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FOX "Fox News Sunday" - Transcript: CPAC 2014

Interview

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WALLACE: Here in Washington, top conservative leaders got together for the annual CPAC conference to lay out their vision for the GOP. And for the second straight year, Senator Rand Paul won the presidential straw poll. The senator from Kentucky took 31 percent of the vote, far ahead of Texas Senator Ted Cruz who got 11 percent. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie finished third and fourth.

And joining us now, the winner of the straw poll, Rand Paul.

Senator, congratulations, and welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

PAUL: Thanks, Chris. Thanks for having me.

WALLACE: What do you think your victory in the straw poll says about your viability as a candidate for president in 2016?

PAUL: Well, you know, the one thing about CPAC is it's just chockfull of young people. There's young people everywhere. And I think young people, their lives sort of rotate, and, you know, disseminate. Everything goes out through their cell phone and they are very aware of their privacy, and they don't think when the government tells them that the Fourth Amendment doesn't protect your cell phone, doesn't protect your records, they don't accept that.

And so, I think not only conservative young people from colleges and high school, I think young people across the country are fed up with the government that says, hey, the fourth amendment doesn't apply to your records, doesn't apply to your cell phone.

WALLACE: I want to pick up on this because you seem to be trying to thread the needle politically -- on the one hand, continuing to push your conservative positions on the size and scope of government and taxes, but on the other hand, also pushing a libertarian agenda at CPAC. And we ran a clip of it in the open. You talked about electing lovers of liberty.

And I understand that about a week from now you're going to speak at the University of California at Berkeley, hardly a bastion of conservatism about the NSA and spying.

PAUL: Well, yes, I believe passionately in the Bill of Rights. Fourth Amendment to me is just as important as the Second Amendment. That hasn't always been true for all Republicans, so that does distinguish me some, but it's also something that attracts new people to our cause, I think.

The president won the youth vote 3-1, but his numbers have dropped 20 percent, 30 percent among the youth. Really the public at large is less trusting of this president, but the youth in particular have lost faith in this president.

And so, I think there's a real opportunity for Republicans who do believe in the Fourth Amendment to grow our party by attracting young people and bring that energy into our party.

WALLACE: You also had lunch recently with Attorney General Eric Holder to talk with him about working together on eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Senator, I don't have to tell you while you're having lunch with Eric Holder, there are a lot of conservatives who want to see him removed from office.

PAUL: Well, the thing about it is I don't think anyone is ever going to question my ability to stand up to the president or to Eric Holder. My positions are very, very clear, and I've disagreed with them. In fact, I'm suing the president. In fact, I laughed with Attorney General Holder that I will be seeing you in court.

But the thing is, at the same time, what we need in Washington are people who believe in their principles so strongly that they are able to talk to the other side and that the public at large will know that I'm not giving up on my principles, but I am going to him on something that's an issue of fairness.

If 30 years ago you grew marijuana plants in your college dorm, you should get your right to vote back. It's ridiculous. We have people in Kentucky who can't vote after 30 years after they serve their time for a nonviolent crime.

So I don't mind saying that I agree with the president or Eric Holder on this because I think the people who know me know that I will stand up to the president when he's wrong, which I think is quite a bit of the time.

WALLACE: You are also charting your own path on foreign policy. On Wednesday, while Russia was in the process of moving to what it appears to be the annexation of Crimea, this is what you said: "Unless we are willing to go to war for Ukraine, and I believe that would be unwise, Russia without question has the military might and geographic advantage to control the Crimea and the Russian-dominated areas of Ukraine."

Senator, it sounds like you have given up on ever getting Crimea out of the clutches of the Kremlin.

PAUL: Actually, the rest of that essay went on to say that if Russia acts like a rogue nation, they will be isolated from the West. They will bear a burden with trade, with isolation from the community of civilized nations.

But also, I think there's something very interesting. If they continue to occupy Crimea, if they annex Crimea, Ukraine almost certainly will come completely within the western orbit. So, it will backfire on them because you'll be taking Russian-speaking voters that have been voting for Russian-speaking presidents of Ukraine. You'll be taking them out of the population.

