Two Notes on Rand Paul

Observations, not an endorsement, from two recent encounters I’ve had with a presidential candidate:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) at 2015 Susan B. Anthony Summit
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) at 2015 Susan B. Anthony Summit

I had a chance to ask Senator (and presidential candidate) Rand Paul of Kentucky about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision regarding Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate (see WMUR-TV’s Conversation with the Candidate for transcript). Was it a net win or loss for liberty? Paul didn’t hesitate for a moment: “Net win.”

More recently, I attended the Susan B. Anthony List’s annual summit meeting in Washington, D.C., where Senator Paul spoke for about ten minutes on the right to life.┬áThe full speech is available on YouTube. What struck me were his remarks on the life/liberty nexus. “Some have said to me, ‘well, you’re big on all this liberty stuff; why do you want to restrict a woman’s right to choose?’ And I say, you know what? Government has some role in our lives. One of the main roles a government has is to restrict you from harming another individual, which gets us back to the original debate: when life begins, there is a role for the state. It’s not that I’m against people choosing things. I’m one of the biggest believers in choice and liberty. But you can’t have liberty if you don’t protect where your liberty originates from, and that’s your right to life.”


#FITN: how about asking about the mandate?

#FITN: that means First in the Nation, as in first-in-the-nation Presidential primary. We use the hashtag with pride here in New Hampshire. Potential candidates are already swarming, including some Democrats (rumors of Secretary Clinton’s inevitable nomination are a tad premature). I attend candidate events when I can.

At five events recently, during Q&A, I heard the same question asked in almost the same words. A different person asked the question each time; two of them actually read it off a card. Coincidence? Nah. The cards were a giveaway. The well-organized questioners all wanted to know what the candidates would do to stop “the corrupting influence of money in politics” that is wielded by corporations. What that means is “are you willing to overturn the First Amendment in order to get rid of the Citizens United decision?” But this isn’t the forum for that discussion. I’m simply noting the coordinated questioning.

One other thing is brought up at every candidate Q&A I’ve attended, although in a less-scripted manner, and that’s Common Core. The candidates know they have to have some kind of response ready.

So where’s the demand for an answer to any of these question?

  • What are you going to do about the Obamacare contraceptive mandate and its threat to religious liberty?
  • What’s your take on the Hobby Lobby decision?
  • What do you think of last week’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of Notre Dame University, which is seeking exemption from the mandate? As a Catholic institution, the University wants no role in providing benefits like contraception and abortion-inducing drugs through health insurance policies for students and employees.
  • Do you even know what the mandate is? Do you understand it’s not just a Catholic thing? The owners of Hobby Lobby identify as Pentecostals, for example, and the owners of Conestoga Wood Products (whose case was decided with Hobby Lobby) are Mennonites.
  • Must a business owner give up religious liberty rights under the First Amendment in order to offer Obamacare-compliant health insurance?
  • For any candidate who’s a fan of the Obamacare contraceptive mandate, here’s another one: where in the Constitution is there a right for a woman to have birth control paid for by someone else? How does that supercede the First Amendment?

I’m also listening for any candidate who says that by choosing not to be involved in employees’ birth control decisions, an employer is “making health care decisions for employees.” That’ll help me narrow down my list of candidates to consider.

So where are the half-dozen or so voters – that’s all it would take – willing to follow the candidates around New Hampshire and ask about the mandate? Catholics who take Church teaching seriously have the most at stake, given their numbers and the number of health care ministries they administer. Or are we (yes, I’m Catholic) going to stay under the radar and just hope that we’ll get a President who’ll fix the mess?

As the saying goes, hope is not a method.

Will first-in-the-nation voters ask the right questions about the mandate, or will they let candidates get away with avoiding the issue?