Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Transcript: Ron Paul on CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer

Transcript, May 15 2007 5:10 PM EDT

WOLF BLITZER (Host): Congressman Ron Paul, Republican of Texas. He's a candidate for President of the United States. Congressman, you had quite a little testy exchange there with Rudy Giuliani last night. Let me run this little clip to remind our viewers what happened.

REP. RON PAUL (video clip from May 15 debate): They attack us because we've been over there. We've been bombing Iraq for 10 years.

GIULIANI (video clip from May 15 debate): That's an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack, because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I've ever heard that before, and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11. [loud applause]

BLITZER: He really had some supporters in that auditorium. Are you ready to back away from the implication of what you were saying last night, because certainly when you were given the chance last night, you didn't.

PAUL: No, there's no reason to. I think he's going to have to back away from his statement pretty soon, because I found two very clear quotes in the 9/11 Commission Report that says that very thing: that our foreign policy has a very great deal to do with their willingness and desire to commit suicide terrorism. So, I would suggest that he read the 9/11 Commission Report.

BLITZER: Well, the impression that I got from what you were saying is that the US monitoring of the no-fly zones in Iraq for 10 years before the war, that was responsible for Al-Qaeda coming to the United States and blowing up the World Trade Center?

PAUL: No, I said that was part of it. And part of it was the fact that we had troops in Saudi Arabia, which is considered holy land. And this is backed up by the 9/11 Commission Report, so I think he needs to read that, because that's policy. The CIA does not deny this. This is what they found when they went into deep investigation. So here he is, mayor of the city, and brags about all this security, and he hasn't even read the report. So I think he needs to read that report.

BLITZER: But you were saying specifically that the U.S. had been bombing Iraq for 10 years, you didn't mention the Saudi Arabia element last night.

PAUL: Well, you know, Wolf, what can you do in 30 seconds? Sometimes you don't get to do a full explanation. But that's what the case has been: yes, we did bomb. I mean, how many times did Clinton bomb, and how many times did Bush bomb? And it was not infrequent. I'll bet you we didn't go one year where we didn't bomb. And beside we had sanctions, they also cited sanctions, where literally hundreds of thousands of people died from the sanctions, from loss of medicine and food due to our sanctions. I mean, if somebody did that to us, would we be angry? That's my question.

BLITZER: I guess the bottom line question, though, is that a lot of viewers came away saying here's Ron Paul, he's a Republican who wants to be President, he's blaming the United States in effect for 9/11. I wonder if you want to revise that impression in any way.

PAUL: No, they need to understand history, they need to understand that he's hiding behind patriotism. Because what they're saying is that I'm un-American because I'm challenging policy. I'm an American, because I have a right and an obligation to challenge policy. If policy is detrimental and has blowback, then we should change it. But to say that we have to accept this policy without any question, I think is the wrong thing to do. And this is what they expect, and if you don't do it, they say, "Oh, you're blaming America, you're unpatriotic." And I think that's foolish. I think somebody that does not allow dissent and discussion and arguments about why this policy is good or bad... The American people, see, he wants to put words in my mouth and say that "the American people caused this, I blame the American people". No, I blame bad policy. And bad policy can have consequences. Unintended. The CIA recognized it, the 9/11 Commission recognized it. So, to me, this sounds very logical. I think he needs to back down. I think he needs to read the report, and come back and apologize to me.

BLITZER: If he is the Republican nominee, and he is the front-runner right now, could you support him for President?

PAUL: That would be pretty difficult. It depends on if he changes foreign policy, I might consider it. But, no, he's not very Republican, and he faced a lot of challenges in the debate too. You know, on abortion, and gun rights, and a lot of other issues that fiscal conservatives challenge him on. So, he has a ways to go. And I take it as a compliment that he did what he did. Because, you know, if you're at the bottom of the rung of the ladder, you know, you don't get attacked like that. So evidently he considers me a threat. And the polling last night, on FOX, of all places, I out-beat him. You know, I won the polling over Giuliani. So why do people not talk about that?

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, Congressman, but if you were President, what would you do about the Al-Qaeda threat? Forget about Iraq right now. The Al-Qaeda threat, Osama bin Laden, he's still on the loose, what would you do about that threat to the United States?

PAUL: Well, I'd go after him. I voted for the authority, I wish they had done it. We voted for the money, and yet we ignored it. So this is my complaint, that we didn't do what we were supposed to do, and we went and started a war that we shouldn't have. And here we have Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan, they have a nuclear weapon, they have a military dictatorship, they overthrew an elected government, and what do we do when they get nuclear weapons, not following the NPT treaty? We reward them. We give them money. So I'm saying, don't reward people who get nuclear weapons, and then they'll want to get them. That's why Saddam Hussein pretended he had one, because he thought if he had one maybe we'd leave him alone. So it's natural for people like Iran, the leadership in Iran, to want to get a nuclear weapon, because we respect people that have power, and we disrespect people that we think we can run over them and run roughshod over their countries, invade them preemptively, and change their regime. I think it's a bad foreign policy: it's not Republican, it's not conservative, and it's not Constitutional.

BLITZER: Congressman Paul, thanks very much for joining us here in the Situation Room.

PAUL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I think you're going to have a long wait if you really expect Rudy Giuliani to apologize to you for that last night.

PAUL: Well, ask him please.

BLITZER: All right, next time I interview him, I'll ask him.

PAUL: [chuckles]

BLITZER: Thanks, Congressman.

PAUL: Okay.