January 04, 2008
Thousands of media outlets descended on Iowa, erecting a powerful wall of TV cameras and reporters between the voters and candidates. Bill Moyers talks with Ron Paul who knows well the power of the press to set expectations and transform the agenda.
BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the JOURNAL.
I know, I know — enough politics already. But no matter how sick and tired you may be of all Iowa all the time, something fresh is brewing here. This small mostly white, corn-growing state has put forward two men who are not more of the same. Michael Huckabee's a Baptist preacher with a social conscience. He's no Ronald Reagan but he's no Pat Robertson, either, with a view of the universe out of the middle ages. You can't have been the pastor of a congregation without knowing that people hurt, and Huckabee's populism, which is why Wall Street Republicans are mobilizing against him, clearly comes from coping with people swimming upstream.
RALLY: Lord Jesus, we pray God for Mike Huckabee that you would give him strength...
BILL MOYERS: There are far more evangelicals in this country like Huckabee than you may think.
For his part, Barack Obama is no Martin Luther King Jr, but he's no Jesse Jackson, either.
BARACK OBAMA: The one that can change this country brick by brick...
BILL MOYERS: Obama changes the metaphor; because King took his people to the mountain, Obama can take them somewhere else. He wouldn't have been in Iowa except for the civil rights movement, but he's about far more than black and white.
All of a sudden, the political landscape has changed. As only an Iowa farmer would understand, the plow has broken new ground. But in presidential politics a reality check is always in order. Keep in mind that only twice since 1972 have winners of contested Iowa caucuses gone on to win the White House. The total turnout for the caucuses in Iowa was less than 350,000 people in a state of three million. Rarely are so few heard so loudly by so many through the megaphone of the media.
For some analysis, we'll talk to two men who've been running for president and have nothing to lose by speaking their mind and from one of the country's foremost analysts of the co-dependency that exists between the press and the politicians.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson is a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the Director of its Annenberg Public Policy Center. Her latest of many books is this one — co-authored with Brooks Jackson: UNSPUN: FINDING FACTS IN A WORLD OF DISINFORMATION. It's good to see you again.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Good to see you as well.
BILL MOYERS: Any surprises last night?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: No, actually. But what I thought was interesting about last night was that the polls proved to be correct. Final polls predicted this outcome. But what was intriguing to me about last night was that this is the breakthrough opportunity for these candidates to speak to the American people unmediated in some important ways, by all those pundits who are ascribing meaning to their candidacies and their outcome.
BILL MOYERS: So both Huckabee and Obama spoke a little long, but I guess they were taking advantage of that opportunity for free television to be heard once by everybody, right?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Yeah, we forget that we've seen a very long campaign period and very little national access to candidates actually delivering a stump speech. Unless you're a political junkie and you're watching a lot of C-Span, the last time you saw Obama was in his announcement speech, and before that at the Democratic Convention. And you probably didn't catch Huckabee's announcement speech, because nobody was talking about him. And so, you probably weren't looking for him on C-Span. And so, having the opportunity for the nation that is politically attentive at this point, to hear these candidates deliver a speech that defines what they would do as president, is actually very, very important.
BILL MOYERS: What did you hear with Obama and with Huckabee? With Obama?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Obama delivered a speech in which he cast himself in the role of the President of the United States, as opposed to a candidate seeking that office alone. The speech is an attempt to try on the presidency and see that it fits. Obama's a very strong stump orator. And one of the things that we realize when we see the extended speech of Obama is that he is a much weaker debater. He's much weaker when he's speaking one on one to reporters. He's much weaker when he's speaking to camera. And he's good in all those formats than he is as a stump speaker. As a stump speaker, he is a master.
BILL MOYERS: And Huckabee?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Huckabee demonstrated that he is very good at speaking intimately. Less well crafted speech — he wasted a lot of time at the beginning of the speech. But where Obama's a natural stump orator, Huckabee's much more effective at intimate use of a stump platform. Ronald Reagan could do both. He was a great stump orator, and he was great at intimate communication. Huckabee is very good at kind of low key, intimate conversational engagement. Obama, much better at rallying the masses.
But here's why both of those speeches were important. They were good speeches. They talked to the nation in the role of a candidate who is speaking as a president to a people. Giving people a chance to say how would you fit in that role. And we forget sometimes that speech making is a very important role in the presidency. There are times in the nation in which the president is the only one who can speak to us and for us. And whether it's the president we wanted elected or not, that person has to be able to play that role for all of us. Obama has that capacity, and I believe Huckabee does as well.
BILL MOYERS: What was Huckabee's message that he heard?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Huckabee's message is essentially, I'm here and we're going to stay here with this message of carrying your message forward to the American people. But it's delivered well. It's delivered in a way that is engaging, and it suggests that he's a personable candidate who's here to stay.
BILL MOYERS: And he has that manner of — some people would say — the bedside manner of a good doctor. I come out of that world, and I know he has the manner of a listener in the pastor's study, you know, listening to people with broken hearts and with problems and debts and all of that. That's what strikes me most about him, is that he has that touch that I'm familiar with, growing up in that southern culture.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Did you hear that in Obama's speech as well? Did you hear the pastor in the pulpit telling you that the time is now, or now is the time, an echo of Martin Luther King, Jr.?
BILL MOYERS: I heard the echo but not as predominantly as that. Because to me, Obama is beyond those generations. He has, as I said earlier, changed the metaphor. You know, Martin Luther King was Moses who took the children of Israel to the promised land, but Joshua took them in. He benefited from the 40 years in exile. That's how Obama strikes me.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: And I think if you want to look at that speech and ask, how does he situate himself in relationship to the Civil Rights movement in the United States, you have an interesting answer at the end of the speech. He moves through a series of important historical moments to suggest that this moment now is important in that kind of context. And he weaves those in, and then Selma and Montgomery come in. And then he continues forward. He doesn't start with Selma and Montgomery, and he doesn't end with it.
