On April 7, Rand Paul — the junior Senator from Kentucky — will announce his candidacy for President of the United States. Paul is pitching himself as “a different kind of Republican leader.” Media reports tout his appeal to “young conservatives and libertarians.”
Libertarians, in general, are fiscally conservative but socially liberal, with a non-interventionist approach to foreign policy. His father, Ron Paul is a “libertarian cult figure” who had tremendous appeal to young Republicans. Rand Paul is clearly marketing himself as the heir apparent to those supporters — the one candidate with a chance of expanding the Republican base.
But is Rand Paul a libertarian? He certainly likes to talk like a libertarian. Let’s take a look at where he stands on the issues.
Rand Paul Opposes Abortion Rights, Sponsored Legislation That Would Make All Abortions Illegal
Rand Paul vehemently opposes abortion rights. He is a sponsor of “The Life at Conception Act,” a radical piece of legislation associated with the personhood movement that says “human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward.” The purpose of the legislation is to outlaw all abortion. Paul talked about his bill extensively in a fundraising video for the National Pro-Life Alliance:
Rand Paul Opposes Same-Sex Marriage, Finds It ‘Offensive’
Rand Paul is a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage. Paul said the idea of a marriage between a same-sex couples “offends myself and a lot of people.” He also warned against the Republican party shifting its position on marriage equality. “If you tell people from Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia, ‘You know what, guys, we’ve been wrong, and we’re gonna be the pro-gay-marriage party,’ they’re… gonna stay home,” Paul said in an interview with the New York Times.
Paul warned that deviating from “traditional” marriage could lead to people marrying animals. “It is difficult because if we have no laws on this people take it to one extension further,” Paul told Glenn Back. “Does it have to be humans? You know, I mean. So there really are—the question is what social mores, can some social mores be part of legislation?” (Paul later said he was being sarcastic.) He also mocked Obama’s decision to support marriage equality. “Call me cynical, but I wasn’t sure his views on marriage could get any gayer,” Paul quipped. Paul’s “joke” was condemned as out-of-bounds by anti-gay activist Tony Perkins.
Paul dipped his toe into libertarian thinking by saying that marriage should be “left to the states.” Paul admitted, however, that he only holds this view because he thinks it’s the best way to keep marriage equality out of most states. “I think right now if we say we’re only going to [have] a federally mandated one man, one woman marriage, we’re going to lose that battle because the country is going the other way right now. If we’re to say each state can decide, I think a good 25, 30 states still do believe in traditional marriage, and maybe we allow that debate to go on for another couple of decades and see if we can still win back the hearts and minds of people,” Paul told CBN’s David Brody.
Paul received a 100 percent rating from the Family Research Council, one of the nation’s most prominent social conservative organizations.
Rand Paul Supports A Massive Increase In Defense Spending
Not so long ago, Rand Paul broke from Republican orthodoxy on defense spending and supported substantial cuts. A budget he introduced in 2011 called for a $164 billion cut in defense spending by 2016. But last month Paul abruptly reversed positions and proposed “a nearly $190 billion infusion to the defense budget over the next two years—a roughly 16 percent increase.” TIME called Paul’s switch a “stunning reversal.”
Rand Paul Supports Extensive Use Of Drones At Home And Abroad
In 2013, Rand Paul staged a 13-hour filibuster against CIA Director nominee John Brennan, demanding answers on the use of drones by the United States government. But Paul’s filibuster, which drew plaudits from civil libertarians, was much less than met the eye.
Paul was only protesting the use of drones in the very limited scenario of “a targeted killing ordered against a U.S. citizen on American soil” — something that has never happened. Paul introduced legislation that would prevent the use of a drone against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil without a warrant, which the Pentagon says would be prohibited by existing law. But Paul supports the use of drones to conduct targeted killings overseas. He also supports the use of drones on U.S. soil as part of a border security effort.
Rand Paul Opposes The Legalization Of Marijuana
Rand Paul’s position on drugs like marijuana is “not to legalize them.” He stresses that smoking marijuana is “a bad thing to do.” Paul’s view is that instead of legalization, penalties for drug use and possession should be reduced.
Reason, a libertarian magazine, is not impressed: “He wants to keep everything illegal, but institute gentler penalties. That’s not remotely libertarian.”
Paul did recently support a bill that would assure states that legalize medical marijuana that patients would not be federally prosecuted.
Rand Paul Suggested Putting People In Prison For Listening To ‘Radical Political Speeches’
In a 2011 interview with Sean Hannity, Paul said he opposed some kinds of racial profiling but supported the profiling, deportation, and even imprisonment of people the government determined were listening to “radical political speeches.”
Perhaps Rand Paul’s most purely libertarian position is his views on the NSA — Paul supports the complete dismantling of the domestic surveillance apparatus. (He also forcefully opposed renewal of the PATRIOT Act.) But when it came time to vote for a NSA reform plan supported by Democrats and Republicans with similar views, Paul voted against it, arguing it didn’t go far enough. Paul’s vote was criticized by civil libertarians who were banking on his support.
So is Rand Paul, as one supporter told the New York Times, “to the libertarian movement what Pearl Jam is to rock”?
Take it from Rand Paul: “I’m not a libertarian.”