Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks at the Lincoln Day Dinner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, May 10, 2013.
Max Whittaker for The New York Times/Redux

Rand Paul tells tea party to be happy

Updated

Sen. Rand Paul is encouraging the tea party to be nicer to the president. 

On the five-year anniversary of the movement, he pressed the party to move away from distracting, offensive rhetoric. It’s the latest shift by Paul toward the middle as he contemplates a run for president in 2016.

“There are times, and I don’t think it is our movement, but there are times when people are using language that shouldn’t be used,” Paul said at a tea party event on Thursday. “I recently criticized someone for using that language, and I’m not going to bring it up,” he continued, alluding to Ted Nugent, who Paul criticized for calling the president a “subhuman mongrel.”

“I will say that we can disagree with the president without calling him names,” Paul said, adding that he wanted the tea party to appeal to more people.

Paul also called on the tea party to adopt a more positive tone.

“When we present our message, if we want a bigger crowd and we want to win politically, our message has to be a happy message, one of optimism, one of inclusiveness, one of growth. A message that actually brings up the people who are poor among us, brings up those who are longterm unemployed and finds them jobs. Our message is that, but we have to figure out a way to make sure everybody knows that that’s what we’re here for.”

“Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scaroborough agreed. ”Rand Paul is singing my song! I love what he’s saying,” he said Friday.

It comes at an odd time, as Paul is under fire for dredging up the Monica Lewinsky scandal and throwing it at the former First Lady and Secretary of State—and possible 2016 candidate—seemingly in hopes of discrediting her. 

On Friday, Democratic group American Bridge–which has been tied to the Clinton world–released a web video hitting at Paul’s Lewinsky attacks, called “Back to the Nineties” as part of their Correct the Record campaign. 

It quotes everyone from Rick Santorum to Mitt Romney to Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough chiding the senator for dredging up a decades-old scandal.

Just last year, Paul came to the defense of an aide, who was found to have voiced pro-seccesionist views and who believed John Wilkes Booth’s “heart was in the right place” when he assasinated President Abraham Lincoln. Paul had employed the aide, Jack Hunter, to co-author his 2011 book, “The Tea Party Goes to Washington,” and as a staffer.

Paul defended Hunter, saying that while his comments had been “absolutely stupid,” he didn’t think Hunter was racist. Hunter resigned a few weeks later.

Morning Joe, 2/28/14, 7:18 AM ET

Joe: 'Rand Paul is singing my song'

Top Talkers: GOP Sen. Rand Paul is calling for an air of optimism within his party, and he’s imploring Republicans to “reach out to more people.” But are all members of Rand’s party willing to go along with his idealism and message? The Morning Joe…

Rand Paul

Rand Paul tells tea party to be happy

Updated