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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Meet the Press: Russert 1, Paul 0

I started out this campaign season with a very simple premise: All politicians are self-serving, self aggrandizing, hold your nose when you vote for them, sellouts....except Hillary Clinton. She was the political Devil incarnate. So my goal was to support ANYONE who could beat Hillary Clinton in the general election. Better the Devil we know than the Devil herself.

Initially I was very critical of Ron Paul, seeing him as a spoiler with no chance of winning the Republican nomination, let alone the White House. But as I researched him and the other so-called candidates more, I found myself starting to like Dr. Paul. I didn't agree with all his policies and I doubted he would ever be gain enough congressional support to do away with the IRS. But he did have some real good ideas and a base philosophy I could understand and agree with. I found myself becoming a Ron Paul supporter and had planned to write an article this morning on the phenomenon that is Ron Paul and the dire condition the country is in which makes him not only viable, but electable.

Like most Ron Paul supporters, I lamented the mainstream presses attempts to ignore him. The internet is great, but Ron needs to be seen and heard on mainstream media sources if he's going to attract the number of voters he's going to need to win. This morning, I got my wish and it was a disaster.

I overslept so I hit DIGG knowing a video of his appearance would show up somewhere. And sure enough it did. The poster talked about Dr. Paul's "beautifully thought-out answers" and I could hardly wait to hit the play button. What started out as a DIGG comment to the poster has turned into this article.

Now no one hits a home run every time at bat. Dr. Paul is human and he's going to have good interviews and not so good interviews. That's the way it goes. And those of us that support Dr. Paul need to be honest enough with ourselves to acknowledge that. But how the poster of the video could call Meet the Press a win for Dr. Paul is absolutely beyond me. And all the Paul supporters who will slam me for heresy once this is posted need a reality check as well.

I actually was embarrassed for Ron Paul versus Tim Russert in this interview. Dr. Paul spoke in broad terms which may be appropriate for campaign speeches but showed a shocking lack of knowledge concerning numbers key to his primary positions.

For example, Dr Paul often uses the line of how we have X number of military bases in Y number of countries as he explains how much money we'll save when he brings them all home.But when Russert asked him how many total troops we had overseas, Paul had no idea. He couldn't even venture a guess. Russert had to tell him. Personally, I would have been OK if Dr. Paul could have given a real close estimate but he had absolutely no idea! How can that be when the savings he talks about directly corresponds to the size of the force we have overseas?

There were a couple of other times when he had no idea on numbers as well. I don't want another Hillary-style policy wonk in the White House, but the questions he couldn't answer were directly related to his position of reducing the government by one half. Did he just make up the "reduce by one half" number? Did he or his staff actually compute how much Dr. Paul's policies, if enacted, would save?

Dr Paul's answer to the probing by Russert on earmarks for his congressional district was also weak, made little sense, and WAS akin to, as Russert put it, "I voted for it before I voted against it". Dr. Paul's response was nonsensical: there's no other way to put it.

Having pictures of himself with Ronald Reagan in his campaign literature on the screen while Russert detailed how Paul came to distance himself from Reagan: one quote said Dr. Paul called Reagan a traitor (which Paul denied) is at best hypocritical. Paul's answer to the charges was, again, weak. He was starting to look like a............ politician.

Russert showed a video of Dr. Paul's response to a Huckabee campaign commercial which positioned the camera in such a way as to make the bookcase behind Huckabee look like a cross. Dr. Paul in the video had a very strident retort; using words like fascism.

Yet when pressed by Russert, Paul admitted he had never seen the commercial, was caught off-guard, and tried to defend his remarks by saying he never accused Romney by name of being a fascist. Ronald Reagan....even Barack Obama, would have just told the interviewer "I've never seen the commercial so I'm not prepared to comment on it." Now the smell of a ...........politician.

Russert pounded him on other statements from the past, especially those made during Paul's 1988 run for the Presidency. Paul's responses were weak, if not at times incoherent.

When Russert hit him with " you broke with Ronald Reagan, you called Bush 41 "a bum" (picture of article with quote on screen), you admit to not voting for Bush 43 in either election, you mailed your resignation to the Republican Party and your membership card back to the RNC (picture of letter and card on screen), and you ran as a Libertarian. So how can you call yourself a Republican and run for the Republican nomination", Paul's response was that he was running as a "Taft Republican". Anyone remember President Taft? Of course not...he didn't do anything.

