Full Disclosure: I am a big fan of Chris Matthews because of his energy and love of politics, and yes we agree ideologically on many things. I also enjoy Congressman Ron Paul’s honesty and frankness, especially when he is often the lone voice in the wilderness. I also agree with his Libertarian positions regarding our foreign policies and the war on drugs. So when Paul appeared on Hardball Friday night I was eager to watch the exchange. What happened was unusual, unexpected, and unsatisfying. Now everyone knows that appearing on Hardball can feel like 12 rounds with Manny Pacquiao because Matthews barely takes time to breathe. And when it was over, I felt that Paul was left flailing and grasping and reverting to sound bites after the Matthews’ onslaught, and worse, I was left thinking that Paul could never stand up to the continued pressure, berating, and second guessing that comes with the job of President. Here is a summary of the key exchanges:
Matthews: Well, your people out there in the crowd certainly agree with that. But let me ask you, as a citizen of Texas, if that came up for a vote, if you had to vote on the issue as a citizen supporting a candidate or whatever, do you think the state of Texas should legalize heroin and prostitution?
Paul: I think that under the right circumstances, we should legalize freedom, and that is part of it.
Paul failed to answer the question specifically and instead wrapped himself in the Gadsden flag. After some back and forth Matthews tries again.
Matthews: OK. Just to finish this conversation on this point — you have complete freedom to answer this question, yes or no. Should we legalize — legalize heroin?
Paul: I want to legalize freedom and let –
Still can’t answer the question. The legalize freedom answer is as lame an answer as “I was for it before I was against it.”
Matthews: The `64 civil rights bill, do you think an employer, a guy who runs his shop down in Texas or anywhere has a right to say, if you`re black, you don`t come in my store?
Paul: I believe -- I believe that property rights should be protected. Your -- your right to be on TV is protected by property rights, because somebody owns that station. I can`t walk into your station. So, right of freedom of speech is protected by property. The right of your church is protected by property. So, people should honor and protect it. This gimmick, Chris, it`s just -- it`s off the wall when you, I`m for property rights and states` rights; therefore, I`m a racist. I mean, that`s just outlandish.
So, Paul initially hides his answer with some soap box speech on property rights, and then delves into playing the race card. It wasn’t Matthews who brought the race card into play, it was Paul. At that point Matthews tries again.
Matthews: You would have voted against that law. You wouldn`t have voted for the `64 civil rights bill.
Paul: Yes, but not in -- I wouldn`t vote against getting rid of the Jim Crow laws.
Matthews : I was in the Peace Corps training in Louisiana, Baker, Louisiana. A laundromat had this sign on it glazed, ‘Whites Only,’ on the laundromat, just to use the laundromat machines. This was a local shop saying, ‘No Blacks Allowed.’ You’re saying that that ought to be legal.
Paul : That’s ancient history. That’s over and done with.
Matthews: Because it’s been outlawed.
Paul: Segregation on buses was always done by law, so, it was a culture. That’s over and done with, Chris. Why do you want to go back to ancient days?
So Paul believes that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was unnecessary because eventually people would not have been in business for segregationist practices. He then calls 1964 ancient history. 47 years ago is not ancient history. Hell it took 100 years from emancipation to get to the Civil Rights Act. I guess freedom is relative and property rights the real issue when you’re not the one who was enslaved just 150 years ago.
Paul: Just look around we have a totalitarian world. Liberty is disgusting as you imply.
Totalitarian world? Really? The U.S. ranks 9th in the world in economic freedom as compiled by the Heritage Foundation. Yes, the Heritage Foundation who’s by line says: Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institute - a think tank - whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.
The interview closed with this brilliant exchange:
Matthews: We have had a long history of government involvement with Medicare, Social Security, Civil Rights Act, the Voting Act, that I think you are saying we would be better off without all that.
Paul: I think we would be better off if we had freedom and not government controlling our lives, our personal lives, and policing the world.
At that point Paul went off on some rant about foreign policy and financial collapse and never answers the question.
So, while there are those out there that will say Paul crushed Matthews, I have to strongly disagree. Paul evaded questions and stuck to his I am for liberty mantra. Stay in the race, Mr. Paul, as you make the GOP more apoplectic than Obama taking out Osama.