Pubdate: Sat, 22 Feb 2014
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Copyright: 2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Author: Kevin McDermott


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a potential presidential 
contender in 2016, told a gathering of Missouri Republicans on 
Saturday that America's drug laws have gone "overboard" in severity 
and unfair application, and that it's time to scale back penalties.

"The war on drugs has had a disproportionate effect on people of 
color," Paul said. "I'm not for legalizing any of this stuff, (but) 
let's try to make sure it's fair. We've gone overboard on some of this stuff."

That view, which Paul has voiced before, came during a section of his 
speech in which he implored the party to become more inclusive of 
minorities and urban dwellers.

"We need a bigger party ... We need a party that looks like America," 
Paul, R-Ky., told about 450 participants in the annual Lincoln Days 
convention of Missouri Republicans. "It's easy to say you're going to 
be that - it's harder to actually be that."

Paul prefaced his remarks on drugs with the warning to his audience 
that "we may or may not agree on this."

But for most of the short speech, he regaled the conservative 
audience with well-received anecdotes about government waste and 
inefficiency at the hands of the Democratic presidential administration.

"I've got good news and bad news," Paul said in his opening. "The 
good news is your government's open. The bad news is your 
government's open." Conventioneers responded with a burst of laughter 
and applause.

Paul cited what he said is $1 million a minute in federal borrowing, 
with money wasted on unnecessary regulations, fraud and things like 
"a menu for Mars."

"Your government is out of control, literally out of control," he 
said. "We've got to get it back."

Paul didn't directly address his potential plans for a presidential run.

His Missouri appearance comes on the heels of what some are calling 
his "Sister Souljah Moment" - his repudiation last week of a racist 
comment by former rock star and conservative activist Ted Nugent.

In an interview, Nugent called President Barack Obama a "subhuman 
mongrel." As outraged Democrats and others were quick to point out, 
that's the same term used by the Nazis to describe Jews and other 
minorities during the Holocaust.

While some mainstream conservatives were shrugging off Nugent's 
comment, Paul on Thursday sent out a forcefully critical tweet: "Ted 
Nugent's derogatory description of President Obama is offensive and 
has no place in politics. He should apologize."

Political analysts seized on that as another sign that Paul is trying 
to broaden his conservative base and reach out to moderates in 
preparation for a presidential run.

"By decrying Nugent, Paul proves once again that he gets it," wrote 
the Washington Post's political column The Fix.

The convention unfolded this weekend in the shadow of tragedy in the 
surrounding Springfield community.

A local fourth-grader, Hailey Owens, 10, was abducted Tuesday. A 
longtime employee of Springfield's public school system, Craig 
Michael Wood, 45, was quickly arrested and charged with first-degree 
murder, kidnapping and armed criminal action in her shooting death.

On Saturday evening, as the conventioneers awaited Paul's speech, 
thousands of Springfield residents gathered nearby in a vigil for the 
girl. The GOP gathering observed a moment of silence for her prior to 
the presentation.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom