Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul spoke to a beyond-capacity crowd Saturday in Warriner Hall’s Plachta Auditorium before Tuesday’s primary.
While the auditorium has 1,226 seats, many more attended, standing both inside and outside the room. Both the lower seating area and balcony of the auditorium were filled, with attendees also standing along the walls.
A crowd of those who were not admitted stood in the lobby outside, listening to an audio feed of the speech.
Paul was joined on stage by veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He spent much of the speech decrying war and its impact on the federal deficit and America’s image abroad, saying the U.S. should consider a “golden rule” in foreign policy.
“Americans by a large majority have come around and said the wars we’re fighting in the Middle East make no sense whatsoever,” Paul said. “In the last ten years, these wars have caused us to build up $4 trillion in debt, and quite frankly, I don’t feel safer because of it.”
Paul said the United States has stretched its military resources too thin.
“We have over-expanded ourselves,” Paul said. “We should just mind our own business and just come home.”
He drew parallels to the calls for war with Iran from his fellow Republican candidates to those made for the Iraq War a decade ago.
“The war drums are beating,” Paul said. “We are not under threat from the Iranians. We need to wake up and tell our representatives that we don’t need another war. We need less war.”
He criticized the Patriot Act, a law passed in 2001 that, among other things, authorized warrantless wiretaps, and the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a controversial and vague provision that may allow the military to indefinitely detain American citizens without trial.
“The worst criminals in the world have been given trials, Saddam Hussein even had a trial,” Paul said. “Now to assume that we can do this, this is a challenge.”
Paul criticized government spending and federal debt and called for a return to laissez-faire economics and an eventual end to entitlement programs to counteract it.
“We have perpetuated our debt,” Paul said. “We are now in the biggest debt crisis in the history of the world.”
Paul called for a return to the gold standard, saying the U.S. does not have to return to the same gold standard of the past, but rather an improved-upon gold standard.
He also said the federal government should stop the “war on drugs” and other similar efforts, adding that “they don’t work.”
Paul ended the speech with, “Those are my goals; peace and prosperity.”
Paul was brought to Central Michigan University by Campus Conservatives, a registered student organization. Campus Conservatives President Taylor Jackson, a Mount Pleasant senior, said the night was definitely a success.
“It went very well,” he said. “This was big, especially for our group.”
While the RSO will not be offering an endorsement, Jackson said the enthusiasm of the audience was a positive sign.
“There was a tremendous amount of energy in the audience,” he said. “Dr. Paul was very well received by everyone there.”
John Engel traveled from Bay City to support Paul, who he called “the only true conservative in the race.”
Engel said he was thrilled to hear Paul was coming to CMU and brought along a large cardboard sign to show his support.
“He is the only one who is really addressing our national debt with serious cuts,” Engel said. “It’s the only thing that makes sense.”
Engel may also attend Paul’s speech Monday at Michigan State University, he said.
Students on both sides of the political spectrum said they were glad Paul visited and was met by a full auditorium.
“I think it’s really awesome that people are getting involved in the civil process,” said Michelle Shamaly, College Democrats member, SGA Press Secretary and a senior from Clinton Township.
Clinton Township senior Stephanie Jaczkowski, a member of College Republicans, agreed.
“It’s great to see other people involved, whether they agreed with Ron Paul or not,” she said. “They really do understand we have a vested interest in our future.”
Paul’s speech included many references to civil liberties and freedom.
“That’s a message that resonates with every American,” Jaczkowski said. “A message of liberty should resonate.”
However Shamaly did not accept that message, coming from Paul.
“He talks about civil rights and liberties, but if you dig into it a little more, you’ll find he is anti gay and women’s rights,” she said.