And it left Dr. Paul wide open for Russert's question "So you think we never should have fought the Civil War to end Slavery?" Paul's reply that Lincoln was wrong, the 600,000 Americans died (at least he had the number for that one) and we should have just bought all the slaves from the South and given them their if the Civil War was only about slavery and if we hadn't had slavery, there would have been no Civil War. And then Paul followed up with a "some of my best supporters are black" type of statement which just made me cringe. By this time, Dr. Paul was looking a lot more Libertarian than Republican, Taft or not. But the best (worse) was to come.

This I must have missed in my research of Dr. Paul and might help explain all the college-age support: Legalize all drugs? Philosophically, I see where he's coming from but philosophy doesn't often work in the real world. I freely admit that in my youth, I experimented with drugs. I know first hand what it's like to be high and drive. How I survived my youth is only through the grace of God, but Dr. Paul wants to legalize all drugs "for adults"? And not because he believes in drug use or freedom, but because the Constitution doesn't allow for it? He went on to quote (without any numbers, unfortunately) how alcohol causes so many deaths and tragedies in this country, but he was OK with Prohibition because at least we amended the Constitution.

Like Dr. Paul, I do not believe that the Constitution is a living document, subject to the whims of the times. But I also don't believe that it's a strait-jacket binding us to the 18th century.

Congress does have the right to enact laws, and so long as they don't conflict with the Constitution and are signed by the President, to enforce them. To keep falling back on the refrain "those powers not specifically granted shall remain the rights of the people" is naive and impractical....and not in keeping with the Founder's intent..not down to that micro a level.

I agree we must constantly be on-guard against fascism. As Ben Franklin said, "those who would trade liberty for security shall enjoy neither". I think Dr. Paul made some great points about the Patriot Act and if you don't support the war, you don't support the troops rhetoric.

But when he started talking about the evil Military-Industrial Complex controlling Government, I thought I was watching a colorized version of a 1950's interview.

I've seen Ron Paul in other venues and in other interviews and I think by far this was his worst showing. He came off as uninformed and sometimes befuddled......and not as a serious Republican candidate, but as a half-baked Libertarian. Obama would eat his lunch in a one-on-one debate, let alone Hillary.

I for one, was very disappointed in Dr. Paul and while I'll still vote for him, it's now motivated more by the "lesser of evils" concept than the "he's the best man". We do need to turn inward as a nation and stop policing the rest of the world and Dr. Paul is the only one I would trust on that account.

And before I start getting slammed by the other Ron Paul supporters, remember that only one perfect man ever walked this earth. That was Jesus Christ. So lets admit our guy took one to the chin, hopes he learns from it, and move on. But lets not live in denial. There is no way any serious Ron Paul supporter can call this Meet the Press interview a "win".

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Anonymous said...

I actually liked the interview. I didn't like the one with Glenn Beck, because Dr. Paul looked very tired. But today he seemed fresh and did a great job with what he was offered. I actually think Russert was very aggressive and he was trying to corner Paul, but Paul did a great job and I think impressed a lot of viewers. It's very hard to give detailed responses in these interview formats. It's true that he had about 30 minutes, but Russert covered a lot of ground in those 30 minutes. So Ron Paul had only about a minute or two to address each question. Notice how when they would engage in a discussion, Ron Paul would shine and do his best. In all, I really liked the interview and I'm very pleased that Dr. Paul got the opportunity.

Dustin said...

His remarks on earmarks was hard to watch. He knows that the spending bills will pass, so putting earmarks in the bills is endorsing it. Supporting term limits and then being in Congress for 18 years?

I've always thought Ron Paul was a little out there, but I at least thought he was principled. This sort of destroys that in my opinion.

Mr. UnloadingZone said...

To anonymous: You and I must have watched two different interviews. Dr. Paul was terrible when off message. The only time Paul would "shine" was when he got to repeat his campaign slogans. Re-read my article, read Dustin's comment below yours, and watch the interview again on You Tube. Don't smoke any weed this time, either. I think you'll change your opinion...not of Dr. Paul, but of how he did in the interview.
I'm still voting for him, but he certainly did not win any new converts on Meet the Press.

