Libertarian-leaning Paul addresses liberal-leaning campus
March 19th, 2014
10:27 AM ET
4 months ago

Libertarian-leaning Paul addresses liberal-leaning campus

Updated 9:30 p.m. ET, 3/19/2014

(CNN) - Sen. Rand Paul, who's become known for venturing into unfamiliar territory for Republicans, spoke Wednesday at the liberal hotbed of the University of California at Berkeley.

The Kentucky Republican castigated President Barack Obama for his continued support of the National Security Agency's phone metadata collection, saying the President should know better in part because of his race.

"The first African-American president ought to be a little more conscious of the fact of what has happened with the abuses of domestic spying," Paul said.

"Martin Luther King was spied upon, civil rights leaders were spied upon, Muhammad Ali was spied upon, antiwar protesters were spied upon," he added. "The possibility for abuse in this is incredible. So I don't care if there's never been any evidence of abuse with the (NSA)., they should not be collecting the data."

The domestic data collection program became public after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked the tactic, as well as a hoard of other NSA spying techniques, to the media last year.

In his speech Wednesday at Berkeley, Paul also mentioned the recent controversy surrounding claims that the CIA has been spying on computers used by Senate Intelligence Committee. CIA Director John Brennan responded with a flat-out denial of any wrongdoing.

"I don't know about you, but I'm worried. If the CIA is spying on Congress, who exactly can or will stop them? I look into the eyes of senators and I think I see real fear," he said.

"Maybe it's just my imagination, but I think I perceive fear of an intelligence community drunk with power, unrepentant, and uninclined to relinquish power," Paul said. "I am honestly worried and concerned about who is truly in charge of our government. Most of you have read the dystopian nightmares, the dystopian novels and maybe, like me, you doubted that it could ever happen in America."

Paul announced last month he was suing the Obama administration, demanding that the phone metadata collection be declared unconstitutional and put to an end.

The senator fired up a crowd with his unabashed libertarian views and staunch anti-NSA position earlier this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an audience that also voted him as their top pick in CPAC's GOP presidential nomination straw poll.

"If you have a cell phone, you are under surveillance," he said on stage. "I believe what you do on your cell phone is none of their damn business."

Wednesday's event at Berkeley is already sold out, and while it seems an unlikely place for a Republican to traverse, the San Francisco Bay area campus isn't uncharted territory for the Kentucky senator's family. His father, former Rep. Ron Paul, generated a huge turnout when he visited the school in April, 2012.

The elder Paul developed a cult-like following among university students during his last two presidential campaigns. His positions often bucked the Republican establishment and had crossover appeal to some Democrats on issues involving national security, foreign policy and government overreach.

His son is carrying on that torch of libertarianism, but with a more pragmatic approach that seems to be blazing a wider trail as he considers his own presidential bid.

A recent CNN/ORC International poll shows Paul is at the top of a crowded field of potential Republican presidential candidates, with 16% support among Republicans nationwide. While his father proved to be a formidable competitor in the 2012 GOP primaries, the congressman never found himself at the top of a presidential poll.

Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, is just one percentage point behind, at 15%, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who's considering another bid for the White House, comes in at 11%. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2008 GOP presidential candidate, is the only other Republican tested in the survey to crack double digits.

Republican Rand Paul: There 'should be a struggle to make the party better'

Paul has been aggressive in calling for a broader GOP in recent months and has taken his message to nontraditional Republican venues, such as historically black colleges. He's also preached his unconventional ideas at GOP gatherings in red states such as Texas and Missouri.

"We need to have people with ties and without ties, with tattoos and without tattoos; with earrings, without earrings," he said at a Republican event in Texas last month. "We need a more diverse party. We need a party that looks like America."

CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Peter Hamby, and Alison Harding contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2016 • California • Rand Paul
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    BFD. He's still a member of the dysfunctional GOP who believe that 'personhood' begins at fertilization. Freak!

