Howard Fineman Interviews Ron Paul

Attention must be paid to Dr. Ron Paul, the 110-proof libertarian in the Republican race. He's had a surprisingly strong online fund-raising push and now has at least $10 million in the bank. In Iowa, according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll, he's got 8 percent support among likely GOP caucusgoers, and he's a legit wild card in more-independent New Hampshire. After taping "The View," of all things, he met last week with NEWSWEEK'S Howard Fineman to defend his controversial views:

Fineman: Why are you such a hit on the Internet?
It's the message. It's the fact that people aren't very comfortable with their economic future. They don't like the intrusion of their privacy, don't like what the war's doing, and they hear a little bit about me and they'll go to a Web site or my congressional Web site and find out how I voted, what I stand for, and say, "Wow, that's what I believe in." Then they get enthusiastic and spontaneously start organizing for the campaign … And I take a very strong stand against taxation and regulation on the Internet, and it sort of fits the libertarian spirit of communication.

You don't criticize tax resisters. Why?
Civil disobedience is a legitimate tool in a free society, but you have to suffer the consequences. I don't go and preach that that is what we should be doing … If they are defending [their interpretation of] the Constitution, they know what they're doing. This money is supporting evil in the world, through pre-emptive war [in Iraq]. I mean, that's pretty evil as far as I'm concerned: so much waste in a system of government that has just overrun our liberties. In many ways it's heroic that people are willing to risk their freedom to defend what they think is freedom. It's just, I do not promote it and do not participate in it.

Do you support any limit on private ownership of guns or weapons?
Sure. The Second Amendment means the federal government can't interfere with your right to have a weapon to defend yourself. The type of weapons weren't defined, of course, in the Constitution, but if you live next door to me and I thought you were working on a 500-ton bomb, I would say there's a clear and present danger. So there's a limit. I might ask the officials to get a proper search warrant to find out if you are, because this could be very dangerous.

Other than Afghanistan, where you supported military action, is there any other place in the world where we need to reserve the right to take military action?
No—no place in the world today. We are so powerful and so capable that we spend more money than everybody else put together. Nobody is threatening this country militarily and nobody can threaten our liberties. I have a greater concern for our civil liberties under attack here at home by the executive branch, judicial branch and legislative branch.

If you don't win, will you support the GOP nominee and promise not to run on the Libertarian or any other ticket?
I'm not promising any of those things. If we have a Republican nominee that has convinced me they have come around on foreign policy … I would consider it. As far as running on a third-party ticket, or [as an] independent, or Libertarian, I have no plans to do that.

Well, "no plans" doesn't mean you won't.
The best way I can state it is: I have no plans. I can't conceive of it. But I guess in life there aren't that many absolutes.

You say that our sovereignty is under assault at home. By whom?
The philosophic group who likes governmental globalism—the people who would support, say, the U.N., the World Bank, the IMF [International Monetary Fund], the WTO [World Trade Organization].

Who are the people supporting that "group"?
I would say most leaders in both the Republican and Democratic parties. I mean, I would have trouble finding someone who doesn't support that.

If most of Congress and successive presidents support those organizations, aren't they synonymous with the American people?
I'd like to think that they are truly representing people. But you know what the statistics were before we went into Iraq? Probably 70 or 80 percent of the American people said "absolutely not," they didn't want to go. The war propaganda changed their mind. There was just a small group of people in the administration who pumped up the nation to go to war, but that didn't make it right.

Who were those people?
The neoconservatives, the [Paul] Wolfowitzes, the [David] Wurmsers, the Dick Cheneys—the various people that saw this as a moral equivalent of spreading democracy.

It's long been law that if you are born here, you are a citizen, even if your parents are here illegally. You want to change that. Why?
I'd argue that the conditions are different, that we have to decrease the incentives to come. If they come, and are put into the welfare system, and [their kids] are born here—and I've delivered some of these babies—[the kids] are immediately put on benefits. They can get housing allowances, food allowances, and Americans resent it because our economy is so weak. Whether it's amnesty or birthright citizenship or special benefits, I want to change that. I want a healthy economy. Then we will be able to have a much more generous immigration policy, which would fit my personal philosophy and our Constitution.

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