The new face of the freedom movement is Texas Congressman Ron Paul. The credit mostly goes to the Internet for having brought this principled politician into the light. And Paul is perhaps the only individual for whom “principled politician” isn’t an oxymoron. Among nontraditional campaign contributors online, Paul is the Republican presidential frontrunner, having outpaced Sen. John McCain in fundraising. While the mainstream media continues to blackout Paul, he’s setting the Internet ablaze with a firm position against the Iraq War, against taxes and against big government. Ultimately, more and more people every day are saying yes to Dr. No. (Paul earned the nickname because he is a physician and for voting against any and all tax increases, and against any legislation that expands the federal government’s power as a House Representative.) 

Locally, Paul’s impact is being felt. In just two short months, the Las Vegas Ron Paul Meetup Group has ballooned to more than 200 members. (Meetup.com is an online social networking website that facilitates offline group meetings in cities all over the world.) Vegas’ is now the eleventh largest Paul Meetup Group out of 553 nationwide, and is still growing. According to member Arden Osborne, the Vegas group is made up of people “all over the political spectrum, from anti-war Democrats to diehard Libertarians, from disillusioned Republicans to those with no experience involved in political action.” But for Arden, the journey from liberal to born-again freedom-lover began in 2004, when, curious about that year’s presidential election, he began to research George W. Bush on the Internet. What he learned disturbed him, greater than even Michael Moore’s infamous documentary hit job, Fahrenheit 9/11.

“The more I dug, the more I realized that this country is in serious trouble,” says Osborne. “Fact is. you can get more information from some of these websites and alternative media than from Ted Koppel or whomever.”

Osborne noticed Ron Paul’s name popping up in Libertarian websites like LewRockwell.com. Slowly but surely, Osborne’s liberal leanings started to shed and he began to fall in love with the original ideas that founded this country. 

“Paul is the only politician I can get excited about at this point,” says Osborne. “He’s the first politician that I have found who has absolute integrity. He bases all his votes and decisions on the basic principles of our Constitution. If you don’t have fixed principles, things like money and power can sway you. That’s what makes Paul an attractive presidential candidate — his principles and integrity.”

Osborne joined the Vegas Paul Meetup Group last May and has never looked back. While the group isn’t officially part of the Paul campaign, Osborne wants to make it clear that he and other local Paul supporters aren’t just idly chatting on the Internet. One prong of the group’s effort is to put Paul’s name out there with visible posters, signs and articles in the print media. Second, the group plans to start knocking on doors. 

“The ‘conversion’ rate is amazing,” says Osborne. “Once people learn that Paul voted against the war, against the Patriot Act, against government getting on our backs from the very beginning, people start to view him differently. I’m serious when I say that Paul is our last chance to get rid of the partisan junk. He doesn’t tow the party line. He’ll work both sides of the aisle, but only in accordance with the Constitution. He can bring the country back together and heal. He can reverse some of the self-destructive trends that have been set into motion. Anything else is just more of the same.”

The Las Vegas Ron Paul Meetup Group had an opportunity to meet with the 71-year-old Republican presidential candidate and hear him speak out against the federal government’s ongoing efforts — like a national ID card — to undermine the civil liberties of all Americans. According to an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, more than 350 young people comprised the bulk of this audience. 

Liberty Watch, on the other hand, was in attendance at FreedomFest, which took place July 5-7 inside Bally’s on the Strip. For those who don’t know, FreedomFest is, at least according to the organization’s website, “an annual festival bringing together hundreds of the best and the brightest free minds from around the world to discuss and debate.” (See this month’s French Connection column for a more fair and balanced perspective.) Paul appeared at FreedomFest on that same Saturday, speaking to a larger, older crowd.

Liberty Watch learned a lot about Paul from our informal chats at his book signing and in the lobby of Bally’s. For instance, Paul gets along well with Democratic presidential candidate and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, which is surprising given the latter’s left-leaning views. (Though the mutual respect is perhaps due to the media’s labeling of both candidates as “dark horses” in their respective parties.) And when asked about his thoughts on the growing suspicion in the Internet community that 9/11 was an inside job, Paul revealed that, from what he has read, the event was more likely an “incompetence” job on the part of our national security leaders. But it was only during our more formal interview that Paul revealed what he really thinks about being the favorite candidate among Libertarians and (yikes!) liberals.

