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On eve of Nevada visit, Sen. Rand Paul likens president to petulant teenager

President Barack Obama is abusing his executive powers on everything from immigration to health care like “a frustrated teenager” breaking rules when he doesn’t get his way, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday.

Paul, R-Ky, is a likely 2016 presidential candidate and will visit Las Vegas and Reno this week.

On a day the House voted to undo major provisions of Obama’s immigration policy, Paul said only Congress has the power to make laws. Paul said he and other proponents of immigration reform should be the ones to approve any legal changes in who among the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. is deported or allowed to stay.

Paul favors allowing so-called DREAMERs, whose parents brought them to the U.S. as children, to stay in the country, and to provide more work visas so immigrants can legally hold jobs. But, he said, any reform effort must include securing the borders to prevent further illegal transit.

“There has to be rules,” Paul said in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal from New Hampshire, where he was touring ahead of his Nevada political sojourn. “But (Obama) is almost like a frustrated teenager who says, ‘They won’t give me my way and so I’ll just do it anyway.’ … I’m not for the president doing whatever he wants.”

The House action on immigration involved amending Homeland Security’s funding bill. In its current form it is likely to die in the Senate. If not, Obama has promised a veto.

One provision would end Obama’s 2012 order that DREAMERs be allowed to stay here. Another provision would undo Obama’s November executive action blocking deportation of some 4 million immigrants here illegally, mostly those with children who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Paul wouldn’t say how he would have voted on the matter, explaining he didn’t “want to send the wrong signal” that he opposed immigration reform, although he opposes the president acting on his own. Obama has said he took the executive action because the then-GOP-led House failed to pass immigration reform.

“I’m a product of immigrants,” Paul said. “I think we should be proud of our immigrant culture.”

As for Obama, Paul said the president has gone too far with executive action changing enforcement of the Affordable Car Act and in waging war against Islamic militants without congressional authorization required by the War Powers Act.

“I think he’s usurping the power of the legislative branch, and it’s a real problem,” Paul said.

Despite that view, Paul said he strongly backs the effort to battle Islamic extremism worldwide, especially in light of the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine whose cartoons mocked the Prophet Muhammad.

Paul said Obama should have traveled to Paris to show solidarity with world leaders who joined a march in Paris that drew 1.6 million people after the attacks. British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made the trip.

“Absolutely, I would have been there,” Paul said when asked what he would have done as president. He added that he was surprised by Obama’s inaction, saying the president appears “consumed” by the war against terror “but doesn’t understand the symbolism of solidarity.”

Asked if he believes the U.S. is engaged in a “war against terrorism,” Paul called for more specific language, noting that both the West and the Muslim religion itself are battling Islamic radicals.

“I think there needs to be a defense against radicalism,” Paul said. “We have a group of people who are in a war against us and a war against civilized Islam.”

Paul has been highly critical of the Obama administration’s use of the National Security Agency, which collects telephone data of Americans as it listens in on communications in an attempt to prevent terrorism. But the Kentucky senator said he sees no contradiction between his view that the NSA has gone too far and belief that the U.S. must be vigilant in spying on foreign elements.

“I’m in favor of the NSA collecting information to protect against terror attacks,” Paul said. “But I’m not for the NSA collecting data without awareness. I think you can be for the military and the CIA and the FBI” and against excessive intrusion into Americans’ lives.

“You can go too far,” he said.

Paul said he believes in the constitutional rights to free speech and protection from searches without proper warrants, for example.

“We don’t have to give up more rights because of this terrible tragedy in Paris,” Paul said. “We have to be careful to protect against terror attacks without giving up our freedoms. There isn’t really an ‘all or nothing’ thing.”

For now, Paul is raising money for his re-election to the U.S. Senate. He’s said he would likely formally announce whether he’s running for president sometime this spring.

On Friday Paul has a late-morning public appearance at the Peppermill Restaurant on the Strip, and an evening private fundraiser for the Nevada Republican Party.

On Saturday, he plans private fundraisers in Reno for his “victory committee,” including a mid-day chat with Nevada voters at the Atlantis Casino Resort. His backers say that event was moved from a small diner to the large hotel-casino because of overwhelming interest.

Paul is widely known in Nevada, and has visited here several times in recent years. His father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is popular here, too. He ran for president twice, finishing in second place and third place in the GOP presidential caucuses in 2008 and 2012. As a result, the younger Paul enjoys a certain level of support ahead of a formal White House bid, and he seems to enjoy broader backing than his father did.

Mitt Romney won the Nevada’s past two Republican presidential caucuses, thanks in large part to robust support from other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who represent a sizable minority in the state. Romney has told GOP insiders and supporters that he’s seriously considering a third White House run.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, too, is seriously contemplating a presidential run, joining a GOP field that may include a tea party favorite, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Romney and Walker likely would eat into Paul’s support, while Bush might appeal more to establishment moderates who may not consider Paul.

Asked about potential GOP opponents, Paul dismissed the field, saying his more libertarian, freedom-loving mindset more closely mirror Nevada’s spirit.

“Nevada is a sort of ‘leave me alone’ state,” said Paul, a strong states’ rights proponent. “Nevada Republicans, in general, probably have a predisposition toward the government kind of leaving them alone.”

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Follow @lmyerslvrj on Twitter.

 

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