Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul

Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul says Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is "drunk with power" and that the shutdown needs to end as soon as possible.

"He now thinks that he can dictate to every business in Kentucky what they must do to stay open," Paul said in a satellite interview with WDRB's Lawrence Smith Thursday morning.

"This is a huge mistake for any society or any state to give so much power to one person. For goodness sakes, the state legislature has had no say in any of this. And what about the mayors and the judge executives and the property owners and the churchgoers and the church owners? Do we not have any say anymore in what we do? Do we have to take a dictate from the governor?"

Gov. Beshear has argued that his social distancing measures have had a positive impact on the state, citing lower infection and fatality rates compared with some neighboring states.

During Thursday morning's interview, Paul also discussed his decision to not wear a mask, arguing that he now has immunity to the disease after testing positive for it in March.

Paul says he's been tested and has antibodies.

Below is a transcript of Smith's interview with Paul.


SMITH:  We'll proceed. Hope you're doing well.

PAUL:  I am. Doing very well.

SMITH:  Let's talk about the mask issue first, which is causing quite a stir, as you know, in DC. You're not wearing one because you've already had COVID-19 and say you're immune. How are you certain that you are immune, now, to the disease?

PAUL:  Well there have been some interesting studies out. In one study, they took 175 patients -- they took the plasma from them -- and then they saw whether or not it neutralized the virus. And apparently there are neutralizing antibodies. This was a pretty large study of 175 patients.

They also have looked at rhesus macaque monkeys. They give them the virus, and then they try to reinfect them, and they've shown that they can't.

It's also sort of a history of modern science. For the most part, there is some degree of immunity to almost any infection you get. There are rare exceptions, but actually the rule is typically you get some immunity. The common cold, which is a coronavirus -- some of the common colds are coronaviruses -- it's not a real long immunity. It's somewhere between three months to a year for the common cold. So you typically don't even get the same cold in a season.

With regard to SARS -- SARS was the one that was a coronavirus related to the current one, that was pretty bad back around 2003. They've studied a lot of those patients. They do get an immune response. And what they find is that for several years, that immune response seems to be significant enough to give immunity. So the thing is is that all the evidence points towards it. It would have to be something extraordinary -- someone who didn't mount an immune response, or someone who had a disease where they weren't able to make antibodies that wouldn't be immune.

But by and large, it's a disservice for some in the media to be promoting this idea that you don't gain immunity. Yes, you do gain immunity. They are going to continue to test it. And scientists are often hesitant because they say, 'Oh, we want to know 100 percent certain -- we haven't done a test.' Well, yes, but we have done tests on other coronaviruses and we have done tests even on this virus that all indicate that you do have immunity.

And I think that's good because we want to tell the public that there is at least something encouraging out there -- that once you get the virus, you're not going to get it again.

SMITH:  Now have you been tested -- your blood -- so that you have the antibodies? Do you know this?

PAUL:  Yeah, I've been tested for antibodies -- three different antibodies on three different sites on the coronavirus cell. And I have antibodies on all of those and, so, yeah.

The thing is is what happens is that people are, like, 'Well, you have those but we hate too...' Nobody wants to take the responsibility for saying, 'Oh, you're 100 percent immune in case you take something again.' But the general rule of modern science is, when you get an infection, you develop some immunity. 

Even Dr. Fauci, who is somewhat cautious on this, he ended up saying, 'Well, I'd be willing to bet anything that you get immunity from having caught this before.' So what we need to not do is promote people who are, I guess, so obsessed with this thing that they don't want to allow that anything good can happen. There is one good thing from having had this is that you are immune -- and we shouldn't go around promoting something that is unlikely to be immune. It's actually very, very, very likely and all of the tests and all of the studies so far show and point towards that you do get immunity. We can't say it's forever, but you do get immunity.

SMITH:  Is there a concern that you could still be a carrier and pass it to someone else?

PAUL:  No. I've been tested for it, and I don't have live virus. I have the antibody response that everybody has after they've had an infection, but I don't have any live virus. I've been tested for that.

SMITH:  The broader question: Should the Senate even be meeting right now, during the pandemic?

