On Saturday, we sat down with U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) at the Village Bean Coffee Shop in Windham to discuss his run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
Q: In 2008 in the New Hampshire presidential primary, you finished in fifth place. Why should voters vote for you in the 2012 primary?
A: The country is entirely different. The credibility of what I've been saying has been growing by leaps and bounds. People are interested in the monetary system and the Federal Reserve. They are interested in the approach to foreign policy, they're sick and tired of all the wars. The conditions have completely changed.
Before when we had a debate right before the primary they excluded me. In Iowa they did the same thing. That's not going to happen this time. Our numbers as far as supporters go and the ease with which we've raised money is so different. Dramatic changes have happened these last four years, and that's why people are looking at our campaign.
Q: The issue that's on everyone's mind right now is the debt ceiling debate. In announcing these campaign stops today you mentioned the "looming debt ceiling betrayal in Washington." What is that sense of betrayal in your opinion?
A: Well, we have a vote coming up on Tuesday and it's written with a conservative tone to it. We're going to cut some spending and cap spending and we're going to balance the budget. The cut in the spending is $100 billion, which is nothing with a $1.6 trillion defecit. It's for only one year. Capping and making promises doesn't mean a whole lot to anybody anymore because this Congress can't speak for the next Congress.
If you don't get rid of programs and you don't change this attitude that we have to be the policemen for the whole world, the demand will be there to spend the money.
The next thing is that they say this is contingent on having a balanced budget amendment. Well, how long does it take us to amend the Constitution? Years! It's nothing but it's being portrayed as the litmus test of whether you're willing to work within the system and prevent our credit rating from going down. If we keep borrowing our credit rating is going to go down, too.
Defaults occur when you don't pay your debt, but if you pay somebody the bill back again with money that has less value, you've defaulted again, too. If the dollar is worth 50 cents on the dollar, then we've defaulted on real value. So the default is ongoing.
One thing I've been impressed with in asking some of the citizens around here is that they're very much aware that prices are going up. I've anticipated that would happen and I think it's going to be much worse by next year and that is a default. But you can't solve that problem that has come from too much spending and big debt by having a bigger debt. If you have a bigger debt you're not cutting anything.
Q: So if you're in President Obama's position in the middle of the negotiations, what are you saying? What would you be saying in that room?
A: I would get the Democrats together, those who could tend to agree with some of my issues and say, "Your job is to cut $500 billion. Tell me what you would like to have cut at $500 billion."
Then I would go to the Republicans and say "What are your favorite things that you would want to cut? You come up with $500 billion or more."
Q: So you believe there should be concessions on both sides?
A: Yes. But not the concessions we've had for years by raising both. That's what they've been doing. But the fact is the Republicans will only want to cut the Democrat programs and the Democrats will only want to cut the Republican programs. But I'd separate the two. I'd say to them both, "What are your favorite programs to cut." Put them together and I think the American people would agree with that approach.
Q: When you come to New Hampshire and talk to voters, is there anything other than the economy people talk about? Is that the number one thing?
A: The war is a big issue but I connect that with the economy. The other one in this state in particular is the attack on civil liberties. The intrusion in people's personal lives. I haven't run into a single person up here, and I'm sure there are some, who likes the Patriot Act, who think the groping at airports makes us safer. I think people have quit saying that.
I think in this state in particular, they do not like that approach. They like my approach which is that citizens ought to be left alone if they aren't hurting anybody. It's not necessary to tell women that are 95 years old that they have to take their clothes off, and little girls have probing of their pants, and men being groped in the groin.
People are sick of that and that's one thing about New Hampshire, I think they understand that issue and they connect it to the Patriot Act.