    March 19, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  2. Silence DoGood

    "Libertarian" is a term that has become all but meaningless. It is largely a nice sounding term for extreme conservatives. I am a liberal libertarian – I might vote for a Green Party local candidate if they were against big corporation/government control. Yet when I joined the local "Libertarian" group in my state it was ALL some form of conservative politics. I wanted to support Libertarian initiatives to include more candidates in the voting in my state, but it was all about including more of the "right" kind of candidates.

    Big government and big corporations are in the same control business. would Paul really speak out against a big corporation spying on its employees or citizens in general, or secretly collecting personal information?

    I think not. He is just grabbing support and will ignore such student views later.

    March 19, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  3. Gurgyl

    This time no way GOP can give a candidate with rational thinking–these guys live in 2nd century, with color bias, War thinking etc. GOP is pretty much dead.

    March 19, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  4. tom l

    Libertarian has become a pejorative. I have noticed that happening lately. I think the more accurate term would be a Classical Liberal" which I believe defines my views much better.

    March 19, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  5. rs

    The "freedom is just for rich people" candidate probably won't track well at Berkeley. Sure, Mr. Paul may track with some on the Left on Foreign Affairs, but on domestic and social issues, he is standard issue TEA Party. I don't see the "Left Coast" embracing his "do away with the Civil Rights Act" schtick, or his monetary and income positions.

    March 19, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  6. The Real Tom Paine

    Give him credit for going, and for Berkley for offering to hear him. I doubt you would see an invite coming from Bob Jones University or BYU for Bernie Sanders, though. They just want to see their surrogates in DC preaching to the converted.

    March 19, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  7. Al-NY,NY

    the NSA is the only thing that will get him any attention from anyone except hard core righties. The rest of his ideas are the crackpot items the GOP clings to. Therefore, forget it Bland. You will NOT win but please try. It'll make HRC's job so much easier

    March 19, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  8. rs

    "If you have a cell phone, you are under surveillance," he said on stage. "I believe what you do on your cell phone is none of their damn business."
    _______________________________
    Says the brave Mr. Paul- let's parse that one out, shall we?
    Surveillance (the GOP would have you believe)= the NSA recording Granny's apple tart recipe from a conversation when in truth it is the metadata- what numbers connected, and for how long. That derives directly from Mr. Bush's (and Mr. Ashcroft's USA PATRIOT Act- something the GOP passed instantly after 9/11).
    "None of their business"= in this case the "their" is the NSA- but one could say the government in general- the same government Mr. Paul is a part of, was elected to and has chosen to do nothing with- like his GOP colleagues. The same government he decries, he want to be elected head of. In other words, Mr. Paul IS just as much of the problem as the government he attacks daily. He is a shill for the rich wrapped in "freedom" (that naturally only the rich can afford).

    March 19, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  9. Anonymous

    I am looking forward to Rand Paul addressing corporate spying which has complete control over each and every American who has ever left a message on a blog forum, ordered a product on-line, searched a website, read a news article on-line, befriending their employees friends to collect data on facebook, and so forth. Until such time, Paul is a blowing in the wind pipe dreamer with little substance and no curb appeal.

    March 19, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  10. wise guy

    I think he just described the way many feel about the Republican party.

    March 19, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  11. rs

    tom l

    Libertarian has become a pejorative. I have noticed that happening lately. I think the more accurate term would be a Classical Liberal" which I believe defines my views much better.
    ___________________
    Sorry, there is very little "Liberal" about Libertarianism, or about Mr. Paul, or about the GOP (a party he is a member of and votes with in alarming regularity). I think you should accept what the Right has done to Libertarianism and "Conservatism". If the term has indeed become pejorative as you claim- well, that is just the same as what the Right has done to "Liberal" in the last 40 years or so.
    Maybe "Liberal Lite".

    March 19, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  12. wise guy

    Not the terms I would use to describe your views, that's for certain.

