By Liz Thatcher
WASHINGTON — With a growing split in the GOP between the establishment wing and more conservative lawmakers, the party got a glimpse of who their leaders of tomorrow want to hear from, on Wednesday night.
Tea-party favorites Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah were the featured speakers at the Young Americans for Liberty 5th annual National Convention in Washington.
The senators were asked about Sen. John McCain’s recent quip in a magazine interview that “It’s gonna be a tough choice [laughs]” if he has to decide between Paul or Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.”
Paul was diplomatic, saying sometimes people enjoy making dramatic overtures about people with whom they don’t agree and with whom they have had public disputes.
Lee was more blunt, emphatically stating he would not have McCain’s problem.
“If I had to choose between Senator Paul or Secretary Clinton, I wouldn’t be voting for Clinton,” he exclaimed.
The split in the Republican party has erupted recently in the form of a war of words between Paul and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, both of whom are considered possible presidential candidates in 2016.
Christie had belittled a “strain of libertarianism” in the GOP and chided Paul for voting to defund the scandal-ridden National Security Agency. Paul suggested Christie was exploiting Sept. 11 victims. Christie criticized the amount of Kentucky’s federal assistance and Paul called Christie the “king of bacon.”
Paul did not mention Christie at Wednesday’s convention, having said earlier on Fox News that he would like to end the feud, saying, “I think with Gov. Christie, it’s gotten a little too personal, so let’s kiss and make-up.”
Paul offered Christie an olive branch, adding, “We’re going to have to patch things up. If we can sit down — I’m inviting him for a beer anytime he would like to come down and sit down at the pub right around the corner from the Senate.”
The senators then turned their attentions away from fraternal squabbles and focused on their primary mission, defeating the Democrats’ agenda.
Paul, Lee and Cruz have been pushing to defund Obamacare at the risk of being blamed by Democrats for a government shutdown.
Lee said that just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be attempted, and then offered a blunt assessment of why he believes it is the right thing to do.
“Obamacare isn’t American,” he declared.
During the roundtable discussion, Paul spoke candidly about his foreign policy, stating “I’m not an isolationist.”
Paul said he did not understand why it was so hard for politicians to understand that we should not borrow money from one country to give to another country.
“Politicians are out of touch about this. The American people are with us,” he said, referring specifically about the failed vote to suspend foreign aid to Egypt.
Cruz put it even more starkly, saying, “Don’t give weapons to people who hate us. Don’t give weapons to people who want to kill us.”
When asked about the national debt, Lee called it a “nasty form of taxation without representation.”
Cruz called deficit spending “fundamentally immoral” and pointed out that in his five-year-old daughter’s short lifetime, the deficit had increased by sixty percent, from $10 billion to $16 billion.
He then mentioned this is not a single party issue, perhaps taking a jab at the GOP establishment wing by noting, “You don’t get to a $17 trillion deficit without a whole lot of bipartisan cooperation.”
Paul explained what he calls the “penny plan,” a flat 1% cut on all spending which could lead to a balanced budget in as little as four years.
In their final remarks, the three senators encouraged young liberty-minded people to keep on fighting, because, Lee summed up, “we’re right.”
Cruz said the participation of young people and grassroots activism are essential to winning policy battles in Washington.
He then emphasized the importance of defunding ObamaCare because it’s the “biggest job killer in this country.”
“The only way we win this fight is if the American people stand up in overwhelming numbers and demand their representatives stand for principle,” he said.
Paul drew laughs with his closing comments, saying, “Damn that NSA,” then not elaborating.
The crowd picked up his train of thought for him, beginning a chant of “End the NSA.”