Texas Congressman Ron Paul said in Seattle on Friday that America is approaching an economic and constitutional crisis due to growing debt...

Texas Congressman Ron Paul said in Seattle on Friday that America is approaching an economic and constitutional crisis due to growing debt, bad trade deals and assaults on personal liberty.

And even if he beat all the odds and won the presidency next year, he said, the problem would be beyond what he alone could fix.

“The time is coming. I believe that the great debate is coming,” Paul told more than 400 mostly young people who attended his constitutional lecture at Seattle University.

“We have become soft on the issue of liberty and we have become more concerned about our personal safety and our personal economic well-being and an illusionary trust that government can make us perfectly safe and protect us perfectly in an economic way,” he said.

Paul said young people will have to decide whether to go along with the “clichés” that say the Constitution is a living, flexible document.

“It is a philosophical struggle,” he said. “If you are for a strict interpretation of the Constitution, if you are truly for liberty and for limited government … then the law will come along.”

For Paul, who ran for president as a Libertarian in 1988, a strict interpretation of the Constitution would mean a lot of changes. Talking to KIRO-AM (710) host Dori Monson earlier in the day, Paul said he thought the government could be cut by 80 percent. That’d be enough that there’d be no need for the income tax or a replacement tax, he said.

At Seattle University, he said Congress has willingly given away far too much power to the executive branch, particularly when it comes to foreign policy. He said the president is commander in chief of the military, but “he’s not commander in chief of the people of the country.”

Congress should reassert itself with trade policy as well, he said, and not leave the administration to set tariffs or make deals with “WTO or NAFTA or CAFTA,” trade agreements he pronounced with such disdain they sounded like diseases.

States, Paul said, should rely on a principle in the Constitution that allows them to ignore decisions by federal courts on issues that could be described as dealing with states’ rights.

“I see the Constitution as being written precisely for one purpose — to restrain the power of government; never to restrain the people,” he said to great applause.

Paul had a full day of events in Seattle, including fundraisers and rallies. Speeches have become rarer in presidential politics. Some candidates come to town with no public appearances, or only for base-building rallies.

The lecture was organized by Seattle University law students. What’s the appeal of Paul to the young supporters?

“Everything,” said Malisa Gurule, a third-year law student who headed the drive to get Paul on campus.

Gurule, 25, said she had never donated to a presidential candidate until she saw Paul in the Republican debates. She’s also never voted in a presidential primary or been involved in a caucus, though she says she will do whatever is needed to help Paul get the GOP nomination.

“He’s the only person saying something different,” she said. “He’s not afraid to attack the status quo.”

David Postman: 360-236-8267

or dpostman@seattletimes.com