In a radio interview with Sean Hannity this afternoon, Kentucky Republican senate candidate Rand Paul continued to distance himself from a strict libertarianism, reiterating the theme of his USA Today op-ed that he isn’t a libertarian, but a constitutional conservative. Saying that “the tea party really brings a lot of people together … we’re not all identical,” Paul then focused on what values do unite Tea Party-ers: advocacy of smaller government, term limits, politicians actually reading the bills they pass, and bills having a constitutional foundation.
When Hannity brought up his frustration that the only spending too many want to cut is national defense, Paul chose his words carefully, remarking that, “What also imperils us as a nation … is our own debt. Our own debt threatens the very foundations of our country.” While he later noted that national defense should always be a priority, Paul said, “Not all military spending is necessary for our national defense,” citing the old chestnut of the 1984 Grace Commission’s findings that the military had been buying $500 hammers. He also said there’s a need for an ongoing debate about what constitutes America’s best interests in national security matters.
Paul noted other ways to cut the budget, such as reducing government workers’ salaries (discussing a USA Today article that found the average salary of a federal employee is $123,000 – vs. $61,000 for a private sector employee) and eliminating waste and abuse (citing a 2009 Heritage web memo that showed the federal government had made $72 billion in improper payments the year before). Asked about the Ground Zero mosque, Paul replied, “If they really are about reconciliation, they should donate money to the building of a memorial [for the 9/11 victims]. I think it’s probably not a good place for a mosque.”
He told Hannity his campaign is going “incredibly well,” but he isn’t a fan of the constant negative publicity: “I think they’ve accused me of about everything except for being abducted by aliens.” He may have a point: a recent GQ article stated that Paul, then a Baylor undergrad, and a group of friends had tried to force pot on a fellow student, then made her worship Aqua Buddha. Paul’s campaign is threatening to sue the magazine and denies that Paul ever kidnapped anyone or forced drugs on anyone. On the debt, Paul said that “it’s going to take someone who really wants to shake up the system.” Saying that he wouldn’t “join the good ‘ol boys club,” Paul indicated that while he may not choose to identify as a Libertarian, he also has no wish to be associated with Republicans who campaign on limited government and balanced budgets and then practice a different philosophy in office.
Katrina Trinko is an intern at National Review.