Rand Paul announces plan to 'defeat the Washington machine'
by Jamie Dean
Posted 4/07/15, 02:21 pm
Sen. Rand Paul—a Kentucky Republican who calls himself a “libertarian conservative”—announced today he’s running for president.
Doors opened at 4:30 a.m. this morning for media preparing for Paul’s midday announcement at The Galt House hotel in downtown Louisville, Ky. Campaign workers soon hung a banner with the slogan: “Defeat the Washington Machine/Unleash the American Dream.”
It’s a long tagline with the libertarian flavor of Paul’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. The elder Paul ran for the presidency three times and developed a fiercely loyal cadre of libertarian supporters.
But while Ron Paul’s contingency was devoted, it was never large enough to give the Texas physician a serious shot at the GOP nomination. Rand Paul, also a doctor, aims to avoid a similar fate by offering broader positions.
For example, Paul says he’s committed to scaling back American involvement in foreign conflicts, much like his father, but he also supported authorizing force against Islamic State militants in the Middle East last year.
He favors drastically reducing foreign aid but suggests beginning such cuts by placing conditions on foreign assistance: He supports cutting aid to countries persecuting Christians and other religious minorities.
While Paul distinguishes himself from his father, he also provides a contrast to the other GOP contenders. The senator has been a fierce critic of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs—including the collection of cellphone data—and he may face questions from his fellow Republicans about his commitment to a strong national defense.
Paul seemed to anticipate such questions during his announcement.
“We need a national defense robust enough to defend against all attack, modern enough to deter all enemies, and nimble enough to defend our vital interests,” he said. “But we also need a foreign policy that protects American interests and encourages stability, not chaos.”
Paul, who won his Senate seat on a first try in 2010, stressed the fiscal conservatism that first stoked his popularity among tea party supporters. America can’t buy its way to prosperity, Paul added during his announcement.
“Currently some $3 trillion comes into the U.S. Treasury,” he said. “Couldn’t the country just survive on $3 trillion? I propose we do something extraordinary. Let’s just spend what comes in.”
Over the next few days, Paul will take his campaign message on a tour of five states with early primaries. But there’s still one area where the candidate has been conspicuously silent over the last week: His stance on Indiana’s religious freedom act and the surrounding controversy enveloping the state just to the north of Kentucky.
Nearly every other GOP contender has offered an opinion on the law originally crafted to protect religious liberty. But so far, Paul has avoided the question—and the controversy.
It’s unlikely he’ll be able to stay silent on the issue for long, particularly as conservatives stunned by the backlash against religious freedom in Indiana wait to see how Paul and other candidates will handle what may become one of the most pressing issues of the 2016 campaign.