Ron Paul faced two different New Hampshires yesterday as part of a 10-day campaign swing through the Northeast. One was cordial, if reserved, a group of business and political leaders. The other, at a local retirement center, challenged his core views, and repeated questions if they felt he hadn’t answered.
Paul first spoke to state political and economic power players at Politics and Eggs at the New Hampshire Institute for Politics at St. Anselm’s College in Goffstown, and later to seniors at Havenwood Heritage Heights in Concord.
He also spoke briefly to reporters are various points in the day. One asked, citing poll numbers that show only 8 percent of the country would trust him to manage the economy, how he would go about changing his message.
“I’m not gonna change the message,” Paul said, with a tone of surprise, and he put that into practice yesterday evening.
Pieces of the message – cut military spending dramatically by bringing home all troops stationed overseas, lower taxes and restore civil liberties – played well at the breakfast event, which gave him several rounds of applause, including when he proposed “a Golden Rule foreign policy: Don’t ever do anything to another country that you wouldn’t accept them doing to us.”
Most of his speech and the questions focused on the economy, which Paul said isn’t necessarily the government’s job.
“If elected, I wouldn’t manage the economy, I would turn the economy back over to you,” he said.
“We as a people have rejected the notion of a free market and the principles of the Constitution, of working hard and saving money, being frugal and being self-reliant. . . . If an individual comes up short, we told them they were entitled.
“Liberty is all about a lot of people making their own decisions, being free to suffer the consequences or benefit from their abilities.”
He also won a big round of applause when he said Congress should set a good example and cut their own pay and benefits, including the pension plan he has never accepted.
But by evening, he found himself in a room with a crowd that challenged his answers to their questions, spoke out against the basic principles of his campaign, and put him on the spot.
“Too many politicians, when they do these stand-up-and-talk things, they talk in broad generalities,” said Havenwood resident Charles Friou. “At the end, I tend not to know what they would really do.”
The first question Paul faced at the evening event wasn’t a question so much as an attack: “Anybody who thinks if we bring the troops home, the terrorists are going to say ‘Oh, America, they’re not so bad, I don’t think we should attack civilians anymore,’ is off his rocker,” said Archie Richards, who also lives at Havenwood.
Paul reiterated his “Golden Rule” statement from the morning: “You should always opt for talking to people and treating them as you want to be treated,” he told the crowd, which didn’t react at all.
“We were told that (terrorists) came because we were free and prosperous. There’s a lot of free and prosperous countries, and they’re not attacking them. How would we react if somebody dropped bombs on us? We would resent it. . . . They perceive us as occupying their country.”
Next up, Joe Sutton of New London took aim at Paul’s foreign policy. He wanted to know if there were any empires in the history of the world that were voluntarily shrunk.
“What we make in America and we make it very well, is airplanes and weapons and things. How can you shrink the empire and still exist as a country, still grow the economy?” Sutton asked. “There’s no precedent.”
Paul countered with a list, dating back to Cicero, of failed empires.
“Cicero tried to preach it, and he lost his head and the empire took over. England lost their empire and they still exist. We will exist,” Paul said, “but the empire is gradually coming to an end. . . . The best we can hope for is weaning off of it, or wait til it ends in a difficult manner.”
Friou came back for another round with Paul.
Paul asserted that bringing home the troops will benefit the economy by cutting government expenditures and allowing servicemen and women to spend their pay at home, instead of in Germany, Korea or other countries where the United States has military bases, and then contribute to growing the economy – just like at the end of World War II.
No, Friou said, didn’t Dwight Eisenhower’s interstate highway system and the GI Bill help?
Paul replied, in a characteristically long answer, that no, in his view, that all came much later and was paid for with the taxes raised from the successful return of the troops to the workforce.
After the program, Friou said he wasn’t convinced.
“He still spoke in generalizations, and I didn’t hear anything that convinced me to vote for him,” he said.
At least one man, sitting in the front row, was easy to convince.
“Do you drive a foreign or domestic car?” he asked.
“I drive a Ford,” Paul said. “I wanted to buy domestic, but it became really hard because so many of the companies were taking government bailouts, but Ford didn’t, so I bought one.”
“I’ll vote for you,” the man said.
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)