NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.— Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) delivered an impassioned, libertarian-flavored speech to a standing-room-only crowd of Conservative Political Action Conference attendees Friday, leaving no doubt about which CPAC speaker appeals to the broadest swath of American conservatives.
Between sporadic chants of “President Paul!” and “stand with Rand,” along with a few standing ovations, Paul purveyed a message rallying conservative Americans to the cause of liberty, which he said is under constant threat from an overreaching Federal government.
Paul asked the largely youthful gathering, “Will you, America’s next generation of liberty-lovers, will you stand and be heard?”
Paul suggested that the Nation is ready for the White House to once again be occupied by a “friend of liberty”— but he cautioned that just being a Republican isn’t enough to qualify a candidate to fit the bill.
“You may think I’m talking about electing Republicans,” said Paul. “I’m not. I’m talking about electing lovers of liberty.”
A “great President,” Paul said, would be a leader who, unlike President Obama, goes out of the way to defend civil liberties and would never stand for Constitutional abuses like indefinite detention provisions in defense bills or the National Security Agency’s warrantless data collection.
Other remarks by the Senator hinted that his vision of “great President” material hasn’t been offered by the GOP establishment in recent Presidential election cycles. If the Nation is to avoid a bleak future of ever-diminishing freedom, Paul said that candidates in future elections must give voters a choice beyond picking the “lesser of two evils.”
“We must elect men and women of principle and conviction and action who will lead us back to greatness. There is a great, great and tumultuous battle underway for the future, not for the Republican Party, but for the future of the entire country,” the Senator said.
In a swipe at President Barack Obama’s record on civil liberties — which has become a point of contention even among the President’s base — the Senator referenced Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”
“How will history remember Barack Obama?” Paul asked.
After pausing for laughter from the audience, he continued, “To those who had hoped President Obama would somehow be a champion of civil liberties, [Pink Floyd’s] Roger Waters might ask: ‘Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? Did they get you to exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?’”
The speech also served as an opportunity for Paul to remind attendees of the stands that he has taken against government abuse of liberty in the short time that he has been in office, including a lawsuit he filed against the Obama Administration for violating Americans’ privacy.
“Some things are worth fighting for,” he said. “When I discovered the NSA spying is collecting every American’s record, I took a stand. I sued the President.”
Paul made a strong case against the National Security Administration’s actions in the speech, noting that that the “sons of liberty” would hold a position similar to his: “We will not trade our liberty for security. Not now, not ever.”
“If you have a cell phone, you are under surveillance,” he said at one point. “I believe what you do on your cell phone is none of their damn business.”
The 4th Amendment, Paul reminded the audience, is equally as important to American freedom as the 2nd Amendment, as the battle for the “heart and soul of America” continues.
Paul’s speech has, so far, been the most widely attended of CPAC 2014. As the audience filed out following the Senator’s remarks there was also a keyed-up aura, different than the atmosphere following earlier speeches at the convention.
“He’s for everything a sensible person should be for. Freedom, liberty. The guy’s going to be the President,” an attendee clad in Paul swag said, as he made his way through the packed crowd toward the exit. “It’s pretty exciting, and I bet it scares the shit out of any Republican who wants to see someone with more moderate appeal become the face of the GOP.”