Commentary

The Uniquely Widespread Presidential Campaign of Rand Paul

Bringing blacks, Jews and the Constitution back into the Republican Party, Rand Paul is intently looking ahead to the 2016 presidential election, reports Mike Allen in Politico:

“Coming off a midterm campaign blitz in 35 states … Paul, who has set the ambitious goal of raising the Republican share of the African-American vote from 6 percent in 2012 to 33 percent in 2016, met with African-American groups in Ferguson, Mo. (still seething with protests); spoke to the National Urban League convention in July; and regularly meets with small groups of African-Americans to talk up his plans for school choice and justice reform” (“Rand’s grand plan,” Mike Allen, politico.com, Nov. 9).

Paul tells Politico: “Until the Republican Party becomes more diverse, we are going to struggle.”

Moreover, Allen writes, “As Paul traveled the country this year, he also held private sit-downs with rabbis and Jewish leaders in various cities.”

Paul explains, “I think we’ve spent a lot of time in the Jewish community, letting them know that our position is that we are very conscious of and supportive of our special alliance with Israel.”

This is in dynamic contrast, of course, with Barack Obama’s frigid relationship with Israel, particularly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

And dig this assessment from Scott Read, who directed Bob Dole’s presidential campaign in 1996 and is currently the senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

“In any two-week period of the last six months,” he tells Allen, “Rand Paul did more smart things to grow the party than everyone else combined. Going to Berkeley and barrios and ghettos — he’s not afraid to go where no one else wants to go.”

Having gotten to know the senator personally somewhat, I’m not as surprised by that amid the silence of many political commentators.

But I never thought he was as skillful an organizer of political campaigns as Allen details in Politico: “He’s already built what top GOP operatives consider by far the most extensive operation of any of the party’s presidential hopefuls.

“He has his own advance staff housed at RAND PAC, his political action committee, which over the past five years has raised $13.6 million and spent $10.7 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And he is planning to open a Silicon Valley office to add ties and presumably fundraising heft among the libertarian-minded tech crowd.”

Worth noting in the Politico report is that “Paul was endorsed for president (earlier this month) by incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — a striking turnabout just a few years after McConnell favored Paul’s opponent in Kentucky’s 2010 Republican senatorial primary.”

What especially impressed me was his 13-hour filibuster last year against President Obama’s nomination of current CIA director John Brennan (long active in the agency’s un-American activities). Paul very approvingly cited the Ninth and 10th Amendments to the Constitution near the start of his soliloquy.

How many Americans are familiar with — or even know — those two guarantees of power to individual states and, thereby, to We The People?

Furthermore, how many members of Congress could pass a pop quiz on those Amendments?

The Ninth Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

The 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Namely us.

Of all the presumed candidates so far for the 2016 presidential election, I think Rand Paul is the most intimately knowledgeable of the Constitution, as he has demonstrated in his public speeches and writings through the years.

But what I have not seen in his presidential campaign so far is an emphasis on something that could gain him considerable ground among Americans of all parties and help significantly restore the Constitution: mandating a course on the history of our Founding Document.

Most public schools, after all, do not have mandatory courses on the history of the Constitution.

I strongly suggested this to the senator in a conversation weeks ago. Most public schools do not teach kids about what it has taken to preserve the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and 14th Amendments from the imperious actions of such presidents as George W. Bush (with Dick Cheney) and Barack Obama.

For years I gave talks at public schools and colleges throughout the land, before arthritis limited my travels, demonstrating how patriotic protesters rescued the essence of our Constitution, which provides our basic identity among nations.

Again and again, students of all backgrounds responded to this unexpected and welcome news with excitement and a clear desire to keep learning more about who we are.

I again urge Rand Paul to demand all schools include the tumultuous history of what it takes to keep the Constitution fully alive and functioning.

Go to it, Rand, and bring back America!

Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. He is a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.