That country is almost evenly split, but if you take the Russian speakers in Crimea out of Ukraine and you're left with the Ukraine, what you'll see is the Western-oriented candidates are going to win every time.

The other thing is Putin needs to be warned, and I'm perfectly willing to tell him, that if he does occupy Ukraine, it will be chaos for him and for the world. If he creates a Syria out of Ukraine, what's going to happen is 80 percent of his oil and gas is going through Ukraine. It will be a disaster for him. And so, he needs to be fully aware of that.

The other thing I've said is that I would do something differently than the president because that would immediately get every obstacle out of the way for our export of oil and gas, and I would begin drilling in every possible conceivable place within our territories in order to have production that we could supply Europe with if it's interrupted from Ukraine.

WALLACE: But, Senator, some of your Republican opponents -- as you well know -- say that you're too soft on foreign policy, and they point to comments like this that you made last month. And let's put it up on the screen.

"Though the cold war is largely over, I think we need to have a respectful sometimes adversarial but a respectful relationship with Russia."

That's how President Paul would deal with Vladimir Putin, respectfully?

PAUL: Well, you know, I see my foreign policy in the same line as what came out of probably the first George Bush. Henry Kissinger wrote something in the "Washington Post" two days ago which I agree with. I see it coming out of mainstream of the Republican position.

But the interesting thing is that I opposed with real fervor the involvement of us in Syria, and that became the dominant position in the country, both Republican and Democrat. There's not one Republican who is saying we should put military troops into Crimea or into Ukraine. So I think I'm right in the middle of that position, and I think those who would try to argue that somehow I'm different than the mainstream Republican opinion are people who want to take advantage for their own person political gain.

I'm a great believer in Ronald Reagan. I'm a great believer in a strong national defense. In fact, what Ronald Reagan said in about one sentence sums up real a lot of what I believe. He said to our potential adversary, he said, "Don't mistake our reluctance for war for a lack of resolve." People knew that with Ronald Reagan. They still need to know that with the United States.

And part of the problem is I think this president hasn't projected enough strength and hasn't shown a priority to the national defense. That is something that were I in charge I would.

WALLACE: Senator, you spoke at CPAC this week, along with several of the other potential Republican presidential candidates in 2016.

Ted Cruz went after three recent Republican presidential nominees. And here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: All of us remember President Dole and President McCain and President Romney. Now, look, those are good men, they're decent men. But when you don't stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don't stand for principle, Democrats celebrate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Senator, do you think it was over the line for Ted Cruz to go after a war hero like Bob Dole? And generally speaking, what do you think of Ted Cruz's practice of confronting, sometimes putting Senate Republicans, his colleagues, in tough situations?

PAUL: You know, I guess I would just say that everybody has their own style. My style is that I stand for things and I don't think people question whether I stand for principle.

But I don't spend a lot of time trying to drag people down. I've been very complimentary of Mitt Romney. I met him. I think he's a great guy.

Can we do things different to get the party bigger? There's always ways we can get bigger, particularly when we don't win. But I don't spend any time sort of trying to criticize others in the party, because I realize the party has to be bigger, not smaller.

WALLACE: Finally, I want to talk to you about 2016, I guess to a certain degree we have been throughout this interview. A columnist for "The Washington Post" this week rated you as the front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2016, and in a poll of Republicans you and Jeb Bush are out front when voters are asked who they would like to see run for president.

And as well we heard this week that you are pushing a bill in the Kentucky legislature that would allow you to run both for the Senate and for president in 2016.

So I guess the question is, is it fair to say that when it comes to at least pursuing the possibility of running for president in 2016, that it's full speed ahead for you, sir?

PAUL: You know, we're definitely talking about it. My family is talking about it. We do the things that would be necessary to make sure that it can happen and will work.

But I truly haven't made my mind up and won't make my mind up until after the 2014 elections. But, you know, I haven't been shy about saying that we are thinking about it.

I think that the message that I'm trying to promote whether I do it or not of bringing our message to minority voters, to people who have been persecuted throughout history, to young people who feel like the government has grown too big. I think it's a message that can grow the party, and the party's got to grow bigger or we're not going to win again.

WALLACE: Senator Paul, to be continued. Thank you. Thanks for talking with us today, sir.

PAUL: Thank you, Chris.

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