The Buzz: Rand Paul on Lindsey Graham, second Democrat may challenge Tim Scott

abeam@thestate.comAugust 25, 2013 

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com Buy Photo

— Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky will visit South Carolina for the second on Monday as he is scheduled to speak at U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan’s annual barbecue.

The Buzz spoke with Paul last week about Lindsey Graham, Wikileaks and barbecue sauces. Below is an excerpt:

BUZZ: I was going to ask you how you were spending the August recess, but I read you have been performing eye surgeries?

PAUL: Yeah, we were in Paducah, Kentucky, yesterday and did four cataract surgeries and I enjoyed that, getting back to doing what I love doing, which is doing surgery on the eye.

BUZZ: Most of the time we hear about constituent services for Senators and I think about helping people with their social security benefits, not necessarily performing eye surgery.

PAUL: We do a little bit of both. We help with their social security and then we also try to get them some surgeries if they don’t have insurance. We’re trying to handle all aspects of constituent services.

BUZZ: Do these people know they are being operated on by their U.S. Senator?

PAUL: Yeah, they are all told in advance and some of them have been waiting months for the surgery, some even years. Two of the patients had very little vision at all. One of them could count fingers and hand motions in the other eye, and one with woman it was light perception, meaning she could only tell when light was on or off but could not see any motion. And they both already have had a significant improvement in their vision just after the surgery, so we are really excited.

BUZZ: I wanted to ask you about Lindsey Graham. He is facing a lot of primary challengers here. What are your thoughts of him and have you thought about getting involved in that race, either for him or one of his challengers?

PAUL: You know, at this point my position is that I am trying to stay out of races that have incumbents, so that’s what my decision is at least for now.

BUZZ: Any thoughts on Sen. Graham in general? Do you like what he’s doing?

PAUL: You know, we have some disagreements. And if anything, I think he’s probably been more forceful in pointing out the disagreements. I frankly think that people, really of America but also South Carolina, probably aren’t that excited about sending good money after bad to Egypt and these far flung places. I think if you were to ask about an issue like that and whether or not we should obey the law -- you know the law says when there is a military coup that the military aid should end -- I think that maybe you would find the people of South Carolina disagree with him on some of these issues.

(An Graham spokesman said the senator previously was on the record as opposing more aid to Egypt, post-coup.)

BUZZ: I’ve read in the past some of your comments about Edward Snowden. I don’t know if you saw this but over the weekend (Wikileaks founder) Julian Assange had some nice things to say about you. He said he was a “big admirer” of you and he thought that the “Libertarian aspect of the Republican Party is the only useful political voice in the US Congress right now.” What did you think about that, the fact that Julian Assange appears to be a fan of yours?

PAUL: You know, I’ve tried to keep the debate more on the constitutional aspects, the constitutional aspects of, what does the fourth amendment apply to, whether it be third party records or visa records or banking records or phone calls, whether those are protected. And I’ve tried to stay a little bit less, you know, out of some of the personalities involved because I think what’s clear to me is the constitutional aspects and maybe not so clear some of the personal aspects.

BUZZ: You have been mentioned as a possible 2016 candidate. How do you feel about the Republican National Committee voting to ban CNN and NBC rom hosing any debates?

PAUL: You know, I think that a Republican primary is for Republican voters and that we should try to put on our best face toward voters and have good, honest debate on issues. But it probably would not be a great idea to have moderators who are, you know, people who have an agenda. And I’ve interviewed with people from all of those networks that I think are objective, but it’s difficult to find people who comment about politics who have no political agenda and no significant opinions. The lines have blurred between commentator, pundit, analyst and opinion maker. And so I think it’s right for us to be very careful about who we let have the honor of being moderators. So I think definitely we’ve been too lax in the past. I’m not sure if it means banning certain networks, but we ought to be really looking at and being very careful who we let have the privilege of being moderators for Republican primaries.

BUZZ: So you are coming to South Carolina on Monday to Rep. Jeff Duncan’s barbecue. A lot of people have noticed it coincides with Gov. Nikki Haley making her announcement for reelection. Do you regret that? And what do you think about her in general and the job she is doing in South Carolina?

PAUL: I’ve met the governor a couple of times and only have good things to say about her. I don’t keep up with a lot of South Carolina individual state politics, so I don’t really know to comment on specific issues. But I have met her several times and I was an ally on the fight against the overreach by the (National Labor Relations Board) on the Boeing situation. And so that was something I think united all Republicans.

