Rand Paul draws packed crowd at GW

GOP presidential candidate focuses on his libertarian views during stop at Foggy Bottom Campus.

Senator Rand Paul
GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul during a campaign stop on the Foggy Bottom Campus. (William Atkins/GW Today)
November 23, 2015

By Matthew Stoss

Lukas Grund said he has seen Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a Republican presidential candidate, speak a handful of times. Mr. Grund saw Sen. Paul, notably, at the Conservative Political Action Conference and at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, not far from Mr. Grund’s suburban Philly home.

Mr. Grund, a GW sophomore and the president/founder of GW Students for Rand Paul, saw Sen. Paul speak to a crowded Grand Ballroom in the Marvin Center. Mr. Grund said the first-term senator’s message last Thursday afternoon was different.

“He definitely catered toward a crowd of students, as opposed to CPAC, where it’s catered to a crowd of conservatives,” Mr. Grund said. “His libertarian message is very versatile and resonates with a lot of people.”

Sen. Paul, who is polling at around 3 percent, spoke for nearly 22 minutes during a Foggy Bottom campaign stop in which the libertarian-minded senator stayed in his comfort zone. He spent much of his time criticizing the U.S. government’s surveillance of its citizens, as well as the war on drugs, drawing the most sustained cheers for the latter and the strategic use of a mid-level expletive a few minutes in.

“I don’t think we should be putting you and your friends in jail for marijuana,” said Sen. Paul, elected to the Senate in 2010. “It’s a dumb idea.”

Sen. Paul also talked about shrinking the government—“Government so small, you can barely see it,” he said—and, in the name of second chances, proposed expunging drug records so it is easier for those convicted of drug offenses to get jobs. Sen. Paul blamed former President Bill Clinton and, by extension, Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, for what he views as too-strict drug laws. He used Ferguson, Mo., to sell his point.

“One thing you could figure out from meeting people in the community is for every 100 black women in Ferguson, there are only 60 black men. We’ve incarcerated a whole generation of people,” Sen. Paul said. “Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, they were part of the problem. They were the ones that introduced all this war on drugs and made it worse.”

In the same breath, he picked on fellow Republican candidate Jeb Bush.

“When we look at this and saw how are you going to fix this? You’ve got to get rid of hypocrisy,” Sen. Paul said. “And so when I pointed out that I didn’t like Jeb Bush still being for the marijuana laws, and he admitted [that] when he was in school he smoked marijuana—I don’t care if he smoked marijuana. I don’t care if he’s rich. I’m all for being rich. I want to be rich. But he’s at an elite school, [Phillips Academy in] Andover, [Mass.], up in the Northeast, primarily with very wealthy people. He said, ‘I smoked pot, no big deal.’ Well, yeah the police don’t come to your school, all right? So we need to understand that that it isn’t OK, unless he’s going to consistently be for giving the same chance to other kids.”

Mr. Grund started interning for Sen. Paul as a data analyst in August and spends about 20 hours a week working on the campaign. He said he and GW Students for Rand Paul orchestrated Sen. Paul’s GW appearance and that it took about a month for everything to come together. More than 600 people registered for the event through Sen. Paul’s website, Mr. Grund said. Some were turned away due to lack of space.

“[Sen. Paul] does a college tour, and that’s one thing he wants to do because young people like him,” Mr. Grund says. “He wants to go out and speak to them, and it just so happened this date worked, and since I work with the campaign, I was in contact with the campaign on how and when we could get this done.”

Mr. Grund said he has been interested in Sen. Paul since he saw the senator’s father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), and fellow libertarian speak on CSPAN during his presidential bid in 2012.

“I got that libertarian flair to myself,” Mr. Grund said with a laugh. “I like [Sen. Paul’s] non-interventionist foreign policy, his opposition to the drug war. He stands up for all of the Bill of Rights, due process. And it seems he’s willing to fight against people in [his]own party when they’re wrong.”