HARRODSBURG — Rand Paul didn’t make the meal — Dunn’s BBQ did — but the upstart U.S. senator certainly had folks eating out of his hands Thursday at a Mercer County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Unlike when he visited Danville last year, where he was met by protestors, Paul received a standing ovation when he was introduced and another one when he finished his 15-minute presentation where he bashed Big Government, President Obama and Democrats in general.
“I enjoyed listening to him,” said Sage Cutler, who voted for Paul but had never seen him in person. “I didn’t feel like he was here trying to collect votes. He explains things and cuts through all the bureaucratic stuff.”
Paul surely expected to find a friendly crowd at the Mercer County Extension Office. Mercer voters gave the Bowling Green eye surgeon a victory over Attorney General Jack Conway by a whopping 18 percentage points in the 2010 general election.
Paul quickly lashed out at governmental intrusions into personal decision-making, railing against environmentally-friendly lightbulbs, water-saving commodes and mandated improved gas mileage for vehicles.
“Government seems to think we’re too stupid to take care of ourselves,” he said.
Paul showed off a giant check for $500,000 that he has returned to the U.S. Treasury, extra money from his $3-million office budget he said he didn’t need. If others in Congress followed suit, it would substantially trim the country’s $3.8-trillion budget.
Paul’s proposal to fund infrastructure improvements like new bridges needed in Louisville and Cincinnati by cutting bike paths and walking trails “didn’t get a single Democratic vote,” he said.
Paul said his efforts to “fix” entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicaid by raising the minimum age of eligibilty have gotten no traction.
“We can fix it. It shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” he said.
President Obama has been no better. Paul said he spent time with Obama one-on-one on trying to convince him that raising the ages for Social Security and Medicare eligibility was crucial to the country’s long-term financial viability but made no progress.
Paul said. “I rode on Air Force One with the president to see if I could influence him. It didn’t work, but I’ll keep trying,” Paul said. “He’s a very reasonable person and listens, but he doesn’t want to fix anything.”
Responding to a question from the audience, Paul said Obama’s decision on Wednesday to temporarily reject a massive oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico was “a huge disaster.”
Construction of the 1,700-mile Keystone pipeline would create an estimated 20,000 jobs, and the project has the backing of organized labor, Paul noted. He said Obama caved in to pressure from environmental extremists.
“The pipeline should be a no-brainer,” he said.
Paul said when he returns to Washington next week he plans to challenge Obama’s recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the newly created Consumer Protection Agency while Congress was out of town.
Paul said he does not object to Cordray so much as to how the agency was set up, with oversight by the Federal Reserve instead of Congress.
He said Republicans won’t forget the way Obama made the appointment and promised that turn about would be fair play.
Sue Prete of Danville said she had attended several of Paul’s appearances while he was running for the Senate seat in 2010. After listening to him Thursday, she said a year in Washington hasn’t corrupted him, only made him stronger.
“I think whatever he says is good for the country,” Prete said. “He seems very sharp. I wish he was running for president.”