U.S. Sen. and tea-party favorite Rand Paul fired up a crowd of conservative activists just outside Washington for the Conservative Political Action Conference with his vocal support for limited government, free markets, and protecting civil liberties.
“There’s a lot of excitement all across the country with Rand Paul,” U.S. Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia tells Newsmax. “It’s what the American people want in a leader, someone who’s going to stand up for them and what they believe in.”
Paul — who last week said that he is “seriously considering” a 2016 presidential run — has been raising his profile over the past week, most notably with his 13-hour filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination as CIA director over concerns about the White House drone policy.
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He declared victory after the White House denied the administration was ready to use drones to kill Americans on U.S. soil. However, he said he still isn’t satisfied.
“My 13-hour filibuster was a message to the president,” Paul said. “Good intentions aren’t good enough. No one person gets to decide the law. No one person gets to decide your guilt or innocence.”
He offered a spirited defense of the filibuster on stage at CPAC, even bringing with him some of the binders he used on the Senate floor as props.
“Nothing gets a politician’s attention like watching somebody else get applause,” Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist tells Newsmax. “What happened after Rand’s 13-hour filibuster? You had two senators who you usually see on the Sunday morning TV shows whining publicly, ‘Hey, how come there are no TV cameras on me? Why is everybody paying attention to them?’ Remember ‘All About Eve,’ the movie? All about Rand.
“He’s changing the world. He’s moving things forward. Not everybody likes to ride in an icebreaker because the ride is pretty bumpy, but, like Gingrich before him, like Goldwater, like Reagan, he’s out ahead of where the other politicians are and you win if you correctly assess, ‘This is where the American people will be when it’s time for me to run for president or something else.’”
Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis tells Newsmax that he connected well with the younger audience at CPAC, which draws as many as 8,000 party activists.
“He did a great job,” Anuzis said. “He laid out the liberty agenda, which a lot of young Republicans, new Republicans, care about.”
Paul saved some of his criticism for his own party.
“We need a Republican Party that shows up on the south side of Chicago and shouts at the top of our lungs, we are the party of jobs and opportunity” and the “ticket to the middle class,” Paul said, referring to a neighborhood that long has been home mostly to blacks.
He used the pulpit to take a shot back at fellow GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who last week referred to Paul and his supporters as “wacko birds.”
“The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered,” he said, adding, “I don’t think we need to name any names here, do we?”
Paul also received a warm reception for his five-year balanced budget plan.
It is far more ambitious than anything currently under consideration in Congress, including the current 10-year plan introduced this week by House Budget Committee Chairman and 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Paul said it would eliminate the Department of Education, create a flat personal income tax of 17 percent, and cut business regulations to strengthen job growth.
“For liberty to expand, government must shrink. For the economy to grow, government must get out of the way,” Paul said. “The only stimulus ever proven to work is leaving more money in the hands of those who earned it.”
David Garcia, 43, of Houston, told Newsmax that the straightforward approach grabbed his attention.
“He gave a very simple, easy-to-follow outline,” Garcia said. “It’s ‘here’s where we are, here’s where we’re going, and here’s how we’re going to get there.’
“The genius was in the simplicity,” Garcia said.
Paul also criticized foreign aid and bank bailouts, as well as offered support to legalizing drugs, appealing to the more libertarian-minded members of the audience.
“Ask [the Facebook generation] whether we should put a kid in jail for the nonviolent crime of drug use and you’ll hear a resounding ‘no,’” he said. “Ask them if they want to bail out Too-Big-To-Fail banks with their tax dollars, and you’ll hear a ‘hell no.’”
Alan Giardinieri, a 43-year-old marketing executive from Florida, told Newsmax he liked Paul’s advocacy for the Bill of Rights and constitutional principles.
“I was pleasantly surprised, and it certainly made me want to pay more attention to him,” Giardinieri said. “I certainly want to hear him speak again.”
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