Ron Paul - civil liberty's last hope
Speaking from DAR Constitution Hall in Washington DC Tuesday night, Paul and his peers discussed the topics of national security and foreign policy. While it’s been no secret that some of the more hawkish candidates are crazy for increasing defense spending and upping the American military presence overseas, Texas Congressman Ron Paul once again managed to separate himself from the rest of the pack by coming off as perhaps the only candidate truly committed to keeping liberty and freedom in place for Americans.
Right from the get-go, Paul used the allotted time to introduce himself to the audience by saying that the issues on hand last night were of great importance to the country. According to the congressman, America’s wars — which he deemed “needless” and “unnecessary” — not just add to the deficit of the country but also undermine the prosperity and liberty of America.
Perhaps most detrimental to those ways of American life, however, is the Patriot Act. While Newt Gingrich rallied to extend the legislation longer and Rick Perry and Herman Cain also offered their support for the controversial bill, Paul put himself apart from his fellow candidates by condemning the act.
“I think the Patriot Act is unpatriotic because it undermines our liberty,” Paul said. “I'm concerned, as everybody is, about the terrorist attack . . . Terrorism is still on the books, internationally and nationally, it's a crime and we should deal with it.” Paul added, however, that the framers of the Constitution warned the country not to “sacrifice liberty for security,” yet “Today it seems too easy that our government and our congresses are so willing to give up our liberties for our security.”
“I have a personal belief that you never have to give up liberty for security. You can still provide security without sacrificing our Bill of Rights,” added Paul, to which the candidate was met with a round of applause.
According to former House speaker Newt Gingrich, however, there can be a happy medium where Americans only lose some of those liberties.
“We'll try to find that balancing act between our individual liberties and security,” said Gingrich.
While Paul went on to say that that establishing such a tyrannical regime over the American people could be an efficient way of curbing crime, it would also be a great way to end freedom.
“You can prevent crimes by becoming a police state,” Paul said. “So if you advocate the police state, yes, you can have safety and security and you might prevent a crime, but the crime then will be against the American people and against our freedoms.”
According to other candidates, however, those sacrifices are necessary for the protection against terrorism, something they made out to be a constant threat. “The terrorists have one objective that some people don't seem to get. They want to kill all of us,” said Herman Cain. To handle that threat, Cain proposed that “we should use every mean possible to kill them first or identify them first.”
Cain neglected to specify what he did actually want to do first — kill suspected terrorists or identify them — but others made it clear that in-depth analyses of alleged terrorists wasn’t really necessary for the safety and security of American citizens. Instead, rather, the government should just go after Muslims.
When quizzed by moderator Wolf Blitzer on how to deal with ethnic profiling, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum said that such a practice was crucial in the War on Terror, and that the government should not just continue to profile people, but specifically go after Muslims.
“The folks that are most likely to be committing these crimes,” Santorum suggested should be the target of profiling. “Obviously Muslims would be someone you’d look at, absolutely.”
Similarly, Cain proposed what he called “targeted identification.” While he would not come out and say that Muslims specifically need to be profiled (although he has attacked them in the press repeatedly), he did declare that “If you take a look at the people who have tried to kill us, it would be easier to figure out exactly what that identification profile looked like.”
To Paul, however, none of these tactics for a war on terror seem like an appropriate response.
“That's digging a hole for ourselves,” said Paul. “What if they look like Timothy McVeigh? You know, he was a pretty tough criminal.”
“I think we're using too much carelessness in the use of words that we're at war. I don't remember voting on — on a declared — declaration of war. Oh, we're against terrorism. And terrorism is a tactic. It isn't a person. It isn't a people. So this is a very careless use of words. What about this? Sacrifice liberties because there are terrorists? You're the judge and the jury? No, they're suspects.”
Paul added that the executive powers established through the Patriot Act and other War on Terror legislation has made American citizens “vulnerable to assassination,” hinting at the reason execution of two US men with alleged al-Qaeda ties that were killed by drone strikes overseas.
The War on Terror isn’t the only unnecessary according to Paul, either. Responding to Texas Governor Rick Perry’s support of the War on Drugs, Paul said, “That’s another war we ought to cancel . . . And that’s where the violence is coming from.”
“I think the federal war on drugs is a total failure.”
“So the drug war is out of control,” added Paul. “I fear the drug war because it undermines our civil liberties. It magnifies our problems on the borders. We spend — like, over the last 40 years, $1 trillion on this war. And believe me, the kids can still get the drugs. It just hasn't worked.”