BILL MOYERS: Well, in South Carolina, which has the largest African-American voting population of all of these primaries, these early primaries, he's been trailing Hillary Clinton down there, because many of the blacks in South Carolina have said he doesn't embrace the Civil Rights movement, and he doesn't have that passion for civil rights that these-- Martin Luther King and Jesse Jackson did. But I think they've misunderstood where the Civil Rights movement is today. Do you?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Mmm-hmm. And I think also, they have not heard the most important part of his speech that is self-identifying: mother from Kansas-
BILL MOYERS: Yeah.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: --father from Kenya. This is a candidate who is going to transcend the racial divide. His speech last night was a speech of unification. It was a speech that was attempting to say, "This is a new message, this is a new generation. And we're going to have a different kind of United States if we embrace this vision." And if you looked at the way in which the candidates set their speeches-- because they're communicating visually to you as well. His speech is set not with a bunch of dignitaries standing behind him. Indeed, his family isn't standing behind him. They're standing to the side of the stage. He references them nicely, but they're not centered inside that frame. Behind him are a range of supporters.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Some younger, some older. Some in suits, some dressed very casually. All extremely enthusiastic. That looked like the change. Contrast that to what you saw from Hillary Clinton. You saw Madeline Albright, you saw Wesley Clark. You saw Bill Clinton. You saw a kind of assertion that suggested I have experience, I have ballast. But also, you saw an assertion of it's embodiment of the older order, the extension of Bill Clinton. These are people who might carry forward to the next generation. And they looked older compared to that younger audience for Obama.
And then, interestingly, the setting for Huckabee. And here's a mistake for Huckabee. Because now he has to move beyond the candidate who needs to attract your interest, to the candidate who needs to embody the presidency. He has Chuck Norris next to him. Chuck Norris isn't going to be part of the presidency. Chuck Norris is not the argument for change. Chuck Norris is a very important way of getting attention very early. But the visual surroundings for Huckabee didn't carry his message forward the way Obama did.
BILL MOYERS: I was struck watching, by the youth of these two men who won. Huckabee's 51, Obama is 46. That adds up to less than a hundred. I mean, this really is a generational-- at least last night was a generational moment.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: You had the feeling that it was a generation moment. — that what was happening was in the political parties, was an alternative vision of what it meant to be a Democrat and a Republican. Not just a new generation, but new conception. Listen to Huckabee's rhetoric, and what you hear is a rhetoric that fractures the Reagan coalition. Mitt Romney has worked very, very hard to tie back into the Reagan social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and the foreign policy conservatives. And in the process, has changed some of his positions to align with those positions. Huckabee is the social conservative who is attacking CEO greed.
BILL MOYERS: He's the William Jennings Bryan of the Republican Party. You remember William Jennings Bryan-
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Oh, yes.
BILL MOYERS: The Cross of Gold, and took on Wall Street. Of course, he lost in 1896. And I'm not sure, as Dennis Kucinich and others might point out, I'm not sure that populism, even though it's the rhetoric now in the Democratic Party, will once again survive a full campaign.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: I'm not sure, either. But there's a theme emerging in press commentary last night. And those themes helped set up a frame for understanding what we're seeing. Whether we like it or not we are influenced by it — that the establishment candidates didn't do well.
BILL MOYERS: That's right.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: The insurgent candidates did. The change candidates did well. You know, the candidates who stood for the establishment status quo did not. Now, you could say that's an unfair framing, that the candidates were being boxed into one category, don't really belong there. You can say change and experience are not antonyms. But that press frame that Romney and the whole rest of the field as establishment against Huckabee. And they set Obama against Clinton, Clinton establishment.
You also could say that at issue in both Iowa and New Hampshire is going to be where are the independents going, and what does that say about the country? We tend to think, because the primaries are so structured around party, that this is about Republicans and it's about Democrats. And Ron Paul only gets into this discussion because he comes in as a Libertarian, but runs as a Republican in the party. And by the way, gets largely ignored for a very fine 10 percent showing last night, which should have been regarded as remarkable, given where he is placed within the Republican field and how little time he's gotten in the debates.
But we forget in the press, that people who vote and the people who are governed, are not only Democrats and Republicans. There are libertarians there. There are undecideds there. There are people who legitimately say, "I don't identify with any of this. I'll call myself independent. I don't have a name yet." And last night, we, I think, neglected, as we talk about the implication for party, the notion that independents played an important role on both sides in who was elected.
BILL MOYERS: And they will in the general election.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: And they will in the general election.
BILL MOYERS: What do you think about Dennis Kucinich? What happens to the progressive message that he's been carrying?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Kucinich articulates the left position on Democratic issues with clarity and with conviction. That expands the range of discourse for Democrats. It's a very important role.
BILL MOYERS: And Ron Paul?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Ron Paul does the same thing for Republicans. The libertarian voice is an important voice in this country. It's potentially an emergent party in this country. And to have that voice consistently articulated tells people what the libertarian wing of the Republican Party stands for. Taking him out of any presidential debate when he had 10 percent of the vote in Iowa, has been raising money, has a fervent group of partisan people who believe that his convictions are the ones that should lead the nation, I think is an injustice.
