Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said he doesn’t know what fellow Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump really believes but exclaimed that it “boggles” his mind that any conservative would support the man, an individual Paul claimed represents much of what’s wrong with Washington.
Paul came out swinging against Trump Tuesday evening at a town hall in Claremont, New Hampshire, expanding on jibes he took at the magnate in last Thursday’s GOP debate.
Paul portrayed Trump as a walking contradiction who insults others instead of answering questions or advancing serious policy discussion.
“If you challenge him he says you’re fat, or you’re stupid or you’re bleeding,” Paul said to the crowd of around 75 who applauded loudly. “Is this really what we are going to nominate? The emperor has no clothes basically. He’s walking around saying nonsense and unless someone says it’s nonsense it’s going to keep happening.”
An orange chainsaw and numerous large stacks of paper representing the burdensome regulations and tax code Paul wants to simplify sat in front of a “Rand Paul for President” backdrop as Paul expounded to the crowd about his small government ideals, desire to reduce American military interventions, and determination to hold both Republicans and Democrats responsible for failing to live up to the nation’s founding document.
Paul On The Defense
It was clear from the start that Paul, standing in jeans, cowboy boots and a dark blazer, was on the attack and preoccupied with Trump, looking to capitalize on conservative and libertarian confusion regarding the real estate magnate’s surging poll numbers and growing popularity amidst media scandal.
Casting himself as the true conservative who started from an origin of principle instead of power, Paul implied that Trump is an opportunist, laying out a scenario in which Trump typifies the kind of people who have diminished the good standing of the United States, rather than the anti-politician and populist his supporters and some media have credited him with.
Paul said he started thinking of running around 2009 when the Tea Party was upset most of all not about liberals and Democrats but rather about “fake conservatives who promised us one thing and did another.”
Trump typifies just that kind of fake conservative, according to Paul.
“He was the other side of every issue the Tea Party started about. How could anybody consider him for a candidate?” Paul asked rhetorically. “He was for the bank bailouts before he was against them. He was for Obamacare before he was against it and I’m still not sure where his position is. I asked him this the other night and he said ‘well single-payer’s always been a great idea.’ Really? We’ve been fighting for generations as Republicans and conservatives and people who believe in limited government not to have a socialized medicine system in this country … I have no idea what his ideology is, I have no idea whether he’s conservative. I have no idea whether he’s a Republican or Democrat.”
It remains to be seen if the name-game of who is conservative or not will get Paul somewhere in the polls, but Tuesday night was not a man who was backing down. Indeed, despite what appears to be his own confusion about Trump’s true intentions, Paul said his campaign has a dog in the fight and it’s one he wants to win.
“I’ll be damned if I’m going to give up on this whole movement, this whole conservative movement we’ve had for years to try to maintain the Republican party and make it conservative and to try to get control of our country and take our country back from those who would use it for their own personal gain,” Paul said angrily. “I think we oughtta think long and hard before we let this get away from ourselves.”
Trump Is A Fake
Although presenting himself as a “different kind of Republican” in last week’s debate there’s one thing at least that Paul appears to have in common with a growing roster of Republicans – he’s angry. At Trump, at rigged rules and bailouts for the wealthiest people and corporations and at what he believes are unfair government practices that put the bulk of the burden on hardworking people.
People like the Clintons sell access and people like Trump buy it, Paul claimed, saying they are part of the same interconnected problem. If all Trump got out of Hillary Clinton was her wedding attendance perhaps pity would be more in order, however Paul painted it as part of a broader pattern.
“A lot of the people who have influence in Washington are either wealthy corporations or wealthy people and they buy their way, they buy access. You may have heard about the Clintons. They sell the access, all right, so they have become worth hundreds of millions of dollars over the last few years,” he said.
Paul said this sale of access included a sale of an uranium company to Russia, which is deeply concerning to him from a national security perspective.
“On its face you would think it would be a really, really bad idea, but she approved the sale to the Russians while her husband was getting paid nearly one million dollars to give a speech to the bank that was brokering the deal,” Paul said.
“My goodness, they oughtta be in jail, not running for office, this is crazy,” Paul added to loud applause.
Instead of jail, Clinton was attended by a community college hall of adoring fans earlier in the day at River Valley Community College also in Claremont where she presented herself as a champion of the middle class and dreaming big.
“Selling access to your decision-making is reprehensible, despicable and we should not countenance it,” Paul said in disgust.
The Free College Myth
Town hall attendee Stefan Grallert, 17, of Claremont said he leans left but is very interested in politics, especially candidates’ plans regarding making education more affordable in both parties. So far he said he has seen Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley and Hillary Clinton speak.
As for Paul, he said it’s something to do, plus he’s registered as an independent and will be old enough to vote in the primary, so he wanted to hear different perspectives.
