NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (USA TODAY) - He quoted Pink Floyd star Roger Waters, but the rock star at CPAC is Rand Paul.
The Kentucky Senator packed the house at the Conservative Political Action Conference as he ripped into President Obama over cell phone surveillance, drones and detention of suspected terrorists - often interrupted by ovations.
"The NSA monitors your every phone call. If you have a cell phone, you are under surveillance. I believe what you do on your cell phone is none of their damn business," Paul said. Citing the constitutional prohibition on unreasonable searches, he told the CPAC crowd, "The Fourth Amendment is equally as important as the SecondAmendment and conservatives cannot forget this."
Paul compared his opposition to surveillance and the domestic use of drones to the civil rights battles of black Americans, and made an explicit appeal to them. "Anyone with memory of the times in our history when we didn't actively defend everyone's rights, when we didn't defend everyone's right to a fair trial, should stand and be heard," he said. "Justice cannot occur without a trial. This fact must be abundantly clear to anyone who has ever been persecuted."
Like his father, retired Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., Rand Paul is incredibly popular among CPAC attendees, many of whom are college students. Also like his father, a three-time presidential contender, Rand Paul has higher ambitions: he has said he will decide about a 2016 presidential run after the 2014 midterms.
He made his pitch succinctly: "Imagine a time when liberty is again spread from coast to coast. Imagine a time when our great country is again governed by the Constitution. Imagine a time when the White House is again occupied by a friend of liberty," Paul said. "You may think I'm talking about electing Republicans. I'm not. I'm talking about electing lovers of liberty."
Paul won the conference annual presidential straw poll last year and his red "Stand With Rand" placards and stickers were highly visible in the crowds throughout the conference. Earlier Friday afternoon he signed copies of his book and drew a long line of fans. The audience for his speech was standing-room only, by far the largest for any CPAC speaker so far this week.
By Matthew Moore, USA TODAY
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