BILL MOYERS: Let's turn to the press. You and I both know that every primary creates a new reality, just as every experience creates a new reality, so that the press today has a new narrative. What's the narrative you're reading now about the primary process?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Something pernicious happened last night in press commentary. The commentators on each of the networks that were covering live — so the major cable networks — managed to say at, at least one point, that two-thirds of the Democratic voters had rejected Hillary Clinton. And then they provided explanations for why they had rejected Hillary Clinton. Nothing in the polling data tells you that anyone rejected Hillary Clinton. But the press frame is an either-or frame, a zero sum frame game. And as a result, it doesn't open the possibility for its viewers that people could look at the Democratic field and the Republican field and say, "Those are fine candidates. Any of those would be a good president. I would support any of those, but I prefer this candidate."
BILL MOYERS: It's a statement of preference, right?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: It was a statement of preference.
BILL MOYERS: Not opposition.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: And then, when after having set up this rejection of Hillary Clinton by two-thirds of the Democrats, then they provide the rationale for what the rejection means. Well, it's because she's too polarizing, she's too divisive. They also don't know that from the available evidence.
But the other piece out there before the caucus ever happened, was if McCain comes in third in Iowa, McCain is propelled into New Hampshire. If Romney doesn't win in Iowa, Romney comes into New Hampshire very, very vulnerable. Who isn't even being talked about in that narrative? Huckabee, who won in the Iowa caucuses. And you hear some of that in this morning's press coverage, and news coverage in broadcast. You hear the assumption that it's really McCain-Romney in New Hampshire. And here's the last narrative: Huckabee really was about getting those evangelicals. And there aren't any of those in New Hampshire. So we probably shouldn't think he's going to do well there. Let's wait for him to come back, when the evangelicals reappear in South Carolina.
All this boxing people into narrow categories, the evangelicals, makes it much more difficult to see what's actually going on here, I think, on both sides.
BILL MOYERS: What is the new conventional wisdom in the media today?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: The interesting thing for me about this morning's press coverage, Friday morning, is that Hillary Clinton is being described as someone who's had a setback and not a loss. This is consistent with that early narrative that she could survive coming in third. The other candidates would have real trouble with that but she could survive that. If there was-- if we cast today as a loss for Hillary Clinton, that would be very different. The conventional wisdom is she has the resources to go to the end. And her campaign has been saying, Bill Clinton didn't win anything until Georgia, if you'll remember. He became president-
BILL MOYERS: He lost-
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: --of the United States.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, he became pres- He lost in Iowa, came in what, second in New Hampshire, and said, "The comeback kid is here," right?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: The important thing to remember about this is that there are a whole lot of primaries, and we've just, you know, put in place very, very few delegates. I mean, we'll get to the Florida primary, where Giuliani is hoping that he's going to be able to win, and as a result, stop this conventional wisdom that says he's now effectively out of the race. You're picking up almost as many delegates in Florida as you have in the primaries up to that point.
And so, we overplay Iowa and in the process, people drop out of the race. And this is the part of the thing that worries me the most, you saw Biden and Dodd drop out last night, as a result of the results that we had. They dropped out before we ever had people actually going in, in large numbers in a state, in a regular voting process, not a caucus process to cast a vote. They dropped out before a series of debates that in five days from now are essentially going to yield another election. We, as a result, have lost their voices in the process. Iowa has now accomplished its first effect. It's winnowed the field based on the decision of a relatively atypical state.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, very atypical. Will you come back next week, and let's talk about New Hampshire and beyond New Hampshire?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Of course.
BILL MOYERS: Thank you for joining me.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: You're welcome.
BILL MOYERS: In politics, it's usually the insurgent who carries the discontent of people who feel excluded from the mainstream. This campaign Ron Paul is the insurgent. Congressman Ron Paul from Texas placed fifth in Iowa with ten percent of the vote. But turn on your computer, and you'll find him at the top of the world's most watched video posting site.
STEVE: Congressman Paul. It's nice to meet you. My name's Steve. I'm from YouTube. The news and politics politics center over there. Yeah, welcome. You have quite the following over there.
RON PAUL: I've heard about that.
STEVE: I'm sure you have more subscribers than any other candidate on the platform.
BILL MOYERS: Some seven million viewers at last count had clicked on Ron Paul's You Tube offerings. More viewers then tuned into the first two Republican debates on cable television. Whatever happens now, this libertarian Republican has become a phenomenon in his own right taking on the powers that be in his party to argue against the war in Iraq among other contrarian positions. He stopped in our studio en route from Iowa to New Hampshire. Congressman Paul, Thanks for coming.
BILL MOYERS: You've got quite a following on the YouTube and on the Internet generally. What's your explanation for that and the difference between that and what happened in the primary?
RON PAUL: You know, every time I meet some of the young people who come, you know, and join the campaign, I ask them that question. The answer are generally very similar. And I've been very pleased and very surprised. A lot of them will just say, "Well, you're a strict Constitutionalist. We like your respect for the Constitution." That sort of thing, very encouraging. And others will say, "We like your respect for personal liberties, you know." And even monetary policy. I talk about monetary policy--
BILL MOYERS: Right.
RON PAUL: --and they're interested in that. And I think it's very important policy. So, that excites me when I see young people responding to it. But I think they realize the financial condition of this country much better than those who work around Washington they condition themselves to be convinced there's no serious problems.
BILL MOYERS: As you were coming in, I was reading another story on the Internet about Fox News excluding you from the Republican debate this weekend in New Hampshire. What was the rationale they gave you?
RON PAUL: They wouldn't give us one. We kept calling. And matter of fact, even the Fox affiliate in Houston came and interviewed me, and they were interested in the story. And they called, and they couldn't even get an answer. Of course, they were getting a lot of calls from our supporters in Texas wanting to-- why he's excluded. But the affiliate wasn't even told why. They don't tell us what the criteria is. And so it's all speculation. But I think in the long run they're going to be more embarrassed than I will be.
BILL MOYERS: You are in the ABC debate this weekend. Right?
RON PAUL: That is right.
