Senator Rand Paul described a country in need of rescuing in his State of the Union response Tuesday night – coming just short of volunteering himself as the hero America needs.
Shortly after President Obama delivered his upbeat speech, the Kentucky Republican and likely 2016 candidate released a YouTube video painting a notably gloomier picture. “America is adrift, something is clearly wrong. America needs many things, but what America desperately needs is new leadership,” he said. (By stark contract, President Obama heralded a flourishing economy in his sixth State of the Union address, calling 2014 a “breakthrough year for America.”)
Paul’s wasn’t the official Republican response – that honor went to Iowa’s junior Sen. Joni Ernst. Instead, he shed light on what a state of Rand Paul’s union would look like.
In the nearly 13-minute address, Paul strikes a decidedly pessimistic tone – there’s no mention of economic growth or other successes, but rather a lengthy rant about how ineffective President Obama and Congress have been at expanding freedom and advancing the so-called American dream.
“It is self-evident that the president and Congress are unable to do what every family in America must do: balance the budget,” he argues, later adding that “this president tonight, and for the past six years, has had the wrong diagnosis for what ails our country.”
Paul sets himself up as the antidote to Obama, arguing that a handful of his ideas and bills he plans to propose could help lift the country from the disaster he describes. While he suggests a few specifics – namely slash everyone’s taxes and audit the Pentagon – the majority of his ideas are vague at best and incoherent at worst.
On Obamacare, Paul prescribes freedom: “I was asked recently how we would fix our health care system. I replied, “Let’s try freedom again. It worked for over 200 years!”
On race relations, Paul says awareness would solve it all: “I think peace will come when those of us who have enjoyed the American Dream become aware of those who are missing out on the American Dream.”
On balancing the budget, people just need to try a little harder: “So much of Washington’s inability to cut waste in government comes from them not doing their job.”
Paul focuses largely on the issues expected to make up his campaign—debt, spending, foreign interventions, and government regulation—but he spends much of his time pointing fingers.
“Unfortunately, both parties too often seek military intervention without thinking through the possible unintended consequences. Many Republicans only complain that we didn’t send U.S. ground troops or we didn’t stay long enough,” he argues, jumping back and forth between arguing against foreign interventions and in favor of a strong military.
“President Obama offers more of the same policies – policies that have allowed the poor to get poorer, and the rich to get richer. Pitting one American against another is not a pathway towards prosperity,” he alleges. (Though many have made the argument that the president’s policies have done the opposite.)
Paul’s criticism started during the president’s address, where he trolled Obama and Democrats on Twitter.
Paul is just one of many conservatives who are already publicly weighing a 2016 bid (though Paul might be the only one to be tweeting photos of potential campaign gear). He’s expected to be up against a crowded field, with political heavyweights like former Florida Jeb Bush and the 2012 nominee, former Gov. Mitt Romney.