Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Conservative Political Action Conference
Gaylord National
National Harbor, MD
March 7, 2014

[transcript / video]

Thank you.  What a great crowd.  Great to be here.

Imagine, imagine with me for a moment, imagine a time when liberty is again spread from coast to coast. Imagine a time when our great country is again governed by the Constitution. Imagine, imagine a time when the White House is once again occupied by a friend of liberty. Now you may think I’m talking about electing Republicans. I’m not. I’m talking about electing lovers of liberty.

It isn’t good enough to pick the lesser of two evils. We must elect, we must elect men and women of principle, and conviction and action, who will lead us back to greatness. There is a great, a great and tumultuous battle underway for the future, not of the Republican Party but the future, the future of the entire country.

The question is, the question is will we be bold and proclaim our message with passion or will we be sunshine patriots retreating under adverse fire? Will we be firm in our convictions, or will we cower, defeated, and meekly dilute our message? Will we water down the Bill of Rights, or will we be all on fire, like the unstoppable William Lloyd Garrison?

For 30 years, Garrison stood, as politicians whimpered and compromised and left their fellow-man in bondage. Garrison would not, he could not sit quietly by. He rose above those politicians that would leave the country half-free, half-slave. His voice was unwavering: “I will be as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice. I will be in earnest. I will not equivocate and I will not excuse. I will not retreat an inch, and I will be heard.”

Will you, will you America’s next generation of liberty lovers, will you stand and be heard?

The sons of liberty, who fought against British soldiers writing their own warrants, would today make a bonfire of secret orders issued by federal police. The sons of liberty risked everything to guarantee your right to a trial by jury. They would today call out to the president, they would say, "we will not be detained, spied upon nor have our rights abridged. We will not submit and we will not trade our liberty for security, not now, not ever."

Yet, as our voices rise in protest, the NSA monitors your every phone call. If you have a cell phone, you are under surveillance. I believe what you do on your cell phone is none of their damn business.

I believe this is a profound constitutional question: can a single warrant be applied to millions of Americans' phone records, emails, credit cards. The government says, and I’m telling you truth, this is what your government maintains, they say you don’t own your records, that your Visa statement does not belong to you. I disagree.

The Fourth Amendment is very clear. Warrants should be issued by a judge. Warrants must be specific to the individual. A single warrant for millions of American phone records hardly sounds specific to the individual. Warrants are supposed to be based on evidence of probable cause that an individual has committed a crime. Generalized warrants that don’t name an individual and seek the records of millions of individuals goes against the very fabric of the Fourth Amendment.

John Adams wrote that James Otis’ protest against generalized warrants was the spark that began the American Revolution.

There’s a great battle going on. Don’t forget it. There is a great battle going on; it's for the heart and soul of America. The Fourth Amendment is equally as important as the Second Amendment, and conservatives cannot forget this.

Will we sit idly by and let our rights be trampled upon? Will we be like lemmings rushing to the comfort of Big Brother’s crushing embrace, or will we stand like men and women of character and say, we are free and no man, no matter how well-intentioned, will take our freedom from us?

Daniel Webster anticipated our modern-day saviors, who wished to save us from having too much freedom. He wrote “good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority.” It’s hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions.

How will history remember Barack Obama? [audience laughs]

To those who had hoped that President Obama would somehow be a champion of civil liberties, Roger Waters might ask, “Did they get you to trade your heroes for goats? Did they get you to exchange, did they get you to exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?"

I don’t question President Obama’s motives, but history will record his timid defense of liberty. When Congress passed legislation allowing for the indefinite detention of an American citizen without a trial, he shamefully signed it while promising not to use such a power. A great president, though, would have risen to the occasion. Instead of merely suggesting that he wouldn’t use this dreaded power, a great president would have taken pen in hand and vetoed this abomination. A great president would have loudly proclaimed, "Congress cannot, and must not, overturn the right to a trial by jury." A great president would have protected us from the prying eyes of the NSA. A great president would have proclaimed, "I will not abide it. The Constitution will not abide it."