BILL MOYERS: Because you met their benchmarks?
RON PAUL: Well, evidently. But, again, they don't describe them. But I've been in all the debates so far, you know. And we've done rather well, you know. We always do real well in the post-debate polling.
BILL MOYERS: Right. And you and Dennis--
RON PAUL: And even on-- even on Fox.
BILL MOYERS: You and Dennis Kucinich usually are said to be the winners of--
RON PAUL: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: --those debates.
RON PAUL: Yeah. And yet some people, I guess, they don't want to hear our message.
BILL MOYERS: How would you encourage more substantive discussion of ideas by people like you in the mass media that is primarily owned by five or six major companies in America today. And you think that's a free market?
RON PAUL: Well, not really, because the radio waves and the TV waves were never totally free, you know. They're allocated by the government. And then they're licensed by the government. And there's regulations there. So, I see that last week. And I think you could make a case for what you're saying, and I understand what you're saying. But fortunately we have more competition today than ever before. That's what's exciting. All of a sudden, you know, I can get a message out on the Internet.
BILL MOYERS: Okay.
RON PAUL: And what I fear, and what I talk about a lot is will the government come in and have regulations on what you can say on the Internet like they can have with what you say-- you know, and maybe there's a narrow little group who gets to buy-- all these TV and radio stations, and Clear Channels and thing like that. So, are they going to control it? So, that's why I fear the regulation. I don't want the government in the business of regulating. I don't want them to regulate the Internet, because we've become competitive, just like you've indicated a few minutes ago. We reach a lot of people. We haven't translated that into the conventional polls. We still have a challenge in this campaign. But there's still a wonderful opportunity with the free market in disseminating information.
BILL MOYERS: But it isn't the government that is requiring Fox News to keep you on the air ways. It's not the government making those decisions about who get heard or not. It is these companies with--
RON PAUL: Well.
BILL MOYERS: --who own, as you say, a lot of the media out there.
RON PAUL: But I think it's still to this philosophy they believe in. They believe in war. And they believe in the military industrial complex. And some of these companies that are mixed in with making profits off war. So, they're not going to have the same attitude about going to war as I might have. But I think that's still a reflection of their philosophy rather than the fact that they're a media company.
BILL MOYERS: You remind me of something you told Tim Russet on MEET THE PRESS-- you talked about fascism. Look at this piece of tape.
RON PAUL (on MEET THE PRESS): Were not moving toward Hitler-type fascism, but we're moving toward a softer fascism. Loss of civil liberties, corporations running the show, big government in bed with big business. So you have the military industrial complex, you have the medical industrial complex, you have the financial industry, you have the communications industry. They go to Washington and spend hundreds of millions of dollars. That's where the control is. I call that a soft form of fascism, something that is very dangerous.
BILL MOYERS: Do you really think that we're heading in that direction?
RON PAUL: Yeah. Now we're living in an age today in this post-9/11 atmosphere where our civil liberties are being undermined constantly. All in the name of safety and security we're supposed to give up our rights for our privacy? We're allowed now to accept the idea of secret prisons and secret renditions, and the lost of habeas corpus. This is very, very dangerous. And I don't want to get to the point where it's hard to reverse. Matter of fact, right now it's getting more difficult everyday to reverse this trend, because the American people seem to so often say, "You know I want to be-- I can't be free, if I'm not safe. So, I want my government to make me safe." And they're willing to give up their liberties. And I'm convinced that you never have to give up liberties to be safe. I think you're less safe when you give up your liberties.
BILL MOYERS: Well, as you speak, I'm curious about how you as a libertarian feel that the winner in Iowa, and a possible leader of your party in the fall in the presidential election is a man who openly identifies himself, defines himself as quote, "A Christian leader." I'm speaking, of course, of Michael Huckabee, who as you know, wears his religion on his sleeve. Talks openly about it. Doesn't proselytize particularly for it. But he is a man who has identified himself as a Christian leader. Does that make you uncomfortable given the fact that most libertarians I know are disturbed about any entanglement between the government and religion?
RON PAUL: Well, it bothers me to a degree. I happen to be a believer. I'm a Christian. And I do write about it. But I specifically say I don't carry my religion on my sleeve. Sometimes I had been annoyed about the prayer breakfast in Washington. I never attended the prayer breakfast in Washington, although I am a believer. I just thought that was more publicity. And, you know, the Bible does teach us that we should say our prayers in a closed room, and not flaunt it, and not to pretend you're holier than-- others. So, I've approached it that way. And I haven't accused anybody of doing that. But when it's overly used, it does annoy me. I mean, the idea of a theocracy very much annoys me. And--
BILL MOYERS: Do you see Michael Huckabee in that direction? You don't--
RON PAUL: He hasn't said anything specifically that I would say we got to defeat Mike Huckabee, because I think he's a theocrat. I haven't said that. But I think that there are a lot of people who may interpret it that way.
BILL MOYERS: And are you nervous?
RON PAUL: I'm nervous about the way the country is going, because they don't understand the First Amendment, you know. Because I'm a strong defender of the First Amendment and then after the Congress shall write no laws, and that's what I think is the most important thing. I sometimes even worry... I don't like the idea that Mitt Romney might lose, you know, because of his religious beliefs. And if you understand the First Amendment, we shouldn't even be asking him what his what his religious belief is. So, I'm sympathetic with that, and I don't like the way he's been treated, or at least subtly behind the scenes and how people might react to that, because with the First Amendment says we're not supposed to dealing in that, and that shouldn't be a litmus test for being elected.
BILL MOYERS: And the Constitution-- you believe in the Constitution, says that there can be no religious test for office. Right? Doesn't some of the things that Mike Huckabee is saying get close to an implied religious test?
