CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Ron Paul was greeted by adoring and large crowds throughout the day Thursday, and at his last event at a hotel he touched on one of his most controversial past comments, saying "people misinterpret what I say about what happened on 9/11."
"But, very clearly - it was so tragic - but I just point out that a different foreign policy might have diminished the incentive," Paul told the crowd of over 300, who mostly silently sat through his speech, but leapt to their feet when he finished. "I don't believe people are going to come over here and commit suicide to prove that we're rich and free. They don't do that. They come because they're angry at us."
Paul then said people ask him "where did you come up with this crazy, un-American idea?" He answered his own question with Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense under President George W. Bush.
"Paul Wolfowitz, right after 9-11, says this perfect statement that I could have written. The 9-11 Commission confirmed this, Wolfowitz confirmed this, the CIA confirmed this, DOD has confirmed it," Paul said. "What Wolfowitz said was we can close that base down now in Saudi Arabia because the base in Saudi Arabia was a good recruiting tool for the al-Qaeda. So this is the architect of the war saying this was one of the incentives."
The candidate was linking it to Iran policy, saying the potential of America or Israel attacking Iran to prevent the country from getting a nuclear weapon "totally destroys anti-ayatollah movement within the country."
"They say every time we threaten and they think they're going to be attacked, the ayatollahs get stronger. So if we start bombing, their whole effort to undermine the ayatollah and change their government would be undermined. It's maybe well intended. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. But sometimes it seems out of control and unreasonable, because the other argument is maybe there's people in our country that would like to get the oil. Could that possibly be it? It seems like we go into countries more when they have oil," Paul said.
Earlier in the day at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in Manchester, Iowa, the Texas congressman was asked what he would do about Iran from an audience member who said, "There is something going on there and I'm of worried about it." Paul replied that it's "not true" that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon.
"I'm worried about it too, but maybe not in the same way as some others worry about it. I worry about us overreacting on Iran like we did in Iraq," Paul said. "I think what's going on now is not too dissimilar with Iran. Iran is not a physical threat to us. They do not have capabilities. The stories you might hear about them being on the verge of a nuclear weapon is not true by our CIA and by the United Nations they are not on the verge of it. Does that mean I don't care? Yeah I care. I don't want them to get a weapon."
Paul said even if Iran does get a nuclear weapon that conservatives in favor of preventing the country from developing one and support intervention to stop the development are just worried that Iran will get a nuclear weapon and won't use it and "all their fear mongering didn't work."
"Who are they going to bomb?" Paul said referring to Iran. "If they had one or two bombs, they are going to bomb Israel? Israel has 300 of them! And our submarines all around there passing and everything else."
He added that America should have the "golden rule of foreign policy."
"When we do something to someone else we should stop and think would we like it if they did it to us?" Paul asked to cheers.
The International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA released a report last month that expressed "serious concerns" that Iran is developing a "nuclear explosive device.'
On his way out of the fairgrounds Paul was asked about the extension of the pay roll tax cut. He seemed supportive, but said real deficit cutting should be the focus.
"They finally got around to doing it for two months. That will sort of settle things for a while but it doesn't settle the whole thing. It doesn't settle the thing really about the taxes," Paul said. "I think it's just temporary, they're not facing up to the truth. The truth of the matter is we're bankrupt, they're not solving the problems they have to finally admit that there's something seriously wrong and what they're facing, the crisis that we face and the reason that they can't settle this is that they're out of money and haven't addressed the subject of too much spending."
Paul has been drawing large crowds during this two day trip to the eastern part of the state. Wednesday evening, he had a crowd of over 600 in Davenport. Thursday, he noted his rise in the polls and the confusion that his opponents seem to be experiencing at his new Iowa frontrunner status.
"The other Republicans have been rather challenging. They'll say, 'it's impossible he's out of step. He wants to balance the budget. That's being out of step.' Then they say, 'How in the world can he get crowds out and get support? He wants to end all the war and bring the troops home," Paul said to raucous cheers.
At the end of each event, an Iowa campaign aide took the stage and ask supporters to stay and learn more about the caucusing process and how they can help organize in their communities. On each seat was a little gift from the Paul family: pamphlet titled "The Ron Paul Family Cookbook," with a photo of the candidate and his wife Carol on the cover. Inside are family recipes and photos, plus an update on what their children and grandchildren are up to. Paul said he "guarantee(s) the recipes are good," but "we don't count calories that carefully, it's to enjoy."
The Texas Congressman will be back in the state again next week for a three day visit.