MOUNT PLEASANT, South Carolina — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) invaded GOP establishment territory in low country South Carolina, speaking at the USS Yorktown here on his first trip to the early primary state as a declared 2016 candidate for president of the United States of America.
Paul’s message, delivered on the shore in front the World War II aircraft carrier, mixed a strong foreign policy unafraid to defend America’s interests with a hesitancy to drag America’s troops through another war if unnecessary.
“There is no greater responsibility for any legislator or any leader than to determine when we go to war,” Paul said.
The consequences are potentially ominous. That responsibility should never be given to any individual who frivolously and cavalierly calls for war. War brings with it great obligations. These obligations do not end when our brave young men and women return from war. It’s just the beginning.
One thing I know is true: we owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who fight for our Bill of Rights and no one should ever forget it. We owe the next generation of warriors, like these students from the Citadel, the wisdom to know when war is necessary and when war is not.
I promise you this, I will never forget our veterans. I will never forget our soldiers in the field and I vow to judge questions of war with a solemn and profound deliberation. I will never take the country to war without just cause or without the Constitutional approval of Congress. As commander in chief, the world will know that our object is peace but the world will not to mistake our desire for peace for passivity, the world should not mistake reluctance for inaction. And if war should prove unavoidable, America will fight with overwhelming force and we will not relent until victory is ours.
Paul spoke, too, about the USS Yorktown’s history in battle in the Pacific. Strong and resolute, Paul delivered a message of military might in the area of South Carolina where GOP establishment forces have traditionally dominated—signaling that it was clearly no accident the Tea Partier and limited government Republican chose this place and this location to kick off his South Carolina presidential effort.
“Behind me is the USS Yorktown. The shipmen on the original USS Yorktown were silent as they watched the ship known as ‘The Fighting Lady’ sink to the depths of the Pacific during the Battle of Midway,” Paul said.
He quoted a LIFE Magazine reporter as writing that “the sea was a mass of bobbing heads” and there “was little conversation, no hysteria.”
“Over a hundred sailors died that day. Is it any wonder that people who have served in combat are usually more circumspect than those who have never fought,” Paul said.
The men of the USS Yorktown were on the front lines. They knew better than anyone in Washington the sacrifice necessary to protect liberty. They didn’t talk about strength and courage; they lived it. They did not seek war, but were fiercely resolute when called to fight.
I believe that the men and women protecting our liberty deserve leaders who are accountable to the American people. The crew of the USS Yorktown understood that our freedom and prosperity must be defended against those who would attack us. They learned the terrible lesson that war is not a game and should not be used for political advantage. Too many lawmakers in Washington haven’t learned that lesson.
Several times the audience broke out into cheers of “President Paul! President Paul! President Paul!” as the Kentucky senator spoke—a speech that came after a series of glowing endorsements from key Republican lawmakers in the Palmetto State.
After thanking former Rep. J.C. Watts—an Oklahoma Republican who’s been campaigning with Paul—and South Carolina State Sen. Tom Davis for his endorsement, Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) stood up to back Paul.
“I’m honored to be here with a certain senator, do y’all know his name? I want to hear it!”
“Rand Paul! Rand Paul!” the crowd shouted.
“I need to hear it one more time louder!”
“Rand Paul!” the crowd shouted even louder.
“Okay, that’s what I thought it was,” Sanford said. “We all know what stands out about Rand Paul. This is what the Founding Fathers, as Tom alluded to a second ago, called our belief in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They in essence wrote out a guide book and it was called the Constitution. The Constitution itself was predicated and built on limited government.”
Sanford said that “what stands out for me about Rand Paul is that in his time in the United States Senate, he has been a consistent advocate for every one of those themes.”
Davis, like Sanford, endorsed Paul’s presidential candidacy.
Though he was not there, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC)—another South Carolina power player—backed Paul’s candidacy in a web video released right before the event.