Sen. Rand Paul has been offering chances for selfies, livestreams and social media but also talking foreign policy and other matters during an 11-campus tour aimed at driving 10,000 Iowa college students to caucus Feb. 1.
The Kentucky Republican seeking his party’s presidential nomination remained consistent in a University of Northern Iowa stop on his plans for fiscal responsibility in the federal government, limited government in domestic and foreign policy and the protection of individual rights — all grounded, he said, in a strict adherence to the Constitution.
“That’s what the Constitution is about; it’s about binding the government in the chains of the Constitution,” Paul said.
But he also hit hard on foreign policy matters, notably on his reluctance to use military intervention in other countries such as Iraq and Iran.
Paul wraps up the college tour today at Morningside College in Sioux City, Buena Vista University in Storm Lake and Drake University in Des Moines. He was at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Loras College in Dubuque, Upper Iowa University in Fayette and Wartburg College in Waverly before closing Tuesday with his UNI stop. On Monday he was at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Cornell College in Mount Vernon and the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
At each stop the students were encouraged to “take a ‘selfie’ with Rand,” to download the Rand Paul 2016 app from the app store and Paul’s introductory video featured only young people expressing a “stand with Rand” message.
Paul also tried to livestream his entire day although the livestream site had a spotty performance on Tuesday.
The caucuses’ timing next year have made reaching college students more important that in the last two presidential election cycles, when caucuses were held in January. “In 2008 and 2012, college wasn’t in session for the caucuses,” said Cliff Maloney Jr., youth director for the Paul campaign.
Paul did not discuss higher education in his Cedar Falls appearance or legislation he once introduced that would have eliminated the Department of Education.
Much of his speech was devoted to foreign policy, as he argued that sometimes the United States “should remain neutral,” a comment that drew applause.
He said the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya caused instability, which shows how decisions to topple dictatorships were mistakes.
“So you ask yourself: ‘Which are we better off with, a strong man like Gaddafi in power … or say that we want democracy for those people so we have to get rid of tyrants so they can vote for what they want?” Paul said.
“I really like when he talked about how, in the Middle East, we are arming both sides. And how, when we arm both sides like that, it leads to more fighting,” Adam Demory, a sophomore marketing major at UNI who was in the audience, said.
Paul decried Republican presidential candidates who support a no-fly zone over Iraq and Syria, citing a potential conflict with Russia.
“Carly Fiorina stands up and says she’ll be so strong that she won’t talk to Putin,”” he said, referring to comments made in a Republican presidential debate. He called this “a dumb idea,” referencing the so-called Cold War with Russia.
Paul also said the Democratic and the Republican parties are too eager to spend — he said Democrats call for more domestic and welfare spending and Republicans call for more defense spending.
“The number one priority is to defend our country,” Paul said. “But we have to get away from thinking it can just be a blank check. “
Paul referred to himself as “a different kind of Republican” on several occasions, and his campaign has dubbed him an “anti-establishment” candidate.
But Jared Girres, a freshman criminology major at UNI, wasn’t convinced.
“His dad was a senator,” said Girres, referring to former U.S. Sen. and former presidential candidate Ron Paul. ”He’s not new to this stuff … He grew up in it just like George and Jeb,” a reference to the Bush brothers – one a former president and the other seeking the 2016 nomination.
Girres said Paul was trying to distance himself from his father in the same way Jeb Bush tends to distance himself from his brother, George W. Bush.
On another matter, Paul, who has shown support for the legalization of medical marijuana in the past, was asked about the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado.
He said the federal government, per the 10th amendment, has no authority over what states choose to do about crime.
The senator also was asked about his stance on defunding Planned Parenthood.
“I really don’t think there should be any money for Planned Parenthood and I’m going to continue fighting against that,” Paul replied, citing leaked, edited videos of Planned Parenthood staff that detractors say show staffers discussing the harvesting of fetal tissue. He called the videos horrific.
Planned Parenthood has said it only took legal reimbursement for tissue used on research and announced Tuesday, amid House hearings into its practices, that it no longer is taking the reimbursements.
Paul pointed to community health centers as the solution for women’s health care. These centers do not perform abortion procedures.
Paul also called for criminal justice reform citing the story of Kalief Browder, jailed in New York for three years without standing trial or being convicted for a minor theft. Browder committed suicide after his release.
“I want to be a Republican that defends the Sixth Amendment with the same fervor that we defend the Second Amendment,” Paul said.