U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Surfside, is the only Texan currently in the race for the Republican nomination for president of the United States, and he recently announced that he would not seek another term in Congress. Why? He wants to concentrate on the presidential contest instead of running for both at the same time as he did in 2008. The congressman, a nationally recognized political figure — he was the Libertarian Party nominee for president in 1988 — talked with the Tribune about the contest, about the other candidates grabbing some of his ideas and about a potential candidate he's never met.
TT: Tell me why running for president this time you want to concentrate on that instead of also running the congressional race as you have in the past.
Paul: Well, the last time I did it, there was some criticism, and then the more I thought about it, it was justified. It's distracting. I want to do a better job running for the presidency, and I was ready to leave the Congress. So it all added up that this was a good time to do that. And I think this campaign is so different from four years ago. You know, we have a lot more support and a lot more momentum.
TT: What is different about it this time? It looks like other Republican candidates have appropriated Ron Paul ideas.
Paul: I think that says something. And you know, they're not my ideas. I wish I could claim they were my ideas. They're ideas that I have expressed, and things that I have studied and understood from the market and how one is able to anticipate financial bubbles bursting and causing these kind of problems and why it also leads to higher prices and the kind of things that we're facing. So no, the country certainly has moved. Somebody, I don't whether they were serious or they were kidding me, they said, 'It looks like Ron Paul's moved to the mainstream.' I think some of these views have moved to the mainstream. I sort of have said the same thing for many, many, decades. But now, you know, the Federal Reserve is an issue. A lot of people talk about it and they understand it better than ever and people know that these wars cannot continue, that they're draining us and I think people are sick and tired of some of the abuses with TSA and other invasions of our personal lives and personal privacy, so I think the country has really been waking up to these problems that I've been talking about.
TT: What do you see that makes you believe that the prospects for a Ron Paul candidacy are different this time?
Paul: I think it's the ease in which we can raise money, the number of people that have volunteered, the responses that have been with the straw votes — which I know are very limited in meaning. All these things just show that there's a lot more enthusiasm, and we noticed this even before this campaign started, because we had the other organization just trying to build up the people who campaign for liberty. And the number of people that supported us there were very, very strong. Before, we were more or less starting from scratch, and now we have a real full-blown organization that we didn't have before.
TT: Does it change the dynamics of this thing to have another Texan in the race, if Rick Perry should decide to get in?
Paul: I don't know [that] being a Texan makes much difference. It's just another person with similar views to the other candidates. I guess we'll just dilute those votes even more.
TT: Do you guys overlap some on ideas?
Paul: Not that I know of. I don't know the details of all his beliefs. I don't think I've ever met him, and if I did, it was just a handshake, so I don't know in detail. But just reading about it, I haven't heard much that he had any interest in drug wars and changing that or changing the Federal Reserve or bringing troops home. So those are the big issues that get the attention of a lot of Americans.
TT: Are those the issues that you think are going to be the centerpiece of a presidential campaign?
Paul: Well, that, and just defending the whole purpose of our Constitution and the purpose of what America was all about, and that's defending personal liberty, allowing markets to work, allowing people to decide for themselves how they should run their lives and staying out of the affairs of other countries. That was pretty much ingrained in our system. The founders especially talked about foreign policy, staying out of entangling alliances and getting involved in the internal affairs of other nations. And we did it for a long time because people didn't care and thought we needed to. But now we're broke and we're suffering from it, when you think of all the tragedies that have been produced here in this last 10 years, both with loss of life and the injuries and the severely wounded as well as the money it's cost us.
TT: You've said that it was more important to you in some ways that your ideas thrive than that your own personal candidacies thrive. Do you feel that way about a presidential race?
Paul: Well, I've always worked with ideas and somebody will actually ask me every once in a while, you know, 'You're doing good, we love what you do, we agree with you, but if you could just modify this one position. If you would come off this and change it, we think you could pick up a vote.' No, I can't. Mentally, intellectually, psychologically, I couldn't adapt to that. So, no, I have certain beliefs and people should know what they are, and I think my district has always responded by me telling them where I stood, that I took the Constitution seriously. You know, being in Texas, I was challenged by a lot of people because I was opposed to the wars very, very early on. And of course they were orchestrated by President Bush, and I had strong disagreement, and he still was pretty popular in my district. But the people in the district respected me for taking a position, and now, also, many of them have come around to understanding exactly why I was opposed to the wars.
TT: Do you have any other interest in politics other than this presidential run? Obviously, you don't want to run for the House again. There was some conversation months ago about Ron Paul might be a potential U.S. Senate candidate, or something else. Is there anything other than the presidency that you're still interested in doing in terms of public service?
Paul: No. My main goal right now is to keep campaigning for the presidency and do my very best. I'm not thinking about another office.
TT: And you are going to serve out this whole term, or will you resign early?
Paul: No, very definitely I will serve my term. I don't think that's a proper thing to do, to leave your seat.