Ron Paul: GOP Needs To Change

Ron Paul, as US Representative of Texas, during Republican presidential candidate debate, Ronald Reagan Library, Simi Valley, California, 2007
Political Players is a weekly conversation with the leaders, consultants, and activists who are shaping American politics. This week, CBS News' Brian Goldsmith talked with Texas Rep. Ron Paul about his candidacy for president, his competitors for the Republican nomination, and the agenda driving his long-shot campaign. The L.A. Times poll came out this week and showed that nationally you are at two percent. Are you running to actually win the Republican nomination? Or are you running to make a statement about the war and other issues?

Ron Paul: Well, I do not think you ever run not to win. I think there are statistics that contradict some of the polls that we are looking at that makes us a lot more optimistic. When we look at the number of people who are joining the campaign, the money raised. So, in that regard, we are seen as a much more viable candidate than some of the national polls say. But it is still early. We are just starting to spend our money. I think the campaign is still yet to be won. The vast majority of Republicans, at least at this point, support President Bush's foreign policy, which you've railed against. Has the Republican Party changed?

Ron Paul: Well, I think I support Bush's foreign policy in the year 2000. He was pretty clear on the criticism of what was going on under Clinton. He criticized nation building and policing the world. And he thought we should have a more humble foreign policy.

I am, in many ways, supporting the Bush policy of the year 2000. And many of the Republican traditions, in the past, always advocated a lot more caution in foreign policy. But I think you are right. I think, right now--although the party shifted from their traditions--yes, there are still a lot of Republicans who support this policy.

But you cannot win an election with a very, very narrow base of the Republican Party when 70 percent of the American people are sick and tired of the war and they want out of it. So, if the Republican Party wants to win next year, they have to have a candidate that is willing to change the foreign policy and not just keep digging a deeper hole for ourselves. But why do you think the vast majority of Republican voters, and Republican candidates, seem to support the Bush foreign policy of 2007?

Ron Paul: I think they get trapped, you know--this whole idea that if somebody dies and you do not keep fighting and a lot more people die, then somebody has died in vain. And they are not willing to make a mistake, or admit that they have made a mistake.

In doing this, they continue to make the same mistake over and over again. They do not have the courage to change course when it needs to be done. And the American people want a change in course. I did not like the course that we went on. I did not like the change when we left our policies of the year 2000.

And I have been arguing the case that we should not have done it. Now, I am arguing the case that we ought to change our ways. And yet, they're digging in their heels and digging a deeper hole for themselves. And also, the harder they fight for this foreign policy, the worse they are doing. And the members of Congress I talked to up here behind the scenes are very, very concerned. They think that we are going to lose even more Congressional seats next year and that we do not have a plan, with this foreign policy, to win next year.

So I am much more with the American people than with maybe some of the Republican leadership that are sticking with Bush on this war. Now you've said a number of times that Republicans behind the scenes are uncomfortable with his foreign policy. Can you name names and tell us which Republicans have said that they're uncomfortable?

Ron Paul: No. I would not do that. Because it was said in confidence. And, you know, they were just expressing themselves. But I think a lot of people know--and there are a lot of other outsiders who are assessing things who are saying the same thing--that nobody is predicting the Republicans are going to gain seats or come close to regaining control of Congress. The other dark horse candidate who has gotten a lot of press attention recently is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. But he only raised about one-fifth the money that you got last quarter.

Where is all this money you are raising coming from? Do you think it is mostly from Republicans who are disillusioned with the current policies? Or is it from people who ordinarily would not participate in the political process?

Ron Paul: I think there is a little bit of each, so some Democrats, some Independents, and some disgruntled Republicans that saw that we did not stick to our principles of limited government and balanced budgets and joined the entitlement crowd.

But, interestingly enough, it is our campaign that gets the most money from the military. And that is something that the other candidates do not want to admit. Your position on Iraq polls is popular but your other libertarian positions on issues like privatizing Social Security, privatizing Medicare, privatizing a whole host of government functions, that does not seem to be a majority position in the country at all. How do you persuade people to change their minds about that?

Ron Paul: Well, it is also true that that has not been the most important issue in my campaign. Philosophically, I think those programs are doomed to fail. And most young people know that they are not going to get any Social Security. And that is why they are joining me when I said, "I would let you get out." And they love that.

Because all they are going to do is pay into it, and not get anything. But I really take a pretty soft stand on that. One thing that can be said is, I have never voted to spend one nickel out of Social Security funds. If I had my way, all that money would have been there. Because I do not spend it on this militarism and all the other wasteful programs. So, I am a true protector of the Social Security fund.

And the older people in my district have always, overwhelmingly, supported me. But my approach is toward a transition. I'm not calling for closing down any of these programs. Matter of fact, I do the opposite. I save hundreds of billions of dollars in rejecting this notion that we can run a world empire, cut the deficit, and then actually use some of those funds to tide people over who have become dependent. And this offers a way of helping people who are dependent without putting anybody out in the street.