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Paul Running Hard on Civil Liberties   05/29 06:22

   CHICAGO (AP) -- He infuriated his party leaders by almost single-handedly 
delaying the extension of the Patriot Act. Now, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is 
fighting to transform his recent Capitol Hill victory into momentum with the 
voters who will select the next president.

   Tangling with a complicated issue that divides the public, Paul does not 
have an easy task.

   Yet he's seized the opportunity in interviews across the country this week 
before another showdown in Congress. And as he courts voters in three states, 
the 52-year-old Republican is putting new distance between himself and the rest 
of his party's presidential hopefuls.

   Voters are noticing.

   "I think some of his ideas are a breath of fresh air," said Corey Brooks, an 
African-American pastor in the South Side of Chicago, where Paul campaigned 
Wednesday. "His views are diametrically opposite of what Republicans tend to 
say and do, and I think it's a good thing."

   Paul has aggressively sought black support as he crafts a unique coalition 
of younger voters and minorities.

   He says the Republican reputation "sucks" in a book released this week that 
blames the GOP for letting its relationship with minorities "fray to the point 
that it is near beyond repair." Yet it's unclear how far his civil liberties 
focus resonates beyond the libertarian-leaning voters who supported his 
father's presidential ambitions.

   In any event, Paul's passionate defense of civil liberties remains the 
centerpiece of his platform.

   He stood on the Senate floor for nearly 11 hours last week, bucking leaders 
in his own party, to protest the National Security Agency's bulk collection 
program that monitors Americans' phone records.

   His delaying tactic forced Senate leaders to adjourn for the week with no 
resolution on the Patriot Act, parts of which are set to expire at midnight 
Sunday night.

   Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has summoned the Senate to return for 
a rare Sunday session just hours before the deadline. Expiration would mean 
suspension of a program revealed by Edward Snowden that collects data on every 
American landline call, as well as of two FBI programs to track terrorist 
suspects.

   Emboldened by last week's stand, Paul this week launched a national tour 
with stops in Illinois, Iowa and South Carolina. His campaign also intensified 
its fundraising operation to help cash in on the attention. Even in the midst 
of last week's Senate marathon session, Paul took to Twitter to invite 
supporters to buy $30 "Filibuster Starter Packs" with a bumper sticker, T-shirt 
and a "spy blocker" for Internet browsers. His campaign would not say how much 
money he's raised from the confrontation in Congress.

   In the meantime, he's lashed out at leaders of his own party.

   Appearing on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," Paul charged that many 
Republicans have abandoned their small-government credo in the national 
security debate. He's also blamed Republican national security hawks for the 
rise of the Islamic State group.

   New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in a radio interview on Thursday that 
people like Paul who oppose the Patriot Act "have a severe case of amnesia" 
regarding the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A day earlier, another potential rival 
for the GOP nomination, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, said Paul was "unsuited to 
be commander-in-chief."

   Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus doesn't necessarily 
agree.

   "I think Rand Paul is a fighter, he always has been," Priebus told The 
Associated Press. "I don't think he's hurting anybody. He is an elected senator 
that is leading on a number of issues in this country. ... Most people admire 
the fact that he's trying to lead."

   Yet on government surveillance at least, it's unclear how closely voters are 
following Paul's efforts.

   In a March 2014 Pew Research Center poll, just 19 percent of Americans said 
they were following "reports about the U.S. government's phone and Internet 
surveillance programs" very closely, while more than half were not following 
closely.

   "Sen. Rand Paul will follow the Constitution over any poll," Paul spokesman 
Sergio Gor said, suggesting that public opinion is shifting.

   Indeed, Paul has been railing against government intrusion of civil 
liberties for much of his brief political career, just as he did in Chicago 
this week, where the reaction was mixed.

   "Most people in our community would say we don't want government all in our 
business, but that's not first and foremost on our agenda," said Brooks, the 
pastor.

   Afterward, an audience comprised largely of young entrepreneurs broke into 
applause when Paul's so-called filibuster was mentioned. William Glennan, a 
25-year-old welder from Texas, said Paul was refreshing.

   "It's a younger message. I like it because he's splitting away from the 
traditional Republican Party," Glennan said. "I think everybody's getting sick 
of the old-school Republicans."


(KA)


 
 
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