Young voters are finding out about you primarily, it seems, via the Internet and your well-received and much-discussed appearances on cable TV shows like “The Colbert Report” and “Real Time with Bill Maher.” How important is the Internet and these political satires to your campaign?
I think they are very crucial, and even though I made a little joke about how such appearances will help a Republican in a Republican primary, it really will be helpful. A lot of new people will come out and vote — that’s what I have found. It’s very, very good for a general audience. If you take the war issue, 70 percent of the people are against the war, and yet not 70 percent — maybe not even 50 percent — of voters would be against the war in the Republican primary. So in order for us to do well in the Republican primary, we have to get people to come over and join us and go into the Republican primary in order to make it practical. But if you just look at the issues and the ability to spread a message, this has been very significant, what the Internet is doing and getting on these shows. Our success is far beyond anything I had anticipated.

How much will the liberal crowd nurture or neuter your anti-war, anti-tax campaign before they start tearing you down — in the way that “mainstream” conservatives like Giuliani already have?
Right now, liberals are the most enthusiastic about my campaign. If I get a speech on the House floor on foreign policy, I’ll get many hundreds — sometimes thousands — of comments sent to my office. I would say 90 percent of them are from Democrats. 

Do you worry that’s all machinations? To set you up for defeat later on by somebody more recognizable like Hilary Clinton?
No, I think they’re very sincere, because liberals are very, very frustrated with their own Democrats. Although they know I have shortcomings from their viewpoint — because I’m for free enterprise and free markets — they love my position on civil liberties and they love my position on war. They’re exasperated with their leadership, with Democratic leadership, because they’re not strong enough. Democrats go to their leadership and say, “Why don’t you work and talk like Ron Paul does?” So no, I think they’re very, very sincere. Now, whether or not they’re going to shift gears and come over to the party or not, that’s another thing. But certainly getting the message out and gaining support and introducing new people to these views has been growing by leaps and bounds.

We interviewed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for the July issue of Liberty Watch: The Magazine. He had only positive things to say about you. In fact, in the last few months, we’ve spoken to many regional and national conservatives, and with the exception of Giuliani, they have nothing negative to say about you. The word “integrity” keeps coming up. Why is it so hard for a politician other than Ron Paul to have the word integrity attached to his or her name?
I don’t have an answer for that. [Laughs.] Maybe there’s a vacuum out there. People come up to me all the time and tell me, “You know, you are the best Congressman in all of Washington D.C.” I say, “It’s nice of you to say that, but considering the competition, it’s no big deal.” But you know, Washington is a mess. It’s been taken over by special interests, and it’s all a reflection of big government. Government is doing too much; it has too much to pass out, and therefore that’s how the system works. Even businesspeople, people who would like to get the government off their backs, have to play politics, because they have to go there and work the lobbying system to try to get relief. My message is much clearer: It’s not a little bit of mismanagement. It’s the whole program that’s wrong. The whole system is wrong. The war is wrong. The way we go to war is wrong. The policies are wrong. I make it much clearer, and I think it’s much easier to understand. I remember in a debate one Republican candidate was asked, “What programs are you going to get rid of?” And he hemmed and hawed and finally came up with one little program that nobody had ever heard of. Of course, my answer was rather clear. Instead of two or three programs, start with three departments — and let’s just get rid of them! So that’s easier to understand.

You currently serve as a role model for many young people interested entering politics so they can make the changes necessary to eliminate taxes and the corrupting influence of big government. Can you offer any good or practical advice to someone who is maybe mulling a decision to run for local office in his or her hometown or district?
The most important thing is to study hard, and understand that if you believe in freedom and limited government, then learn the issues and know how to explain them. Learn the monetary issues and the economic issues. If you know the issues well, you can explain the answers so that people can’t put you down as being uncaring and not compassionate. You have to be able to answer that, because freedom is compassionate, more so than all the authoritarian approaches. And then, when you learn that well and have studied that well, somebody will give you a job. You won’t even have to go looking. Somebody will give you a job. 

For more info on Ron Paul, visit ronpaul2008.org. For more info on the Las Vegas Ron Paul Meetup Group, visit ronpaul.meetup.com/47.

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