Our forefathers fought for the right to trial by jury so that not one innocent man would be wrongly imprisoned. Remember Richard Jewell? Everybody thought he was the Olympic bomber. He was convicted on television with no jury, no trial. Only problem was, he didn’t do it. Had been a black man in the South in 1920, he might not have lived to prove his innocence. Anyone with a memory of the times in our history when we didn’t adequately defend everyone’s rights, when we didn't adequately defend everyone's right to a fair and impartial trial, should stand now and be heard. We must defend our rights.

Justice cannot occur without a trial. This fact should be abundantly clear to any group that has ever been persecuted. You can be a minority by the color of your skin or the shade of your ideology. Anyone who has ever paddled upstream, anyone who has ever been a minority of thought or religion, anyone who has ever taught their children at home or sought to pray to God without permission, should be alarmed that any government might presume to imprison without a trial.

Whether you are black or brown or white, man or woman, you should fear a government that maintains the authority to imprison without trial, without a jury.

Madison wrote that we would not need a Constitution to protect us if government were comprised of angels. Guess what? Madison readily admitted we weren’t likely to ever be guided and governed by angels.

It isn’t so much what President Obama has done, although he’s done a lot, none – very little – good, but it’s not what he’s done with his usurpations of power as much as it is the precedent that it sets for lawlessness that may follow. If the Executive Branch can initiate war, if the Executive Branch can detain citizens without trial, if it can amend legislation, if it can declare to Congress that Congress is in recess, then government, unrestrained by law, becomes nothing short of tyranny.

Montesquieu recognized this. He wrote that when the Executive Branch usurps the legislative authority, when the president says, "I can write the laws, watch me" – he’s got a pen, he’s got a phone, he doesn’t care what the law is, a tyranny will ensue, and we must stop this president from shredding the Constitution.

It isn’t just the harm that this president is causing, it’s the future harm that he allows by destroying the checks and balances that once restrained each of the branches of government. Progressives, by their own assertions, don’t want to be bound by any original intent of the Constitution or its authors. They believe the Constitution is whatever the majority says it is. Progressives believe that a majority may separate you from your rights.

Jim Crow, the Japanese internment, today’s indefinite detention without trial only occur when we allow our God-given rights to be abridged by a majority vote. Our rights are inherent. They're inseparable from our person. Our rights are innate; they come from our Creator and no government can take them away from us.

The Constitution merely codifies what exists before all time. Mr. President, we won't let you, we will not let you run roughshod over our rights. We will challenge you in the courts. We will battle you at the ballot box. Mr. President, we will not let you shred our Constitution.

Our future hangs in the balance. We can debate a jobless recovery, an alarming debt, a bothersome and abusive regulatory state, but know this: you can’t have prosperity without freedom. It isn’t a message of the haves versus the have-nots, the rich versus the poor; it’s a message for anyone who wishes to own their own destiny.

America’s greatness will not flicker if we believe in ourselves, believe in our founding documents, believe that all men are created equal and that everyone can succeed. That brings freedom and brings it, not only with it great prosperity but extraordinary generosity.

Anybody think it’s great to be poor in Cuba? America is the most generous nation on earth. We can’t forget about it, but it came with our freedom, they go together. It is going to take all of us together. It’s going to take a national revival of liberty.

America’s greatness, America’s exceptional character – it’s not in our DNA, but it’s in a republic, it’s in our founding documents; it’s in a republic that for the first time in history rewards all individuals, regardless of birth, gender, ethnicity. It’s a republic that restrains the government, not the individual.

Your task is not to minimize the loss of freedom, not to clutch at what we’ve got left; your job is to maximize your liberty. So let’s do it together. Let’s take a stand.

When the president refused to rule out droning of American citizens, I took a stand. I filibustered.

Some things are worth fighting for.

When I discovered that the NSA spied on, and was collecting every American citizen’s records, I took a stand. I sued the president.

It is decidedly not a time for the faint of heart. It's a time for boldness and action. The time is now. Stand with me. Let us stand for liberty. Thank you and God bless America.


ed. note:
One alert CPAC attendee noted that Paul's mention of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison was interesting since Garrison was a strong critic of the Constitution (+).