NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Sen. Rand Paul didn’t name names, but there was little doubt about whom he was referring.
“The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered,” the Kentucky Republican told attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He added, after applause from the crowd: “I don’t think we need to name any names, do we?”
It was a clear swipe at Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who after Paul’s 13-hour filibuster of John Brennan’s confirmation as CIA director described Paul and his allies as “wacko birds”.
But Paul was among friends at CPAC, the largest annual gathering of conservative activists, held just outside Washington, D.C. In a show of solidarity after his marathon filibuster, many attendees stood for the duration of Paul’s remarks.
Paul defended the core message of his filibuster, when the Obama administration refused to answer directly whether it had the power to use drones against Americans on U.S. soil.
“We prize our Bill of Rights like no other country. Our Bill of Rights is what defines us; it’s what makes us exceptional,” Paul said. “To those who would dismiss this debate as frivolous, I say tell that to the heroic men and women who sacrificed their limbs and lives. Tell that to the 6,000 parents of kids who died as American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tell them the Bill of Rights is no big deal.”
He added later, “The filibuster was about drones but also about much more. Do we have a Bill of Rights? Do we have a Constitution? And will we defend it?”
Paul said the Republican Party is “encumbered by an inconsistent approach to freedom.”
“The new GOP will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and the personal sphere,” he said. “If we’re going to have a Republican Party that can win, liberty needs to be the backbone of the GOP. We must have a message that is broad, our vision must be broad, and that vision must be based in freedom.”
Paul, who received a rock star greeting and took the stage to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” closed his remarks with a nod to the “#StandWithRand” Twitter trend that exploded during his filibuster.
“I will stand for our prosperity and our freedom, and I ask everyone who values liberty to stand with me,” he said.