It hasn’t been a great February for Rand Paul, but the GOP presidential candidate bypassed any mention of vaccines or his (lack of) college degrees in a speech in Sarasota on Saturday afternoon, and instead went after Hillary Clinton.
Speaking inside an airplane hanger at Dolphin Aviation, the Kentucky Senator spent a solid chunk of his 20-minute address blasting the former Secretary of State, specifically for actions – or inactions – in Libya as Secretary of State. Rand said her actions directly culminated in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. nationals at the U.S. mission in Benghazi, a flashpoint for the American Right.
“Hillary Clinton’s war on Libya didn’t go so well,” he said sarcastically, standing on a stage in front of approximately 200 people. “We are less safe because of that war in Libya.”
He then went into detail about how diplomatic personnel in Libya asked for security “time and time again,” but said Clinton denied every request. “They were embarrassed by our soldiers having weapons, even wearing boots. We wanted to be politically correct.”
Paul said that Ambassador Stevens was sending cables to Clinton begging for more security, but said when Clinton came before him in a Senate Committee reviewing Benghazi, “she didn’t seem to have time to read the cables.”
“She acted put off,” he said icily. “Who me?” he said, mocking her voice. “I’m a little too important to be reading cables.”
He then ended his portion of the Clinton bashing by declaring, “By her dereliction of duty, she should forever be precluded from ever being considered as president,” which received one of the largest cheers from the crowd.
Paul went on to describe how former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had made a deal with the west to get rid of his nuclear ambitions, yet the U.S. toppled him anyway. “What kind of message does that send to Iran?” he asked, referring to the current negotiations between the U.S. and that country and their nuclear program.
Like his father Ron, Rand Paul is a harsh critic of U.S. interventions in the Middle East, and his 12-hour filibuster against the Obama administration’s use of drone warfare against U.S. citizens made him a star in certain precincts two years ago.
But as he runs for higher office, he’s had to combat the image that he’s soft on terrorism. “I do think we have to do something about ISIS now,” he acknowledged. But he countered that as a doctor (he’s an ophthalmologist), he’s bound by the Hippocratic oath of “first do no harm” (a variation of Obama’s “don’t do stupid stuff” mantra).
He bemoaned the fact that he couldn’t get any support from his colleagues – Democrat or Republican- about an amendment on a bill that would ban sending any money to countries that persecute Christians.
Paul began his address by claiming that “some say” the GOP needs to dilute their message and become “Democratic lite.” Instead, he suggested, “We need to be boldly for what we are. But I want you to know that in Washington, what passes for bold is quite tepid,” and cited discussions about revenue neutral tax reform. “I’m not interested in neutral tax reform. I’m interested in returning money to its rightful owners, those who earned it.”
After sounding like a conventional Republican candidate for president, Paul then shifted gears and went talked about how he’s taken his message to places that no other Republican generally dares to go, such as the Urban League, the NAACP, or the University of California at Berkeley. “And I get standing ovations in both places,” he said. “It’s a defense of liberty. You can’t keep your right to bear arms if you don’t protect the 4th Amendment and the 1st Amendment and the 5th Amendment.”
He went on to attack NSA government surveillance, and said that the rebuke to the claim that,” if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” lowers the bar for what should be acceptable in America. “That standard is a little bit of a diminishment of innocent until proven guilty.”
Paul said his message is what that can attract blacks and Hispanics who generally never vote for the GOP. “We take that passionate message about the bill of rights, showing up and telling people we care about them, where they live. I think there is no limit to what we can do as a party, and I want to be a part of that, and I hope you do to.”
Paul has been playing on defense in the past 24 hours, after it was discovered that he had been busted for saying that he had a biology degree- when he does not. That follows the surge of criticism last week, when he was quoted as saying that he knows of “normal children” who received “profound mental disorders” after getting vaccination shots.