Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul said Saturday his presidency would restore to Americans liberties that have evaporated as the federal government has grown larger in the past 40 years.
Liberty is the one word the Texas congressman would use to describe the main theme of his campaign, Paul told an estimated crowd of about 1,300 on the south plaza of the state Capitol.
“That's what made the country great, and that's what we're losing, and that's why we're not so great anymore, and that's why there's revolution going on,” he told a cheering crowd. “I'm sure glad the revolution has arrived in Oklahoma because it is spreading. It is an intellectual revolution. ... It cannot be stopped by armies or any government.
“The government keeps growing, but where we're making inroads is with you,” he said. “The people are waking up, but Washington still is sound asleep. They don't hear from us yet, but that is our job ... to let them get the message what we need in this country and that's more liberty.”
In a wide-ranging 30-minute speech, Paul said he opposes restrictions placed on Americans since the 9/11 terrorism attacks. He said he is against the surveillance and search powers of the Patriot Act and would work to repeal it if elected president.
“When we get around to repealing it, we're not going to say we're repealing the Patriot Act; we're going to say restore the Fourth Amendment to this country,” he said.
Paul encouraged supporters to vote for him March 6 in Oklahoma's presidential preferential primary; after his speech, he denied reports that he may drop out and support former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination.
“No, never,” he said.
Paul said during his speech he is worried the country's fragile economy could collapse and that America could be back in a recession in as soon as six months.
“We are not a productive nation,” he said. “We're living on borrowed money.”
Paul said unemployment figures are actually closer to 20 percent, or more than twice as high as official government estimates.
The country's middle class is shrinking, he said. At one time, the United States had the largest and wealthiest middle class in the world.
Paul said his suggestions to improve the economy include fully auditing — and then ending — the Federal Reserve System, which has enabled more than a 95 percent reduction of what the dollar can buy. It continues to create money to finance future debt, which is heading the country toward a financial disaster, he said.
Paul told the crowd, which had a large number of young people, that he also would eliminate income taxes. He said he would work to repeal the 16th Amendment, which allows Congress to levy an income tax.
“We ought to have the right to keep the fruits of our labor,” he said.
Paul said he supports a strong national defense, but that American troops should come home.
“Great nations who overextend themselves overseas inevitably go bankrupt and we're in the middle of the declaration of our bankruptcy now,” he said. “That is why there is so much turmoil around the world because we have been issuing the universal currency, the reserve currency of the world so we have to face up to that.”
After his speech, Paul said the United States should be cautious about an International Atomic Energy Agency report saying that Iran has tripled its production capacity for a type of fuel that is far closer to what is needed to make the core of a nuclear weapon.
“The Iranians don't have a nuclear weapon; they don't have a delivery system,” he said. “We have no evidence — there's no proof at all that they are. ... To start a war over a weapon they might get someday is reckless.”
The war on drugs
He told the crowd that the “war on drugs” hasn't worked and that people should be allowed to have personal responsibility in what they choose to put in their bodies. The drug war has cost the country about $4 trillion in the last 50 years, Paul said.
“Guess what? There's still a lot of bad drugs out there, there's a lot of addictions,” he said. “I don't like the idea of saying drug addiction is a crime.”
Drug abuse should be treated as a disease, he said. Treatment should be given in most cases instead of incarceration.
“Prescription drugs are a bigger problem than the illegal drugs,” Paul said.
A younger base
Noticing the many young adults in the crowd, Paul said he often is asked along the campaign trail why younger people seem to respond to his message.
“They still have an open mind,” he said. “They're idealistic.”
Four years ago, Paul wound up being the only candidate other than U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to win Oklahoma delegates to the national convention.
Paul won two delegates after former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee dropped out of the race and released his six delegates. McCain, who went on to become the GOP presidential nominee, won the other 39 delegates here.
This year's presidential preferential primary election will determine how the state's 43 GOP delegates will be apportioned.
After his speech, Paul said he is optimistic that he will do well here in Oklahoma.
“I don't know the numbers, but all I know is the enthusiasm is greater — the number of volunteers that we have, the money that we raise in this state is so much better, so all I can say is I expect to do a lot better than I did four years ago,” he said.
Brandon Becker, of Norman, said he will vote for Paul in the March 6 election. He said he likes everything about Paul's stance on the issues.
Aaron Morgan, of Hartshorne, said he likes that Paul doesn't accept money from lobbyists and added that he will vote for the candidate in next month's primary.
“He's an honest, moral person,” Morgan said.