Paul stumps in Freeport
On Saturday afternoon, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul spoke to hundreds of supporters crowded in front of Linda Bean’s Maine Kitchen & Topside Tavern, after gaining a formal endorsement from the L.L. Bean heiress.
Bean, who has made two bids as a Republican for Maine’s 1st U.S. Congressional District, said she has been a longtime supporter of the Texas congressman, in part because he advocates for putting U.S. currency back on the gold standard.
“ His issues are dynamic and that commands attention,” Bean told The Times Record.
Bean said she sees Paul’s campaign “gaining momentum all the time” at speaking engagements such as his stop in Freeport on Saturday.
Rep. Paul’s visit was part of a tour of caucus states — including Colorado, Nevada and Maine — where he is hoping to establish footholds while the race’s front- runners, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, focus their atten- tion to a winner-take-all battle for 50 delegates in Florida on Tuesday.
Elaine Greene, a spokeswoman for the Freeport Flag Ladies, which she described as nonpartisan and apolitical, said Saturday that for “candidates who show they are looking to catch people in all states, it is a compliment to their character.”
To the Freeport audience, Paul, 76, hit on common themes of his campaign, including: ending the Federal Reserve system, abolishing income taxes, cutting the federal budget and ending all conflicts overseas to bring American troops back home.
For areas like Mid-coast Maine — where defense spending at Bath Iron Works and the transition of Brunswick Naval Air Station to civilian use are focal points for the region’s economy — Paul said that the transition from such a change in foreign policy would come slowly.
“The initial plan would not be to downsize, but through attrition to not take people in,” Paul, a former Air Force flight surgeon, told The Times Record.
As for the construction of warships, such as the BIW-made Aegis and Zumwalt destroyers, Paul said the country should only build weapons “necessary for defense.”
“We don’t want to build a weapon that is just built to make jobs,” Paul said. “I’m not going to lay people off — that wouldn’t be the initial thing — but you focus on the weapons that you need.”
Paul’s pacifist stance, which he hit on strongly Saturday, is a key difference from the other Republican hopefuls.
For Greene, that is a message that resonates. The Freeport Flag Ladies — formed to support U.S. troops in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks — does not endorse candidates, but Greene said the group finds agreement with Paul’s push for reducing America’s military.
“With new technologies, we don’t need as many boots on the ground,” Greene said.
Part of Paul’s anti- war stance derives from his interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, which was another focal point of his speech Saturday.
“We have gotten into a real mess,” Paul said, “and I think the basic flaw, the most important flaw in why we’re here is our lack of respect and sending too many people to Washington who don’t really care or don’t understand what the Constitution says.”
In his reading of the Constitution, Paul came out against government “entitlement” programs that redistribute wealth.
“ You have a right to what you earn and you have a right to keep it, but you don’t have an entitlement to someone else’s wealth,” Paul said.
Paul also spoke against the execution of prolonged wars not officially declared by Congress and against domestic anti-terrorism legislation the he said undermines American civil liberties.
“ With a wartime atmosphere, more people are willing to give up their rights,” Paul said. “As Ben Franklin said, there is no reason ever to give up liberties for safety and security. And if you do, you’ll give up both safety and security and I’m afraid that’s what’s happening.”
Paul also pointed to entitlements and military spending as unnecessary drains on government coffers.
Sam Lowe, a senior at Bowdoin College and an officer with the campus Republicans, said Paul’s stance on civil liberties resonated with him, though he said he tends toward supporting Romney.
Lowe estimated that 20 to 25 fellow Bowdoin College students were at the event, including senior Clare Henry who said she is a Paul supporter in part because of his push for open government.
Following the speech in Freeport, Paul headed to speak in Alfred, where he gained the endorsement of state Rep. Aaron Libby, R-Waterboro, and at the University of Southern Maine campus in Gorham.
Bean said she’s hopeful that her endorsement will help.
“If it has any meaning, that would be wonderful,” Bean said.