“When you do the same thing and expect a different result, it’s sort of what Einstein said, that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.”
So said Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul this morning reacting to Mitt Romney’s apparent intention to run for President for a third time.
Paul began testing the proverbial waters in first-primary state New Hampshire today by sticking to Senate business and his small government philosophy in remarks to a group of state lawmakers in downtown Manchester. He said, for instance, that most Democrats seem have no interest in bringing Canadian oil to the U.S. via the Keystone Pipeline and that President Obama already had his mind made up in opposition to a GOP attempt to address the Affordable Care Act by invoking a 40-hour work week for the employer mandate.
Before a group of about 20 lawmakers at Murphy’s Diner, he talked about property rights. He said it will take a “national uprising” to install term limits and a balanced budget amendment.
Paul made no reference in his remarks to his own apparently imminent candidacy, to Romney, Jeb Bush or any other Republicans preparing to run.
But in an interview afterward, Paul – while saying he will not announce his presidential intentions until March or April – sharply portrayed Romney and Bush as relics of an outdated version of the GOP that now must move ahead and broaden its base with fresh ideas – and fresh faces.
“This gives everybody a choice,” Paul said of Romney’s apparent imminent entrance into the race. He said he likes Romney personally, called him a good businessman and “a very charitable person,” but he noted, “A couple of months ago he said that he’d had his chance and it was time for somebody new. He was probably right when he said that.
“I think we do need somebody and something new,” Paul said. “We had a great 2014 but really a presidential election is a completely different election. Twice as many people vote and a lot of the people who vote in presidential elections seem to vote for the Democratic Party.”
He said Republicans must figure out how to attract those voters to the GOP, “and I think that’s going to take a new approach, a fresh approach.”
Paul said Romney and Bush “occupy the same space and are competing somewhat for the same voters – people who want something that is safe, something that is sort of historical. But even people who are looking for ‘safe’ realize that ‘safe’ hasn’t won in the past.”
But overall, he reiterated about Romney and Bush, “the more the merrier.”
Paul also took aim at Bush’s support for the federal Common Core program ahead of an afternoon meeting on the subject with parents at the Founders Academy, a charter school in Manchester.
“I don’t think we can, will, or should nominate someone to lead the party who is a promoter of more centralization of education,” Paul said. “Under the previous George Bush, we doubled the size of the Department of Education, we doubled the amount of employees there, through No Child Left Behind.”
Paul said he opposed No Child Left Behind “because it sent more power to Washington. And I oppose Common Core because it sends more power to centralize the curriculum in Washington, and I really think that if Republican voters are given the choice, they will not choose a candidate who supports a national curriculum.”
Paul has already become a familiar face in New Hampshire, having campaigned here for his father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, during the 2012 campaign and appearing twice last year for a NHGOP Unity Breakfast and for state GOP candidates during the midterm election.
While he is not officially a candidate, Paul is clearly gearing up. His schedule had all the makings of a presidential campaign and he was accompanied to New Hampshire by a press staffer and by the executive director of his leadership PAC, RANDPAC.
Their email addresses end with: “@randpaul2016.com.”
His political organization today named as a senior adviser Chip Englander, who recently managed the successful gubernatorial campaign of Illinois Republican Bruce Rauner.
Paris, Gitmo, immigration
Paul said President Obama himself or a high-ranking official of the administration should have gone to Paris for the solidarity march last weekend following the terrorist massacre of staffers of the magazine Charlie Hebdo.
“Life isn’t always about policy,” he said. “There are symbols as well, and the symbolism of solidarity is a strong one. It’s kind of strange because this President has been more about symbolism than substance and he didn’t actually recognize that. It may be an example that this President has given up. He’s done.”
Paul said Obama’s “attitude in Washington is such as I don’t think he’s interested in governing.”
He was cool to legislation sponsored by Sen. Kelly Ayotte that would restrict the administration’s transfers of detainees from the Guantanamo Bay. She said the Obama policy of transferring detainees is harming national security.
