WASHINGTON -- The Republican party's most serious potential presidential contenders at the Conservative Political Action Conference today gave little more than passing reference to the most serious news of the day - the resignation of Egyptian's authoritarian President Honsi Mubarak.
Yet Rep. Ron Paul -- who's arguably the most popular politician at the annual conservative conference, but not considered a viable presidential candidate -- seized the news to blast American foreign policy and promote his well-known preference for isolationism.
The pro-democracy protests in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, Paul said, show that "we need to do a lot less, a lot sooner -- not only in Egypt but around the world."Tim Pawlenty: America Needs to Turn Toward God
The protesters in Egypt are "upset with us for propping up that dictator for all those years," Paul said, noting that the U.S. has given Egypt close to $70 billion over the course of Mubarak's 30 years in office.
"I'm still against foreign aid for everybody," the libertarian congressman said, prompting loud cheers from an audience largely made up of Paul's college-age supporters. "Foreign aid is taking money from the poor people of rich countries and giving it to the rich people of poor countries."
The unrest in the Middle East will continue, Paul said, because of the United States' interference there. Yet, he said he doesn't expect attitudes to change. Many people in Washington, Paul said, are now asking, "What should our position be about finding the next dictator?"
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"Temporary stability does not guarantee the stability that we need around the world," he said. "And besides -- we just don't have the money."Earlier at CPAC, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was just as news was breaking that Mubarak would step down. The potential presidential candidate failed to mention Egypt, however. Another presumed presidential contender, former Minnesota Gov. , only mentioned it in passing, criticizing President Obama's position on the Muslim Brotherhood.
Paul said that the United States can't sustain troops in 900 bases around the world. Yet, acknowledging the divide at CPAC between his libertarian supporters and other conservatives, Paul said, "I'm sure half the people in this room wouldn't cut one penny from military spending."
The best way to encourage the development of freedom in other countries, he said, is "to have a sound economy, a sound dollar [and] treat people decently."
Paul called it a "victory for the freedom movement" in the United States that the House this week failed to pass a temporary extension of some provisions of the Patriot Act.
"The Patriot Act is literally the destruction of the Fourth Amendment," he said.
Paul also managed to please the crowd by reiterating his call for the abolition of the Federal Reserve and promoting other libertarian ideas - such as allowing people to "opt out" of government in exchange for giving up just 10 percent of their income.