Googlers applaud GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul
WEB-PHENOM CANDIDATE AIRS LIBERTARIAN VIEWS
San Jose Mercury News | July 15, 2007
Mary Anne Ostrom
Ron Paul, the Texas GOP congressman and long-shot candidate for president, credits a rabid Internet following with spreading his staunch libertarian and anti-war message into the mainstream media.
So you might think the unlikely Web phenom, who got an enthusiastic reception when he spoke Friday to about 250 Google employees, plus 100 sent to an overflow room, would be the technology industry's best friend.
Paul did call the Internet "rather miraculous," as he pitched his free-market, small-government mantra to the employees, many of whom came in shorts and even one in bare feet.
"Thank goodness there's the Internet or whatever it is," he said, referring to a fanatic Web-based network of supporters who are intent on boosting his campaign.
But he did not sanitize his talk for his Net-centric audience.
He said he does not support network neutrality, the concept that telecommunications companies should be restricted from controlling broadband access to the detriment of Web companies like Google, nor does he support tech-friendly immigration reforms in Congress recently. And he doesn't believe in federal student government loans, which a huge majority of the audience, by a show of hands, had used to make it through college.
In fact, the blunt-talking, sometimes humorous Paul told the audience at Google, where former Vice President Al Gore serves as senior adviser, that he thinks fears of global warming are "overblown." And then he raised the question of why American business should be subject to more regulation if so much pollution is coming from China.
"I don't agree with him on everything, especially immigration," said Google employee Vijay Boyapati, an Indian immigrant who gained citizenship last year. But Boyapati, wearing a Ron Paul T-shirt, finds Paul so "refreshing" that he flew from Google's Seattle office just to hear him in person.
Paul, who turns 72 next month, has become a darling of the blogosphere. Friday, as measured by Technorati, "Ron Paul" was the third-most-searched phrase appearing on blogs, ahead of "iPhone" and "Harry Potter." Through Internet-based fundraising, he has managed to raise more than $3 million since the beginning of the year, most of it in the most recent quarter, and he had more money in the bank at the end of the June than Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
The 10-term congressman, who represents the Houston-area, ran for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1988, though he has served in Congress as a Republican. His fan base only became more energized after an interview last weekend on ABC when George Stephanopolous, host of "This Week," told Paul he would bet "every cent" that Paul would not become president.
At Google, Paul reiterated his controversial stance that ongoing American military presence in the Middle East over decades is responsible for the chaos in Iraq.
"We are the motivation for the civil war over there," he said. "The American empire is going to fail. It's in the process of failing."
An adamant opponent of gun control, Paul said, "I think the Second Amendment might have prevented 9/11." If the hijackers knew the passengers or crew might be armed, they may have never planned such an attack, he said. And while he values the work of immigrants coming to the United States, he thinks illegal immigrants should not be given a special pass to citizenship.
Speaking of illegal immigration, he said, "I don't think you can solve that problem as long as you have a welfare state."
"We have touched a nerve with a lot of young people," Paul told the audience.
When Google executive Elliot Schrage, who interviewed Paul on Friday, asked which Googlers had taken out a student loan to go to college, most raised their hand.
Paul then responded, "Why should people who don't go to college support your education?"
And then he flashed his candidate side: Could he win their vote back with his pledge to free them from a Social Security system from which he says they will never benefit?
Paul is scheduled to appear today at 10 a.m. at a public rally in Mountain View's Charleston Park.
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