MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate, fired up a nearly two-thousand-strong crowd with a keynote speech to the Alabama Republican Party’s Winter Dinner on Friday night, right before the White House hopeful makes a swing through South Florida.
Paul was met with several standing ovations throughout the speech, including at the end, in an address filled with many of the major themes he’s likely to pursue assuming he makes a bid for the White House.
“I have good news and bad news: The good news is your government is open,” Paul said. “The bad news is your government is open. You remember there was this shutdown about a year ago and in Washington everyone was clamoring, everyone was worried. I went home to Kentucky and you know what they said: ‘Why in the hell did you open it back up?’”
Paul shifted into discussing how different Washington is from the rest of America.
“When I was first elected, I proposed that we cut $500 billion in spending, and everybody in Washington said ‘Oh my goodness, this guy is crazy—he wants to really cut spending, he wants to really balance the budget,’” Paul said. “I got home back in Kentucky, and you know what they said? They said that’s a good start. They said now what are you going to do about the $18 trillion in debt? They’re not even concerned just with the deficit. In the real world, the people want us to balance the budget every year and actually do something about the $18 trillion debt.”
Paul noted the difference in culture is largely due to the liberal media on Capitol Hill and throughout D.C.
“The thing is is that the media, the liberal media, the people who call us flyover country America, know nothing about us,” Paul said. “They don’t represent us. They don’t have our values. And the thing is is that somehow Washington gets distracted into thinking this is what America is really about. Raise your hand if you’ve spent more than you bring in chronically for the last 10, 20 or 30 years.”
No hands went up in the entire audience.
“Nobody does that,” Paul said. “Everyone balances their family budget. They think we’re extremists. Somebody said ‘oh this is extreme.’ And I said, ‘to balance the budget, to only spend what comes in, is extreme?’”
Paul had opened his speech by quoting President Abraham Lincoln when it comes to matters of justice—using it to transition into an example of local police officers in Tarrant, Alabama, doing something terrific for a woman in need right before Christmas.
“Abraham Lincoln wrote that ‘I find that mercy bears richer fruit than strict justice,’” Paul said. “As a Christian, I think about that our religion talks about redemption and that maybe the law should give people second chances. I think about: ‘What is justice? Should justice mean just punishment? Is it rehabilitation?’ Ultimately I think that justice is about discernment and discretion. Just before Christmas this year, there was a great story that I read. This story came on the heels of stories that weren’t so good—that made it seem as if ‘oh my goodness, we have to worry about the police not acting correctly.’ But this story was heartwarming and I think it represents more of what the police do than the exceptions to the rule.”
The story Paul was discussing was of Helen Johnson. “In this story, just before Christmas, Helen Johnson went to get some eggs in Tarrant, Alabama, just north of Birmingham,” Paul said. “Her kids had been at home with her and her kids’ kids had been at home with her and they hadn’t eaten in two days. She got to the store and she had $1.25 and was 50 cents short of buying her eggs. She made a fateful decision that day. She decided to steal the eggs. She put them in her pocket but she was caught before she left the store.”
“The Tarrant police officer arrived on the scene, though, and something extraordinary happened. The Tarrant police office, I think, used discretion. He told her stealing was wrong, that she shouldn’t steal, and then he bought the eggs for her,” he explained. “Then in the next days and weeks, the Tarrant police force went to take food to her house. When people talk about community policing, this is the kind of stuff that doesn’t get reported. We do have to have police to stop violent criminals but we have to have some discretion and some discernment and some help. Every day, somewhere, some police are helping someone in a house with needs, or helping someone without food. But all we hear are the bad stories. I invited as my guests today two Tarrant police officers, chief Dennis Reno and Lieutenant Larry Rice. I’d like to recognize them.”
The crowd gave a standing ovation for the two police officers Paul honored for their department’s charity and good will.
When Paul shifted back into discussing the government shutdown in October 2013, he noted how the Obama administration sent federal employees to the scenic overpass overlooking Mount Rushmore to put orange cones out—more effort than if they just let it be—and did the same to try to close the open-air World War II memorial.
“My favorite scene of the government shutdown was this: They decided to wrap the World War II monument, remember this?” Paul asked the crowd. They sent hundreds of workers out there and you have to believe they paid them overtime, right? These people hadn’t worked in years probably, but they sent them out there to close the World War II monument. There is no entrance and there is no exit to the World War II monument. They had to send hundreds of people out there to wrap it with barricades. But I tell people when you want to remember the shutdown, if you want to remember an image of the shutdown, remember this: World War II veterans getting off their bus, cutting down the barricades and throwing them on the lawn at the White House.”
