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Ron Paul hits government oil spill efforts; defends GOP chairman

From Kevin Bohn, CNN Senior Producer
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Rep. Paul talks about GOP rifts
  • Ron Paul's congressional district includes Galveston, where tar balls washed ashore
  • Paul: Federal government has "done a lot to interfere" in Gulf spill cleanup
  • National Guard units should be aiding in cleanup, not "fighting wars we don't need," says Paul
  • Paul defends GOP chairman who labeled Afghanistan war "Obama's choosing"

Washington (CNN) -- With the first tar balls from the Gulf oil spill now washing ashore in Galveston, Texas, Rep. Ron Paul, whose district includes the affected area, said Monday the federal government is not doing enough in the recovery effort.

"They have done a lot to interfere," Paul told National Political Correspondent Jessica Yellin on CNN's "John King USA."

He said local residents and state officials in Louisiana and Mississippi have complained that some federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Fish and Wildlife Service, have not acted quickly enough to relax some regulations to fast-track recovery initiatives.

Federal officials have previously defended their efforts.

Another area of criticism by Paul concerned the deployment of National Guard troops to help in the cleanup.

"If all our states had their Guard units back here maybe they would have the manpower to do more to help clean up the beaches and prevent the oil from coming in, but, no, our Guard units are all over the world fighting wars we don't need," said Paul, a critic of the U.S. deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While 17,500 National Guard troops from Gulf Coast states have been authorized to respond to the crisis, currently 1,577 are active, according to the Obama administration.

Paul has been one of the few the national Republican leaders to come out in support of embattled Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele after Steele told a fundraiser last week the Afghanistan war was "a war of Obama's choosing" and suggested it was not winnable. Many national Republicans immediately called for Steele's resignation, pointing out it was in direct contradiction to what they believed, especially since the war started under President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

"He did not deserve to be punished through the media in a sense that, 'Get out, we don't want you. We don't need you.' I think the party is doing reasonably well," Paul said on the program.

The former GOP presidential candidate disagreed with his colleagues Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who over the weekend blasted Steele and his comments, calling them inaccurate, uninformed and unwise.

"Millions of Americans feel frustrated. This war has gone on too long, cost us too much money, cost us billions of dollars, cost us thousands of casualties," Paul said. "People are tired of the war, and it is going badly."

Paul finds himself in unusual company. A USA Today-Gallup Poll last week showed 66 percent of Republicans supported the war while only 27 percent of Democrats did.

The eleven-term congressman said he has not spoken to Steele since the controversy erupted.

Asked about criticism that his son, Rand, has received since winning the GOP nomination for the open Senate seat in Kentucky, Ron Paul said, "He got some bad raps... I guess I didn't warn him enough and prepare him enough."

Rand Paul found himself in the middle of firestorms after criticizing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, calling President Barack Obama's criticism of Gulf oil well owner BP "un-American" and holding a recent fundraiser in Washington, D.C., which was criticized by some Tea Party members. Some of the members of Congress listed on the invitation as part of the welcome committee for the event voted for the 2008 financial bailout known as TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program). One of Paul's major campaign themes was his opposition to that initiative.

"You can expect it after you win a primary... and beat the estabilshment. You can sort of expect something," is how the elder Paul Monday reacted to some of the criticism weathered by his son.

Rand Paul, whose primary race had drawn a large amount of support from Tea Party activists both in the state and nationwide, had run as an anti-Washington candidate in the primary, beating the incumbent Kentucky secretary of state who had won the backing of many state party leaders.

Ron Paul said he has refrained from offering his son advice. "I let him run his own campaign," he added.