By: John Gizzi – 8/27/2012 07:56 AM
Tampa, Fla.— “We’re here!” Ron Paul declared on Sunday, as he addressed thousands of wildly cheering supporters at the jam-packed Sun Dome at the University of South Florida. The 2012 presidential hopeful, who is relinquishing his Texas seat in the House, made it clear that the libertarian movement he led was here to stay as a force behind “a new era of liberty, freedom, property, and peace.”
In closing the book on what is surely his final run for president, the 77-year-old Paul also made clear his movement’s appeals to many on the left as he voiced solidarity with WikiLeaks figures Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.
Referring to the jailed U.S. Army private who is charged with providing classified materials to WikiLeaks founder Assange, Paul told his followers: “Bradley Manning didn’t kill anyone.” He went on to liken Manning to Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg and observed that “Daniel Ellsberg told us the truth about Vietnam and Daniel Ellsberg didn’t go to prison.”
Declaring that he considered whistleblowers “heroes,” Paul said that if a poll was taken, most Americans “would favor trying Assange for treason”—which prompted loud cries of “No! No!” from the crowd. A trial would mean, he explained, “bringing [Assange] to the U.S.” even though he is an Australian citizen and “even Sweden is saying ‘drum up false charges’” so that the WikiLeaks founder can be extradicted to Sweden and, from there, to the U.S. Assange, who faces rape charges in Sweden, has been granted asylum at the Ecuador’s embassy in London; Sweden has never said it would extradict him to the U.S. and he has yet to be charged with treason or anything in this country.
Again, cries of “No! No” rose from the audience.
Paul went on to issue a strong warning against the influence of “neocons”—those critics say are late-comers to conservatism and advocate military interventionism abroad—and suggested their growing influence to the rise of anti-democratic movements in the 1930’s. Citing the title of Sinclair Lewis’ epic 1930’s novel “It Can’t Happen Here” about the U.S. going fascist, Paul said that “It can’t happen here today if we can reverse this [influence of the neocons].”
He said that just as in 1933, when “people rose up and repealed ridiculous Prohibition,” one day we “might wake up to find people repealed the drug laws.”
“Freedom should bring us together and not divide us,” said Paul, whose followers cheered his every word and then went outside the Sun Dome to give their departing hero what supporters called the “last wave.”