PAUL:  You know, I've been a promoter of actually -- I'm safe, so it doesn't bother me individually -- but I do worry about some of our older members, and I've been a promoter of letting them vote remotely if there is an emergency. Now, I don't think it should be very often, and I would have a vote in Congress and say that three-fourths of Congress has to vote that there is an emergency and we're going to vote from home.

I would have been for that, particularly a month or two ago. Now, I think the pandemic is largely passing. Even though there are still numbers being recorded of people who have it, the numbers in the hospital are probably the most important. Mortality is declining, and so are the hospital numbers. 

There still are hotbeds of this, primarily New York and New England. And, in the rest of the country, it's very, very uncommon, other than in nursing homes now. So really we need to direct our resources and our times toward protecting our elderly. We need to realize that in New York, no one under 18 died. This is not a disease that kills our young people, and we can be very thankful for that. Between 18 and 45, only 10 people die per 100,000. So even for those up to 45, this is not a deadly disease. This is a very, very uncommonly deadly disease.

As you get older, it is more deadly. And we should try to protect those who are older. 

But we shouldn't use this one-size-fits-all draconian, 'We're never going to have commerce and school again.' Without question, we need to be back in school in the fall. And people who are talking about not going to school in the fall, we're going to have a generation of kids who lost an education. They need to go to school in the fall, and there is absolutely no reason why the kids should not be in school in the fall, in Kentucky.

SMITH:  You have used the word 'tyranny' to describe some of the actions taken by governors, including Andy Beshear. Pretty strong word. What did you mean by that?

PAUL:  You know, I think what's happened in the governor's case is, he's like a lot of people that once they grab power, and they see how much power they are, they become intoxicated with it. And I think he truly is intoxicated with his power.

He now thinks that he can dictate to every business in Kentucky what they must do to stay open. This is a huge mistake for any society or any state to give so much power to one person. For goodness sakes, the state legislature has had no say in any of this. And what about the mayors and the judge executives and the property owners and the churchgoers and the church owners? Do we not have any say anymore in what we do? Do we have to take a dictate from the governor?

But I think when he really crossed the line and when he was rebuked by a federal judge was when he said he was going to put people under home arrest who were at a church. He didn't even bother to go inside the church to see how many people were in there, or whether they were doing social distancing. He just decided with his iron fist that he was going to put these people under house arrest. This is something that is inconsistent with our Constitution, inconsistent with the American Way.

He's also been struck down -- he put down, he put out there a travel restriction saying we couldn't leave the state. And another federal judge struck him down. So we have a governor who is literally drunk with power, and he needs to be restrained, and at the very soonest moment, the state legislature needs to go in and change those emergency statutes so all the power doesn't go to one person.

So we have a relatively weak governor under normal circumstances, but right now we're living under the dictatorship of Beshear, and we've got to get out from under him. He's killing the economy. We have to get started again, and if we're doing it according to his rules, there are going to be people who aren't open for another month. And they'll have to be obeying rules that may or may not work. He doesn't get to decide, and should not get to decide the rules for all business in Kentucky.

SMITH:  But is he not following best practices based on science to protect people? That is what he is saying.

PAUL:  I think there's a lot that is unknown and debatable. Look at it this way. With masks: We were told for a month by the government, by the WHO, and by the CDC, that we were idiots if we wore masks. Now we are being told we are criminals if we don't wear masks. Which is it? So the government can't tell you for two months that you're an idiot to wear a mask and you shouldn't, and you're a terrible, unpatriotic person if you even go buy a mask, but now we're supposed to wear a mask.

The governor said on air about two weeks ago that he's going to mandate that we wear masks in public until a vaccine comes. Does he not realize that a vaccine might never come? Does that mean that he has the power to tell us to wear a mask forever?

You know, look, I'm not against wearing masks. If you are elderly and you're going out to the store, by all means, wear a mask. But I am not for dictating to every human to have to wear a mask forever. And I think that is an overreach, and I think has nothing to do with science. It has to do with his ego, and it has to do with his arrogance -- arrogance to officialdom that talks about, and indicates that once people get power, that they can't stand to relinquish it. They become intoxicated by their own power.

SMITH: You were not in Washington for the vote on the stimulus package. I think you were still in isolation. It passed 96 to nothing. How would you have voted on that and why?