Nick said...

You know, I must say I initially agreed with you. I was a bit confused upon watching the interview. The Earmark debacle especially. But I think you are being a bit too rough because maybe you haven't read up enough on him. It might not be the case, but it looks like it.

I don't want to sound like I am blatantly defending Paul. I support him, but I don't always agree with him and I'm not fanatical or anything. I just feel some further explaining would help you understand what was being discussed. First of all, Drugs. Ron Paul wants the STATES to determine the legality of 'drugs', not the federal government, because it is just out of their jurisdiction. He believes that a more local government should handle tougher, more local impacting issues. He's not about making drugs legal, making it completely independent; only getting it out of federal hands.

Two, the commercial. It was Huckabee, not Romney. Not really a big deal, but it does make you seem a little silly. Three, the Civil War. Paul clearly states in the interview that the war was caused not because of slavery, but because Lincoln needed to assert the strength of the federal government. He THEN went on to talk about why it wasn't about slavery, because it could have been done a ton better in many other ways, much less than losing over half a million American lives and a 100 years of social progress. I don't entirely agree with his view, but he makes at least a thought provoking point.

Four, your Military Industrial complex comment. More generally, and he did go on to mention it, he was railing on the abuse by powerful special interests that use their influence to get Congress to spread their agenda. To some random apathetic person, this may seem like some vast conspiracy theory or something. But the more I learn at college about history and even just read in the news, the more I understand that lobbyists DO have an amoral amount of influence on our governing body. To deny this is simply to plead ignorant bliss. Just do a little research, you'll get what he is talking about.

Finally, the earmarks. I had heard about this before, but I wasn't entirely sure what earmarks were. I thought they were pork-barreling, and was confused why he would 'slip them in' appropriation bills. So I was really confused when Paul was laughing and joking around when Russert seemed so convinced that he had caught Paul in a bind. After the interview I went and looked up what Paul was talking about. What he does is, there is an appropriation bill in Congress. There are funds in it JUST SITTING THERE, and congressman and women are allowed to put earmarks in it. He doesn't reduce spending by not putting in projects that his constituents would not like to have some help with. He only plays off the system and gives money back to the people, to the economy, whatever. But the point he makes is, yes, he is against pork barreling. And yes, he is opposed to the wastful spending federal money on personal projects. But if he can't do anything about it, it is better to give the money back to the people, then give it to the Executive branch to spend on secret CIA coups and to spend on the war. He is playing off the system, while not supporting it. The only thing he is doing by not representing his area with requested earmarks, is not putting any of the money his district has paid in taxes back to them. He is not causing more money to be spent, the funds are already set to be spent. That's why his comment on social security makes sense. Just because he is against it, does not mean he won't take his share of it- after all, he's been putting money into it for a majority of his life. He deserves some back, right?

To someone who doesn't immediately know about this, it sounded hypocritical and awkward. But if there is one thing I've learned, it is that anything that sounds crazy from Paul has a real good rational and philosophical grounding behind it. I feel bad though, because Russert should have known what he was talking about. Hence, why Paul goes on laughing and says something to the amount of, "Oh whatever! You are just confused. You don't understand what we're talking about." The whole interview from thereon out after I had figured that out boiled down into silly nonsense where Russert just seemed to be scratching around for a 'Gotcha!' that never actually happened. His comment on the Constitution, and the smackdown it got from Paul? Priceless.

I wouldn't quite dismiss Paul as our best choice yet, as you ended up concluding. Just keep in mind that you pretty much always have to dig a bit deeper to understand Paul's stances. I did. =/

As for an objective take on the interview itself, I don't think Paul will ever come across excellent during public appearances. He lacks charisma, until he gets comfortable and begins laughing, but that usually happens when someone misunderstands and misconstrues him, as happens frequent in these interviews. And by then, the interviewer has begun to show that they either don't understand or will not understand what he is talking about, and the audience gets confused or put off. This interview was neither a help nor a hindrance. The interviewer's either bias or random-arse blasting at Paul tried to paint him in a negative light, but Paul managed to at the very least dodge most of those silly polka dotted rays with stumbling coherency.

Mr. UnloadingZone said...

TO NICK: Thanks for the correction on Huckabee. I don't know what I was thinking....I think the other Republican candidates are starting to blur together :-).

