10:32: Russert points out that the income tax repeal would cost $1 trillion. Paul: "That's good."
10:33: How much would we save if we pull our troops out of every overseas post? The first of many gotchas, but Paul is ready: More than a trillion dollars.
10:34: More Russerting: "How many troops do we have overseas right now?" Paul doesn't know the exact.
10:35: Russert keeps asking Paul for specific foreign policy answers, and Paul keeps saying the same thing: Cut off aid. The president can't declare war, Congress can't. What about North Korea?
10:36: Paul would cut off all foreign aid to Israel "and the Arabs." "They would take much better care of themselves, they'd have their national soverignty back."
10:38: "Is al Qaeda the problem or is America
10:39: "Is there an ideological struggle where Islamic fascists [pronounced faashists] want to take over the world"? Paul says no, there's a group of terrorists and then there's the rest of Islam.
10:41: Eric Dondero! Russert quotes Hit and Run's #1 superstar and asks if his claim about Paul's surrender-monkeyism after 9/11 is true. "I'm surprised you'd quote somebody like that. He's a disgruntled former employee."
10:43: Russert quotes Paul from 1988 talking about scrapping the CIA and the Department of Education. "That's not part of my platform," regarding the CIA: We should ban torture but collect intelligence for defense purposes.
10:44: Russert: "You don't want to get rid of public schools?" Paul: "That's a misquote. I'd like to
know where that came from." He wants to abolish the Department of Education. "We [Republicans] used to campaign on that!"
10:46: Ah, Paul is getting hit with four articles about his stated opposition to government disaster bailouts and earmarks and his own earmarking.
10:47: Paul waves his hands and scoffs: "You've got it wrong!" Russert compares him to John Kerry and "I voted for it before I voted against it." "Awww, come on!" Paul argues that putting earmarks for his district into spending bills is playing the system, making sure his constituents will get money that would be wasted otherwise.
10:49: Huh, we're talking about term limits? Paul is a hypocrite because he "supported" them but he's been in Congress for a while. He argues that he never personally pledged to limit his service.
10:50: Paul gets a quote from 1987 where he supports open borders: Paul counters by pointing out he "got in trouble" for saying "There may well be a time where immigration is like an invasion." Only Ron would counter a controversial statement with an even more controversial statement.
10:52: Paul's October 1988 Reason column on the drug war gets quoted: Does Paul want to legalize drugs? "I'm defending the Constitution on this issue. I think drugs are horrible. Prescription drugs are worse than illegal drugs."
10:54: Paul criticized the Civil Rights Act… he points out that Barry Goldwater was against it, which is a truly unconvincing rationale for a number of reasons. Would Paul vote against it today? He hedges! "I get more support from black people than any other Republican candidate, according to some statistics."
10:55: This must be the first time we've seen a debate about the legitimacy of the Civil War on Meet the Press. Why does Paul think Lincoln didn't need to declare war? "Oh, come on, Tim." We would have gotten rid of slavery eventually.
10:58: Paul gets a bunch of Reagan and Bush (both of them)-bashing quotes tossed back at him. "I represent what the Republican Party used to stand for: Individual liberty" etc.
10:59: Will Paul run as a third party candidate. "I have no intention of doing that." Russert burrows in. "I deserve one weasel now and then, Tim!" [UPDATE: According to the transcript Paul said he deserves a "wiggle," which sounds better.] He has a good response: "How many of the other candidates have you asked about that? Did you ask John McCain if he'd run as an independent?" Paul's obviously pleased but Russert has the right counterpunch: "They don't have a history of running in third parties." Paul's a little chastened. "Well… ask them that question next time."
11:01: Russert closes, rather surprisingly, on why Paul said Mike Huckabee's ad reminded him of the old chestnut about "fascism arriving in America carrying a cross and waving a flag." Paul cops a plea: "They gave that to me cold, I'd never seen it." Asked again: "No, but I think this country in the last 100 years is moving toward fascism."
My take: It was a good, tough, fair interview. No asking to counter smears, just prying into decades of Paul's statements that the average, non-Reason-subscribing voter would blanche at, and that he's not often asked to explain again. Apart from foreign policy and earmark issues I think Paul acquitted himself well. But on those issues… as usual, Paul talks coldly and theoretically about terrorism, an issue where politicians are expected to bit their lips and hum "Have You Forgotten?" On earmarks, he just didn't bring together Fact A and Fact B in a convincing manner, and he lucked out in Russert's frenzy to move to the next question. His answers on the Civil Rights Act and Lincoln were rough, but those are the sorts of things you can be esoteric about.
UPDATE: Here's the transcript. I definitely missed some stuff during the broadcast (blame either on my deep, burning anti-liberty bias or the dog jumping on my lap) so this can fill in the gaps.