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Sunday, February 17, 2002

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Ron Paul highlights LP convention

Congressman Ron Paul appeared as the keynote speaker at the Libertarian Party of California's annual state convention on Saturday, February 16, 2002 in Santa Maria. Dr. Paul was the Libertarian Party's Presidential candidate in 1988, and now is a Republican Representative from Texas who has earned the nickname of "Dr. No" for his principled (and often lonely) insistence on following the Constitution.

During a lively one hour talk and question-and-answer period, Dr. Paul describe some of his experiences battling the political establishment in both major parties. He also discussed his personal areas of greatest interest, monetary policy and foreign policy. And he warned about the threats to our liberties posed by the domestic side of the War on Terrorism.

Dr. Paul explained that the Patriot Act, which was passed by Congress soon after the 9/11 attack, was not only deplorable because of its content but also because of the underhanded manner in which it was jammed through the House. Initially the House Committee working on the bill had made a number of changes which were a big improvement over the Senate proposal. But at the last minute the Republican leadership decided to ignore the House version and simply replace it with the far worse Senate version. They used parliamentary tricks to keep the House in session until 5 am to avoid the requirement of a 2/3 vote, and the contents of the bill were not available anywhere prior to the final vote. It was impossible to know what was being voted on, but that didn't stop all but a handful of Representatives from voting to approve it.

Of course Dr. Paul was one of those few who voted "no". In the lead-up to the final vote he also supported the Democrats on the procedural challenges to those tactics, which is the only time he's ever broken ranks with Republicans on purely procedural matters. Other Republicans warned him that he would take a huge political hit for his opposition, but it hasn't turned out that way. He's gotten virtually no flack from constituents, and nowadays he's hearing other Congressmen sheepishly admit that voting for that bill was one of the worst mistakes they'd ever made.

Whenever he talks about terrorism, Dr. Paul explains that "Yes, I want to do whatever is possible to stop terrorism. But I don't think to stop terrorism we have to sacrifice one iota of our liberties."

Anyway, by now Ron Paul has gotten his district used to having a Congressman who votes on principle.

Back in 1995 when he first decided to run for Congress again, the Republican establishment took drastic steps to keep him out of Washington. They went to the district's Democratic Congressman, got him to switch to the Republican Party by promising him a seat on the Ways & Means Committee, a million dollars in campaign support, endorsements, etc. Then-Governor Bush and everyone else in Republican Party hierarchy started bashing Dr. Paul over the drug issue. He fought back, saying that he didn't like drugs, but that he liked the War On Drugs even less. Governor Bush was at the other guy's headquarters on election night, but had little to celebrate: Ron Paul ended up beating the incumbent Democrat-turned-Republican in a primary runoff. Then the Democrats tried the same drug attack in the general election, and also failed.

Dr. Paul believes Congress is about 20-25 years behind the general public on the issue of the War On Drugs. He said that the Libertarian Party deserves a large part of the credit for the changing public attitudes (even though the LP will probably never get the credit). "We've won the argument, now we have to win the legislative battle."

There are many areas in which Dr. Paul has clashed with other Republicans, education being a major one. For many years Republicans had favored abolishing the Department of Education. Then Bush reversed that, and in cooperation with Ted Kennedy sharply increased federal funding of education. Of course Ron Paul believes the Federal government ought to be out of public education completely and totally. When people ask Dr. Paul, "How can you stand up and vote against the President?" his answer is, "Well that's what you're supposed to do when he's doing something wrong."

Another big concern for Dr. Paul is monetary policy. "This government is no wealthier than Enron. And the accounting procedures of the federal government are more corrupt."

Not too long ago Ron Paul was asked if he'd like to have his photo taken with Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. "Why not?" he thought. But first he went and dug up one of his old original copies of the Objectivist Newsletter (which he'd been receiving back in the sixties). When he went in for the photo shoot, he showed it to Greenspan, turned to the article in it on the gold standard that Greenspan had written, and asked him to autograph his article for Paul, which Greenspan did. Then Dr. Paul asked, "Do you want to put a disclaimer on it?" "No," answered Greenspan, it just happened that he'd re-read it recently, and Greenspan said "he wouldn't change a single word." When pressed on how he could reconcile it with his present policies, his explanation was something to the effect that he has to deal with the fiat money that we now have instead of gold.

The standing-room-only crowd of about 150 Libertarians enthusiastically cheered Dr. Paul's speech, and then asked him a number of questions.

When asked why he continued to serve in Congress, even though he's frequently the lone vote for the Constitution, Dr. Paul said he's trying to preserve what was given to us - a free society. Our liberties are precarious. The Constitution has very little value in Washington; other politicians in both major parties support it about 1 time out of 10. Despite their rhetoric, conservatives aren't very good at protecting private property, and liberals aren't very good at protecting civil liberties. But radio shows are filled with people who agree with us. Paul feels he is fighting a holding action, and is trying to influence other people.

One dream he has before he leaves Congress is to get another Libertarian in Congress, so at least he can have a conversation.








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