RON PAUL: I think that some of the supporters might be doing that. And I think they have a right to know what your religion is. But it doesn't be a test. And I think for some individuals it becomes a test. But I don't think we've quite gotten to the point where we have to make a public statement of what our religious beliefs are, or the rejection of our religious beliefs. I think the most important thing is to make sure they understand the First Amendment.
BILL MOYERS: You're against the war that your party cheered. You're scared of this big debt building up under your party's leadership. You oppose the big spending that President Bush has encouraged on the drug industry, and education. Wall Street thinks you're a crank for your beliefs. Why do you stay in the Republican Party?
RON PAUL: Well I've been elected as a Republican for ten times. And Republicans have a platform, and had a better platform in the past. They expressed these views. Matter of fact, George Bush, if you remember ran on a foreign policy not too far from what I'm talking about. So, it's not like I'm completely a stranger to the Republican ideas of-- you know, they talk about balanced budgets and they're strict Constitutionalists.
And I think the ones who are in charge right now have left the Republican Party and the platform, which makes it more difficult, because people in the party, the hard core base, which unfortunately for the Republicans is getting smaller. But they stick their loyal to the leader. And they're loyal to maintaining power. They're not loyal to a principle or the Constitution and saying doing what is right, you know. They can't reverse their trend, you know. If we're in a bad situation in Iraq, "No. We can't be disloyal." And so they're not objective enough. So-- but I think I can be a good Republican and fight for these ideals, because they have been in the Republican Party in the past. And the question is, is will these ideas be revived once again in the Republican Party? Will people like myself be excluded? There's indeed a lot of people would like to exclude me from the Republican Party. But the party is awful small. Why would they want to exclude is, if we want to work within the Republican Party?
BILL MOYERS: Because it seems hard to reconcile the presence of the libertarian Party. you know, you've got a pretty substantial guerilla army out there of libertarians with a government-- with a party of big business, a party of war, a party of God. That seems hard for someone outside to reconcile.
RON PAUL: Yeah. It is. And yet I imagine you could find some inconsistencies with all the parties. I'm sure some of those that-- you know, the idea that liberal Democrats are supposed to protect our civil liberties and keep us out of war, they don't do a very good job either. So, when you get up on the leadership ladder, it seems like policies aren't a whole lot different.
Foreign policy never changed. Domestic fiscal policy, the welfare entitlement system never changes. Monetary policy won't even be discussed. And that's both parties. And the vehicle that you use I think is not as relevant as the message. And that has been what has driven me is the fact that we need to change course in this country. I highly respect the Constitution. But I'm not even overly rigid about the Constitution. There's a vehicle for changing it. I just I'm not overly rigid don't ignore it. Don't go to war without declaring it. And you know, you listen to the Fourth Amendment. Listen to what it says about the privacy rights of the American people.
BILL MOYERS: How do we get these ideas into the public debate given the tendency of the big media to want to narrow discussion? I mean, they say that in Iowa, in these debates in New Hampshire, they just want to try to get the conversation down so it can be more intimate among the real candidates.
RON PAUL: Yeah. Well, you have to just go where you can. And like I said, there is more competition. We might have Fox, which is tied deeply the war more so than, say, a Wolf Blitzer. Wolf Blitzer gives me a fair shake. He interviews me. And I think he's a very decent journalist. So, I think that we just have to use the tools that we have, and I try no to concentrate on those brick bats that they're throwing at me. I'll just go run and do my best to get a run.
I still think there's enough freedom in this country, even though it's shrinking all the time, where we can get our message out. And I see the young people. I am so enthused about the young people who are excited about these views and what they see on YouTube and the Internet. And they're not coming here because they're asking for student loans. They come to me and they're excited, because I tell them that, you know, "You're not going to get a thing out of Social Security. All you're going to do is pay for 50 years. The whole thing is broke." I say, "I have an idea and a way we can get you out of it. You can take care of yourself once again." And they love these ideas.
BILL MOYERS: You know, it's views like that that cause some people-- I've pulled stories from the Internet, that's what I mean. Some people think some critics think you're a hero to liberals, because you're against the war and you constantly are on the charge against George W. Bush. And they say, you know--
RON PAUL: Okay. But they don't like these views. Not--
BILL MOYERS: No. They don't-- no, they don't. But there's just-- there's some pieces I've been reading on it that accuse you of illiberal sentiments on race, Israel and other topics. They say that you've demeaned black perhaps by some of your references, the Civil War and to slavery. And that you are always attacking the Jewish lobby-- the Israeli lobby--
RON PAUL: Oh, I think that that's completely wrong. And, you know, libertarianism is the enemy of all racism, because racism is a collectivist idea is that you put people in categories. You say, "Well, Blacks belong here, Whites here, and women here." Well, we don't see people in form-- or gays. You don't have rights because you're gays, or women, or minorities. You have rights because you're an individual. So, we see people strictly as individuals. And we get these individuals in a natural way. So, it's exactly opposite of all collectivism. And it's absolutely anti-racism, because we don't see in those terms.
BILL MOYERS: Do you think your views have been misunderstood?
RON PAUL: Oh, I think purposely some people who finally get nervous about what I'm saying. But, you know, it's back to this idea that some liberals will say, "Oh, yeah, we like him on foreign policy, but some of his welfare. We like our welfare." But the point is, is if we don't do something with our financial thing, everybody's going to go broke. I mean, how are we going to keep up with the cost of living increases for the people on retirement when they're losing at a ten percent rate, and they get a two percent increase?
I'm saying cut all this money overseas. Save hundreds of billions of dollars. I'm against throwing anybody out in the street. Take care of the people that are dependent on government. Help them out. But spend this money here at home, but introduce some new ideas, and sound money, and good economic policy where we can allow the next generation to get a foothold and be able to take care of themselves once again. Because today, when you have a dollar crisis and the currency crashes, everybody goes broke.
