RON PAUL LEADS CAMPAIGN FOR LIBERTY, CALLS FOR THIRD-PARTY UNITY
WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian-leaning Texas lawmaker who attracted a devoted following in the GOP primaries, held a news conference Wednesday to present a united front of minor-party presidential candidates.
“Presidential elections turn out to be more of a charade than anything else,” said Paul, adding there was no difference between the major-party candidates, Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama.
“We represent the majority of the American people,” Paul said, referring to the 60% of eligible voters who don’t cast a ballot.
With Paul at the news conference were independent candidate Ralph Nader; former Georgia Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party candidate; and Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party candidate. Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate, was invited but said at his own news conference later that he declined because Paul didn’t endorse one candidate.
“We need today, now, 55 days before this election, bold, focused, specific leadership and that is not the amorphous kind that says any of the above or none of the above,” Barr said.
Earlier, Paul called the presidential elections a charade and said voters are faced with the “lesser of two evils.”
The majority of Americans are unhappy with their choices in the race, Paul said. He urged the three third-party candidates to bring all their supporters together to vote against the “establishment candidates.”
Paul, 73, a former doctor, ran for president as the Libertarian candidate in 1988. He is unopposed in the November race for his congressional seat.
Nader derided news media focus on what he called “lipstickgate,” referring to the bickering between the McCain and Barack Obama campaigns over whether a phrase used by Obama was a sexist comment against Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Nader, a consumer protection advocate, acknowledged differences among the third-party candidates such as government regulation of health and safety standards. But he added that he shares Paul’s support for more opportunity in the political process for third-party candidates.
Nader and the others complained about the difficulty of getting into the debates, which is determined by the Commission on Presidential Debates — created by the Democratic and Republican parties.
“Why are we rationing debates in this country?” Nader asked.
The Commission on Presidential Debates limits debate participants to candidates who have a 15% standing in the polls.
Paul also said he rejected a request from Phil Gramm to endorse John McCain’s presidential bid. Gramm is the former McCain adviser and ex-senator whom the campaign jettisoned after he said the country was a “nation of whiners” about the economy. Gramm defeated Paul in the Republican primary for the Senate in 1984.
Paul said Gramm called him this week and told him, “You need to endorse McCain.” The Texas congressman said he refused.
“The idea was that he would do less harm than the other candidate,” Paul said.