Rand Paul: An Outsider on The Inside Track

Andrew Belonsky :: Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 11:30 am

Rand Paul’s well on his way to being a Republican candidate in Kentucky’s Senatorial race. This comes as no surprise: Paul, an eye surgeon and son of Congressman Ron Paul, started the race as an outsider, and emulates many of the populist ideals coarsing through America’s collective vein right now: he’s for limited government, wants to lower taxes and describes himself as a “candidate of the people,” a man who can cure Washington of its ills. But Paul, who got his start in his state’s tax reform movement, also straddles the “outsider” divide and has courted support from the likes of Sarah Palin and Dick Armey. He is the outsider insider, and here Paul explains why he doesn’t want to be grouped with the far right, how the media works against third parties and why health care needs more, not less, capitalism. Oh boy…

Andrew Belonsky: Ron Paul is your father, do you find that that overshadows your campaign at all, or does it help?

Rand Paul: It’s helped in many ways, and it helped us get started. I don’t see it as really being a large influence within the state of Kentucky. If we were only the Ron Paul movement, we’d be getting probably 5 or 10 percent of the vote, but we’re approaching 50% of the vote. We’ve made our movement a lot bigger here and it’s a fusion of elements of people who did support my dad, but also people who supported other conservatives in the race, people who are part of the tea party movement, and people that I’ve known for years from the tax reform movement.

AB: Your father did get a lot of support in ’08 among younger voters, especially via the Internet. Are you having similar success among young voters?

RP: Yes, yes – as far as Internet, we’ve raised probably over half, maybe three-quarters of our campaign funds over the Internet. We have campus Facebook groups on most of the major campuses in Kentucky, and we do see a lot of young people. It’s not uncommon for me to go give a speech and have a young person come up and introduce me to their parents. That is a phenomenon in politics that you don’t see very often. Normally it’s the parents who drag the kid to an event, but here we’ll meet parents who are being introduced by their teenaged son or daughter.

AB: Let’s start with the Tea Party movement, from whom you’ve received a lot of support. Do you think that it has longevity to become a political force for many years to come?

RP: I think so. It truly is a spontaneous uprising. It’s not controlled by one person. It’s not controlled by a television network. It really is grass roots, community-oriented organizations that aren’t well linked together, even state wide, much less nation wide. They have their differences, but there is some commonality and you don’t just see spontaneous gatherings of people coming together very often. I do think it will definitely have influence in 2010, 2012 – probably through the two-party system.

AB: What are the things that you want to accomplish should you get elected? What’s the most pressing concern?

RP: Number one, we have to do something about controlling the debt, which to me means controlling spending. That’s the primary concern of people in the tea party movement, as well. I personally think that there needs to be some structural changes or we’ll never get there. We tend to elect people and it never changes, so I think we need term limits. I think we also need a rule that says you have to balance the annual budget, and those are structural changes that may well require constitutional changes, because you’ve seen the Democrats instituted pay-as-you-go two weeks ago and they’ve already broken their own rules twice. They aren’t to be trusted, which is another reason why the tea party movement’s so huge. There’s a growing movement that says politicians can’t be trusted to do the right thing, and there’s a growing movement that says “sweep them out of office.” That’s helping me, because I’ve never run for office or held office, and my opponent is more of a career politician. Even though he’s not the incumbent for this particular seat, he is perceived as an incumbent, and this is not the year of the incumbent. This is the year of the outsider.

AB: You just aired your first campaign commercial, which discusses conservative values. What are conservative values?

RP: Conservatism has become a beaten up term that doesn’t meant as much anymore after we had Republicans that doubled the debt from 5 to 10 trillion dollars, gave us the largest entitlement program of the last 40 years, the Medicare prescription drug plan. Some of the conservatives have destroyed the term, so it’s not as clear-cut and succinct a term as it once was. I like to use the term “constitutional conservative.” I’m a Strict constructionist. I believe in a federal government that operates under the enumerated powers of the constitution. And I envision a much smaller government. A government, if it obeyed the constitution, would have a balanced budget every year, without any further requirement.

