit of more diplomatic tone to his voice and the way he handles himself.

MR. GREGORY: So who represents more change? Who represents change in the way that Republican primary voters want?

REP. PAUL: You, you mean out of the, out of the six of us were on the stage last night?

MR. GREGORY: Out of those two. Well, but start--but start with the guys you have to go through.

REP. PAUL: Out of those two. Oh, no, I don't think either one of them represents change. As a matter of fact, I've always categorized all of my opponents as fitting into one category, they more or less support the status quo. I mean, how many of them have challenged foreign policy? How many challenge, you know, the monetary system? How many people challenge the welfare system? How many wanted real cuts? Nobody else has offered any real cuts, you know, in spending. And I offer real cuts. So I would say they're all a variation of defending the status quo. And I think that's why there's so much frustration, and people are hopping around. They're looking for somebody; and I think, quite frankly, that might be the reason we're going up in the polls. And, you know, we still have a few weeks to go, so we'll have to wait and see what happens.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about foreign policy, since you raised it last night. It was Gingrich who first made news on Saturday by saying the Palestinians were, in his words, "an invented people." And he defended that last night, saying that there are major elements of the Palestinian leadership that are committed to Israel's destruction. And he added this:

(Videotape, last night)

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists, they teach terrorism in their schools, they have textbooks that say if there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left. We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. It's fundamentally time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say enough lying about the Middle East.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Is that courage, is that speaking the truth? Or is that pandering to evangelical Christians in Iowa?

REP. PAUL: Well, I, I think it was a--purely a political statement. And--but I think it demonstrates my point, and it makes my position very clear that there's, there's--all the harm done is on--not only on one side; and that fight has been going on in that part of the world for a long time. And I remember so clearly what Ronald Reagan said when he got in and messed up in Lebanon. He, he said that if he had been more neutral and following neutrality and had not put those Marines in there, those Marines would still be alive. In other words, he's saying the politics of that region, and these are his words, the politics are irrational, the irrationality of the politics there.

And that's why I, I think it's such a wise thing to do to follow our founders and, and not pretend that we know who the bad people are and who's saying the bad things, and one side is perfectly pure and the other side are only the terrorists. There's a lot of people die over there, and a lot of people die on both sides. And I don't think we have the wisdom to sort that out nor do we have the authority to sort that out and put our will. I think that region should be determined by the individuals there. I don't think that Israel should ever sacrifice their sovereignty to us and, and I think that's what they have done. They can't do much, they can't defend their borders or design their peace treaties without getting permission from us. And I think we should defend the sovereignty of Israel and not confuse things. And it makes things worse by demagoguing it and saying exactly who is to blame and who isn't to blame.

MR. GREGORY: Before you go, congressman, let me ask you about the strength of your following. Mitt Romney acknowledged it last night, saying everywhere he goes in Iowa your supporters are there. And he respects that. If you don't prevail in Iowa or don't prevail to get the nomination, will you endorse?

REP. PAUL: Oh, I have no idea. I'll wait and see about that. It depends on how the platform works out; and, you know, I was bragging a little bit last night when they asked us about our opponents up there, and I was very pleased that some of them are starting to use a little bit of the language that I use. We'll wait and see how things go and, and--since they are willing to change their positions and have in the past. So I'll keep my fingers crossed and see what happens. But my main goal is to look to January 3rd and January 10th, and we're doing well. So it's premature for me to be talking about what I'm going to do after January 10th until we find out exactly how this plays out.

MR. GREGORY: You have endorsed in the past a libertarian candidate, somebody outside the two-party system. Are you ruling out a third party run at any point?

REP. PAUL: I have, I have no plans to do that.

MR. GREGORY: Are you ruling it out?

REP. PAUL: I'm not going to rule anything out or any--anything in. I don't talk in absolutes. And I stated to my position that we really have a very nice campaign going on, and there--and people are recognizing this. And we have thousands of young people now that are campaigning for us.

MR. GREGORY: Well...

REP. PAUL: And the turnouts are just fantastic.

MR. GREGORY: Well, to that point, though...

REP. PAUL: For me to be distracted...

MR. GREGORY: Well, to that point, are you open...

REP. PAUL: For me to be distracted about...

MR. GREGORY: Are you open to a third party run?

REP. PAUL: I am not even thinking about it.

MR. GREGORY: But you won't rule it out completely?

REP. PAUL: Because I have enough on my plate right now. I mean, we, we have a lot of campaigning to do, and, and we're going to be very, very busy in these next couple of weeks. That is what I'm concentrating on, and we're going to see what happens.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Congressman Paul, we will be following the debate very closely. Thank you so much.

REP. PAUL: You're welcome.


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