By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul spoke outside at UC Berkeley on Thursday night, telling a chilly crowd of about 1,000 that they need less government in their lives and more leeway to make their own decisions.
Paul said he is different from the other candidates because he is outside the liberal and conservative paradigm.
Medical marijuana, he said to cheers, would be fair game if he had the White House.
"It's a great issue if you want to bring left and right together," he said. "People from the right talk about states' rights. Just think about it. If you had states' rights in California you wouldn't have the feds coming in and invading and telling you what you do with your own body. Prescription
drugs are deadly, too, and there are probably more deaths from prescription drugs. The war on drugs is a total failure.
"I want a free society where you could actually have the freedom to drink raw milk if you want to."
Paul spoke in front of the Doe Library after organizers moved the talk from Zellerbach Hall, saying that venue, with a capacity of about 2,000, was sold out. But the crowd did not appear to be more than about 1,200.
Paul is vowing to push on with his campaign even though he has just 51 delegates of the 1,144 needed to get the Republican nomination. Mitt Romney has 655, Rick Santorum 278 and Newt Gingrich 135. The next votes in the Republican race are set for April 24 in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
The UC Berkeley student organization, Students for Liberty and Youth, hosted the 76-year-old congressman from Surfside, Texas.
Paul, who calls himself "the leading spokesman in Washington" for limited government, low taxes and free markets, visited Chico State on Tuesday and UCLA on Wednesday.
Paul had an enthusiastic reception in Berkeley, but at least one of his supporters who spoke before he arrived acknowledged his run for the presidency is a long, long shot.
"We don't have millions and millions of dollars like other candidates do," said Johnny Lee, who introduced himself to the crowd as Paul's San Jose campaign manager. "But we have each other. We can't even get our supporters to register Republican. That's why we're losing. We have no solidarity as a group. If we want to have any impact, we have to show some solidarity."
Paul sounded more upbeat, and the crowd went right along with him.
"What I suggest we do is cut the budget by a trillion dollars in one year," Paul said. "We'll start by stopping the wars and bringing our troops home and having them spend their money here at home. Why should we subsidize the defense of the Middle East and Korea and Japan?"
Paul also spoke about having fewer laws that get in the way of individual freedoms.
"On Jan. 1, they laid 40,000 new laws on us," Paul said. "I would like to be the first president who got rid of 40,000 laws."
Nearing the end of his talk, Paul let the crowd have a hint of optimism.
"Good ideas are starting to prevail once again," Paul said. "There's a growing sentiment in this country about changing our foreign policy. About 70 percent of people are now saying we have to get out of the Middle East and out of Afghanistan, and this is encouraging."
Paul called his style of libertarianism the kind in which someone can have a "heart and a brain at the same time. That's what freedom is all about. We don't want the government telling us what to do with our lives and our money."
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.