Debra J. Saunders

Opinion
By Debra J. Saunders
Published Wednesday, April 8, 2015 – 5:02 pm

Rand Paul’s entry into the 2016 Republican presidential primary is good for the GOP. I won’t proclaim that Paul, 52, has the gravitas or character to occupy the Oval Office — that remains to be seen — but I do believe that all the other Republican hopefuls should watch and learn from Kentucky’s junior senator. His take on issues could make independents and Democrats take a second look at a party where they have not felt welcome.

Paul describes himself as “libertarian-ish.” He’s not an apologist for the GOP. “It seems to me that both parties and the entire political system are to blame,” Paul said in his campaign kickoff speech in Louisville Tuesday. “Big government and debt doubled under a Republican administration. And it’s now tripling under Barack Obama’s watch.” Many Republicans wonder why they send to Congress candidates who promise to reduce the size and scope of government, yet government keeps growing. This rhetoric plays with the party base.

Paul’s criticism of excesses in the federal government’s war on drugs should appeal to young people and African Americans. Paul believes “any law that disproportionately incarcerates people of color” should be repealed. He quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s criticism of “two Americas,” one with opportunity, the other scarred by “daily ugliness.”

Paul has supported legislation to reform draconian mandatory minimum sentences. He is a proud co-sponsor of a bill to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug and to prohibit federal prosecutions of medical marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized medical use. Americans are moving toward support for legalizing recreational use of marijuana. On this issue, Paul has put himself to the left of the Obama administration.

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