Presidential contender Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is a libertarian who thinks the federal government is far too much of a national nanny. Regardless of what you think of his views, he's pretty consistent on his libertarian philosophy. As such, it's incredibly easy for dismissive journalists to misrepresent his policy stances and campaign promises.
Take for example, MSNBC's Chuck Todd. After airing a clip of the Texas Republican pledging at a rally in New Hampshire to overturn a federal ban on transporting raw milk across state lines, the Daily Rundown host snarked, "So there it is... don't even regulate milk. You know, that's Ron Paul in a nutshell."
Of course Paul has NOT called for repealing any and all federal regulation of milk. What he has done is introduce a bill in Congress to repeal the FDA's ban on the interstate sale of raw milk -- milk that is sold without the benefit of pasteurization.
What's more, this is hardly something new that the Texas congressman dreamed up a few days ago with an eye on New Hampshire primary voters.
Here's Rep. Paul's May 12, 2011 speech regarding HR 1830, a bill "To authorize the interstate traffic of unpasteurized milk and milk products that are packaged for direct human consumption." (emphasis mine) :
Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce legislation that allows the shipment and distribution of unpasteurized milk and milk products for human consumption across state lines. This legislation removes an unconstitutional restraint on farmers who wish to sell or otherwise distribute, and people who wish to consume, unpasteurized milk and milk products.
Hard as it is to believe, the federal government is actually spending time and money prosecuting small businesses for the "crime" of meeting their customers' demand for unpasteurized milk! Recently the Food and Drug Administration conducted a year-long sting operation targeting Rainbow Acres Farms in Pennsylvania. As a result of this action, Rainbow Acres' customers will no longer be able to purchase unpasteurized milk from this small Amish farm.
Mr. Speaker, many Americans who the government wishes to deny the ability to purchase unpasteurized milk have done their own research and come to the conclusion that unpasteurized milk is healthier than pasteurized milk. These Americans have the right to consume these products without having the federal government second-guess their judgment about what products best promote health. If there are legitimate concerns about the safety of unpasteurized milk, those concerns should be addressed at the state and local level.
I urge my colleagues to join me in promoting individual rights, the original intent of the Constitution, and federalism by cosponsoring my legislation to allow the interstate shipment of unpasteurized milk and milk products for human consumption.
As you can see from the text of HR 1830 (emphasis mine), the bill -- cosponsored by Republicans Tom McClintock (Calif.) and Tim Walberg (Mich.) as well as Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine) -- simply allows raw milk to be sold, leaving the larger body of federal food regulation untouched:
To authorize the interstate traffic of unpasteurized milk and milk products that are packaged for direct human consumption.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. INTERSTATE TRAFFIC OF UNPASTEURIZED MILK AND MILK PRODUCTS.
(a) Sale Allowed- Notwithstanding the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 301 et seq.), section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 264), and any regulations or other guidance issued under such Act or section, a Federal department, agency, or court may not take any action (such as administrative, civil, criminal, or other actions) that would prohibit, interfere with, regulate, or otherwise restrict the interstate traffic of milk, or a milk product, that is unpasteurized and packaged for direct human consumption, if such restriction is based on the determination that, solely because such milk or milk product is unpasteurized, such milk or milk product is adulterated, misbranded, or otherwise in violation of Federal law.
(b) Definitions- In this section, the following definitions apply:
(1) The terms `interstate traffic', `milk', and `milk product' have the meanings given those terms in section 1240.3 of title 21, Code of Federal Regulations (as in effect on the date of enactment of this Act).
(2) The term `packaged for direct human consumption' means milk and milk products that are packaged for the final consumer and intended for human consumption. Such term does not include milk and milk products that are packaged for additional processing, including pasteurization, before being consumed by humans.
(3) The term `pasteurized' means the process of heating milk and milk products to the applicable temperature specified in the tables contained in section 1240.61 of title 21, Code of Federal Regulations (or successor regulations), and held continuously at or above that temperature for at least the corresponding specified time in such tables.
Sadly, Daily Rundown panelist and National Review Online writer Reihan Salam joined Todd in scoffing at Paul's campaign promise:
SALAM: It's micro-targeting, okay? When you think about Iowa, think about the folks doing transcendental meditation. Who's going to get those guys to come out and vote in the caucus? Ron Paul can do it. He understands that there are these little constituencies.They might sound zany and out there to you, but there are folks who really care a lot about raw milk and he's for them.