Rep. Paul Launches 2012 Bid, Hopes Third Time’s the Charm

Rep. Ron Paul; photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is making another run for the White House. Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Rep. Ron Paul made it official Friday, becoming the second full-fledged presidential candidate in the GOP’s 2012 field, coming on the heels of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s move Wednesday.

“Today, at this moment, I am officially announcing that I am a candidate for president in the Republican primary,” the 12-term Texas congressman told ABC’s George Stephanopolous.

Rep. Paul, who has been described as the godfather of the Tea Party movement, has sought the presidency twice before. He ran as the Libertarian Party’s nominee in 1988 and campaigned for the GOP nomination in 2008.

“Time has come around to the point where the people are agreeing with much of what I’ve been saying for 30 years,” said Rep. Paul, a strong critic of U.S. monetary and foreign policy. “I think the time is right.”

“I believe right now…coming in No. 1 in the Republican primary is an absolute possibility — many, many times better than it was four years ago,” he said. “Our troops, our supporters — the grassroots — are enthusiastic.”

Stephanopolous asked Rep. Paul why he chose to run as a Republican, given his differences with the party on many issues, such as the legalization of drugs and military policy.

“If I was an independent George, you would not have me on this program this morning,” the 75-year-old congressman responded.

Rep. Paul said the country’s political system was to blame.

“We don’t have true democracy in this country. We lose lives going overseas spreading our goodness and our great democracy and we orchestrate elections and if we don’t like them we avoid them,” he argued.

Never one to shy away from controversy, Rep. Paul was asked by Stephanopolous to explain his recent criticism of the operation that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden.

“The process has been very bad,” Rep. Paul said. “I have no qualms about getting him. I’m delighted he’s gone. But the whole thing is we could have done it differently.”

“If you compare what we did after World War II, think of the worst Nazis that committed the Holocaust. We arrested them, we tried them and we hung them,” he added. “I don’t know why we have to embark on a whole new system just because the people get riled up — the politicians can rile the people up — and after the dust settles they might say, well you know, it could have been [done] a better way.”

Rep. Paul appeared on ABC from Manchester, N.H., where he’s on a two-day campaign swing through the Granite State.

He’ll attend a rally and town hall in Exeter at 10 a.m. EDT Friday. In the evening, he’ll address the Grafton County Republican Memorial Dinner in Lebanon.

For more on Rep. Paul and the rest of the GOP 2012 contenders be sure to check out the NewsHour’s politics page.

MCCONNELL’S OPTIMISM

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made clear Thursday that Medicare and Medicaid reforms (specifically concerning eligibility for those programs) would be required before he would support any deal that raised the debt limit.

He has also joined House Speaker John Boehner’s call for trillions in spending cuts before any increase in the amount of money the United States is legally allowed to borrow. The country is set to hit the debt limit on Monday, but Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has worked out some accounting maneuvers to push the deadline for legislative action to Aug. 2.

Despite those demands, which may not match up precisely with what President Obama and the Democrats have in mind, Sen. McConnell told Jim Lehrer on the NewsHour Thursday night that he’s optimistic a bipartisan deal can be reached.

“[It] is going to require a significant enough spending reduction to impress the markets, so that they have confidence that the American government is going to get its house in order, impress foreign countries that the United States is not going to go into financial decline,” Sen. McConnell said.

“And, as I said, I think it would also astonish the American people if we could do something of this magnitude together.”

Apart from President Obama’s meeting with Senate Republicans on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden chaired his third meeting of the bipartisan congressional negotiators charged with hammering out any deal.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Biden emerged from that meeting with a tentative agreement on some portions of a possible deal. (How’s that for Washington, D.C., style clarity?)

“What we’ve agreed to is tentative,” Vice President Biden said. “I’m convinced we can get to a significant down-payment to the $4 trillion we all agree has to be cut in the escalation of the debt over the next 10 years,” he added.

GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

He may no longer be a senator, but that didn’t stop the Senate Ethics Committee from releasing its report following an exhaustive investigation into John Ensign’s actions surrounding his extra-marital affair with a former campaign aide who is also the wife of his chief of staff. The committee has asked federal agencies to look into the Nevada Republican’s potential illegal activity based on the “substantial and credible evidence” it compiled.

From the New York Times:

“Mr. Ensign’s actions were so brazen and improper that had he not resigned last week he might have been the first senator expelled in nearly 150 years, said Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who is the Ethics Committee chairwoman.”

The Washington Post details the allegations:

“The most prominent accusation was that Ensign broke federal ‘cooling-off’ laws when he helped Douglas Hampton, who had worked as an aide to the senator, gain lobbying employment and clients. Ensign dismissed both Hamptons after the affair became public.

“The Justice Department’s public integrity unit indicted Douglas Hampton in March on charges that he broke a one-year ban on lobbying his former Senate boss.

“The committee also alleges that Ensign engaged in ‘potential obstruction of justice’ in the case, saying he had deleted e-mails after the panel began its investigation.

“The report also alleges that $96,000 that Ensign’s parents gave to the Hampton family, which had been portrayed as a gift, amounted to severance money and violated federal campaign finance laws. The committee’s counsel, Carol Elder Bruce, alleged that Ensign provided false statements to the Federal Election Commission as it reviewed a complaint about the matter.”

You can read the entire 75-page report, full of juicy details, here: LINK

“Senator Ensign has admitted and apologized for his conduct and imposed on himself the highest sanction of resignation,” Ensign’s attorneys, Abbe Lowell and Robert Walker, said in a statement. “But this is not the same as agreeing that he did or intended to violate any laws or rules.”

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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