MJ: You've done phenomenally well in GOP presidential straw polls, and there's a lot of speculation about whether you'll run again for president in 2012. If you do, how will you appeal to Democrats who voted for Barack Obama in 2008?
RP: I would just hope that the power of the message would take care of itself. I see some candidates or potential candidates are already directing their attack at Obama. But I think it's very clear to the serious-minded liberals and progressives and increasingly even on our side, the conservative side, that we should be skeptical of the wars overseas. So I certainly would use that issue, the spending, the deficit, the foreign adventurism. There's no difference between the parties.
And also on the civil liberties issue: The secret trials and endorsement of assassination and the events of that sort that should displease all Americans. Even today they are talking about Homeland Security announcing that it's their policy that they can monitor and infiltrate any peace group or any group that they want.
MJ: Yeah, it may have fallen under the radar with all the economic news that the Patriot Act remains in full swing.
RP: And yet they said we would move in the opposite direction. The American people get really tricked into believing that there is a lot of difference and therefore you have to pick the lesser of two evils. But ultimately policies march on, whether it's the Federal Reserve, the spending deficit, the welfare state, the world empire. Policies remain the same. Tone is different and the power struggle is real, but the policies don't change.
MJ: The new crop of tea party congressmen has pointed out some of those same concerns, but how much real change are we going to see?
RP: I think they serve a very valuable function in calling attention to a lot of these things and I think they are sincere in wanting to cut back. I think the tea party movement probably doesn't as strongly as I do endorse the idea that we look at some of the military spending.
The bigger problem is the difficulty in shifting gears. Some people say all you have to do is deal with waste and fraud. Well, we have to deal with much bigger things than that. We have to deal with the philosophy of government, the role of government in a free society. The Constitution gave us a pretty good outline. And there is no respect for the Constitution. Cutting things out now is practically impossible because even though a lot more people want the cuts, there's an even larger number that don't want their special programs cut.
MJ: Do you think hemp legalization could become an electoral issue, or is it destined to remain the kind of thing that libertarians and liberals dream about together on websites?
RP: I use it quite frequently as an example of government stupidity. And I am sure I get credibility for this, especially with the young people, because that's where I get my strongest support. Whether this could be the issue, it's not going to surpass inflation and the economy and jobs and the Federal Reserve and the national debt and war. I think that it's going to be down on the ladder. But there's no reason that it can't be used frequently and help to make the point: If you are concerned about the economy, then why are we doing these dumb things?
MJ: When are we going to learn whether you are running for president?
RP: Well, in a couple of months—two, three, four, five. I don't know. I think about it and I contemplated it and having given up on the thought of maybe doing it. But it's gonna be a little while.