All-Star Panel: Reaction to Rand Paul announcing 2016 run

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 7, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. RAND PAUL, R - KY: To rescue a great country now adrift, join me as together we seek a new vision for America. Today, I announce with God's help, with the help of liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for President of the United States of America.   



BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Eye doctor turned politician, Republican senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul throws his hat officially into the ring today. Within his own party there is some skepticism about his foreign policy stances, one of them Iran. In his announcement today, he went into the weeds on his thinking about the latest Iran framework, this on a day when a group launched a web ad against him.


PAUL: We brought Iran to the table through sanctions that I voted for.  Now we must stay strong. That's why I have cosponsored legislation that ensures any deal between U.S. and Iran must be approved by Congress.

Negotiations are not inherently bad. The trust but verify is required in any negotiation, but that our goal always should be and always is peace, not war.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Senate is considering tough new sanctions on Iran. President Obama says he will veto them and Rand Paul is standing with him. Rand Paul supports Obama's negotiations with Iran and he doesn't understand the threat.

PAUL: You know, it's ridiculous to think that they are a threat to our national security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rand Paul is wrong and dangerous.


BAIER: That group, Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, they always have the best names. Let's bring in our panel, and syndicated columnist George Will, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, George, Rand Paul?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, his strengths are, among other things, that he has broadened the range of the discussible on foreign policy within the Republican Party, and that's healthy. Second, on some issues, particularly with regard to the criminal justice system, he is the only voice calling conservatives to extend their suspicion of the state - - mandatory minimum sentences, over-criminalization, mass incarceration, the human cost of the drug war, and all the rest.

Third, he is the candidate most apt to push back against the Caesarism that has enveloped the presidency under Barack Obama. And, occasionally he is quite good on judges. He varies on this somewhat, but says occasionally that judges, far from being too active, are not active enough in resisting encroachments on our liberty by the legislative branches.

On the other hand -- his problems are, first, he is a freshman senator, and the record of freshman senators as president is not at the moment encouraging. Second, events have not been kind to him because they have made foreign policy much more central then he would prefer it to be. Third, he is trying to base his campaign on groups that often don't vote Republican or vote at all, particularly the youth. He is quite right to do this because Romney lost the youth vote under 30 by 24 points. But he will find I'm afraid that this is lifestyle libertarianism they have and not a suspicion of the welfare state.

Finally, he has a store up and running, a campaign store. And you can buy "Stand with Rand" flip-flops. It's a bold politician who sells flip- flops.

BAIER: Flip-flopping not the thing to highlight, obviously. As you look at the latest polls, Mara we have a new Fox News poll on the GOP nomination battle, and obviously, it's early and all these polls are what they are.  But Rand Paul is at nine percent in this poll. And then as you look at the favorable/unfavorable, he actually has a lot of favorable points there. He is at 52 percent right behind Mike Huckabee.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yes, I think that is interesting. Rand Paul is an interesting candidate. And he does offer something to the GOP. He says he can expand the GOP's reach, as George mentioned, with young people. He talks about civil liberties and privacy and the government doesn't have damn business in your cellphone, and minorities through criminal justice reform, and he's been to a lot of inner cities.

The problem is that is not a path to the nomination. He has to expand that reach. And that is why you saw him being so defensive today on foreign policy. He spent a lot of time saying I voted for sanctions, I co-sponsored the Corker amendment. Well, so did every other Republican in the Senate. So he spends a lot of time reassuring mainstream Republicans that he is not an isolationist. I think that is going to be very hard. He has such a long paper trail.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Events have conspired against him. A few years ago before the consequences of Obama's retreat around the world had become obvious, obvious in Yemen, obvious in Iraq, obvious, with ISIS, obvious in Ukraine, obvious everywhere, it takes time. Obama started his retreat early but the consequences aren't there overnight. So in the beginning it looked OK. Who wants to spend blood and treasure abroad, and it makes sense. Who wants to get foreign aid, which were the Rand Paul positions. They were not a liability. It was a fresh approach among Republicans.

But now it is, because the Obama foreign policy has collapsed. And whatever name you want to put on Paul's position, isolationist or noninterventionist, he is without a doubt the one Republican who will be running who is the closest to Obama in his view of foreign policy.  Arguably, he is to the left of Obama on NSA, on surveillance, on the use of drones, essentially on the War on Terror.

And when in the bite you showed, this is one example, he says our goal is always peace, not war. Well, that's the dichotomy Obama is always presenting, either peace or war, as if that is the choice. That is not right. Our objective is always national security. And sometimes you can get it on the cheap and sometimes you can't.

So I think essentially he has a hill that he cannot climb. The more he tacks to the right and shows that he is tough on foreign policy or takes a position which is tough I think it puts in question his authenticity, which is one of his strengths.

BAIER: His father obviously ran for president a number of times and was pretty successful, came in second in New Hampshire the last time around. And, there he is at an event. Ron Paul may or may not factor into this race. But here is Rand Paul today on the economy, a familiar sounding sound bite.


PAUL: We borrow $1 million a minute. This vast accumulation of debt threatens not just our economy but our security. We can wake up now and do the right thing. Quit spending money we don't have.



BAIER: And George, he puts the blame on both parties much like his dad did.

WILL: Well, he is right about both counts. First it was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen who said our biggest national security threat is our debt because it's crowding out defense spending. But what Rand Paul understands but has no cure for is the fact that the political class of both parties has a permanent incentive for deficit spending, that is, to give the voters immediately a dollar's worth of government goods and services and to charge them 65 cents for it and give 35 cents of the burden to the unborn and un-voting future generations.

BAIER: But Mara, his point is the Republican Party cannot do -- and he said today -- cannot nominate Democrat-lite.

LIASSON: That's what he said. This was a real anti-establishment message, you know, defeat the Washington machine, unleash the American dream. Both parties are responsible. The Republicans get into power and they do the same thing. They cater to the special interest. This is a message that is tailored to a younger audience who agrees with him on that. They don't like either party. It is just hard to see how he translates that to a path of the nomination.

I do think, though, he can have an effect of the party over time. I think that the Republicans had a brief libertarian flirtation when it looked like wars were ending. ISIS put an end to that as well as Obama's failures.  But I think that in the future social issues are changing especially among young Republicans. 61 percent of young Republicans favor gay marriage. So Rand Paul might make a big contribution, just not in the exact way that he wants this year.

BAIER: More on politics and 2016 and a couple other candidate developments after a quick break.

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