Rubio, Paul chart divergent paths for GOP


Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have much in common - both are young, telegenic senators from southern states, relatively new to the U.S. Congress. Both are commonly hailed as the future of the Republican Party, a pair of potential 2016 presidential contenders that can carry the Republican message to a new generation of American conservatives.

But despite their similarities, they each took to the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday to deliver messages that at times conflicted with one another. Rubio urged attendees to remember that we cannot retreat from the world, and that the traditional values deserve defenders. Paul, for his part, demanded an end to foreign aid for adversarial nations and urged his colleagues to respect social liberty as fervently as they do economic liberty.

These two men may well be the future of the Republican Party - but if today's speeches were any indication, it's not at all clear what that future will look like.

Rubio talked about American exceptionalism and the dangers of government excess but notably did not discuss immigration reform - a signature issue of Rubio's to which the GOP is devoting a lot of attention as they attempt to peel away Hispanic voters, a demographic that overwhelmingly supported President Obama in November.

For his part, Paul clearly demarcated the new GOP from the old guard, bashing past Republican candidates for the state of the party.

"The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered," he said. "I don't think we need to name any names, do we?"

The Kentucky Republican took the stage to cheers from the audience as he referenced his recent 13-hour filibuster in the Senate, undertaken to object to the Obama administration's policy on targeted drone strikes.

"I was told I'd have ten measly minutes," he said, "but just in case, I brought 13 hours worth of information."

Paul said he came with "a message for the president."

"Don't drone me, bro!" shouted an audience member.

Paul replied that while that wasn't exactly what he had in mind, the audience member "may have distilled my 13 hour speech into three words."

The real message, Paul said, was that "No one person gets to decide the one person gets to decide your guilt or innocence."

"President Obama, who seemed, once upon a time, to respect civil liberties, has become the president who signed a law allowing for indefinite detention of an American citizen," Paul lamented.

Paul said Mr. Obama reassured lawmakers that he had "no intention" to detain an American citizen without a trial and "no intention" to drone an American citizen on U.S. soil.

All well and good, Paul said, but "good intentions are not enough."

"We want to know, will you or won't you defend the constitution," he explained.

And he fired a shot at those in his party and across the aisle who have scorned his crusade for individual liberty: "To those who would dismiss this debate as frivolous, I say, 'Tell that to the heroic men and women who sacrifice their limbs and lives.'"

Paul urged the audience to remember Ronald Reagan's edict: "As government expands, liberty contracts."