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Ron Paul draws stark contrasts with GOP peers

January 11, 2008 |  3:18 am

It was billed as a Republican presidential debate. And this time Fox News allowed Ron Paul to participate.

And, as if it was scripted, the 72-year-old, 10-term congressman from Texas provided some of the sparks and the starker contrasts to his more orthodox Republican buddies. "I don't think we're fiscal conservatives anymore," he said at one point. "Look at what we've done over these last 10 years. We finally got control of the government and we became big-government people. Our deficit's out of control and we no longer are opposed to new entitlements.

"We're entitlement people. And then we turn around and we talk about liberty. And we've undermined the 4th Amendment and personal liberty and personal privacy.

"In the year 2000, we won the election by condemning the Democrats for nation-building and ....

policing the world. And now, what are we doing? We're policing the world. We're involved in all these countries around the world and threatening going into Iran and in Pakistan and on and on.... So no wonder our coalition is breaking up. We actually have lost our way."

Paul urged U.S. disengagement from the Israeli-Palestinian situation. "It would be much better to have a balance by being out of there. And I think it would be a greater incentive for Israel and the Palestinians and all the Arab nations to come together and talk because I think we get in the way too often. And besides, it's costing us a lot of money and it's costing us lives now.... We're out of money. We can't do it any longer."

At another point Paul asked, "Why do we arm the Arab nations and they're the enemies of Israel? But we continue to do that."

Fox's Carl Cameron noted Paul's numerous differences with Republicans and asked, can you "actually win the Republican nomination, sir?"

"Well," Paul replied, "we've only had two little primaries so far. So it's pretty premature to decide which one is going to be the candidate.... Are you suggesting the Republicans write me off because I'm a strict constitutionalist? I'm the most conservative member here. I have voted, you know, against more spending and waste in government than anybody else. (Applause)

"So you're suggesting that I'm not electable and the Republicans don't want me because I'm a strict fiscal conservative, because I believe in civil liberties? Why should we not be defending civil liberties and why should we not be talking about foreign policy that used to be the part of the Republican Party?

"Mr. Republican Robert Taft didn't even want us to be in NATO, and you're saying now that we have to continue to borrow money from China to finance this empire that we can't afford? Let me see if I get this right. We need to borrow $10 billion from China and then we give it to Musharraf, who is a military dictator, who overthrew an elected government. And then we go to war, we lose all these lives promoting democracy in Iraq. I mean, what's going on here?"

At one point it did seem Paul lost his way. Asked about the recent naval incident in the Gulf of Hormuz, where Iranian speedboats menacingly circled American warships, Paul said:

"I would certainly urge a lot more caution than I'm hearing here tonight. It reminds me of what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin. We went to war there, then, later on, found out there was a lot of false information.... We have five small speedboats attacking the U.S. Navy with a destroyer? They could take care of those speedboats in about five seconds. And here we're ready to start World War III over this?"

A puzzled Brit Hume noted that, in fact, the other candidates had also applauded the destroyer captain's cautious response. "I just wonder what you're reacting to?" the moderator asked the congressman.

"Well," replied Paul, "I didn't hear that."

For a complete debate transcript, click here.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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