Exclusive: Rand Paul talks to TheDC about the Ground Zero mosque, the media, and President Obama

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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No, says the first-time candidate and Tea Party backed insurgent from Kentucky, his parents didn’t name him after the Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand.

“I bet half the articles on the Internet write that I was—well, most of them attempting to disparage me and disparage my parents for naming me that,” says Rand Paul, running for the U.S. Senate as a Republican. “But it’s like most other things you read on the Internet. Untrue.”

And that segues into an argument that the champion of free-markets and constitutional conservatism, who is leading Democrat Jack Conway in the polls, repeats several times throughout an interview Monday. “It’s an amazing thing to open up the newspaper for three weeks in a row and see yourself attacked everyday,” he says of the media he argues is after him. “It really is, most of it is just either mischaracterized or just flat out untrue.”

In a discussion with The Daily Caller, Paul spoke candidly about a multitude of topics, including whether he could see himself working across party lines with Democrats, what he thinks of the building of a mosque near ground zero in New York and what he’d discuss with President Obama if he could change his mind on any issue.

On the media

“I think there’s a real lack of journalism ethics out there,” the ophthalmologist from Bowling Green said. “You know, I was always taught that basically you didn’t print anonymous accusations particularly when they hurt someone’s character and were serious. I’m mean accusing someone of a crime, you would think there would be some sort of ethical standard about printing from anonymous sources.”

Paul, of course, is referencing last week’s story in GQ from an anonymous source from Paul’s days at Baylor University who said he and a friend blindfolded her, took her away to another location and forced her to smoke marijuana. Paul denies the story, and says it shows how most journalists are not objective anymore.

“It’s all completely one sided,” he said. “I mean there are thousands of articles printed on me every week now — and do you think anyone is going back and asking my opponent their friends from college? No. Because it’s all an agenda, it’s all left-wing bloggers and left-wing people.”

His relationship with the media has been rocky since defeating Trey Grayson, who was backed by Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell and viewed as the more establishment Republican, in the primary. He immediately limited his national media interviews following a fiasco caused by appearances on NPR and MSNBC when he expressed views against government — as it did in the the Civil Rights Act — instructing a private business owner what to do. Though he repeatedly said he’s against discrimination of all forms, the media continued to question whether his beliefs were racially insensitive.

“I think it tells more about the people writing it than it does about me,” he said.

Paul says he gets most of his news off the Internet, and reads all the major newspapers in his state, as well as the New York Times and Wall Street journal on occasion. He also has a council of economic advisers that brief him on fiscal issues.
On President Obama

“I think he’s probably an intelligent person, a reasonable person, but the thing is, our views and vision of what we think government should do, like what we believe the responsibility or the role federal government should be, is just so opposite,” said Paul, who has never personally met the president.

“I mean, I truly am a believer in the private marketplace and that jobs — useful jobs — are created by private individuals. And I think his side, his philosophical beliefs, are that government is the answer to most of our ills.”

A recent topic Paul disagrees with Obama on is the mosque planned near ground zero in New York City. “I’m not sure I think the federal government should weigh in on it,” he said. “I think it’s probably a mistake for the president to be weighing in on favor of it as well.”

If the goal of the building’s organizers is to reconcile, Paul thinks there’s a better way to do that. “I think reconciliation is best promoted by — instead of having a multi-million dollar mosque — maybe having a multi-million dollar donation to the memorial site, would be better for all.”

He said he doubts he could change Obama’s mind on anything because they come at issues from such different philosophies — but if he could, he’d change the president’s mind on the government’s runaway spending.

But that’s an issue he thinks he can work on with other Democrats.

“I think there are ways of doing it,” he said of reaching across the aisle, making the point that the country’s deficit problem is one way he can envision doing so. “There are many Democratic voters as well as many Democratic legislators, who do believe the deficit is a problem.”

He said both parties — and not just the Democrats — will have to admit that they’ve contributed to the deficit. “I think you can work across the aisle if you’re honest about those things, the shortcomings of your party, and make things less about the party and more about the issue, I think you can work across the party line.”

Republicans will have to get past not wanting to cut defense expenditures, he said, and Democrats will have to get past wanting to cut non-defense expenditures. “If you’re serious about addressing it…the only way a serious person can do it is look across the entire length and breath of the budget.”

On his first campaign

A year ago, Paul didn’t have the notoriety — or target on his back — that he does now. Is he still glad he’s running?

“Depends on which day you ask me, I guess,” he said at first with a laugh. “You know, it’s a long marathon. I’ve been doing this for over a year. I’m on the road right now, and some days are better than others.”
He notes his lead in the polls, and an upcoming money bomb meant to flush more cash into his campaign. But he returns the interview back to the media.

“I think the personal attacks are worse than anything,” he reflected. “It is hard on my family, and we have kids, and I mean, just imagine how it would be for you to have young teenagers and teenagers reading stuff like that about their dad? So, that I don’t like.”