“I have to say I’m a sucker when they talk about making college a bit more affordable ‘cause I’m also looking into that, probably political science or international affairs,’ Grallert said. “I try to listen to everything … I want to hear what he has to say.”
Though he said he leans left socially, Grallert potentially represents those independent leaning Democrats who could make a Marco Rubio or Rand Paul versus Hillary Clinton race quite challenging for the former First Lady.
During the town hall Grallert asked Paul if he had “any plans or thoughts on the insane interest rates on student loans.”
“Yes. I will let you deduct the principal and interest for all your student loans for your whole working career,” Paul responded. “The democrats just say ‘here’s a fistful of dollars go do whatever the hell you want.’ There’s no free lunch you can’t just give people money … There are two things in our country where the price keeps going up every year, healthcare and education. What’s going to be coming is the demand is going to be subsidized by government. The government says ‘everybody should go to school.’ And education is important, I’ve made my whole career and been a success because I did well in school so I’m for education. But I’m also kind of a believer if somebody here is a welder or an electrician they should have to pay for their school … there is something noble to be a carpenter or an electrician or a welder but we’re now telling everyone ‘go to college’ so we now have all these kids with business degrees that are worthless.”
In spite of his criticisms during the evening, of the government, former president George W. Bush for “doubling the size of the Department of Education” that Paul wants to get rid of and the antics of his fellow candidates some of whom as hawks he called ”insane,” Paul did say there is one gentleman he is running against who he does like.
“I like Ben Carson because he’s a physician,” Rand told The Federalist.
Criminal Justice Needs An Overhaul
On criminal justice reform and the Sixth Amendment, Paul lamented the jailing of often young black Americans for non-violent crimes, and recounted the tragic history of Kalief Browder’s recent suicide.
“We’ve locked up a whole generation of black men and put them in jail for 10 and 15 years,” Paul said.
Although often at odds on foreign policy and other matters, Paul has recently found himself on the same page as Arizona Sen. John McCain over an agreement that he would risk shutting down government to defund Planned Parenthood if that’s what it takes, following the release of undercover videos showing the gruesome sale of baby organs.
“No I don’t want to shut down the government … but should Congress attach rules and regulations as to how the money is spent? The power of the purse is how we spend the money and I’ll tell you absolutely yes,” he said in response to a question from The Federalist.
On Defunding Planned Parenthood
Paul and McCain are among a select group of Republicans currently being targeted by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC ) over their stated goal of defunding Planned Parenthood. Paul is running for senator and president simultaneously, something Trump has slammed him for on Twitter recently claiming Kentucky represents a fallback option for the opthamologist.
“And do I think the government should give a penny to Planned Parenthood? Absolutely no. No money to Planned Parenthood,” he said as the audience applauded.
“It sounds like most of you agree, but even if you disagree realize this,” Paul said. “We give 5 billion for women’s health to community health centers. There’s community health centers everywhere. There’s 9,000 of them. In my state there’s 66 community health centers for every PlannedParenthood center. There are lots of places to go for government-funded health centers. You don’t need Planned Parenthood and it’s doing something that even friends of mine who are pro-choice are upset about what they’re doing to fully-formed babies to sell their organs.”
Paul went on to decry what he believes is contemporary American government’s over-regulation, burdensome tax code, infringements on civil liberties and all around anti-business mentality.
“I want to dramatically cut taxes but I also want to dramatically make the federal government smaller,” Paul said. “The Constitution intended for a much smaller government. The federal government was supposed to defend us, a national defense and very little else, frankly,” he added, noting there were various other roles proscribed to be potentially taken on by state governments but largely not by the federal.
“If you send your money from New Hampshire to Washington do you have a good feeling that it’s either coming back or going to create jobs?” he asked, criticizing Obama’s stimulus package as “borrowed from China” and adding much of it went to Wall Street and rich donors like Solyndra instead of jobs for Americans.
“It embarrasses me to have to compliment Canada,” Paul said near the beginning of his speech comparing Canada’s 15 percent corporate tax rate to the United States’ 35 percent rate.
“How can it be that a socialist country like France has lower taxes than we do?” Paul complained, mentioning lower corporate taxes also in “semi-socialist” countries like Sweden and Ireland and going on to claim that American corporate tax policy has made companies “unwelcome” in their own country.
Paul believes a principled Republican strategy for winning elections and the broader support of the country rests not on diluting conservative beliefs message but instead on saying them even more clearly, and calling out those who use conservative slogans to advance their political fortunes rather than express their real convictions.
“I think we need to be more boldly what we’re for,” Paul said.
Different definitions of true conservatism, at this point, will have to play out on the debate stage and the campaign trail. While it certainly remains to be seen how much steam if any Paul’s campaign will pick up from his open confrontation of Trump, Tuesday showed a candidate putting in the time and energy to become a genuine annoyance to Trump’s presidential run.