But Paul said, “I’ve always felt that the question of Gitmo is less about the locality and the prison than it is about, if you’re accused of something, you need finality,” he said. “In all likelihood the people in Gitmo are bad people. But if I were in charge, I would try them and convict them. It can be done in a military court.
“Give them a sentence,” Paul said.
Paul said Senate Republicans felt that beginning the 114th Congress with Keystone Pipeline legislation could have received bipartisan support, but quickly learned that Democrats were opposed.
“Really, it has nothing to do with the pipeline,” he said. “It’s this sort of Luddite, flat earth mentality that, my goodness, we shouldn’t have cars.”
As the 2016 campaign unfolds, he said, “If we present this issue of the pipeline as one comparing those who believe in a flat earth and those who don’t, this going to be difficult for the Democrats, and the Democrat Party is going to dwindle.”
At the same time, he said, he does not believe that government should take private property by eminent domain for energy projects, but rather that there should be negotiated settlements with property owners. “You can be for energy and for property rights,” he said.
Paul also said changing the Affordable Care Act to require someone to be working 40 hours a week in order to be mandated to receive employer-based coverage, rather than the current 30 hours, was reasonable.
“What has happened since Obamacare came in? Everybody has lost hours,” he said. But Obama has promised to veto the legislation.
“We’ve chosen two very reasonable issues to begin with…and he’s like, ‘it’s my way or the highway.’”
Paul also said he is pushing in the GOP Senate conference to have individual votes on all appropriations bills, rather than “omnibus” bills that cannot be amended – something he said has not been done since the 1970s. He said such action would leave it to Obama to accept or veto, making him responsible for a potential government shutdown.
Paul said, however, that Obama’s worst offense is what he called a “usurpation” of the power of Congress through the enactment of rules and regulations that in some cases are more comprehensive than bills. “That is one big thing we’re going to try to stop,” he said.
Paul said Republicans have to do a better job of communicating that their approach is beneficial to all segments of American society. He said that under Obama, unemployment among both white Americans and African-Americans has risen.
He said that rather than offering urban areas more funding, the federal government should reduce taxes in those areas.
“Give people back their own money and they’ll give back to people who are already productive,” he said, proposing a “stimulus from a tax cut,” rather than a stimulus through more government spending.
On foreign policy, Paul was critical of what he called “Hillary’s war” – referring to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — to overthrow Gadaffi in Libya, and of U.S. allies – such as Turkey – for failing to help fight ISIS.
Paul also said he favors some form of immigration reform rather than the status quo.
“I even think – and this may be heresy — the 11 million (who are in the U.S. illegally) are not being shipped home at any time,” he said. “Let’s normalize them and allow them to work and pay taxes. But I wouldn’t do that without border security.”
Before and after the morning event at the diner, lawmakers were impressed with Paul.
“He definitely has a shot,” said Rep. Tammy Simmons, who chairs the Manchester City Republican Committee. “I find it humorous – you hear the Mitt Romneys and the Jeb Bushes and I just don’t see a lot of groundswell for them. I think people want something different.”
She said she did not believe that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie “will do well in New Hampshire. I just don’t’ think a typical New Jersey person resonates well in New Hampshire. But I think Rand has a base of support already because of his father (former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul) running two cycles in a row.
“I can’t imagine that I’d be supporting anybody else,” Simmons said. “If the election were today, I’d be voting for him.”
Rep. Brian Seaworth, R-Pembroke, said, “He is a different kind of Washington politician from what we’ve seen. It’s more honest and direct talking. He’s more on the liberty candidate, liberty Republican, side of things.”
Rep. Mark Fromuth, R-Bedford, said, “I hope he decides to enter the field and give Republicans a bit more of a choice than the usual crowd that seems to be coming up again.”
And Rep. Larry Gagne, R-Manchester, a self-described former “hawk” who is now “tired of us being the world’s policeman,” said he was “very impressed” by Paul. He said he favors Paul, and Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
“The old establishment Republicans to me – we need some fresh idea,” he said.
Paul joked with the lawmakers about the split in the New Hampshire House GOP caucus.
“I understand that peace has broken out in New Hampshire,” he said. “You don’t need any advice on how to run things.”