After doing eye surgery, Rand Paul back to testing waters for presidential run

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Fresh off doing some eye surgery over the summer recess, Rand Paul continues to test the waters for a possible presidential run, visiting yet again an early primary state and helping raise money for conservatives.

The Kentucky senator on Thursday chatted with The Daily Caller about his upcoming political trip to South Carolina, his calls to cut off aid to Egypt, the hoopla over Ted Cruz’s birth certificate and doing eye surgery this month.

Paul is going down to South Carolina — traditionally the first presidential primary in the South — on Monday to support the re-election efforts of Rep. Jeff Duncan at the “Faith & Freedom BBQ.”

“Can’t pass up good South Carolina barbecue,” Paul told TheDC by phone.

In recent months, the libertarian-leaning Republican has visited a number of early primary and caucus states — Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. The moves are typical of someone considering a run for president, and Paul says he will consider a presidential campaign after the 2014 elections.

Paul said he’s attending the fundraiser for Duncan because the two conservatives are friends who have played together in an annual charity baseball game. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott will also attend the fundraiser.

Asked how his trips to these early states are going, Paul said: “I think there’s a big contingent of the party that wants people to stand up and fight for what we believe in. They see us sometimes — Republicans — as not always standing and fighting on principle.”

“I find that most of the time I get an enthusiastic reception,” he said. “You know, they’re proud of me for asking tough questions on Benghazi, not letting Hillary Clinton off the hook on that. Many people are proud of standing up on the drone issue, the filibuster.”

As for Capitol Hill politics, Paul has been one of the most vocal senators on stopping aid to Egypt, a country undergoing violent turmoil. He introduced an amendment last month to stop American assistance to Egypt by enforcing the law that prohibits the United States from giving aid to countries under a military coup d’état.

The Daily Caller asked him about two hawkish Republican senators — Arizona Sen. John McCain and South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham — who voted against his amendment in July but now say aid to Egypt should be halted.

“Well, what I’d love to see is that they actually come and publicly endorse my amendment, which simply says we obey the law,” Paul said. “The devil is sort of in the details, and the details involve actions. So if they really truly are coming around to my way of thinking, I’d love to see them sign on to my amendment and help me being it forward when we get back in September.”

Paul also expressed little interest in the political news this week about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz releasing a copy of his birth certificate this week.

“Washington always needs a good story,” Paul said.

Cruz, a freshman Republican lawmaker, released his birth certificate after news stories questioned whether the Calgary-born son of an American mother could plausibly run for president. The Constitution says occupants of the White House must be “a natural born Citizen,” and Cruz says his mother’s citizenship means he was an American citizen at birth.

Paul doesn’t contest that.

“I wasn’t a birther with regard to Democrats and the president, and I’m not going to be a birther with regard to Republicans either,” Paul said.

The senator — a licensed ophthalmologist — gave the interview after spending time over the last several weeks doing pro-bono eye exams and surgery across Kentucky.

“It was great,” Paul said. “It was one of the most enjoyable things that I’m able to do in my career and still continue to do it. We had four people who had cataracts, including two of them who were virtually blind from cataracts who were able to basically sit up and immediately see probably well enough to drive a car.”

“To go from blindness to being able to drive a car,” he said, “is a pretty impressive 30-minute step forward.”

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