President Barack Obama: “For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and as an advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenges, but when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That’s what’s happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks.”
Tavis: President Obama, of course, Monday night, addressing the nation on U.S. military action in Libya. For more tonight, I’m joined by Congressman Ron Paul. The Texas Republican is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He joins us tonight from the Capitol. Congressman, good to have you back on this program. Thanks for your time, sir.
Ron Paul: Thank you.
Tavis: The president said we had to act in Libya. Is he right?
Paul: I think he’s wrong. I mean, what are our interests and what are our values? Our value is defending the Constitution. Our interests are not served by starting wars. This is a preventive war. This is going in and saying, well, we’re gonna prevent something from happening as if he knows exactly what would happen. And even if we did know actually, where does the authority come from?
You know, I’ve objected to these other wars that we have been pursuing, but this one might be a little worse because there wasn’t even an attempt to come and inform the Congress and say this is what we’re going to do. I think we’re taking one more step further with the Congress giving up its responsibilities and prerogatives and giving them over to the Executive Branch and I don’t like the trend.
Tavis: Didn’t Obama then – I hear your point, but didn’t Obama really just take a page out of Bush’s playbook and didn’t Bush take a page out of Reagan’s playbook? This ain’t the first time a president has done this.
Paul: Yeah. I think it’s on and on. You know, both Bush, Sr. and Jr. did go to the Congress, even though I wasn’t satisfied with that and voted against it not only because I thought was unwise, but I thought if you go to war, you’re supposed to declare war and, you know, have a precise goal and a precise victory. So, yes, it’s a continuation of it, but this time, some people would argue that it’s slightly worse because he hasn’t even made an attempt to get some type of token approval.
And, of course, I’m no fan of the United Nations. I don’t think we should give up our responsibilities and our sovereignty to an international body to tell us when we should send young people off to war. Then on top of all this, some people actually bring up the subject of the cost of these things. It’s very, very costly and the whole thing is, we don’t have room to spend hundreds of billions of dollars overseas as we have been while denying so many needs here at home.
Tavis: Obviously, you opposed the president on going into Libya, but since we’ve been there for these nine or ten days now, has anything been accomplished to your liking at all?
Paul: No, I can’t think of anything. You know, the more I see, the worse it seems to be. It’s likely that there’s Al Qaeda in the group who are rebelling. Once again, you know, we’re all over the place. We were buddies with and allies with Osama bin Laden when we were fighting in Afghanistan in the 80s, so we may well be serving the interest of the Al Qaeda.
Actually, the State Department hasn’t denied this and they say, well, sometimes you have to, you know, make these type of partnerships when you’re fighting an enemy. But who’s gonna make this choice on who’s the worst person in the world? No, I think it’s a bad move. I think it’s bad for our national security and bad for our finances and bad for our Constitution.
Tavis: Somebody said years ago that the first casualty in war is the truth. The very first casualty is the truth. I raise that because I was watching my friend Brian Williams last night on NBC News. Brian had an exclusive conversation with the president last night. He sits with the president for about ten minutes last minutes last night for this conversation. The president suggests in that interview, as he did in his speech, that we’ve got Muammar Qaddafi on his heels. So the president says we’ve got him on his heels.
After Brian finishes the interview, he goes to their foreign correspondent, Richard Engel. Engel is on the ground in Libya and these guys are running faster than Jackie Joyner Kersee trying to get away from Qaddafi. The president says he’s on his heels, but the story on the ground is these rebels are on the run. That’s the story again in the news today, so who do you believe about these stories?
Paul: I don’t generally believe the government. That’s a lot of wishful thinking. I don’t know whether it’s outright lying, but it’s wishful thinking and deception. But it is true that our governments, the previous administrations, did it as well and it’s been going on for many, many years. You go all the way back to Vietnam, you know. Lies were told to get us involved in these wars.
The American people should be much more reluctant. The Congress members ought to be more reluctant to accept this at face value that, you know, it’s the end of the world if we don’t go in. You know, Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons and Al Qaeda was in there and all this fear-mongering and he was about to attack us. It was not true. We should be much more cautious about going to war. I mean, you’d think we’d learn our lesson.
