One student who attended the speech, Berkeley sophomore Riley Stack, said he is “pretty open politically” and is skeptical of some of Paul’s stances but sympathizes with Paul on this issue.
“It is true,” said the 20-year-old Stack. “He made a good point about bridging the partisan gap. There are issues that we should not be held up on, like government surveillance.”
But back in D.C., Paul’s speech was criticized by hawkish conservatives. Michael Goldfarb, a former McCain campaign spokesman, tweeted: “Rand Paul goes to Berkeley to attack the US intelligence community….he’s going to get killed for that in a Republican primary.”
Paul brushed aside that sort of criticism, arguing that the issue broadens the party’s appeal: “Everyone is entitled to their opinion.”
Asked in the interview how he thinks he is misunderstood politically by his critics, Paul paused for a few seconds. He then disputed the notion that he is “identical” to his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, on all policy issues.
“I think over time, people will notice there are distinctions and differences,” he said.
Reporters sometimes ask Paul, he said, to comment on his father’s beliefs. But he said he’s done doing that. “I’ve pretty much quit answering” those questions.
“I’ve been in the Senate three years, and I have created a record of myself,” he said. “And I have my opinions.”
He referenced George W. Bush’s campaign for president in 2000.
“Did he get tons of questions about his dad?” Paul asked. “I don’t know that he did, to tell you the truth.”
Paul said he honestly hasn’t made up his mind yet on a 2016 presidential campaign. He has hinted that his wife will play a big part in that decision, which he intends to make after the midterm elections.
“We’re still talking about it,” he said. “And it’s not completely decided, really, which way we’re going to go on it.”
Asked if the environment could be any better for him to run, Paul replied: “I think the mood of the country is in the direction of people who want to defend privacy and want a more reasonable foreign policy, but also are much more fiscally conservative than this president and believe that the debt is a problem as well.”
“I think that the mood of the country is in our direction,” he repeated.