BILL MOYERS: What is it like trying to get these ideas out in a campaign driven by press that's in love with sound bytes?
RON PAUL: Well, it's difficult. There's no doubt about it, you know.
BILL MOYERS: Is there anything we can do about that?
RON PAUL: Once again, its raising up a new generation that understands what freedom is all about, what the founders were up to when they want a minimal government. What they meant when they didn't want a whole a centralized strong government. These are all things that I believe in, and that individuals... We want government, but we want self government, or local government, or family government. But we don't want the nanny-state to tell us to deal not only with economic matters, but also in the area of virtue. If you think the nanny-state is okay to make the society more fair economically, you use the same force there as you say, well, the conservative comes along, and we say, "Well, we're going to legislate virtue." It's the same issue. And this is what we're trying to put this issue of freedom back together again. It's not two parts of it, economic freedom and personal freedom. There's only one freedom.
BILL MOYERS: THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE has a headline, "Paul, a seller of ideas. They call him Dr. No. No big government. No big spending. No flouting the Constitution. And no interest in the slick political image." And the lead of the story is "No more Department of Education. No more Federal Reserve Bank. No more Medicare, Medicaid. No more membership in the United Nations or NATO. No more federal drug laws. And no more U.S. troops in Iraq or anywhere else on foreign soil." Does that pretty well sum up?
RON PAUL: Yeah. It's a pretty good idea. I have transition programs for everything, because I think the Federal Reserve is a monstrous idea. This whole idea that if your government needs money, and the politicians spend too much, to run wars. Oh, we'll print up the money. I mean, it's a silly idea. But I still, I have a transition program, just like I said about taking care of Social Security recipients, or money. You can - introduce competition. There's a lot of ways we can work our way out of it. Yeah, but that is basically it. So, you can everyone of those "nos" into a "yes." Yes. I'm for freedom. Yes, I am for sound money. Yes, I'm for free markets. And, yes, I'm for sensible foreign policy. I sure am for bringing the troops home, because I am against American empire. I'm for defending the country and having a strong national defense.
BILL MOYERS: You keep coming back to the war. Since the violence in Iraq has diminished, the war has, for all practical purposes, disappeared from the news. What do you make of that?
RON PAUL: They hope that it does. But, you know, isn't it amazing at the end of last year they turned this into almost like another mission accomplished, you know. It was our worst year, you know. If you go by years, it was our worst year. We lost 900 men in Iraq, over 100 in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is blowing up. It's coming unraveled. We're involved in two countries they are trying to nation build. At the same time, it looks like we'll be in Pakistan. So, this whole idea that there's some type of victory going on over there, and it's a disaster.
And they would like us to not talk about it anymore. But we cannot hide from it, because it's tied into the finances. All great countries end when they extend themselves too far overseas. And the litmus test is what do they do to their currency? We did not have to fight the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union because of economic reasons. That is what's going to happen here. We willfully invaded. You know how many weapons we have. We have more weapons, probably twice as many as everybody else put together. Nobody would dare touch us. And yet everybody's frightened. "Oh, who's going to attack us? And who's going to deliver us?" But it's the financial thing that will finally bring us to our knees.
BILL MOYERS: Has our two party system run it's course?
RON PAUL: Well, it's meaningless. And I think you know, we send boys over there to promote democracy in Iraq. But we don't really have democracy here because, you know, if you're in a third party-- if you're in the Green Party, or Libertarian Party, you don't get any credibility. You can't get on debates. You can't get on the ballots hardly at all. And it's very, very difficult. And the two parties are the same. You don't really have a democratic choice here. So yes, I think we have a long way to go to set good standards here.
This is my whole argument. I think there's a lot of goodness in America. And we should spread our goodness. But never through force. We should be talking about what we can do here at home to set a good example, have a healthy, vibrant economy. Protect civil liberty. And have a foreign policy where we're minding our own business. But have trade with people, and talk with people. Why is it we don't even talk and trade with Cuba? Everyone else is. I mean, why don't we do it? And this is what we have to do.
BILL MOYERS: But are you ever going to get ideas like that through a media that is dominated by the very corporate mentality that you so often deplore?
RON PAUL: With difficulty. But once again the message is getting out. It hasn't turned into, you know, a total revolution. But there are revolutionary ideas going on there right now. And it's not a throwback to the old ways, because the old ways are always tyranny. We've had tyranny most of all of history. It's only been in this recent introduction, last couple of hundred years, where true freedom emphasizing the individual has only been tested. And we're throwing it away. So, whether I have an obstacle with the media or not, which I'm sure I do. And I face up to it, since I look like I'll be excluded, you know, from the Fox debate here-- this weekend. But nevertheless, the amount of things we left in this country, we still have it, and we have to maximize it's use.
BILL MOYERS: Thank you for being with us Congressman Paul.
RON PAUL: Thank you very much.
BILL MOYERS: Earlier in the broadcast you heard Kathleen Hall Jamieson say the country loses when contrarian voices are excluded from the political debate. Well, if you were watching the presidential debate in Iowa before Christmas, you would be forgiven for thinking that one of the most persistent and prophetic insurgent voices among the Democrats had dropped out of the race.
BILL MOYERS: Dennis Kucinich was nowhere to be found on that stage. This former mayor of Cleveland, six-term member of Congress, and progressive champion was excluded by the sponsor, the DES MOINES REGISTER. So viewers were denied the voice of Dennis Kucinich. But he's a man with a lot to say about democracy and the media and he's with us now. Congressman Kucinich, thank you for coming down from New Hampshire for this broadcast.
DENNIS KUCINICH: Good to be here. Thank you, Bill.