The earmark thing is interesting and disgusting at the same time. Not that Paul uses them; that these bills are written with extra money just thrown in that anyone can latch onto. Why have the money there in the first place? And I think if Paul had done as good a job explaining it as you did instead of laughing it off, he would have come across better on that question.

I know what you're saying about drugs, but I disagree with Dr. Paul on that issue. If New Jersey legalized crack and New York didn't, and someone brought crack from NJ to NY with the intent to sell, the FBI could not be involved while at the same time under the Interstate Commerce Act, they have the right to be. Shrinking federal government is great, but if it puts too much burden on the states or is unworkable, some parts of shrinking the federal government have to be taken into consideration. We are a republic, not 50 individual states with a hired army. There are some areas where you want consistency across all 50 states. Not many, but some.

As to special interests, they've always existed: the average person just didn't know about them. Over the last 10-20 years, they've been getting more and more publicity. Go back a 75, 100, 150 years, and you would have the special interest groups walking into the White House or Congress literally carrying bags of money to distribute. Only of late as the media eye focused on this and the practice has fallen out of favor...meaning they do it in secret now. I don't dispute the power of special interests; it was the term "military industrial complex" that threw me. I haven't heard that one used in years.

Thanks for commenting and thanks for visiting! Come back any time.

Jana said...

On the surface Dr. Paul may have appeared flustered, who wouldn't be with interviewer that is blatantly trying to back you in a corner. If there is any confusion on Dr. Paul's philosophy please watch these excellent videos:

Ron Paul at his best:

Thank You for your time...

Mr. UnloadingZone said...

TO JANA: The problem is that "mainstream" forums like Meet the Press is where Dr.Paul is going to get to connect with the general American voting public. He HAS to perform well there to get enough votes to win. The general (especially middle aged and up)voters use the internet for email and work. The don't visit YouTube or even my blog and the thousands of blogs and websites supporting Ron Paul. He needs to not only be an internet star, he needs to shine on TV. Russert is tough, but Hillary will even be tougher in a debate. This was a great opportunity for him to make positive inroads into mainstream America and he struck out. I'm as disappointed as you are.

FuckRonPaul said...

You forgot to mention Ron Paul's statement that Iran has no army, no navy, and no air force.

Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

Of course, Ronbots will argue about the meaning of "has" the same way Romney supporters argue over the meaning of "saw."

Nick said...

Now I agree completely that the interview was completely disappointing. The earmark part was painful to watch, but Russert was clearly skewed in his understanding of the issue. If only Paul could sound more coherent! If he could just become more coherent, I think he would win a lot more voters over.

Back to my argument:
If this is a State law, and not a Federal law, why would the FBI be there in the first place? The problem with inconsistent arguments such as 'Well, SOME things should get exceptions and go beyond the limited powers of the government' is that people you don't agree with occasionally get the power to decide which 'things' are acceptable. I'm pretty sure the intercommerce clause was intended to mean specifically things that inhibit directly, not indirectly. Such as, state currencies, tariffs to cross state lines, etc., not your right to not serve whomever you choose, your right to ban substances in your state within the limits of the State constitutions, etc..

Special Interests-
You are right, powerful special interests have been in the government for as long as everyone can remember. Who can forget those awesome political cartoons about the big fat trusts in the latter 19th century? But, if I'm not mistaken, the whole reason they were in Congress in the first place was because the Government was doling out contracts to the Railroad companies, for instance, and voting on similarly pro-big business measures. Some view it as a time of hyper-capitalism, but it was pretty obvious that the Government was helping make it a time of Big Business if you look at some of their policies, ala breaking strikes, siding with oppressive companies.

From what I understand from Paul's "philosophical" position(huge difference from "practical" position, people mistake the two for each other a lot), and there is no denying it is pretty radical, is that the only way to get business out of bed with Government, is to deregulate the hell outta it. And by deregulate, I mean no regulations whatsoever. Aside from pollution equaling property rights and shtuff. It makes sense theoretically, and really the only counter argument I've heard is another theoretical notion that the corporations would grow more powerful than the State itself. But I'm pretty sure that would never happen. With the amount of things that a Constitutionally sized government would NOT be doing, I think it could focus a lot more on defensive military and....whatever the heck else it is supposed to do. Hah. Oh yeah. And make sure those states don't have obtuse currencies. :P

Anonymous said...

