ABC News’ Rick Klein (@rickklein) reports:
With President Obama set to announce the start of a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan Wednesday night, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul already knows it will be inadequate from his perspective.
“I don’t want to hear that he’s going to bring 5,000 troops home or 10,000 troops. We need to have a significant change in foreign policy, which means that all the troops come home and turn that country back over to the Afghans. And let them deal with it,” Paul, a Republican congressman from Texas, told us on ABC’s “Top Line” today.
Paul brushed aside concerns about an increased terrorist threat if U.S. troops leave, arguing that a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan will actually make the U.S. safer.
“We’ll have less danger to us if we don’t occupy foreign countries, because that’s the top motivation for the desire to come here and kill Americans — is because we’ve invaded their land,” Paul said. “What if another country did that to us? Every American would be together. If the Chinese did to us what we do to other countries, no American would say, ‘Aw, that’s okay, they’re nice people. Maybe we can learn their culture and their religion.’ It would be insane.”
Paul swatted aside the critique of fellow presidential contender Tim Pawlenty, who said that he fears the GOP field is moving toward “isolationism” in wanting a swift withdrawal out of Afghanistan, and an end to hostilities in Libya.
“I think they don’t know the definition of isolationism,” Paul responded. “Isolationism is — is something that the protectionists want. They want to close borders for people coming in, and they want to close trade, and I have no desire to do that all, because I’m a free trader and I want as much travel and communication with other countries as possible. This is what the Founders advised. We were never given the authority to be the policemen of the world.”
On some of his other GOP rivals, Paul said he doesn’t know enough about Jon Huntsman’s service as the president’s ambassador to China to “criticize anything he has done.” But he said he still thinks the relationship with China needs major work.
“We have our differences on some of the trade [issues], and why do our companies go to China? In some ways they embarrass us because they’re more capitalist than we are. It’s easier for our own businesses to go China than it is to stay here! That aggravates me, but I blame ourselves for that.”
And Paul said his home-state governor, Rick Perry, can’t claim the mantle of the tea party in a presidential campaign.
“I know that one of our tea party candidates ran without any money and got 20 percent of the vote last time” in Perry’s reelection campaign last year, Paul said.
Asked if he’s a tea partier, Paul said: “No, I never put him in that category, but I put him in the category of being very smart. … He captured a lot of that sentiment, you know, when he’d throw out terms, ‘Oh we have to protect our right to secession.’ You know, it always fed a little fodder to the tea party people, so he — he’s pretty smart. And I think he would always come that way. So he’s in the politics pretty well, and he would be a formidable candidate.”
Perry can’t claim much credit for Texas’ booming economy, Paul added.
“I think the conditions of Texas over the many decades has been healthier for the economy,” he said.