Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has described himself both as a “constitutional conservative” and a libertarian. An ophthalmologist who attended Baylor and Duke universities, he practiced medicine in Bowling Green, Ky., before entering politics.
In 2008 he made speeches on behalf of his father, Ron Paul, then a congressman from Texas running for president. Rand Paul then won his U.S. Senate seat during the Tea Party tidal wave of 2010. For two years, father and son served in Congress together.
I had this conversation with Rand Paul just before he spoke to a group of conservative activists gathered in Charleston, S.C.
You’ve been a professing Christian for a number of years. Would you say a little about your faith? I became a Christian as a teenager and it’s an important part of my life. It shapes who I am and what I believe. We currently go to a Methodist Church in Bowling Green.
You’re libertarian on certain drug issues. You personally oppose same-sex “marriage” but believe it’s a state issue. You’re opposed to abortion, but you wouldn’t ban the morning-after pill. What principle governs your thinking when your libertarian tendencies conflict with your personal moral beliefs? There is a role for government protecting life. That’s one of the primary things government does. Ultimately you have to decide: Is life precious? Is life a creation from God? And should the government be involved? I think the answer is yes to all of that.
Marriage has been a state issue for several hundred years and I think probably will remain a state issue. Our state of Kentucky has a constitutional amendment in favor of just having traditional marriage and I am in favor of that.
Columnist David Brooks, among others, said Republicans were smart to make a deal to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for the Senate passing a budget, but a lot of conservatives say the GOP caved in. What’s your position? It was a huge mistake. Passing a budget is what the Democrats are supposed to do. We have no guarantees the budget will balance. No guarantee that the budget won’t include tax increases. We’re going to trade that for the debt ceiling? I’m absolutely opposed to it.
So the debt ceiling deal was a defeat for the GOP. Many analysts say the fiscal cliff deal was also a defeat. And of course Republicans got beat in November at the ballot box. Is GOP national leadership up to the challenge? We need to know what we stand for. Right now we’re borrowing $4 billion a day and it can’t go on. We really do have to rein in spending. There’s spending waste from top to bottom in government. One of the examples I use: $3 million spent studying monkeys on meth. So does anybody not know that monkeys are crazy on methamphetamines? We spent $300,000 last year to develop a robotic squirrel to see if a rattlesnake would strike a squirrel that wasn’t wagging its tail. Apparently they couldn’t get live squirrels not to wag their tails. I mean, this runs throughout our government. Raising the debt ceiling is just giving a blank credit card to someone who has shown no evidence of being good with money.
So let me ask again: Does the GOP need new leadership in the House? I don’t get to choose because I’m not in the House. But I will say that we do have to stand for something. Sometimes it takes an internal struggle within a party and I would say there is a little bit of an internal struggle within the Republican Party for what we should stand for.
Are you going to run for president? I haven’t made a decision yet. We’re thinking about it and we probably won’t know anything for about two years. We need to have Republicans talking about the debt, talking about reduced spending, talking about how we could win again as the Republican Party. We’re not competitive on the West Coast. We’re not competitive in New England. We’ve lost two presidential elections. We start out way behind when we begin the election. We need to look at different approaches and different ideas about how we can grow the Republican Party.
You favor auditing the Federal Reserve Bank. I’m a lead co-sponsor of the “Audit the Fed” bill in the Senate and unfortunately [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid has not let us vote on it.
Would you favor the abolition of the Fed and a return to the gold standard? We need to start somewhere and one place to start is by auditing the Fed. That passed overwhelmingly in the House and we would have a chance in the Senate if we could get a vote. We should look first toward limiting the power of the Fed. Am I ultimately in favor of a commodity type of standard? Yes, but I think that we have to look at things one step at a time.
How are we going to get out of the current economic fix? Are we going to enter an era of hyperinflation? That’s the real question. We’ve run up so much deficit at this point, and we’re printing new money to pay for it. Will we destroy our currency as the consequence of what we’re doing? I think that’s an open question.