The comment about "how many troops we have world wide",is actually classified.

Mr. UnloadingZone said...

TO NICK: My choice of drugs was a tenuous one in arguing for the FBI. A better one would be on taxes: When Russert asked Paul where the Federal Govt. was going to get the money to function with no income tax, Paul responded (sadly, somewhat incoherently) with user fee's, excise taxes and the like. You would need something like the FBI and/or the IRS (I can't believe I'm defending them) if someone was transporting goods from State X to State Y and not paying excise taxes, for example.

I think the best point you made was when you said "From what I understand from Paul's "philosophical" position(huge difference from "practical" position, people mistake the two for each other a lot)..... Paul can't afford to treat his campaign as a Master's class in Constitutional law. He needs to concentrate on the PRACTICAL aspects of his platform and sell that to the general public. The other will only confuse them and others like Russert to trip him up in the future.

Mr. UnloadingZone said...

The EXACT amount of troops we have worldwide and the deployed locations of specific units may be classified, but using round numbers like "half a million" certainly isn't. And it's common knowledge on TV News how many troops we have in Afganistan and Iraq....and the figures coming from open, unclassified hearings in Congress, among other sources.

The CIA's budget was once classified. Now we know it's "somewhere around" $43 Billion. It's probably more but there is a public $$ figure that is not classified.

Interesting point, though. During the Cold War, a LOT of things public today would have been classified. I suppose that's good unless it helps our enemies.

Kevin said...

Mr. UnloadingZone.

I have to agree with you. I like Ron Paul´s slogans but I did not want to hear them again in meet the press. I expected some meat.

Dr. Paul needed to have some hard facts down. How many troops, how much money does the income tax bring in. How is he going to remove the IRS etc.

The worst part for me is that if you look at the facts what Dr.Paul is saying makes sense. Anybody who first listened to Ron Paul on Meet the Press is not going to believe it, and it is Dr.Pauls fault not Russert´s.

Here are some of the facts that I was expecting Dr.Paul to show viewers:

The US budget in 2008 is 2.9 Trillion dollars.
The US budget in 2000 was 1.8 Trillion dollars.
The difference between budget in 08 and budget in 2000 is roughly equivalent to the more than 1Trillion income tax.

If all Dr. Paul does is submit the same budget that we had eight years ago (realistic if we cut out the cost of the war + bring troops home + other cuts) we could cut the income tax. He NEEDED to say this.

The same applies to most of his interview, no specifics just general notions.

Dr.Paul's answers on Mr.Reagan, Mr.Huckabee, and especially Mr.Lincoln where downright shamefull. I am personally embarrased to watch this part of the interview.

Tarheel said...

I was also a little disappointed in Ron Paul's performance, and fear that the average American did not come away favorably impressed. On the other hand, it caused me to like him even more.
Tim Russert is a media hit man and he did what he always does to all the candidates. Most of the questions are attempts to create a "gotcha" sound bite in the next week's headlines and thereby raise the ratings of "Meet the Press."
With Ron Paul, what you see is what you get. He is not a slick, pre-programmed, power hungry professional liar who only takes a position based on the current polls and what state he's in at the moment. He's pretty much a regular guy who has a program to save America and seldom gets an opportunity to tell a national audience about it.
So he's facing this attack dog who is asking him "hard" questions, about 50% of which are totally irrelevant and another 25% are demands for details that I'm confident George Bush couldn't answer correctly either!
I understand what many are saying, but the media have created this unreasonable expectation of detail oriented, policy wonk candidates and, frankly, I don't think the voters give a damn. You don't need to know how many American troops are stationed overseas to know that it's way too many!
Of course he fell back to stating the basic principles of his campaign because most Americans haven't heard them yet and he only had two minutes.
I agree with anonymous, and with nick's first post, that all of Mr. Paul's answers where on target, but not all of them could be adequately developed --- so that an uniformed audience could really understand --- in the allotted time.
Unfortunately, the millions whose idea of a president is based pretty much on the character played by Martin Sheen in "The West Wing" just won't get it, but I doubt they would vote for Ron Paul under any circumstances anyway.

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