GOP presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, of Texas, touted ending the country’s wars, including the war on drugs, to a raucous packed crowd Friday at the LSU Union Theater.
As the Republican candidate with the strongest libertarian streak, Paul, 76, focused his talk on restoring personal and economic liberties and freedoms with his campaign motto “Restore America Now.”
Paul said he loves college campuses and meeting students on his “Youth for Ron Paul” tour. When he does, he said, “I find out the message of liberty is alive and well.”
Paul, who last campaigned in Baton Rouge in 2008, is running in a crowded GOP field of candidates led in the polls and fundraising by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has endorsed Perry.
Paul also on Friday opened his new state campaign headquarters on Jefferson Highway as part of a fundraising stop.
Paul said he favors a foreign policy of nonintervention. He wants to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and even Germany, Japan and South Korea. He said the U.S. can have a strong military defense without being “militaristic” and serving as the “world’s policeman.”
Paul said the U.S. must cease its attitude that “We have to spread our goodness with force, so we’ll go over there and kill a lot of people and tell them how to live. It’s a system that’s doomed to fail.”
But the U.S. also must withdraw from its “domestic war,” Paul said. “That is the war on drugs,” he said, which produced a lot of audience applause at LSU.
“I’m convinced that the danger of the drug war is worse than the dangers of the drugs,” he said. “Drug addiction is a disease; it’s not a crime.”
He compared the criminal status of drug use to the Prohibition era against alcohol.
“There was a lot more dangerous alcohol the people were drinking … and the gangs were making a lot of money and killing people,” Paul said.
“Put the responsibility on the individual and the families,” he said.
Paul said he often does not agree with what people do, but that he does not believe any person or government should be able to “use force to change their habits.”
“Freedom is economic liberty and personal freedom,” he touted.
Economically, Paul said he wants to shut down the Federal Reserve and eliminate the federal income tax.
At times, the crowd broke into chants of “End the Fed” or “President Paul.”
Paul said he intends to minimize government regulations in the business sector to push for a stronger “free-market economy.” Doing so will spur more job creation in this nation’s struggling economy, he said.
“Jobs aren’t easy to come by these days,” he said. “You get out of college, you get a degree and there aren’t as many jobs.”
Government intervention in the economy and price controls have helped create the nation’s economic bubble bursts that caused the recent recession.
“The whole world is based on the dollar bubble,” Paul said.
The bank bailouts and federal stimulus packages all add to the problems, he said. Twelve people in a secret room should not decide to whom the nation is in billions of dollars of debt, he added.
No pricing structures are why socialism fails, he said, but too much government involvement fails as well.
The attempts to bring everyone up and add to government welfare only hurt, he argued. “We cannot have perfect distribution of wealth. That is unachievable in a free society.”
“The pie is shrinking; the demand is growing,” Paul said. “We need a new system of economic policy.”
Paul admitted his changes could make times even tougher for a couple of years before things improve. But not changing will only continue the nation’s steady decline.
“The truth is the country has been getting poorer and poorer since 2000,” Paul said.
Republican Party of Louisiana Chairman Roger Villere was in attendance. Although he is not endorsing anyone now, Villere said he is glad Paul and other GOP candidates are making stops in Louisiana.
“He’s doing really well,” Villere said. “He’s doing good in the polls.”
And, before Paul left LSU, the Youth for Ron Paul at LSU students made sure he received a new “Love Purple, Live Gold” T-shirt.