    March 19, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  13. Bill from GA

    I hope R Paul will include in his talk that the US Patriot Act. promoted by republicans and authorized by the Bush Administration, is what allows the gathering of info that Paul dislikes. And that no watering down of the Patriot Act is likely to occur as long as we have a republican-controlled House.

    He will probably just blame Obama for it all.

    March 19, 2014 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  14. Enough is Enough

    @rs – I assume that you are a progressive based on your posts. That being said, what do you see as freedom? A nanny state where everyone is dependent upon the government for everything? It certainly appears, based upon the voting record and behavior of the left, that is what you want and see as freedom. What? Freedom from personal responsibility? Freedom from work (your own party members have touted how Obamacare frees Americans from their present jobs)?

    March 19, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  15. GOP = Greed Over People

    When Aqua Buddha leaves the stage, he will just be a drip.

    Again.

    March 19, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  16. Anonymous

    @Silence DoGood

    Big government and big corporations are in the same control business. would Paul really speak out against a big corporation spying on its employees or citizens in general, or secretly collecting personal information?
    -

    This is indeed where Rand Paul could shine a light and be taken seriously as a both sides do it candidate. Unfortunately he is already on record in support of corporations given full rights to discriminate against our fellow citizens and cannot backtrack his support of corporations while remaining in the republican party: he'll address the government does it angle without making the corporate comparison, which we can all agree is just as - if not more - egregious.

    March 19, 2014 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  17. Rudy NYC

    March 19, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
    Silence DoGood

    "Libertarian" is a term that has become all but meaningless. It is largely a nice sounding term for extreme conservatives. I am a liberal libertarian – I might vote for a Green Party local candidate if they were against big corporation/government control. Yet when I joined the local "Libertarian" group in my state it was ALL some form of conservative politics. I wanted to support Libertarian initiatives to include more candidates in the voting in my state, but it was all about including more of the "right" kind of candidates.
    ------------------
    I agree with you 100%. I refer to this new breed of self-descibed libertarians as "neo-libertarians." They are not the libertarians of old. They are almost the complte opposite of what libertarians of the past stood for. Any trace of liberalism has been scrubbed and replaced with ultra-conservatism.

    March 19, 2014 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  18. Silence DoGood

    @Enough is Enough
    @rs – I assume that you are a progressive based on your posts. That being said, what do you see as freedom? A nanny state where everyone is dependent upon the government for everything? It certainly appears, based upon the voting record and behavior of the left, that is what you want and see as freedom. What? Freedom from personal responsibility? Freedom from work (your own party members have touted how Obamacare frees Americans from their present jobs)?
    ------------
    Rand Paul's phony Libertarian views though would allow for completely unregulated corporate control, including all of the ills you mention in a corporate nanny state where the workers and all citizens are spied on, lied to, fed poisons without consequence, are completely dependent on the corporation. It was that way once – the company town, the company store. Workers were slaves and prisoners literally. No personal responsibility. All manner of prejudice tolerated. I would rather be progressive than regressive back to that time in history.

    March 19, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  19. The Real Tom Paine

    -Enough is Enough

    @rs – I assume that you are a progressive based on your posts. That being said, what do you see as freedom? A nanny state where everyone is dependent upon the government for everything? It certainly appears, based upon the voting record and behavior of the left, that is what you want and see as freedom. What? Freedom from personal responsibility? Freedom from work (your own party members have touted how Obamacare frees Americans from their present jobs)?
    ***************
    You've already drawn a conclusion based upon posts, instead of any actual listening, so why are you bothering? What does freedom mean to you? No, its not freedom from personal responsibility, its about individuals working together towards a common goal. I doubt you could understand that, since your own needs over-ride every one else's, and the real definition of a free people is working together, and enforcing certain basic standards of behavior and obligation. Its not about you doing what ever you want, its not about opting out, its all about responsibility. If anything, the Right is against freedom and favors a form of egocentric anarchy. Since everything seems to be about economics to the Right, its understandable that you don't really care about others, and you view their misfortune as all their own fault, until you get screwed by that attitude.