I don’t know much about the coincidence of when she is announcing. Jeff and I are friends from baseball. We both play on the Republican baseball team for charity, and so I got to know him over the last couple of years through the baseball team and he mentioned he was having a barbecue and I said, ‘I love South Carolina barbecue! Can I please come?’ That’s sort of tongue and cheek, but he did ask me to come to the barbecue and I’m happy to come.

BUZZ: So if you love South Carolina barbecue, do you have a preference for the sauce?

PAUL: I think if I go there then I’ll lose half the vote, right?

BUZZ: You might lose two-thirds of the vote.

PAUL: (Laughs). I’m afraid I better not comment on which sauce is the best. Then you get me into beef vs pork, and then I will be in nothing but trouble.

BUZZ: I want to ask you about (Federal Reserve chairman) Ben Bernanke. I know you have been critical of him in the past. He, of course, is a South Carolina native, he was raised in Dillon. We will have a new fed chairman in January, and there will be a nomination fight about that. What are your expectations for that? I know you will be heavily involved in that, how do you see that playing out?

PAUL: I think the federal reserve deserves a great deal of blame for the housing crisis which lead to a banking crisis. I think their policies since then have been such that they may well be setting us up for another crisis, another banking crisis or a bubble. And so I haven’t been a big fan of Bernanke’s overseeing of the Federal Reserve. I’m for a much more restrained monetary policy. And his reign has not been, I think, anywhere near the restraint that we actually need. What will happen with the nomination battle? I guess it depends on who is nominated and where it goes. I don’t get a lot of say because it goes to the Banking Committee, so we’ll see what happens with it. But I do plan on making sure that my feeling are well known and also that fed policy affects a great deal of things in our society and I think that fed policy keeping interest rates below the market rate really was a large reason we got into this fiasco of the housing boom and subsequent housing failure.

BUZZ: We’ve heard a lot of people talk about the possibility of a government shutdown when Congress comes back in session here in the next month. What are your thoughts about that? A lot of that debate will be over whether to pay for Obamacare – the Affordable Care Act. I’m curious how you feel about that and how you see that playing out?

PAUL: I don’t really hear anybody advocating a government shutdown. Some of us though are advocating that the House use their leverage to try to make Obamacare less bad if possible. The beginning position of course would be to defund it in the House. If we stood on principal, stood together and we defunded Obamacare, then I think it would go to he Senate, they would disagree, and maybe we go to conference committee and we get a compromise. But you only get to compromise if you stand on principal in the beginning and tell people what you stand for and use the leverage of the House to try to make this bill less bad. So I am for standing on principal, voting to defund it in the House, but I’m not in the House and don’t control the outcome and I think that would be the place we would begin if we want to use our leverage to make this bill less bad.

Sen. John Scott considering U.S. Senate run

Democratic state Sen. John Scott is thinking about running against U.S. Sen. Tim Scott in November.

John Scott, who represents Richland County, has been a senator since 2009. Before that, he was a state representative for 18 years. He also worked for former Govs. James Edwards and Dick Riley.

“I stood for people in South Carolina on tough issues. I’ll stand in Washington on tough issues,” Scott said. “I’m not one of those candidates where you can say, ‘He’s just all Obama.’ I’m all about doing good for this state.”

Rick Wade is also considering running against Scott as a Democrat. Wade ran unsuccessfully for S.C. Secretary of State in 2002. He was a senior advisor to President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.

So far, no Republicans have indicated they will challenge Tim Scott in the Republican primary.

Cheers, Democrats

Congratulations to the South Carolina Democratic Party for having two of its leaders elected to national leadership positions.

State party chairman Jaime Harrison was elected to the Democratic National Committee’s executive committee as the representative from the southern chairpersons. And state party executive director Amanda Loveday was elected the of the Association of State Democratic Executive Directors executive committee as the southern representative.

South Carolina was the only state to have both their state party chairman and executive director elected to the posts.

Buzz bites

• S.C. Democrats plan to crash Republican Gov. Nikki Haley’s first campaign rally on Monday in Greenville. Party spokeswoman Kristin Sosanie says they plan to hold a rally at 2 p.m. Haley’s event is scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

• Haley joked on an upstate radio station that Texas Gov. Rick Perry has asked her to “stay out of Texas” because he is worried Haley will convince Texas companies to move to South Carolina. Perry will be in S.C. on Monday to for a Haley fundraiser and campaign rally.

• Headline in The (Greenwood,) Index Journal last week: “MRS. TEMPLETON GOES TO SCHOOL,” on a story about DHEC director Catherine Templeton visiting the first day of instruction at a Ninety Six elementary school, site of a tuberculosis outbreak.

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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