Ron Paul Speaks to Large Crowd at CofC
As the final speaker in the College of Charleston Bully Pulpit Speaker series Ron Paul drew a large crowd Thursday ahead of the final GOP Primary debate and just days before the primary
CHARLESTON — Hundreds of people packed the Stern Student Center Garden Thursday to hear Rep. Ron Paul, one of four candidates still running for the Republican nomination for President.
In one of his last chances to reach South Carolina voters Paul continued to touch on the same themes he's been espousing throughout the campaign — doing away with the Federal Reserve Bank, pulling U.S. troops out of foreign countries, ending the War on Drugs, cutting $1 trillion from the federal budget in a single year and rolling back laws that infringe on people's liberty.
"If you take the bill that was passed shortly after 9/11, the Patriot Act, that hasn't given you any, uh, any more freedom, it's given you less freedom," Paul said. "I don't even think we need the Patriot Act to take care of the American people."
Paul finished a few percentage points behind former Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum in Iowa and came in second in New Hampshire earlier this week. His supporters have been tirelessly campaigning for the Texas Congressman even as he has spent little time in the Palmetto state, and the most recent CNN/Time/ORC International poll shows Paul now in last place since Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the race this morning.
But Paul's supporters are undaunted.
College of Charleston junior John Dougherty said he has been a Ron Paul supporter throughout the campaign and finds himself drawn to Paul's small government mantra.
"The biggest thing I love about Ron Paul is what most people hate about him, his foreign policy," Dougherty said.
The business major identifies as a Libertarian and said he doesn't see much difference between the two major parties.
"To be honest, I feel like both the Democrats and the Republicans are one big group," he said.
He said he'd like the see the country "go back in time" where fiscal, tax and monetary policy is concerned to free the country from debt and encourage economic growth, agreeing with Paul that the income tax should be abolished and a series of user fees like the Highway Use Tax fund the government as was the case prior to 1913.
Paul had a lot to say about those policies during his speech.
"Take your economic text books and look at the charts from 1971, on the size of government, on the number of employees, the inflation rate, unemployment, everything is exponential form the early 1970s," he said. "Take a look at the value of your dollar since 1971, it went down 85 percent. So in a true free market economy where we want people to have an incentive to take care of themselves, they would work hard and save, they might not be sophisticated enough or willing to gamble in the stock market or these other things, but they put their money away 40 years ago and now they're going to retire, the money they put away has been gradually eroded, the dollars they put away in 1971 would be worth 15 cents, and this is criminal."
The on-campus event gave Paul a chance to connect with young supporters who make up a large and energetic swath of his base, and the size of the crowd in attendance attests to the resonance Paul has with young people.
But not everyone in the crowd was a college student. Several families attended with children in strollers on up through elementary school age. And several attendees were senior citizens, a group that Paul has trouble winning over in large numbers.
One woman in the audience, with hair as white as the 77-year-old Paul, stood up to commend Paul's stance on ending the War on Drugs and said it would help to empty the prisons of non-violent offenders, do away with most of the crime problem associated with drug use and provide a new revenue stream for government through taxation.
On the War on Drugs Paul said:
"It's an excuse for people to come busting into houses, I'm sure you have heard the stories of the police departments and the federal government, the FBI busting into places that are suspected of having drugs," Paul said. "But guess what, they bust into the wrong houses sometimes and tear it up and walk off and leave the people in distress, some people get killed that way."
Josh Weser is a Democrat who attended Paul's speech, and though he still plans to vote for Obama, Weser said that Paul is the most appealing of the Republican candidates to him.
"If I was going to vote for a Republican, putting Stephen Colbert aside, it would be Ron Paul," Weser said. "A lot of what he says is refreshing."
However Weser doubts Paul can achieve the economic gains he talks about through the changes he wants to make in the way government operates.
"It seems like you'd still have to do it on the backs of the middle class and the poor," Weser said.
Weser also disagrees with Paul on some aspects of his foreign policy stance of bringing all American troops home, noting that U.S. ally South Korea faces a very real nuclear threat from North Korea now. He said leaving the Korean Peninsula would leave South Korea vulnerable.
However Weser said Paul's Libertarian stance on social issues like drug policy are very appealing to him and most people his age.
"A lot of people would like to paint me as pro drug or something," Paul said in response to another audience question. "I'm not, you know, it's just that I'm pro choice on people allowing to use their own lives, but I condemn some people on their choices, but I am willing to believe that a free society is the most prosperous society. That's what made America great."
"It's better you making a mistake and suffering the consequence than the politician making the mistake and everyone suffering."
The largely receptive crowd cheered all of Paul's statements, a stark contrast to the reception he received at the recent debate in Myrtle Beach where the crowd booed several of his answers, especially his invocation of the Golden Rule to guide his foreign policy. As Paul expanded on that notion Thursday there was nothing but cheers.
Paul said he would remove sanctions on countries like Iran because he said sanctions that don't allow Iran to import of export are an act of war that does nothing to hurt the government in power and only hurts the people of that country.
"You should offer friendship and trade, and you say well some of these people are bad people," Paul said. "Yeah, like didn't we talk to the Soviets when they were killing hundreds of millions of people, as well as China, but eventually we got over this, so we should talk to people."
He referred to the Cuban Missle Crisis in the 1960s when the Kennedy Administration worked with Nikita Khrushchev in the USSR to remove missles from both Cuba and Turkey, thereby averting all out nuclear war.
"This does not mean you have to condone what they do, and they are a threat and they have nuclear weapons, I don't want anybody to have any more nuclear weapons, I don't want the Iranians to have nuclear weapons, but we contained the Soviets, they had 30,000 of them," Paul said. "So the last thing we need is a war in Iran over a weapon they don't have."