AB: Okay.

RP: But the problem is that we have very few people up there who have any understanding or belief in the constitution. Judge Andrew Napolitano asked Rep. Clyburn, “Where do you get the constitutional authority for health care?” And he said, “Look, most of the things we do up here have no constitutional authority.” That sort of attitude is that it’s a democracy, not a constitutional republic, and these are really important things that drive me. I don’t plan on being part of the system; I plan on shaking up the system. I don’t even plan on staying forever, because I have another part of my life: I practice medicine, I’ve got a family, and the reason I do this is that I think we’re in a really terrible state as a nation and we have to do something before it’s too late.

AB: What about in terms of social issues, like abortion and gay marriage. Where do you stand on those?

RP: I’m a pretty traditional conservative on social issues, but the main issues that motivate me are the economic issues, and those are the main issues that are of paramount concern to the country right now.

AB: Would playing on social issues backfire for a candidate?

RP: I think so. If you talk to people within the tea party movement, they are mostly, particularly in the south, socially conservative. They don’t talk about the social issues so much, but they’re not going to elect anybody who’s not socially conservative. I think I fit that mold. The Tea Party is mostly concerned about the debt, overwhelming deficits and spending. They’re not particularly happy about their taxes and I think that if you talk to most of them, they would trade a little bit of fiscal sanity and cut spending for even the same taxes at this point.

AB: Taxes become a bogeyman of some sort, but people don’t realize that we need taxes for our nation to thrive and to keep our engines running. I don’t think that gets played up enough on the campaign trail.

RP: I think that most of us feel the burden, and I think that our taxes are too high, but I acknowledge also that we have to reduce the size and scope of government. People don’t want to pay taxes, but it’s easy to tell them you’ll reduce their taxes. It’s also easy to bring them federal projects, so our Congressmen do both. The Republicans come home and say, “I cut your taxes, or held the line on your taxes, but I also brought you this federal project.” And that’s why we’re bankrupt as a country. I won’t vote to raise any taxes and I will always try to lower taxes, but I think the primary problem is the pork barrel spending on both sides of the aisle.

AB: Speaking of taxes and the tea party, do you think there’s room in the United States now for a viable third party?

RP: The rules are too stacked against a third party. The last time that a third party candidate got a significant amount of votes was Ross Perot, and that was unique, because of his personal wealth, but also, after he ran the first time – and a lot of people don’t realize this, but the debates were controlled by the League of Women voters in ’92. Then in ’96, when Perot ran again, the debates were controlled by the Republicans and Democrats, who have controlled them since then. I don’t think they’ll ever let another third party in.

AB: Right.

RP: I also fault the media for that. If there were viable third party, the media should say, “Look, we’re not going to cover any debates unless you include them,” but the media never stands up. It becomes part of the system: they give softball questions, they let candidates memorize their answers in advance, and it becomes very bland.

AB: Sarah Palin has endorsed you, correct?

RP: Yes.

AB: And Freedom Works, which is Dick Armey’s organization, has endorsed you, as well, so you’re drawing support from what some would describe as the far right.

RP: I don’t know if I would describe it that way. I would describe it as the limited government, the “leave me alone” coalition, people who are truly worried about out of control federal spending. I don’t like to be called the far right. If someone says, “You’re part of this right wing fringe,” my response is that the main things that I support are very mainstream: term limits, 80% of the public supports them, balanced budget amendment, 80% of the public supports it, the Read the Bills Act – these are reformist, but very mainstream, populist ideas that I don’t think puts my campaign anywhere outside the mainstream.

AB: What is your opinion of President Obama. I know that you are personally wary of the Patriot Act and just month his administration extended it. What’s your take on his approach?

RP: I’m a big believer that you should get a warrant before you go into someone’s house. That’s a good procedure that protects those who might be falsely accused of crimes. The fourth amendment is very important.

AB: Of course it is.

