Q&A with Ron Paul

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of interviews with 2008 presidential candidates as we look ahead to the election.

The following interview, which appears in a condensed format, was conducted last week on a conference call with reporters from several universities across the country, including The Minnesota Daily.

Texas Representative Ron Paul is gaining momentum in the GOP presidential race. He broke the single-day online fundraising record, more recently placed second in the Nevada caucus, and has a large and growing fan base at colleges across the nation, the moderator said while introducing Ron Paul.

We wanted to start the forum by asking your reaction to (Nevada’s GOP caucus) results and to hear your plans for the next few weeks. And also, what part of your message do you think is resonating most with college students?

I believe the momentum is going to continue, especially with the young people because the receptions are always growing. I spent (Jan. 21) in Louisiana and the college students did turn out, and it’s interesting to try to figure out why there’s been such an attraction to this message and to our campaign from the young people.

I ask each and every one whenever I get a chance. But although the answers vary slightly, generally the theme is that they like the Constitution. They like principle. And they also like the concept of personal liberty – that is, it’s your life to lead as you choose and people don’t like to be told by the government everything they can do.

But also, I think it’s the frankness I have about the economic conditions that young people are inheriting. Whether it’s the Social Security System or the huge debt that we have Ö realizing that your generation will have to be working a long time to pay some of these bills.

Despite the surprising success that your campaign has had so far, there seems to still be a lot of disconnect between your campaign’s message and that of more mainstream candidates. Because there’s only so many people that you can reach on the campaign trail, what more might be needed to convince Americans to pay attention to things like inflation and the nature of how Congress should declare war, and less about the other things that the other candidates seem to focus on?

It is a challenging question because if you had unlimited funds you could certainly do a lot of advertising. If you had complete support from the mainstream media, you would get a lot more national attention.

But each thing – I mean, we are raising more money now than most grassroots candidates ever could, we’re getting a little more attention from the mainstream media, we’ve been in the debates, which has garnered a lot of attention – all I can do is continue to do what I’m doing and hopefully there’ll be a continued upsurge in the interest.

(On Jan. 21) when we had a special fundraising day, there were close to 6,000 brand new supporters that came in and donated money, so I don’t think there are many other campaigns that can declare that they can get 6,000 new people in one day.

In spite of all those positive things, I think your question is challenging because it’s not the breakthrough that you need to be winning in some of these big states. Although we’re doing better in the smaller states, it’s still a big challenge for us.

How will the fact that you don’t believe in certain scientifically supported theories, such as evolution, affect your position on other science-related topics such as global warming or stem-cell research?

I don’t take the position that there’s no evidence for evolution, I’m just saying that there’s no proof of anything; that’s why they call it a theory. And I don’t know why there can’t be a combination of a creator bringing about our creation and our life (and) at the same time, life may have come about on Earth in a slow manner.

As far as research goes, I’m a strong supporter of all kinds of research. I just don’t like it when the government gets involved. In Washington, if you’re talking about stem-cell research, there’s only two positions: You either finance it or you prohibit it. And I take the position of an individual that wants to promote the Constitution and freedom.

The market should decide this and if there’s a government rule, it should be local. But we shouldn’t either prohibit it (or) subsidize it.

In some way that’s sort of a neutral point when it comes to the subject of evolution. I mean, this is something that’s worth studying, worth maybe some personal belief – but something the government shouldn’t even be involved in.

You have talked about getting rid of the Department of Education and I know there are a lot of students who rely on things like federal Pell Grants to fund their educations. How might that reliance be transferred back to the states if there (were) no Department of Education?

When our country started, especially at the time when our country was being settled, it was always the parent and the churches that dealt with education, and then eventually there were communities and local government that did it. And even that was not too bad.

But the more it moved up the ladder, then the states took over, and the courts took over, then federal government took over, then the money left the states and went to the federal government. Then you ended up draining the states of the real resources and all they got back were regulations and less money.

So this, to me, makes no sense. It’s not proper under the Constitution. There’s no evidence it improves the quality of education by doing it this way.

So to argue my case that we don’t have a Department of Education Ö is not to argue that the local governments and the people wouldn’t have more. They would have a lot more; they wouldn’t have less by doing this. But the most important thing is the control. The money is important but it’s not the whole thing.

One of the most stark differences that’s been observed between your supporters and students who support other candidates is that no one seems to have mixed feelings about you. They’re either enamored with you or they’re adamantly opposed to your brand of politics. To what do you attribute this impassioned following, and do you think this could actually be detrimental to your campaign, that perhaps you’re almost too polarizing to be electable?

I am very, very determined, but I work hard at trying not to polarize. I deliberately make an attempt not to be provocative, but (also) not to ever give up on the principle. And some people might not understand that completely.

Once they discover the principles of liberty and what our Constitution says and what the traditions of America have been, they get really excited about this and really alarmed and say, “Why have we done this? Why have we messed up on our foreign policy and our monetary policy and fiscal policy? Why do we abuse our personal liberties?”

I preach the opposite. I preach the fact that we should quietly work at being persuasive and showing why our ideals are superior to the others.