As everyone waits for a certain Texan to announce whether he plans to run for president in 2012, another Texan made his intentions more clear Monday night by participating — in feisty fashion — in the first major GOP primary debate.
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, appeared on stage at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire alongside six other White House hopefuls: former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Paul's trademark fiery personality was on full display during the two-hour, CNN-sponsored debate, during which he squeezed in several minutes of time to rail against the Federal Reserve and U.S. involvement in foreign countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen.
In the first hour of the debate, the libertarian-leaning obstetrician was asked about the home foreclosure crisis.
"You’re not gonna touch this problem until you liquidate the bad debt," he responded. "You have to have sound money and you have to recognize how we got into trouble. We got into trouble because we had a financial bubble caused by the Federal Reserve. You don’t look at monetary policy, we will continue the trend of the last decade."
Given the chance to deal with the 10-year war in Afghanistan, Paul said, "I wouldn't wait for my generals. I'm the commander in chief. ... I'd bring [the troops] home as quickly as possible. I'd bring them out of Iraq as well. I wouldn't get in Libya. I'd stop bombing Yemen. ... We should learn the lessons of history, and the longer we're there, the more danger we're in because our presence there is not making friends, let me tell ya."
On the question of granting illegal immigrants access to services, Paul said there should not be a path to "easy citizenship." Instead, he argued the federal government could save significantly by focusing on securing the Mexico-U.S. border instead of foreign lands in the Middle East.
When the debate turned to questions about banning gay marriage, Paul said it was a states' right issue — but "get the government out of there!"
Regarding Medicare, Paul told the audience it is not financially solvent and "has to change" by increasing competition in medicine. He took another opportunity to criticize the amount of government spending that goes toward foreign countries and "military complex spending."
CNN anchor and moderator John King made it a habit to ask a lighthearted "this or that" question before and after the first few commercial breaks. When asked whether he preferred a BlackBerry or an iPhone, Paul responded, "BlackBerry."
Over all, the Republican candidates in the debate remained civil to one another. Instead, they showed a united front in their opposition to Barack Obama.
During a post-debate appearance with Anderson Cooper, Paul said his views have become more popular over the last decade. He also warned, "All great nations usually go down when they spread themselves too far around the world. They become an empire, then they can't afford it."
We'll try to post the full debate and highlights from Paul's national appearance as soon as possible. For now, here's an excerpt courtesy of CNN. Paul appears at 3:14 into the clip.