Live from Council Bluffs, it’s Rand Paul

Nebraska attorney David Begley continues his series of reports on appearances of the presidential candidates in Iowa for us. Yesterday Dave attended the appearance of Senator Rand Paul in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Omaha World-Herald has posted its report here. Dave’s report is below.

RandandDave Rand Paul made his first Iowa post-debate appearance yesterday in Council Bluffs. The room was full with about 90 people. Many seemed to be followers of Ron Paul and, based on the applause lines, the crowd had a libertarian feel to it. Paul is less shrill in person than he is in his debate appearances. He also relishes his unpopularity amongst his fellow Senators. He told a story about how he “lectured” 50 of them at 2:00 a.m. during one of his speeches.

Senator Paul stands at two percent in the Iowa polls. He said at the end of the talk that 30,000 votes can win Iowa. Given the size of the field, that’s a credible claim. He also asserted a great organization in the Hawkeye state, but everyone does. And each of the top eight candidates has a chance as the vast majority of Iowa caucus goers are not firmly committed at this point.

I wanted to see Paul to ask him about the Iran deal because he is on the Foreign Relations Committee. My question was somewhat truncated as I only had a very brief time with him at the end of his one-hour appearance. I based my question on John Hinderaker’s post reporting that Iran hasn’t approved the deal, has imposed new conditions, and has several items to complete by December 15. To make things worse Reuters reports that Iran has stopped dismantling centrifuges that are to be disabled by the deadline.

Senator Paul had mentioned both in the debate and in his stump speech that the President is taking too much power and that Congress is losing or giving away its constitutional powers. He told me that the Iran deal should have been a treaty. We all know that but the Senate didn’t stop Obama.

He then said that sanctions should not be lifted until Iran complied with the terms of the deal. But that’s not the deal Obama, Clinton, and Kerry negotiated so what’s his point? He told me that some of the $150 billion has been returned to Iran but US banks still held some money.

Senator Paul is knowledgeable about the Iran deal but the Senate has proved itself incapable of stopping the president. My view is that some Senator should take the bully pulpit on this as Iran is in material breach of a deal that it hasn’t even accepted. Everyone complains about the Iran deal but nobody does anything. We just get promises that when a GOP president is in office it will be different. By January 2017, the horse will be out of the barn and it may not be fixable.

The central themes in his stump speech were fiscal conservatism and something that sounds like old-fashioned isolationism. These two themes are tied together in his claim that we spend more on defense than the next 10 countries combined. He repeated his line from the debate about how the federal government borrows $1 million every minute. Paul presents the debt as a national security problem attributable both to Republicans and Democrats. He said he is the only fiscal conservative in the race.

He really had it out for Marco Rubio. “There’s not much difference between Marco and Hillary Clinton on foreign policy,” he said. According to Rand, Marco wants to spend freely on the military without regard to efficacy. Paul, not so much.

The Kentucky Senator also attacked Hillary. He referred to the uranium deal discussed in Peter Schweizer’s Clinton Cash and said “someone should go to jail for this.” Libya was “Hillary’s war.” He referred to the disaster in Benghazi. He mentioned the Clinton Foundation’s receipt of of $10-$20 million from Saudi Arabia, the country where women have no rights.

As at the debate, he discussed his flat tax plan. He seeks to eliminate the IRS.

His objection to the National Security Agency’s collection of call records drew applause.

Paul told one story that really struck me the wrong way. I thought it was very manipulative. He referred to a 70-year old man in Mississippi who received a ten-year sentence in federal court for a RICO conviction relating to standing water on his real estate. Having written a 1981 law review article on RICO, I know a little about it. A RICO criminal case requires the establishment of predicate acts. I am doubtful that a federal judge would send anyone to prison for ten years unless a serious offense was involved. Paul’s story really soured me on him as a politician much less a potential president.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Following the event, Dave dug up Michelle Ye He Lee’s interesting Washington Post fact-check column on Paul’s account of the RICO case. It confirms Dave’s suspicions regarding Paul’s account. Among other things, according to the column, the defendant in Paul’s story “was never convicted of racketeering charges (often referred to as RICO), filed against organized criminal organizations.”