Managing Executive Editor
It was standing room only as 500 people packed into the Mabel Brown Room for a town hall meeting with presidential candidate Ron Paul on Nov. 21. The room was a mix of students, faculty, and Keene residents all eager to hear from who they called “Dr. Paul.” The event was sponsored by the Keene State College Republicans and the American Democracy Project, and began with introductions from both groups. However, the crowd went into a standing ovation as soon as Paul took the stage.
Paul’s views on financial reform were his main focus throughout most of his speech. He believes that a sound financial situation is best achieved through a free market economy. Paul says that since 1971, the Federal Reserve has been able to print unlimited amounts of money with no gold backing, increasing inflation and devaluing the dollar. Paul wants to end what he believes is the Federal Reserve working in secrecy and controlling the economy, “Just think that the federal reserve is much bigger and much more powerful than even the whole Congress in their ability to create and spend money.” In addition, Paul also spoke of the massive amount of loaning the U.S. has been forced to do as a result of all the government spending. Paul also said, “Honest money keeps the government in check instead of borrowing out of thin air.”
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Paul said that one of the first places he would cut spending as president would be overseas and defense spending. He said that getting involved in foreign entanglements is part of our country’s problem. Paul is opposed to what he calls the United States’ tendency to police the rest of the world, especially when we still have problems in the United States. Paul said the executive branch’s ability to declare war, instead of the legislative branch declaring war is a huge problem because the country is engaged in too many conflicts. “As president, I would never go to war without a declaration of war from the U.S. Congress,” he said.
Paul said he would bring the troops home from all over the world, to not only end conflicts, but to severely cut overseas and defense spending. “I am saying that if we are serious about it, we will turn that country over to the Iraqi’s and let them deal with their problems.” He spoke of the negative impact the U.S. often has on these countries, stating that, “a lot of times, we kill innocent people. We’re bombing countries like Pakistan,” he said. Paul also promoted the use of diplomacy, saying that we have a large amount of diplomats. “We ought to make use of them,” Paul said.
The ideas of a free market being the best economy dovetailed with Paul’s beliefs in individual liberty and limited government. Paul said that the initial goal of the Constitution was not only to bring together the colonies, but to restrict the power of the government, not the liberty of the people. Paul said over the last century the government has invaded the lives of the people, and no longer is its power restricted. Individual liberties have been stripped from the people in the last few decades, according to Paul, most blatantly in the form of the Patriot Act. The crowd cheered and people waved their signs in support of Ron Paul when he declared, “As president, I want to get rid of the Patriot Act.”
The discussion on individual liberty prompted what is one of Paul’s most well-known views, the legalization of drugs. “I think the drug war has been more much damaging to our society than the use of drugs,” Paul said. Paul believes that the country is well-versed in protecting our freedoms when it comes to religion and education, but the government does not take the same stance when it comes to our own bodies and what we put in them. When it came to drugs, he said, “Legalizing freedom does not mean you endorse what people do…why would it matter what people do as an individual?”
After Paul fielded various questions from the crowd, the Occupy Keene movement wanted to make its presence known with a “mic check.” Craig Rice, a Keene resident, stood up and yelled, “We are the 99%,” as the rest of the members of the movement echoed him. Rice said, “This is something we planned to do. We have nothing against Ron Paul. We’re not endorsing any candidate.” Another member of Occupy Keene, Jeff Scott, said this movement is something “we all share.” Scott also said, “I’m disgusted by the whole political process.” Both occupiers said they planned to organize an event when President Obama would be speaking in Manchester later on in the week.
Before the event, there had been rumors of a mic check, and according to Keene Police Officer Brendan Bosquet, there wasn’t much change in security despite these rumors. “We just want everyone to have the opportunity to state their opinion.” The occupiers were quickly dismissed, however, as Paul said, “I’m very much involved with the 99%, I’ve been condemning the one percent.”
For KSC students, Ron Paul was a mixed bag of positives and negatives, with some students warming up to Paul’s ideas and others dismissing him. Student Danielle Couture was not impressed with Paul, and didn’t think much of his speech applied to students. “His one comment on the smoking marijuana kinda pissed me off. I know you want to sway the younger vote, but by just dropping drug terms I’m not sure that’s really appropriate.” Michael Woodward, who also came to explore politics and Ron Paul, was a pretty big fan of Paul’s belief that we should take care of our problems in the United States before we take care of the world’s problems, but wasn’t committed to Paul as a candidate, “I have to do some research on the other candidates before I make a sound decision on who to vote for.”
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