Ron Paul speaks at O'Connell Center
Published: Monday, April 15, 2013 at 10:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 15, 2013 at 10:44 p.m.
Ron Paul brought his revolution to the Gator Nation Monday night, delivering a well-burnished message of expanding individual liberty and restricting government intrusion to about 3,000 fans at the O'Connell Center.
Paul, 77, a 12-term congressman from Texas and a veteran of three presidential campaigns, plied his craft like the political pro he is, hitting familiar themes and delivering a string of folksy, populist slogans. The event was sponsored by Accent Speaker's Bureau, which paid Paul $55,000 to come. The event was free to the public.
“I am delighted so many young people are interested in the cause of liberty,” he said to thunderous applause. “It's not that complicated to defend liberty. The goal is to seek peace and prosperity with limited government intrusion in our lives and the affairs of other nations.”
Paul would return to those themes, repeating them throughout his hour-long speech, offering simple solutions for complex problems. War? Stay out of it. Drugs? Let people be responsible for themselves. The economy? Let the free market do its thing.
“This country was the freest and wealthiest nation. That is not the case anymore,” he said, citing a $5.7 trillion debt to foreign nations, eliciting loud boos.
The fact that he gave his speech on April 15, the filing deadline for federal income tax returns, was not lost on Paul, who called it Bad News Day. “We should get rid of the income tax,” he said to cheers.
Noting that North Korea is in the news, he said that he was in high school in 1950 the first time the U.S. got involved in the Korean conflict, “and we never left.”
His solution: get out of Korea and let them resolve their differences and peace would come before you knew it.
He applied the same solution to military involvement in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Get out and let them work it out among themselves. If the U.S. was “minding our own business we wouldn't be mixed up in all these countries and wars going on.”
Paul criticized the Federal Reserve, eliciting a chorus of boos. “You don't need the Federal Reserve. Get rid of it.” Cheers erupted from the crowd.
Paul said the U.S. needs to return to the gold standard. He later said during a Q-and-A period that the very reason he got into politics was because President Richard Nixon in 1971 took the U.S. off the gold standard.
The U.S. wouldn't have so much debt if not for the War on Drugs. It doesn't work, and it trampled on civil liberties, he said. He also said he didn't believe in government programs that help people who have drug problems or have gotten themselves into other messes because of bad decision making.
He criticized the Patriot Act and government surveillance. He lambasted President Obama's drone program, the same program Paul's son, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., spent 13 hours filibustering last month. Paul railed against a presidential hit list of U.S. citizens, which got more boos.
At times Paul fell into the rhythm of a stand-up comic, delivering a string of crowd-pleasing one-liners that followed a pattern of government bad, individuals good:
“Before you know it the federal government won't even let you drink raw milk,” Paul said.
And “Before you know it the federal government won't let you raise hemp.” He said he didn't know much about it, but heard that it would take a “joint the size of a phone pole” to get you high.
“Before you know it some authoritarian will tell you how big a Coke you're allowed to drink,” he said, garnering an eruption of applause for his poke at New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempt to regulate the size of soft drinks sold in The Big Apple.
Paul said the U.S. should lift the trade embargo and travel restrictions on Cuba. He said people should define for themselves what marriage is.
He also criticized the federal government for bailing out the bankers and Wall Street brokers who helped bring about the economic collapse that led to the Great Recession, and blamed those investors for bringing about the demise of the middle class.
But he didn't really offer any solution to restoring the middle class or reigning in the excesses of Washington, other than returning to his theme: “If we have liberty we will have peace and prosperity.”
Paul continually warned against letting government get too big and turning over problems to the government.
“The bigger the government, the bigger the lies,” he said.
But he said he was encouraged that people were beginning to question the notion that big government was necessary, that a new generation of young adults was questioning the status quo. “If you turn it over to the government, there will be nothing left of our liberties,” Paul said. “But if you invest in the cause of liberty we will have a great country for it.”
Stephen Haskell, a freshman at UF, said Paul surpassed his expectations. “I believe in free commerce, doing away with the debt credit system and returning to gold-backing,” he said.
Katje Janisch, a UF alumna who brought her 17-year-old son along, said she didn't agree with everything Paul said, but believed he was an honest politician who meant what he said.
“I believe our country should stay out of other countries' business and mind our own,” she said.