(You can read the text of Senator’s Paul’s speech at the end of this article)
(AP) - Texas congressman Ron Paul won the presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action
Conference for the second straight year Saturday and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney finished second.
Paul got 30 percent, while Romney got 23 percent of those who cast votes at the conference in Washington. Paul is a hero to Libertarians and has a fiercely loyal following.
Others were grouped far behind.
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels were among those in single digits.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, two high-profile Republicans who did not attend, were also in single digits.
Many potential candidates made speeches at the conference, attended by more than 11,000 conservative leaders and activists.
The poll found the top issues for those at the conference were reducing the size of the federal government, reducing government spending and lowering taxes.
The CPAC straw poll was co-sponsored by The Washington Times.
Text of Senator Paul’s speech
I’m not sure I heard it. Is there anybody here from the Tea Party? Are we going to let Washington co-op the Tea Party?
Will you help me fight for and defend the Constitution?
At the turn of the last century, the chaplain of the U.S. Senate was Edward Hale and they asked him, ‘do you pray for the Senate?’ And he said, ‘well, I look at Senators and I pray for the people.’
When I was elected to the Senate a fellow Senator called me to congratulate me and he said, ‘the first six months, you’ll pinch yourself and say, how did I get here? The next six months, you’ll pinch yourself and say, how the hell did the rest of these guys get here?’
I brought with me today two examples -- gross examples -- of government ineptitude. There’s probably thousands of others, but I brought these two I learned about recently from Senator Collins. It’s not that government is inherently stupid, although that’s a debatable question, but I have two examples that may make you wonder whether it is an inherent trait of government. The Energy Department has an EnergyStar program. You’ve seen the stickers for energy efficiency? Well, Senator Collins got wind of this and she said, you know what? I think maybe they’ll approve anything. She had the investigator general send things over. This is an air freshener. I’m not kidding. I’m not making this up. This is the actual air freshener that was sent over to the Energy Department, and it got a sticker. Okay? Approved. We also have -- this is a near facsimile. This is actually the smaller version. It’s much larger than this. A gasoline powered alarm clock. It’s going to save electricity.
Early on in my campaign I stopped by a book publisher in Shepherdsville, Ky. It’s near Louisville. This book publisher had published Barry Goldwater’s “The Conscience of a Conservative,” the first edition. I’ve always liked the passage from the first chapter where he says,
“I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them.
My aim is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution . . . I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is “needed” before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ “interests,” I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.”
Barry Goldwater mentions one Supreme Court case in that book: Wicker v. Filburn, many know it. A farmer in California wants to grow 20 acres of wheat. The government says you can only grow 10 acres of wheat. He said, by what authority do you tell me this? And they say, the Commerce Clause, and he said, well, I’m not even going to sell the wheat. I’m going feed it to my cattle, and they say to him, well, by your inactivity, by not doing anything, can you indirectly affect the price of wheat, and they enforce this. That ruling was in the ’40s. For 60 and 70 years now we’ve been working with this notion that the Commerce Clause says that our government can do anything. Until Obamacare came along.
They scoffed at us when we said it wasn’t constitutional. Nancy Pelosi looked like a deer in the headlights; she couldn’t believe that anyone would question the constitutionality. Judge Napolitano asked Representative Clyburn about the constitutionality and Representative Clyburn readily admitted, most of the things we do in Washington have no constitutional authority. It is amazing and appalling.
This Supreme Court case that will be more, about much more than health care. It’s going to be about whether or not we believe that our government should be restrained by the Constitution. I think for 60 or 70 years we’ve been gradually going down this road of becoming more of a majoritarian rule, a democracy. Jefferson said democracy would be nothing more than a mob rule. Our Founding Fathers knew the difference between a republic and a democracy.
Our understanding of the Commerce Clause has become so broad that I often will say, if my shoes were made in Tennessee, they’ll regulate my walking in Kentucky. Recently Senator Coburn in one of the committee hearings asked Elena Kagan, he said, well, do you think the government through the Commerce Clause could regulate you eat three vegetables a day? Her response was, yes.
