This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," February 25, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, GUEST HOST: Here on "The Kelly File" we have an exclusive tonight with Senator Rand Paul, his upcoming speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week, which is better known as CPAC. He's won the event's straw poll, what many call a barometer for the Republican Party for the last two years in a row. Winning a third time this year would put him in a category that is shared by the likes of Ronald Reagan and Mitt Romney.
Earlier, I spoke with the potential 2016 Republican candidate. Here's that.
MACCALLUM: Senator, good to see you tonight. Thanks for being here.
SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: Hey, Martha, thanks for having me.
MACCALLUM: So what can we expect? What can we hear from you at this conference? What are you going to be telling everybody?
PAUL: Well, you know, this is a group that's dominated by young people. And I'll say what I always say, the government ought to leave us alone. Let us be free to live our lives. The government ought to be minimal. And your liberty ought to be maximized.
MACCALLUM: Well, you know that's going to get a good response, because it has for you in the past. It's a message that resonates with young people. And no doubt you're going to have a lot of competition from Jeb Bush and from others who are out there that are ranking higher than you in most of the polls we've seen. Why do you think Jeb Bush is getting so much attention?
PAUL: Well, being related when your brother had been president and your father president, that tends to draw some attention. But I think it will be, you know, kind of a difficult crowd out here because it's going to be the Conservative Political Action Committee. So we think there will be a lot of friendly faces for us. And there's definitely a place for moderates, but it may not be quite the same level of enthusiasm for moderates at this conference.
MACCALLUM: When you look at this, I think you know it's likely -- in fact, it would be kind of a disappointment and a surprise if you didn't win this straw poll, right?
PAUL: Well, you never know until after the poll's done. But we have spent a lot of time going to universities, talking to young people, talking about how really the government ought to stay out of their lives, that their phone records are none of the government's business. So we'll see. We think the message resonates, but I think it would be crazy to predict anything in advance.
MACCALLUM: So Scott Walker's getting a lot of attention. He's had a good couple of weeks. Made a lot of headlines. He is seen as someone rising in the ranks as a potential 2016 candidates. What do you think about that?
PAUL: I like what he did in Wisconsin with fighting to take away excessive power from the unions and give the power back to the workers. And I think there are many things he's done well. We'll decide over time I guess who can best portray and present the message. But I don't, you know, know Scott Walker enough to say anything more than I think some of the things he did in Wisconsin were good.
MACCALLUM: I know you have to have the base of the Republican Party and you also have to expand it to other groups. You've spent a lot of time trying to do that with young people. How do you think Jeb Bush will do in that part of this race in terms of expanding the base?
PAUL: I think if you talk to young people, they're not very tolerant of hypocrisy. And the fact that Jeb admits that when he was in an elite prep school where very wealthy kids went to school, he smoked pot but he is still willing to put somebody in jail for medical marijuana in Florida. You know, a 75-year-old guy using medical marijuana for multiple sclerosis, I frankly wouldn't put them in jail. A lot of poor people go to jail for drug offenses, and when Jeb was a very wealthy kid at a very elite school, he used marijuana, didn't get caught, didn't have to go to prison. I think it shows some hypocrisy that's going to be difficult for young people to understand why we'd put a 65-year-old guy in jail for medical marijuana.
MACCALLUM: Do you think it's fair to make an issue of the wealth thing? Shouldn't we be happy for people, for families when they succeed in this country?
PAUL: Yeah, it's not wealth. I'm all for wealth and I have no problem with people being successful. I did nothing but compliment Governor Romney for being wealthy. What I'm talking about is not the hypocrisy of wealth. It's the hypocrisy of evading the law. Because the law seems to target and seems to go after poor people, often people of color. Three out of four people in jail are black or brown.
So the war on drugs is had a disproportionate effect on the poor. But what is hypocritical is if you're wealthy and you are able to escape the long arm of the law, is then to really want to throw the long sentences, 15 years, 20 years, 50 years in prison for marijuana at people. And so I think that's where the hypocrisy comes in.
MACCALLUM: Quick question before I let you go. It looks as many as 200 Syrians were kidnapped by ISIS. We're still waiting for an AUMF from Congress on this war. What do you think should happen next to battle this? Many say the president's sitting idly by while these people are being in many cases massacred and in this case kidnapped.
PAUL: In December, I introduced a declaration of war against ISIS. If my declaration of war were to pass, it would be the first time we declared war since World War II. We do have to do something militarily. The way the president's doing it now is illegal and unconstitutional and doesn't bring the country together. It doesn't show leadership. And it's the wrong way to go.
MACCALLUM: Do we need boots on the ground to fight ISIS ultimately as so many military professionals say?
PAUL: Yeah. I think we do need boots on the ground. And I'd like to make sure they're Arab boots on the ground. I don't think that ultimately you can command and control a city like Mosul of 1.5 million people that's primarily Sunni if you're going to have it occupied by either Shiites or Christians. The coalition has to involve Sunnis. And there need to be Sunni boots on the ground. I just as soon have 10,000 Saudi Arabians at the fought of every brigade and they need to stand up and say look, we're going to fight now for civilized Islam, because frankly, the Saudi Arabians haven't been very helpful.
MACCALLUM: Do you think this is going to happen? Do you think the president's done enough to make that happen?
PAUL: I don't think the president's been very good at that. And I do think that when you look at the first George Bush, I think he was very good at coalition building. And even the second George Bush. Second George Bush brought the war resolutions to congress before he went to war. That's the way it's supposed to work.
So there's a lot to be said that Republicans have done a better job in the past at leading the country. This president, his uncertainty and indecisiveness has not made him a very good leader.
MACCALLUM: All right. Senator, thank you very much. We'll watch out for you and the others at CPAC this week. Good to talk to you tonight.
PAUL: Thank you.
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