BILL MOYERS: You know, you barely registered in Iowa. You don't have much money. And big media had pushed you off the stage. Are you staying in the race?
DENNIS KUCINICH: I am. But I didn't really contest in Iowa, Bill. And, you know, four years ago I spent more time in Iowa than almost any other state in the country. And I felt that my time would be better spent laying the groundwork for later primaries and caucuses. So I didn't, you know, I can't say that we made much of an effort in Iowa, although we did-- do have supporters there. And I'm grateful for their support. But the main thing about Iowa, the most noteworthy thing is how the Democratic Party there is so tightly controlled that any contrary voices that would challenge the status quo are not only-- there's an intentional attempt to exclude. I mean, I was--
BILL MOYERS: Controlled by?
DENNIS KUCINICH: I think the health insurance industry has an enormous impact in Iowa, particularly in Des Moines. And I think that has an effect on the decisions that are made.
BILL MOYERS: And you've been calling for a single payer insurance.
DENNIS KUCINICH: Think about this. I'm the only candidate in either party who's saying that with 47 million Americans uninsured, another 50 million Americans underinsured, it's time for us to go to a not-for-profit system. That would cost the for-profit system hundreds of billions of dollars. And so, you know, I'm the only voice on that. And, frankly, I think I'm the voice of the mainstream in America in asserting that. And that point was not given a chance to be expressed. As a matter of fact, the AARP--
BILL MOYERS: American Association of Retired Persons.
DENNIS KUCINICH: --which is an insurance business at its core, staged a debate in Iowa and got all the other candidates to testify that they wouldn't go for a single payer system. And essentially used their power to help keep that for-profit system, which they're selling insurance.
BILL MOYERS: There's a big Democratic debate Saturday night in New Hampshire. Are you in that ABC debate?
DENNIS KUCINICH: No, I'm not. And there again, you know, when you look at all the polls on the Internet I'm winning a number of them. I won a number of straw polls. In post debate analysis out of debates I have been in--
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, that August 22nd debate on ABC — when they did their post debate survey — you beat everybody. Obama by 5,000 or 6,000 votes. Clinton by 9,000 votes. And yet the mainstream media paid no attention to it, right?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Right. And I think that what's noteworthy is I think we have two cultures here. One which is the emerging culture of information technology that's Internet-based. And the other one is the more conventional TV technology which is coming to a clash. And I think they reflect some political trends in this country that maybe aren't getting too much attention. But they are going to have an impact.
BILL MOYERS: What rationale did ABC give you for not including you in Saturday night's debate?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Whatever their criteria was, they have no right to make the decision for the people of New Hampshire prior to the election being held. They have no right. As licensees, you know, the airwaves belong to the public, lest we forget. They don't belong to ABC. Disney, which owns ABC, has had executives contributing to some of the candidates in this race. It's a very serious matter here.
BILL MOYERS: But the editors of ABC say that, well, at some point, you know, as I do with this broadcast, they have to start making choices. And they have to start applying certain possibilities to the candidates.
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know what, Bill? How can you have a debate if you don't have a voice that challenges all the others? Right now every other Democrat on that stage will be for keeping our troops in Iraq through at least 2013. Everyone else on the stage will be there for the continuation of NAFTA and the WTO. I mean, my position on the American political scene is to show people that there's a whole different direction that America can take here at home and in the world. And the Democratic Party in narrowing the choices and in the media, in trying to block the point of view that I represent, is really doing a disservice to the American people.
BILL MOYERS: Did you ever think the corporate media would give your message a full hearing?
DENNIS KUCINICH: No, it hasn't. But that's the point that I'm making is, look, we already know that the coverage of this election has been focusing on three candidates. Well, if you look at the records of those three candidates, they're not too much apart. The differences are stylistic, not substantive. And when there's a requirement for a substantive debate, which is all apart from the news coverage, a substantive debate, even the debates themselves have been remarkable for the effort to try to narrow the discussion within the context of the debate itself by apportioning more time to some candidates and less time to others. There are times that the only way I was able to get the question in debate was ask myself a question.
BILL MOYERS: I remember that. What's the most important thing that people would have heard about you and your message if you were in the debate in New Hampshire by ABC or had been in that DES MOINES REGISTER debate out in Iowa? What would people have heard? What question would you have asked yourself?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, first of all, I would have said that I'm the only real Democrat on the stage, that I reflect the mainstream of Democratic voters with aspirations for a full employment economy, healthcare for all, education for all, a new environmental approach ending carbon free, nuclear free. Ending the U.S. role in the world as an aggressor. Holding the administration accountable. You know, the president and vice president ought to be impeached. And they should be held accountable for war crimes because we attacked a nation that did not attack us. Now, these are things that need to be said.
BILL MOYERS: You know, as you speak out, I'm reminded of the lead editorial in THE NATIOn magazine this week, your friends at THE NATION saying that "Dennis Kucinich more closely embodies our ideals at THE NATION magazine than anybody else. And yet we have to admit that his inability to raise money, to organize grass-roots activism, and to create a mass, small "d," democratic core around him leads us to look elsewhere." What do you say to your friends at THE NATION?
DENNIS KUCINICH: I wish they would have been with me last night in Keene, New Hampshire, where 700 people showed up at the theater in downtown Keene to rally behind the campaign.
BILL MOYERS: You know, remember that you were the third-string quarterback on your high school football team, right?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Right.
BILL MOYERS: But you you never left the team. You — even though you had a slim chance of ever playing--
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, I actually, I played and I lettered.
BILL MOYERS: You did?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Yeah, I was four-foot-nine. I weighed 97 pounds. And you know, I--
BILL MOYERS: You don't seem to quit because you don't get in the game that often.