Paul said that what should be one of the positives that came out of the government shutdown was that full lists of “unessential” federal employees were drafted among Capitol Hill offices and across various agencies of the executive branch.
“During the shutdown, they sent us a note. I’m sure Sen. [Richard] Shelby [Alabama’s senior senator, who introduced Paul] got the same note,” Paul said. “The note said: ‘Which of your employees are essential and which of your employees are unessential?’ I said, my goodness, something good is going to come out of this. We’re going to have a lesson. We’re going to learn what part of government is essential and what part is unessential.”
“So I said, call the IRS—I want to see what the IRS says on their list: 90 percent unessential,” he continued. “I said, man we’re going to learn something here: What about the EPA? 95 percent unessential. I said my goodness we’re going to finally discover that most of the government could disappear and no one would notice but then I figured out the truth. Nothing in Washington is as it seems. It turns out that if you are unessential, you don’t have to come to work but you still get paid. It turns out there are almost 100,000 federal workers who get paid over $100,000 a year and almost all of them are unessential. But here’s the sad truth to this: the government is so dysfunctional that it cost money to close it down. It costs more money to close your government than to keep it open. This is a sad state of affairs. My friends, it can’t go on forever. We’re borrowing a million dollars a minute.”
Paul detailed how even with the several congressional investigations after the shutdown revealed there’s widespread waste in government—and with scandals like the Veterans Administration scandal—there’s no way for any government officials to get fired in Washington.
“During the shutdown though they did some investigations and one of the House committees brought forward some EPA employees—they found one woman who hired 17 relatives paying them to be interns, they found another woman selling cosmetics and vitamins from her computer, and they found another guy at the EPA watching porn six hours a day,” Paul said. “And you’re like, this is good right? They found them and they fired them, right? Come on. These are federal employees. You think you can fire a federal employee? They all still work at the EPA. You remember the VA scandal? People were dying while waiting in line and someone at the VA was changing the numbers to make it look as if no one was waiting in line but meanwhile people were dying. You think we fired them? You can’t fire these people. Your government is so broken you can’t fire people who steal from you, and you can’t fire people who lie to you. You can’t fire people who are making up numbers while people are dying waiting in line. So we did pass a law—we had to pass a law to fire the people at the VA.”
“But this is the problem with your government. Your government has gotten so out of control that we’re not in charge,” he said. “The executive branch has become this enormous monster with tentacles into every aspect of your life and we can’t stop it. Even when we vote to stop it, the president continues in a lawless way.”
Paul specifically pointed to the story of John Beale, an EPA employee who hadn’t been to work for six months but was still getting paid—someone the agency misled Congress about when approached about him. Beale is getting 32 months in federal prison for his crimes, but only was caught after an in-depth investigation that agency leadership officials didn’t cooperate with.
“When they were looking through the EPA rolls, though, the guy that is my favorite story—the guy they found was named John Beale,” Paul said. “John Beale hadn’t been at work in six months. They looked and they found out he works at the EPA and he’s the right hand man to Gina McCarthy. You know what his specialty is? Global warming. He hadn’t been at work in six months but he keeps getting these promotions and he keeps getting these great performance reviews. So they [Congress] asked his boss, they did something extraordinary by actually deciding to investigation, they asked his boss what about this John Beale—he never shows up for work? They were like: ‘He works for the CIA, also.’ And they’re like, ‘Really? The CIA and the EPA? What a combination, I’ve never heard of that.’”
“But then they did something extraordinary. They called the CIA and they said: ‘John who? Never heard of him.’ They finally did catch this guy. He owes you about a million bucks, good luck getting it back. But they want to get it back and he is going to go to jail,” Paul explained. “But after they caught him, Gina McCarthy—the head of the EPA—said she assumed he had left but nobody checked on it. Then he said he wanted retirement and he didn’t want to be fired, and she said that’s the compassionate thing to do because he’s only been stealing from us for about 11 years. So we’ll let him retire and not dishonor him. Then you know what, seven months later, know what they discovered? He was still on the payroll. They had forgotten to force him into retirement. He was still collecting a check and he said he changed his mind and said ‘oh I think I’m not going to retire now.’ He thought it could go on forever. This is the state of affairs of your government. It is absolutely and utterly out of control.”
Paul then ripped Obama—and likely 2016 Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—for their misdeeds.