    March 19, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  20. Rudy NYC

    Silence wrote:

    Rand Paul's phony Libertarian views though would allow for completely unregulated corporate control, including all of the ills you mention in a corporate nanny state where the workers and all citizens are spied on, lied to, fed poisons without consequence, are completely dependent on the corporation. It was that way once – the company town, the company store. Workers were slaves and prisoners literally. No personal responsibility. All manner of prejudice tolerated. I would rather be progressive than regressive back to that time in history.
    -------------------------
    Yup. What you're describing is the Old West, before the territories gained formal statehood. That was back when the territories were known as "free range states." The rule of law was defined by how much money you had and how many hired guns that you could hire. The only government was what you wanted it to be, and most of the rich didn't want any government hanging over their heads telling them what to do because they had freedom and liberty, guaranteed them by the U.S. Constitution.

    That must sound pretty crazy, huh? How is that life in the Old West all that different from the vision that neo-libertarians like Rand Paul are promoting today? I can barely see any.

    March 19, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  21. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Ayn Rand Paul can keep spinning his wheels. Not too many sane people are going to vote for him.

    March 19, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  22. Ol' Yeller

    @Enough (already) is Enough (already)
    "@rs – I assume that you are a progressive based on your posts. That being said, what do you see as freedom? A nanny state where everyone is dependent upon the government for everything? It certainly appears, based upon the voting record and behavior of the left, that is what you want and see as freedom. What? Freedom from personal responsibility? Freedom from work (your own party members have touted how Obamacare frees Americans from their present jobs)?"

    I assume that you are a conservative based on your rants. That being said, what do you see as freedom? A fascist state where women are forced by the government to have items stuck in their body? It certainly appears, based upon the voting record and behavior of the right, that is what you want and see as freedom. What? Freedom from being raped by the State? Freedom from participating in our democratic system?(your own party members have repeatedly passed voter suppression laws to keep Americans from voting in an effort to stay in power)?"

    FIFY
    Freedom blah, blah derp, blah, freedom derp blah derp, freedom... derp freedom!.

    March 19, 2014 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  23. Name

    rs,
    Rand Paul voted against the extension of the patriot act

    March 19, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  24. Rudy NYC

    Name

    rs,
    Rand Paul voted against the extension of the patriot act
    -------------------------
    He has also said that he disagrees with Title I, out of ten, of the Civil Rights Act. Why? Because he feels that bigotry is a form of freedom of speech, and that the Title I infringes upon that freedom. He's wrong. As long as you're using U.S. currency to conduct your business on U.S. soil, then you are subject to U.S. laws. If you want to be a bigot, and limit the number of people that you call clients, then I suggest you find a new currency to use on U.S. soil, or start bartering. Hey, wait a sec. Didn't Ron Paul suggest something about paying your doctor in chickens, or something like that?

    March 19, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  25. rs

    Enough is Enough

    @rs – I assume that you are a progressive based on your posts. That being said, what do you see as freedom? A nanny state where everyone is dependent upon the government for everything? It certainly appears, based upon the voting record and behavior of the left, that is what you want and see as freedom. What? Freedom from personal responsibility? Freedom from work (your own party members have touted how Obamacare frees Americans from their present jobs)?
    ________________________
    I am a recovered Republican, circa 1980. Freedom is something everyone shares- voting, for example, choosing candidates, and more. That however is balanced by the common good (a concept favored by the Founding Fathers)- thus we have libraries, post offices, public schools, and today, highways, ports and bridges- and essentially a government we all agree to pay for. As you imply, "freedom" should not be diminished just because of poverty, or a lack of health care insurance. If I can get a secure pre-retirement healthcare, I'm outta here. I can afford to retire, and someone else can have my job. See how that works?

    March 19, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
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