Nothing would be more expected to make any politician toe the standard line on 9/11 than being confronted by a NYC policeman who was himself a 9/11 first responder.
A back-and-forth this afternoon at a Meredith, New Hampshire town hall meeting is instructive about what kind of politician Ron Paul is. It occurred in a hotel meeting room jammed far beyond comfort with 500-600 people. You need to show up an hour early if you want a seat or to avoid being sardine-crammed in a back corner these days at Ron Paul event.
During the Q and A, a man identified himself as having two jobs: a professor of American constitutional history at a community college, and a New York City police officer who had been a 9/11 first responder. As part of his question to Paul, he said: "A lot of people like what you say about the Constitution and domestic policy but go on the defense in terms of what you say about foreign policy and especially 9/11...what can you say to reassure them?"
It seemed to hearken back to what is in many ways the origin story of the Ron Paul revolution: the moment in May 2007 at a GOP debate when Ron Paul shocked Rudy Giuliani, then the frontrunner, with the idea that American policies and behaviors may have had some influence on the fact that 9/11 happened.
Part of Paul's response today: "It was shortly [after 9/11] that we had a vote to give the president the authority to go after the individuals responsible for it, which I strongly supported.
"But I did not believe for a minute that authority should have been used the way it was used. It was used to go to war against Iraq, oh yeah the Iraqis were involved...it was used to do things like the Patriot Act which was already floating around...We can't just fly off and do things that are more harmful, we have to do things that defend this country. [With all our bases around the world] we are not doing ourselves much of a favor because we don't have any money.
"One thing important about the evaluation of 9/11 was that one thing Paul Wolfowitz, a big orchestrator for the war, for going into Iraq, as soon as that happened, within days he said you know what? This gives us a chance to get our troops out of Saudi Arabia, because Bin Laden is using that as a recruiting tool....our troops in Saudi Arabia are seen as in the Holy Land used as recruiting tool by Bin Laden to do us harm. So we took troops out of Saudi Arabia, but they don't understand that troops in Muslim countries...are still inciting people, we go into Pakistan with no authority whatsoever and launch these bombs, go after one, two, three people, the bad people and have innocent people killed. The best way to look at that is ask, how would we react if someone did that to us?"
That drew out long, huge applause
Paul went on. "I very much want to be engaged [with the world], but in a different manner. I don't want to be engaged by acting like a bully, if they do what we say we bribe them, give them more money, if we don't we start a war with them and occupy their country. I'm sick and tired of that...we need to influence the world with our goodness, our goodness will be spread if we do a good job, if we have freedom, prosperity and civil rights here in this country and we mind our own business and we don't go around bullying people maybe people will see us as an example...this is so much different than what we are doing today."
That got more huge claps and long cheers.
That famous Paul/Giuliani dustup from May 2007:
More from the Ron Paul New Hampshire campaign trail will be coming soon here on Hit and Run and in the April issue of Reason. In the meantime, pre-order my forthcoming book, Ron Paul's Revolution.