With Obama’s executive overreach—a creeping trend that Paul said started over a hundred years ago in the country as the executive branch has slowly but surely attained more power than the legislative or judicial branches of the federal government—Paul said it’s “one thing after another.”
“It’s Obamacare, he just decided to amend it on his own,” Paul said. “It’s immigration law. He just decided to amend that on his own. It’s war powers—we’ve been at war now for six months again in the Middle East but Congress never voted on it. The Constitution is specific: Only Congress can declare war, only Congress can initiate war. George Bush had us in two wars, but we voted on both times in going to war. President Obama? Oh, Democracy is kind of messy. I’m not messing with that Democracy stuff. I’ve got a pen, I’ve got a phone. If Congress won’t do what I want, I’ll do what I please. That isn’t the American way. That’s not what our Founding Fathers had for us. We have a Constitution not to restrain the people, but to restrain the government. This is a fundamental principle what we are losing that we have to do something about.”
Paul listed off a series of Obama scandals, specifically noting Operation Fast and Furious, the IRS, the Veterans Administration, and the tapping of phones by the Justice Department. He compared the hodgepodge of scandal that’s torn the Obama administration apart to a nursery rhyme. “I sort of think of the Old MacDonald rhyme, here a scandal there a scandal everywhere a scandal,” Paul said. “But the one that really hits me the hardest, when I really think what is really the thing that I’m most concerned about—which is the scandal that goes to the bedrock of what we stand for and what the country should do? It’s got to be the scandal of Benghazi.”
The crowd applauded loudly yet again before laid out his case of why Benghazi is the biggest scandal of the Obama administration—and Clinton’s political career.
“Benghazi is not about the talking points,” Paul said. “It’s not even about the response that night. The true story of Benghazi is about the nine months leading up to Benghazi. It’s about in February, six special forces people were being brought home. It’s about March, six more special forces people were being brought home. It’s about April, six more special forces being brought home. Why? We don’t want the Libyans seeing any soldiers in uniforms with any guns. It’s not politically correct to think that we have to have defense of our personnel, because gosh the Freedom Fighters won in Libya so we should just walk around and let the freedom fighters just control the country.”
“We get to April, and Ambassador [Christopher] Stevens puts in a formal request for a DC-3. It’s a 50-year-old plane, but they wanted a plane to be able to fly around the country in case of an emergency,” he explained. “Hillary Clinton’s State Department denied. About three days after Hillary Clinton’s State Department denied the plane, you know what they approved? They approved an electrical charging station for the embassy in Vienna. It appears they have a fleet of electrical cars there and they want to make sure the Europeans know how green we are so we are greening up the embassy. But then they discovered the plugs didn’t fit in the socket, so they had to spend another hundred grand on an electrical charging station but we don’t have enough money for a DC-3 for Libya?”
Paul walked through how the rest of the summer leading up to the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Clinton’s State Department spent another “hundred grand sending three comedians to India for the ‘Make Chai, Not War’ tour,” another approximately $650,000 on Facebook ads, $5 million on “crystal glassware and ball ware for the embassies.”
“We get to August and now Ambassador Stevens is pleading for help, pleading again and again for help—there’s a sixteen-personnel team, security team, that’s all that’s left,” Paul said. “That’s all that’s between them and the jihadists. Col. [Andy] Wood is the leader of this. They [the Americans in Libya, led by Stevens] sent missive after missive, cable after cable to Hillary Clinton. They were ignored. When she came before my committee, I asked her: ‘Secretary Clinton, did you read the cables?’ She kind of brushed me off as if ‘who am I? You think I would read the cables?’ Well, maybe. It’s one of the five most dangerous countries in the world and you’re not reading the cables where the ambassador is directly appealing for help? She never had time.”
Paul noted there has been no consequences as of yet for Clinton or any of her subordinates for their role in what happened in Benghazi—but Americans can stop her from becoming president now.
“No one was ever punished for this,” Paul said. “Four state department [officials] were transferred to other jobs. We kept calling them trying to get one of them to answer the phone but of course they were probably ‘unessential’—getting paid [while being] somewhere else. [Secretary of State John] Kerry finally forgave them all. No one was punished for Benghazi. For nine months security was requested and denied. What I say to Hillary Clinton I’ll say again tonight: If you’re not going to defend the troops, if you’re not going to defend our embassies, if you have shown that you are derelict in your duty to provide security for the United States, you should forever preclude yourself from running for the presidency.”