Someone needs to explain to Rand Paul that the presidential election is more than two years away.
Addressing a rowdy crowd in front of a pub in Manchester, New Hampshire, home of first-in-the-nation primary, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) critiqued President Obama abuse of executive power and promised he would repeal “all previous executive orders” in one of his first acts as president.
Paul was reaching out to the local chapter of Generation Opportunity, a grassroots conservative group with a libertarian appeal, that is dominated by young activists; just the sort that Paul, like his father Ron, have found a following.
Paul focused much of his remarks on executive overreach by President Barack Obama, saving some of his most interesting points for a question-and-answer session at the end.
“There’s a rumor going around you might run for president in a couple years,” a young man shouted as Paul took questions from the audience for several minutes after a 15-plus-minute speech.
“Man, who started that?” Paul joked with the man, who was in his mid-20s.
“I know, it’s crazy,” the young man followed up. “You spoke for a bit on the executive orders tonight. If you were to receive the presidency would you repeal previous executive orders and restrain the power of the presidency?”
“I think the first executive order that I would issue would be to repeal all previous executive orders,” Paul replied to resounding cheers through the Manchester pub, named for the beer bearing the namesakes of American revolutionary Sam Adams. “Democracy is messy, but you have to build consensus to pass things. But it’s also in some ways good, because a lot of laws take away your freedom. So it should be hard to pass a law. And it, frankly, when you do it the proper way, is. We’ve done way too many things [the wrong way]: Signing statements, altering legislation by the president, are wrong and unconstitutional and shouldn’t happen. Executive orders shouldn’t either.”
While he’s not officially running for president, no one will be surprised when he makes his formal announcement. Paul has been on a steady diet of Iowa and New Hampshire, seemingly endlessly throughout 2014.
“They say that if you’re not drawing flak, you’re not over the target,” Paul said when asked for his reaction to the fact that liberal groups like American Bridge are targeting him. “So I think that they’re sensitive, and I think they’re also very aware—and I didn’t get into it so much tonight, but I think that my discussion of Hillary Clinton and the disaster that she was a part of in Libya in Benghazi and now with the chaos in Libya—that that’s really hitting the mark and that she’s going to have a tough time really getting beyond that and they’re really sensing that. They’ll get more of it tomorrow too.”
Paul’s reason for being in New Hampshire is a series of events he’ll attend with Scott Brown and other Republican candidates on Friday, including a post-primary “unity breakfast,” to unite the party here behind Brown heading into November’s battle with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). But it certainly didn’t hurt a likely 2016 candidate like Paul to hit up the bar with conservative college-age or just-out-of-college kids from Manchester while in town.
“How many people here have a cell phone?” Paul asked to open up his speech, as many held theirs up to show him. “How many people think it’s none of the government’s damn business what you have on your cell phone?”
The response, of course was quite predictable.
The crowd that was mostly made up of under 20-somethings, shows that Paul’s libertarianism tendencies will play well in the “Live Free or Die” state of New Hampshire.
Obama wasn’t alone in Paul’s crosshairs; he also went after the Democratic Party’s policies on immigration, Hillary Clinton’s performance at the State Department and even traditional Republicans like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who while he didn’t name specifically, everyone knew who he was referring to.
Paul is treading on dangerous grounds though when he states that America should “rethink the war on drugs.” While he may be accurate in his portrayal of the failures of past anti-drug campaigns, the outcome of new laws in Washington State and Colorado remains to be seen; Paul may garner support from the young while losing support from the most dependable voters: seniors.
In response to a question about Obama’s authority to legalize the undocumented that have swarmed across our borders Paul responded, “It’s not been one thing, it’s been many things. It’s been immigration, it’s been healthcare reform as well as war powers. He thinks he can do anything. In frankly almost all of these areas he’s usurped his authority. It’s wrong from a constitutional perspective. I think with DACA [the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive amnesty], he has no authority to do DACA. Not only is it wrong from a constitutional perspective but then in doing so it becomes something that really messes up the border. It screws things up because if you provide sort of a beacon, or a grant of forgiveness to people and say ‘this is okay’ without securing the border, what does that tell everybody else in Central America? ‘Hey guys, it’s open season, let’s move to the United States.’ So 50,000 kids have come also because of this Wilberforce Act which says we’re going to treat people differently if they come to the United States from a country other than Mexico. So, 50,000 kids are here.”
Paul also stated that he thinks Obama’s executive overreaches are worse than any individual policies he’s pushed. “The worst thing this president has done is not Obamacare,” Paul said. “It’s not Dodd-Frank. And they’re horrible. They’re terrible. They’re the worst pieces of legislation in a couple decades. But the worst thing this president has done is run roughshod over the separation of powers.”
Paul ripped Obama on his handling of ISIS, saying “there’s a big deal going on in the Middle East right now called ISIS”—noting how he thinks they’re a threat to America, and to America’s embassies and consulates worldwide.
“We have to understand how we got here because if we don’t, we’re doomed to repeat this over and over again,” Paul said. “We’ve done this in several countries. Several secular dictators have fallen in Libya, in Egypt, nearly so in Syria, and in Iraq. What was the commonality between those secular dictators? [They were] bad people. Authoritarians. Human rights abusers. In Syria, gassing their own people. However, what was the other commonality between all these secular dictators? They disliked radical Islam. They kept radical Islam at bay. So what has happened as we got rid of the secular dictator in Libya? You got radical jihadists, radical Islam run amok, in Libya. They’re swimming in our embassy’s swimming pool. As a consequence though, we react—and I think this time we actually have to do something. So I’m not for completely doing nothing. I am for doing something to stop ISIS—we should do it constitutionally though. We have separation of powers between the branches of government. Our constitution said very clearly the power to declare war was a congressional power.”
It’s too early to be running for President; but it might be too early to say whether Paul’s tactics might just give him a head-start in the early primary states. Trends are strong and winning early often provides momentum; Paul is counting on it.
Paul’s tactic is a two-sided sword. While the Senator might gain name recognition and perhaps even some pre-primary energy, Hillary Clinton will tell you that it’s a short ride from frontrunner to also-ran.
Rand Paul is a study of magnetism: each policy he professes has a segment of conservatives that are attracted and other segments that are repelled. It is not uncommon to hear the same group saying, “I love Rand Paul and his policy on X, but I hate his policy on Y.” Getting nominated, let alone elected, requires appealing to the broadest swath of the electorate, and having a love-hate relationship with the voters makes Rand Paul either a genius or suicidal; time shall tell..