PAUL:  I've never voted for any money that doesn't come from some sort of revenue stream. So I think it was a mistake to spend $2 trillion in one bill, and I would have voted no. There is no rainy day fund here. There is no savings. It's not like we went to a bank and we had all this saved up equity that we were able to put toward this. We borrowed it from China. So not only did we get the virus from China, now we're becoming more dependent from China by having to borrow more money. This is all borrowed or created by the Federal Reserve. Both have longstanding repercussions. 

And I've said it -- and I'll say it again:  There is no amount of money that can rescue us. We need to be free again. It's not a lack of money. It's a lack of commerce. So we have to free up commerce. That's the only way our economy gets started.

You know, they passed out $1,200 checks to many people who didn't lose their job. That's crazy! I was for expanding unemployment insurance to help people through unemployment, but I was not for passing out checks to people who didn't lose their job.

If you give people $1,200, or you give people $12,000, they're not going to spend it if you keep them locked up in their house. You've got to let them out. And the thing is, is we are a rural state and a little over 200 deaths from coronavirus -- it's very sad if that was someone in your family who died in Kentucky -- but compared to those who died from infectious disease every year, and from other diseases of old age, this is a very small number and should be put in perspective. Not that we're callous or don't care about those among us who did die, but we can't say that it justifies keeping the economy closed like this.

If anything, what we've learned from the experience in New York vs. Kentucky, is that one size doesn't fit all, and we need to get rid of this draconian power that we've allowed the governor to have, and we need to end the shutdown as soon as we possibly can.

SMITH:  That kind of addresses my next question, but I'll ask it. Without the stimulus package, is there a risk that the economy could fall into a recession or worse? I mean, we've learned today that there are 33 million people unemployed.

PAUL:  Yeah, I would have tried to help people through unemployment insurance. That way the money would have all gone to those unemployed. There are some who are unemployed who are still struggling. We have been helping them in our office to try to get access to unemployment. So I think that is a reasonable thing.

But I wouldn't have sent checks to people who are still working. And I think the key to getting business going again isn't just sending a check, because it's really essentially borrowing it from our future and borrowing it from foreign countries. The answer really is letting the economy open up again.

And I think what we have to do is, never again should we let a governor have so much power to dictate every economic activity. This is worse than what they had in the Soviet Union. At least in the Soviet Union, they had a Politburo. They had a group of people making decisions. We have one person making every decision for everyone in our state. That is a crazy concentration of power that we should not allow.

SMITH:  You talked about unemployment. What kind of measures would you support to fight the impact of the virus. I know you sponsored a bill to deal -- to help deal with the looming meat shortage. Talk about that. 

PAUL: Yeah, with unemployment, we were in favor of expanding it to individual proprietors who hadn't been included under this before. That was something I proposed and ended up getting passing.

On the meat chain and on meat processing, I've been a co-sponsor of a bill with Rep. Thomas Massie, which would allow local meat producers to begin processing meat and selling it to restaurants and selling it to grocery stores. Currently, almost all of the meat in your grocery store, if it's a cow in Kentucky, it leaves Kentucky and goes to Kansas or Missouri, is processed and then comes back.

But we do have processors here -- smaller processors -- and a lot of people are into this. Sort of this farm-to-table movement where you're able to get your meat more local. The problem is there's USDA red tape -- and it's not health regulations. It's ridiculous regulations. And I'll tell you what has to happen: 

If you're a local small producer, the only way you can sell and get the USDA to approve you to sell to restaurants and grocery stores, you have to have an office -- an air conditioned office -- for the inspector, who gets to stay in your building. And also, he or she also has to have his own personal bathroom.

I mean, if that's not the most ridiculous and absurd, sort of, regulation..and so as a consequence, the bigger ones only have this. And there's somewhat of a very small group that controls the price. I think our cattlemen and poultry and hogs -- all of our farmers would do better if we allowed more competition in the meat processing, and right now we do need it. 

The other thing we need to recognize from a national point of view is, the people getting sick at these meat processing are often young. And there was one in Missouri the other day where there were over 300 asymptomatic. We need to have clear guidelines to allow them to get back to work as soon as soon as possible. There needs to be a period of time when they go home, but there really needs to be a period of time when they come back very quickly. 