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, I have to tell you I think that people want a president who has not just determination but someone who is resilient, who can suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous political fortune and be able to be persistent. This is about the right of the American people to hear a real discussion on the issues that affect their lives and to see if there's anybody out there who relates to their practical aspirations. And so my candidacy gives people a chance to register how they feel about these things.
BILL MOYERS: True. But you have had less time in the debates and less news coverage than almost any of the other candidates.
DENNIS KUCINICH: That's true. But you know what?
BILL MOYERS: And what's your explanation for that?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, I think part of it is the media's attempt to be able to control an agenda that doesn't upset the status quo.
BILL MOYERS: You know, congressman, since you remind me that since the violence in Iraq has diminished, the story of Iraq has disappeared from the newspapers and from television. How do you explain that?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Yeah, we're told it's diminished. I mean, it's the agenda, again, has shifted elsewhere. What happened in Pakistan caused the attention to be shifted away from Iraq. And I think that we need to bring those troops home.
BILL MOYERS: Are you aware that you really upset some of your supporters by asking them to make Barack Obama their second choice in Iowa if they didn't vote for you? And I have had a score of e-mails since we announced that you were coming on the broadcast from your supporters who were quite upset. "Dennis Kucinich has urged us to do exactly what he spent the last year telling them not to do: skip over a candidate with more progressive politics in order to support a candidate with less progressive politics." Even Michael Moore wrote a letter suggesting that progressives should go for John Edwards. Why did you do it?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, first of all, you know that in 2004 I made a recommendation and it's an Iowa-only recommendation, it wasn't an endorsement, to go with John Edwards. And in 2008 I told my supporters that if I didn't reach the delegate threshold they should go-- I would recommend that they go with Barack Obama in the second ballot. And, again, it wasn't endorsed and it's Iowa-only specific. Now you know, I know these candidates. And I gave my best judgment as to a recommendation. The why of it would probably require more time than we have.
BILL MOYERS: I know. But John Edwards talks more like you-- John Edwards has said, quote, I absolutely believe to my soul that this corporate greed and corporate power has an iron-clad hold on our democracy. I thought, "He must have lifted that right out of Dennis Kucinich's speeches." You say that all the time. And yet you said go for Obama, not for Edwards.
DENNIS KUCINICH: You know, I thought Senator Obama offered an approach and has the kind of sincerity that deserved recommendation only on that second ballot. Because when he comes to New Hampshire, I'm sincerely trying to get more votes than him.
BILL MOYERS: But is the Democratic Party any longer your party?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I'm the Democrats' Democrat. I'm the kind of Democrat who resonates with the New Frontier, with The Great Society, and with the New Deal. And I think that people are waiting for a Democrats' Democrat to come forward.
BILL MOYERS: What do you think was the message of the results in Iowa?
DENNIS KUCINICH: I think the message is that people do want change. The question is what are their options? And what kind of change will occur? That's not been defined. This is-- change is very nebulous--
BILL MOYERS: The word "change" over and over again--
DENNIS KUCINICH: People say you want change, I can give you change for a dollar, you know, if I have it. But the point is real change, transformational change in our society means looking at the engines of our society which has caused wealth to accelerate upwards such as, you know, the military spending, $500 billion budget, borrowing money from China to keep a war going, our trade deficit which is driven by a desire to shift jobs out of this country seeking low wages in places where there are no human rights and environment quality principles or workers' rights, and by energy policies which accelerate the wealth upwards. I think that a more equitable distribution of the wealth ought to be consistent with the message of the Democratic Party. Yet twice, Bill, in two- party platform meetings, I wasn't able to get a not-for-profit healthcare system in the Democratic Party platform in 2000, 2004 because of the hold these insurance companies have on the process.
BILL MOYERS: What would you do about the strong hold that the media has on our political discourse?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you have to realize that the media, you know, first of all, the media's not a monolith. I mean, we're here. You're part of the media. And I'm glad for it to have this opportunity. But I think that we have to, first of all, cause media corporations to divest of any other interests. Media ought to just be media.
Media shouldn't be Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Media shouldn't be defense contractors, okay? Media should be media. And when the media has the responsibility, it has to adhere to the principles outlined in the Federal Communication Act of 1934. They should serve in the public interest, convenience, and necessity. And that measure has often been lost.
BILL MOYERS: So is media reform just as important to you now as campaign finance reform used to be?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Of course it is. Of course it is. I mean, this is something I taught years ago at Case Western Reserve. I understand the role--
BILL MOYERS: You've got your master's in communications.
DENNIS KUCINICH: I do. And I understand the role of the media. I respect the role. But I -
BILL MOYERS: Yet all your career you've been up against the mainstream media.
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, - Bill, I could have chosen a role a long time ago to support the status quo and take the fast route to political success. And I was mayor of Cleveland 30 years ago. I could have sold a city's municipal electronic system and been on a fast track to a governorship at age 32, 33. But you know what? I represent the public interest. And the media often, you know, is supporting private interest groups which are also called-- sometimes called advertisers and also called other corporate connections. And you know what? We've got to have media reform in this country because, otherwise, we're never going to really feel the full expression of the power of the First Amendment.
The electronic broadcast media is licensed to, you know, and to operate the airwaves in a public trust for the public. They don't own those airwaves. And we have an obligation to expect that they're going to function in the public interest. And when they don't, there has to be some changes.
BILL MOYERS: Congressman Kucinich, thank you for joining me. You're on your way back to New Hampshire.
DENNIS KUCINICH: Yes, I am. Manchester, to join my wife. And we're going to keep campaigning all the way to the election.
BILL MOYERS: Good to see you.
That's it for THE JOURNAL this week. We'll see you again this time next week. I'm Bill Moyers.