It is important who the next president will be. It is important who is on the Supreme Court. And we may better make darn certain that we get the right person in 2012. We face a looming debt crisis. It’s worse than you can imagine. It really is coming upon us quickly. I went to a presentation this week and they said that japan reached a point of no return. They say when its debt equals its economy, when your total debt is about equal to your gross domestic product you approach a point of no return. We’re quickly approaching that point, and what kind of leadership are we getting, though? The president of the United States wants to sound like he’s now a conservative. Says he’s going to freeze spending. Well, he’s going to freeze this much of the budget, at inflated levels of spending, and over five years he’s going to add $3.8 trillion to the debt.
It’s unacceptable. But you are the conservatives, and you drive the debate. So what I’m going to tell you next you may not want to hear, but it’s true. The House Republican proposal will freeze this much of the budget at 2008 levels and will add $3 trillion to the debt over five years. It’s too little. It’s not enough. It’s too timid, and we must be more bold.
They’re talking about cutting $35 billion. We spend $35 billion in five days. We add $35 billion to the debt in nine days. It’s not enough, and we will not ruin in our country unless we think more boldly. We must cut more spending. We must cut out the unconstitutional programs we never intended to have here. We used to say as Republicans that we thought education was for the states and the localities and now we have a Department of Education that is consuming $100 billion and it’s time we go back to the Republican roots that says, we believe in abolishing the Department of Education.
There is, though, one compromise we will have to make as conservatives. Those of you who know me know I don’t like to compromise, but there is one compromise you have to make. And this is the compromise, and you have to think this through.
We have always been, as conservatives against the domestic welfare, the abuses of domestic spending, for making domestic spending smaller, but you have to understand that that’s this much of the budget. If you cut out all discretionary non-military spending you don’t balance the budget. You can’t get there unless you look at the whole budget. That means we will have to have entitlement reform. But here’s the compromise that also conservatives will have to make. We will have to look long and hard at the military budget -- I knew there was going to be -- I knew there had to be some dissension somewhere.
The thing is, is that the most important thing that our government does, the one primary and most important constitutional thing our government does is our national defense. Absolutely. But you cannot -- you cannot say that the doubling of the military budget in the last 10 years has been done wisely and there’s not any waste in it. If you do -- if you refuse to acknowledge that there’s any waste can be culled from the military budget, you are a big-government conservative and can you not lay claim to balancing the budget.
With regard to entitlement reform, it has to happen. There isn’t any question that it will happen. It’s whether we do it gradually in a rational manner, or whether we wait until there’s a collapse of the country and we have to do it dramatically. Everybody knows the answer. I said it in my campaign. The Republicans attacked me for it and so did the Democrats. The age of Social Security will have to gradually rise. I got a note from a young man who worked in the campaign, and he maybe here today. He said, thanks for proposing the $500 billion in budget cuts, thanks for tackling the Social Security problem and then, I wouldn’t mind opting out of Social Security.
Is there anybody here who would like to opt out of Social Security?
Our country stands at a precipice. America’s greatness and exceptionalism are because we chose economic and political freedom. We are not inherently exceptional. We are exceptional because we chose freedom and we chose to protect that freedom from tyranny with the Constitution. That’s why we’re exceptional. We can main that that exceptionalism, that freedom, that Constitution, but it won’t happen lying down. We must choose bold leadership as we go into 2012. We need bold leadership. We can’t have this incrementalism. It’s not going to be enough. You need bold leaders who will stand up and say, this should be done in Washington, but this should be left to states and localities respectively. One person can make a difference.
I think we are shaking it up. I think the Tea Party has had an enormous influence. This town is now talking about the debt and deficit constantly. The Tea Party brought that to Washington. You can continue to pressure them but don’t let up. It’s not enough to have Republicans in charge. We are not inherently exceptional as Republicans. You keep us so by keeping the pressure on. Let’s choose bold leadership in 2012.
Thank you for having me.
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