As the conference has gone on, the potential candidates have gotten increasingly casual. Thursday morning, they were wearing jackets. Thursday afternoon, they were in shirtsleeves. Today, Rand Paul, fresh off a vote on the Hill, showed up wearing jeans. If this conference went on for another couple of days, they’d be presenting naked. And frankly, I’m glad that’s not going to happen.
Sen. Rand Paul was by far the most hotly anticipated of the speakers, mostly because kids have jammed themselves like sardines into his “Stand With Rand” booth, and are antsy after having to sit through a presentation by a former NSA director and then a John Bolton lecture. Rand Paul started with a quote that sounds like he’s penning the Declaration of Independence himself, all over again. The Tri-corner hat guy is nowhere to be found, but if he were in the room, he’d be impressed:
Lovers of Liberty must rise and stand with our forefathers who stared down the king. We must rise as free men and women and reclaim our birthright. We must protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
His first order of business was Obamacare, which he called a travesty. He called for even the Supreme Court to return to a place where we “presumed liberty,” and not just innocence. He laid into Justice John Roberts for his Obamacare decision listing the health insurance requirement as a tax, and noted that, as a doctor, should he be elected to national office other than the one he’s currently holding, he would make it his mission to “heal the nation,” by which he means, “repeal Obamacare.”
Rand Paul was the first and only speaker to address the NSA and privacy rights. According to Paul, rights are unlimited, unenumerated, and given to us by God. And while the government is unsure as to whether those rights are actually yours, Rand Paul reminded the audience that our rights are in our DNA and the government can, “quite frankly, get over it.” He addressed not only data collection but also metadata, the NSA’s recent overreach, and NSA director Clapper’s lies to the Congressional committee. “The phone records of law-abiding citizens are none of their damned business.”
Now, while that might have been the crowd pleasing part of his speech, Paul also took the opportunity to address concerns over his foreign policy. He noted that he certainly recognized the global threat posed by radical Islamists and Jihadists, but cautioned Americans to protect themselves without losing “ourselves as a people.” He wants a more nuanced foreign policy that encourages stability, not chaos. His example of what not to do: “Hillary’s War in Libya,” a phrase he used to discuss the destabilization of Middle Eastern states following our experiment in nation building. Paul mentioned that he favored reforming foreign aid, adopting a “peace through strength” approach, and assured skeptics that his approach to national security came from a profound distrust in the government’s ability to do anything, whether that’s administering the postal service or trying to promote freedom and organize rogue states abroad.
Rand Paul was also the only candidate to address race relations. He quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s description of “two Americas,” noting that liberal policies are what has failed inner cities and poor communities. He wants to encourage a national approach to economic reform that cuts everyone’s taxes, and raises everyone’s standard of living. He took the opportunity to announce that he is looking to propose the single largest tax cut in American history. His administration, he said, would cut spending and balance the budget in five years. Bold.
I’d cover Donald Trump’s speech but, suffice it to say, it was Donald Trump’s speech. He’s definitely serious this time. He’’s going to run for President. He even canceled the next season of The Apprentice. And if not, well then, he’s definitely going to buy some government buildings, put in his own Oval Office, and pretend he’s President until he gets bored and finds something else to do.
Fortunately, we were granted a reprieve from reality show millionaires (he’s such an ardent supporter of traditional marriage, he’s had three of them!), and were ushered back into the mid-1990s by Rick Santorum, who is probably only a “Presidential contender” because he’s not qualified to do anything else.
Santorum’s speech was shorter and more to the point. He wants to help struggling Americans. Which is convenient because he’s most definitely a struggling American. He reminded the audience several times that, despite how 2012 shook out, he did win eleven states. And he definitely won the most important eleven states: the eleven states in America that have real people, who have real problems, and recognize a real man when he comes knocking on their door in a sweater vest asking for a vote. And it’s real people who will make Rick Santorum’s dream of being President Rick Santorum a reality.
Like nearly everyone, Santorum has a plan to address middle-class economic woes. His plan includes help for the 70% of Americans who do not have a college education, and centers around restoring vocational training in high schools, to help prepare students for a skilled labor work force. And as much as I make fun of him, the idea isn’t half bad. Skilled labor is hard to come by, and there is most definitely a shortage of people able to fill the thousands of open positions in fields like manufacturing.
Rick Santorum prides himself on his foreign policy credentials — after all he served on Congressional committees that oversaw science, technology and land and ground forces, and was among the elected officials charged with retooling the military to address the new “asymmetric threat” now known as “global terrorism.” Like his compatriots, he’s very serious about ISIS, and isn’t afraid of talking tough.
If they want to set up a 7th century Caliphate, let’s oblige them by bombing them back to the 7th century.
He was also for sanctions against Iran before being for sanctions against Iran was cool. So he’s got that going for him.
The crowd was supportive of Paul and lukewarm about Santorum, but both have their hardcore fans among the CPAC attendees. Paul’s skew younger, Santorum’s skew more socially conservative, but both groups have the same single-minded dedication necessary to keep hopes of a Presidential campaign alive.
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