Tavis: Now with all due respect to the president, I can imagine that Republicans, particularly if you got folk like John McCain and others who are now calling for the president to help arm these rebels – I’ll come back to this in just a second.
The point here is that, if the president did not do anything in Libya when our values that we so cherish here are being stomped on in Libya, if he didn’t do anything, wouldn’t Republicans be saying the president sat on his hands and didn’t go to defend people when they were being annihilated by their government?
Paul: Well, yeah, I’m afraid you’re right and there’s still a bunch of them doing that. Why didn’t you do more sooner? But we ought to question our values. Our values should be, you know, going to war in a proper manner for a moral reason under the Constitution.
So I don’t know how you spread our values and for moral reasons to go and violate all the principles that were imbedded in our American system. So, yes, you’re absolutely right. There are a bunch. I think we’re gonna have more Republicans with us now in opposition to this. One, because things are getting out of hand, but also for partisan reasons.
You know, this was happening in Bosnia. A lot of Republicans opposed Clinton when he was going into Bosnia, but immediately when Bush did it, they were all for it. So I respect the people who are consistent. We have a group, both Republicans and Democrats, more Democrats than Republicans, who take a principle stand. Progressive Democrats and some of the libertarian conservative Republicans are opposed to this type of foreign policy on principles.
Tavis: I hear your point now. Obviously, you’re Republican and you’ve been very courageous on this war question for a while now, condemning these kinds of invasions, these kinds of wars. But since you mentioned progressive Democrats, there are a number of stories out all over the place now, and I for one am concerned about this myself, that the progressives have not been as vocal about this as they were about Bush going into Iraq. So is the progressive left hypocritical on this issue now?
Paul: Well, there are some that I was shocked they weren’t with us, you know. They had been so strong allies when we were opposing the Iraq War and then they just faded. But it sorts people out in finding out who the people are of principle. You know, the Dennis Kucinich group, I mean, they’re still anti-war and very consistent anti-war. But then there are others that actually I was pretty disappointed. I just assumed they would be with us and they have not been.
Tavis: I know you got to run to a vote. Let me get three quick questions out right quick.
Tavis: Number one, is there going to be a government shutdown over this budget debate?
Paul: Well, I have been predicting that there won’t be, but I’m not betting any money on it because it’s a pretty messy business. But I don’t think it’s in anybody’s political interest to allow that to happen. Then it would just become a blame game. So my guess is that something will come of it, but I guess we have to wait and see.
I’m not on the inside of those decisions. All I know is I’ve opposed spending because I’ve feared big spending and deficits for a long, long time and argued the case that we would get into a financial crisis if we didn’t get our house in order. I only can speak for myself, but I will not support any spending bills that continues this process.
Tavis: And my final two questions. Number one, are you going to run for the White House again and, if your answer is I don’t know yet, can you tell me what your process is going to be for making that decision?
Paul: Well, I really don’t know yet and I’m being very honest about it because it’s a tough decision and you know what it takes to be on the road and the various things that it entails. But one of the things I have said in public and one of my intense interests has been the destruction of our economy and the breakdown.
People say, well, it’s tough cutting back, you know, and balance the budget because people who are getting cut are furious and we’re already seeing our demonstrations. But if you destroy the value of the money, everybody gets cut back, so the checks really bounce. The social security recipients have no purchasing power. So if there’s clear evidence that that is a big issue and I have something to offer and the people are ready to listen to that, I may well do it.
Tavis: And finally, your son who is now a senator, of course, from Kentucky, has said that he’s considering it – or suggested he’s considering it – only if his father, Ron Paul, does not run. Can you tell me anything about that?
Paul: Not too much because I really haven’t talked to him about that. I think he’s been prodded with some questions that he came up with his answers, but, no, we haven’t quite gotten to that stage of even talking about it.
Tavis: Congressman Paul, thank you as always for coming on. I know you’re rushing to a vote. I appreciate your time tonight.
Paul: Okay. Thank you, Tavis.
Tavis: Take care.
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