Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is seeking the Republican presidential nomination. River to River host Ben Kieffer spoke with him Thursday, November 19 in advance of a campaign trip to Iowa City.
BK: Senator Paul, welcome to our program.
RP: Glad to be with you.
BK: As a U.S. Senator and now presidential candidate you’ve long stood for scaling back military spending and have advocated against military intervention overseas. Many see the Paris attacks as a wakeup call to more aggressively take the fight to ISIS overseas. Have the Paris attacks changed your mind about the approach the U.S. should be taking?
RP: You know, I think we should do everything possible to defend our country, to keep us safe, and I continue to advocate for that. I’m the one saying that we’ve got to be very, very careful about admitting people from the Middle East into our country who might attack us. I also am one who insists that every priority in spending should be to defend the country. But I don’t think we get stronger by going further into bankruptcy and going further into debt. We borrow a million dollars a minute, so adding a trillion dollars to what we already spend is a really bad idea. The fact that Marco Rubio wants to add a trillion dollars to the debt for military will make us weaker and make us less secure. So, I think we should spend what comes in. We bring in about $3-trillion. I think $3-trillion is a lot of money. We spend more, right now, on our military than the next 10 counties combined. So it’s not that I want less money, or not to defend the country, I just want to spend the money we have. I would prioritize it towards defending the country, but I wouldn’t go further into debt.
BK: Isn’t it the case, though Senator… are you not agreeing with the case that’s being made, that we need to fight them over there, we need to ramp this up, we need to fight them over there before we have to fight them over here?
RP: Yeah, I’m trying to keep them from coming over here and that’s where I really disagree with Marco Rubio, that I would stop them from entering our country. And back when we had the immigration debate a couple of years ago, I put forward an amendment on Marco Rubio and Chuck Schumer’s bill and my amendment would’ve said we have to have more scrutiny on students, more scrutiny on refuges coming from about 30 countries that have active jihadist movements against America. And Marco, unfortunately, had more of an allegiance to Chuck Schumer than he did to conservative principles. But, I’ve been fighting for quite a while to defend the country. I’m also for a strong national defense, but I think the long-lasting victory, and a long-lasting achievable peace will come when the boots on the ground are actually Muslim, when the boots on the ground are actually Arab. We can be of assistance. I’ve been for sending arms directly to the Kurds. I’ve been for allowing air support for boots on the ground. But the boots on the ground need to be Arab. There’s never going to be a long-lasting peace achieved with American troops garrisoned on Muslim land.
BK: How do you convince our Arab allies, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, in that region to put boots on the ground? They’re only going to act in their own national interests, correct?
RP: We coddle them and we cater to them. So, I would stop sending them arms. If Saudi Arabia wants to buy arms from us, which they buy hundreds of billions of arms from us, I would say, you get to deal with us and you get to buy arms from us only if you actually consider what our opinion is. And our opinion is you need to take the refugees, and you need to quit sending arms into the Syrian civil war on the side of the allies of Al Qaeda. See this has been going on for years now. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United States have been arming the allies of Al Qaeda against Assad in Syria. This has led to a situation where Assad has been pushed back, weakened and in that weakness and in that vacuum is where ISIS arose. So really, arming the allies of Al Qaeda, allowing weapons to ultimately flow to ISIS, these have been terrible tragedies of policy. And these are the policies basically of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Marco Rubio. They’ve all been for sending more arms into Syria. They’ve all been for toppling of Gadaffi in Libya, which led to a failed state and which led to, right now a third of Libya pledges allegiance to ISIS. But, it’s because of our intervention, not because of a lack of intervention.
BK: Senator Paul, earlier this year you voted not to extend the Patriot Act, even though it ended the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ data. Now, in the most recent context, it’s not entirely clear how the Paris terrorists planned and carried out such a sophisticated plot without detection. Isn’t it though, a clear signal, that we here, in this continent, need to have better data collection by law enforcement, perhaps even more intrusive data collection?
RP: No actually that’s… that would be completely and entirely incorrect. Right now, we still collect all of the phone numbers. Since that reform bill passed, for the last six months, the federal government is still collecting all of your phone numbers and sending them to Utah, because they had a six month window after the bill. In France they have our data collection on steroids. They have no privacy, (And they did not stop this attack) Let me finish. Let me finish my answer. Right now we do have warrantless, bulk collection of phone records in the U.S. and we have it tenfold over in France and it did not stop the attacks. There is no argument to be made for giving up more liberty when in fact the great deal of liberty that’s been given up is not stopping the attacks as we see.
BK: So how do you see that we get to the data that we need to stop terrorist attacks being planned and carried out?
RP: Well, we could use the Constitution, and the Constitution under the Fourth Amendment says that you can get the records of anyone for whom you name individually, for whom you have suspicion, and for whom you ask a judge’s permission. I’m all for looking at the records of terrorists. I want to look at more records of terrorists but less records of innocent Americans. So, when we had the Boston bombers, we were tipped off by the Russians that they were potentially radicalized. We didn’t pay enough attention even to know that they flew back to Russia, back to Chechnya, and then came back to our country, and then were potential bombers at that point. I was all for looking at their records. You have suspicion. You have an individual, but if you ask me do you want to look at the records of everybody in Boston, I’m against that because that’s a generalized warrant. It’s what we fought the American Revolution over, and people need to understand that if you give up more and more liberty for security, you end up with neither. And really what you end up with is a country where we’re giving up the very thing that we’re supposedly fighting for and that is our liberty.
BK: If you’ve just joined us Senator Rand Paul is with us. We have a few more minutes Senator. Let’s address a couple of Iowa-based topics here. In May of this year the EPA released a new rule, a more expanded definition of the waters of the United States to include unnamed streams, wetlands, ponds, lakes and territorial seas. You’ve come out against this rule calling it the greatest government land grab in history. I wonder. Since smaller streams and creeks feed into larger waterways, aren’t they part of the same system? Doesn’t it make sense for the EPA to protect them as well?
RP: This new rule was passed by Executive fiat. It was passed by the President without any approval by Congress. I think major rules ought to be voted on by Congress. Under this new rule, the federal authorities will have authority over 97% of Iowa’s land. I think Iowa farmers and Iowa landowners are with me. The federal government needs to stay out of their business. We can control and keep the environment clean with balanced regulation. We do have some regulations on the books already. In fact, the air quality has become cleaner in every decade for the last 10 decades in our country. But what we don’t need is a federal government coming in and saying they’re going to regulate, through federal regulations our land. And so I’m absolutely opposed to this regulation. And first thing I would do upon entering the White House would be to by Executive Order get rid of it.
BK: And to finish up, can you give us three words, Rand Paul that you think best describe Iowa?
RP: I think the people in Iowa are the same as the people in Kentucky. They want to be left alone. And I think what we find as we travel around Iowa, they don’t want a big government. They don’t want a government that comes in and regulates their land they don’t want a government that comes in and basically is collecting all their phone records. So I think I’m on the same wavelength as most people in Iowa and that’s that we want a government so small you can barely see it. We want a government that balances its budget, that only spends what comes in. And I think that over time people are going to realize that I’m the only fiscal conservative in the race because I think both military and domestic spending have to be held in line or you’ll never balance the budget.
RP: Thanks for having me on.
BK: Senator Paul, thank you very much for your time.