In a rather wide-ranging interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) shared his thoughts on a potential presidential run in 2016 and weighed in on a host of issues from Immigration Reform to the War of Drugs. Paul is seen by most as the outsider’s insider most likely to give the “establishment” candidate a run in 2016 GOP primaries. And if the last few weeks are any measure, he intends to make every effort between now and then to raise his national profile.
The Kentucky senator, who has been watching his star rise in the party and last weekend won the annual straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference, stressed in an interview with “Fox News Sunday” that he doesn’t know yet whether he will run for president.
But asked about his plans, he said he’s already talked with Republican National Committee leaders about the “things I think we need to do” to be competitive across the country. He said the party needs more libertarian policies — which Paul is known to stand for — in order to attract younger voters. Paul said it’s important to have a candidate who “would appeal across the left-right paradigms.”
“I’ve always said I wanted to be part of the national debate. I think the Republican Party needs to figure out how to be bigger, and I think I do bring some ideas to that,” Paul said, adding: “We do need something new. The party needs something new to grow, and I want to be part of that.”
As Wallace and Paul discuss in the interview, the Senator describes himself as a libertarian-republican or libertarian-conservative. The distinction means a great deal to some and is lost on many more. Generally speaking, what it means is Senator Paul parts ways with traditional “Republican” positions on many issues – particularly in the area frequently dubbed “social issues.” While such is not the case with “Marriage” – he views it as a union between one man and one woman – it is the case with matters like the “War on Drugs.” That departure has raised more than a few red flags with some conservatives. Wallace inquired…
Paul said the prisons are full of “non-violent criminals” and that while he doesn’t want to “encourage” marijuana use, that is something many young people do before abandoning it later in life.
“The last two presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use,” Paul said. “They got lucky, but a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don’t get lucky.”
For what it’s worth, I tend to agree on some levels with Paul on the marijuana issue – at least as his position was framed in this interview. I have seen, heard, and read things that make me question his true position on the legalization of marijuana; but if this interview is taken at face value, I would agree with his position. We’ve long fought the “War on Drugs” and have very little to show for the effort. Our jails and prisons are overcrowded with repeat offenders often serving far more time for non-violent offenses than others convicted of more heinous crimes. I oppose legalization; but I do think another look at our approach to the problem is very much in order.
If he is to be a legitimate contender in 2016, I would expect to hear a great deal more about his position on this issue; and I would fully anticipate both hard-line conservatives and hard-core libertarians to be listening with both ears fixed on the young senator from the Bluegrass State. Conservatives will be looking to see where Paul draws the line; and the young and passionate libertarian crowd that so openly supported Paul’s father in 2012 will be tracking every move the Senator makes from now til 2016. Even the slightest hint of “going establishment” could spell trouble for Paul with those who could make him a contender.