I also think that using ultraviolet light to sterilize the premises -- we used to use that in the operating room, and still do on occasion -- I think would be a good way. And there's a lot of new technology with ultraviolet lights that could be used in these meat processing factories at night. Even for traditional bacteria. It will kill traditional bacteria as well as virus. But it would be a good way of sort of doing a cleansing each night and then still keeping the plant open and running.

SMITH: A couple of questions and then I'll let you go. First: How would you grade the administration's handling of this pandemic.

PAUL: You know, I think they've done pretty well, actually. There were some things that were not always perfect, but we were faced with something where an entire economy got shut down in one fell swoop -- I think we went too far in that sense -- but we were also faced with having to develop testing in very short periods of time.

In the beginning, the FDA didn't do so well with the testing, but within a month or so, they were allowing competition in the testing and it did ramp up. Now, I think we're actually doing pretty well on the testing. We have great ingenuity here. 

The other thing is, is that, it's important to know that, in the end, all of the dire predictions of our hospitals being overflown and the ventilators -- running out of ventilators -- turned out now to be true. And I think that's because we put a great deal of reliance on models that really are theoretical, but in the end, weren't very good. You know, they were predicting millions and millions of people dying and hundreds of thousands of people on ventilators, and they just weren't right. They were incorrect. And so we need to be careful about attributing and creating public policy too much based on some of this conjecture through modeling.

SMITH: Back to your other point, the governors, like Beshear, would say, 'Well it just shows that what we're doing has worked.'

PAUL:  Actually when you look at the different policies, you know, he's been critical of Tennessee. Proportionally, Tennessee had less deaths than we did. Now, Tennessee had more people positive with it, but that may mean they did a better job than Kentucky on testing. So really nothing the governor said has actually been true. 

My guess is that the public policy -- all of the quarantine in Kentucky -- probably did very little. The reason we had a lot less disease is that we're a rural state and we're spread out. 

New York was flooded with this disease because, in February, 1.7 million international travelers returned to New York City. One-hundred and thirty-nine thousand came from Italy alone, in February. So they are inundated. They live on top of each other. They have the highest population density. Everybody rides the subway. So there are a lot of reasons why New York got this and Kentucky didn't get it.

But by and large, rural states did about the same in our country -- not a great deal of difference whether you had a governor that was more permissive to leaving businesses open, vs. ones that weren't.

Social distancing and advice are probably a good idea, and I think there was a lot of good idea, and most of it, I think, could have been done through persuasion and not through arresting people. And that's my main objection. Not that it's a bad idea to wear a mask for some people, and then it might be a good idea to have your schools closed for a while, but we actually, I think, were not very considerate of people's individual liberties and rights. And I think this really showed with the Easter resolution of arresting people on Easter Sunday with the governor. So I really do object and think he went too far and I think history will judge him poorly for that.

SMITH: Last question: What steps should the country be taking now to prepare for the next pandemic.

PAUL: I think the main thing is to learn a lesson, and the most important lesson from this pandemic is that one size doesn't fit all. You shouldn't have the same economic rules in New York City that you have in rural Kentucky. You shouldn't have the same rules in Louisville that you have in Bowling Green, and you shouldn't have the same rules in Bowling Green that you have in Tompkinsville. I think it makes a difference the size of your city and how much contagion you have.

In the past, we were more level-headed than this. For example, with the flu, when the flu was really bad, some school districts would close down for a day or two, but they'd kind of wait until the flu got there. They didn't sort of close down in anticipation. 

Here we closed everything before we got any of the cases. Some will argue that's why we did so well, is because we closed it down.

But the other side of the coin is that there are other countries that left their schools open and are developing immunity in their community much more rapidly, like Sweden. And their death rate hasn't been a great deal different than their neighbors. It actually has been less than many of those in Europe. 

So I think that we will still continue to question this over time, but the main lesson I think we should learn is that one size doesn't fit all.

SMITH: Senator, thank you. I'm sorry I took you too long, but I appreciate your talking to me.

PAUL: Yeah. Thank you.


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