RP: When I give speeches and this comes up, I say, “Look, if you allow them to come into your house without a warrant, it may be that they find your gun’s an inch too long or your bullets come out a second too fast or you don’t have the right paperwork, then all of a sudden you’re in jail for ten to fifteen years on a firearms violation.” I think most conservatives don’t want to live in that kind of society. I think once explained to them that way, they are a little more receptive to someone who believes that judges should have warrants.

AB: You want to keep the government out of our lives as much as possible; it needs to be a little more limited. But you’ve caught some flack for opposing gay marriage, which many would argue very much is the government going into people’s private lives, and trying to dictate what they can and cannot do. How do you reconcile your traditionally conservative views on tax and warrants with an opposition to gay marriage?

RP: I think marriage has historic and religious connotations, and I believe in the historic and religious connotations of marriage.

AB: But doesn’t using the religious argument create a politically gray area where the church and state are in fact melding?

RP: Ideally marriage would be a religious contract. In our society, probably since the beginning of our country, if not before our revolution, we had states writing out marriage certificates. If you look at the constitution, there’s nothing in the constitution that says state government can’t make decisions on definitions of marriage, so I see some of it as defending the state’s rights to make these decisions.

AB: You’re a doctor. We see a lot of doctors who go into politics, from both sides of the political divide. What can a doctor bring to lawmaking that perhaps a lawyer wouldn’t bring?

RP: Doctors, myself included, bring a perspective on the health care problems and what we should do with health care reform, and that will be an issue that has great interest to me. But I bring to that table the same arguments I would bring for every other area of the economy: capitalism works, competition works, and the reason health care’s broken is not too much capitalism, it’s too little capitalism. We could get it to work if we could bring capitalism to play.

AB: Bring capitalism to play in what way?

RP: Well, right now there’s almost no capitalism involved in health care. Capitalism involves freely fluctuating prices that consumers engage on a daily basis. Fifty percent of what I do is Medicare, the price is fixed, 5% of what I do is Medicaid, the prices are fixed. You can’t choose your doctor based on price. You can choose premiums with the insurance company, but there’s no market place. We need higher deductibles. We need multi-year insurance plans. Health insurance needs to be more like term life insurance, so there are some reforms that we could bring into it.

Image via Gage Skidmore’s Flickr.

6 Responses to “Rand Paul: An Outsider on The Inside Track”
  1. Rand is a candidate with a resolute philosophy of government. It would be interesting to see this interview side-by-side with equally thorough interviews with his Republican and Democratic opponents.

    Posted by: Jim McClarin March 16th, 2010 at 12:17 pm
  2. It’s unfortunate Rand is against gay marraige. It is a complete contradiction to liberty and they should press rand more to question his own beliefs. Marraige is not traditionally between man and women. In the judiac faith it is true but many other places in the world have other arrangements. Freedom of religion would allow these faiths to marrywhoever they want. Liberty. Freedom. Don’t contradict yourself to get votes

    Posted by: Jay March 16th, 2010 at 12:17 pm
  3. I sense that Rand Paul as a Senator will be very much the Constitutionalist that his father is in the House. And our elected leaders sorely need to again respect the entire Constitution - not just the parts of it they cherry-pick as a rightist or leftist career politician like the vast majority of them do today. That’s what got us into the disturbing socio-economic mess we’re in today.

    Posted by: Darryl Schmitz March 16th, 2010 at 1:49 pm
  4. Man, I got all excited when I saw the headline. Thought it said “Ru Paul.”

    Posted by: PaulyD March 16th, 2010 at 2:30 pm
  5. Yeah me too!
    What is hell is so excited about; the establishment getting their a$$ kicked by a common man, possibility a true representation!

    Posted by: Yours truly March 17th, 2010 at 2:17 pm
  6. I agree that it’s nice to see the establishment being routed out by the common folk, although this case differs a bit not only because Dr. Paul’s somewhat of a legislative legacy, but also because of his ties to ingrained political insiders. Although Palin’s never served in DC, she’s certainly established herself as collaborator for the GOP’s agenda. It will be interesting to see if the populism that we’re experiencing can overcome the gravity of insiderism that pulls so many people down in the Beltway.

    Posted by: Andrew Belonsky March 17th, 2010 at 4:11 pm