Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-K.Y.) efforts to soften the non-interventionist edges of his foreign policy as he embarks on a presidential bid have been fairly transparent.
The senator offered billions of dollars in additional defense funding to a Senate Republican budget bill, albeit offset with cuts elsewhere. He’s been vague in his assessment of an Iran nuclear deal, despite long having argued for negotiations. And he’s backtracked on comments in which he downplayed the threat of Iran, arguing that he wasn’t running for office at the time he made them.
But despite those efforts to make himself more palatable to the rest of the GOP, Paul still remains idiosyncratic within the Republican field. On Sunday he showed why, accusing the hawks in his party of not having "a place on the globe" where they "don’t want boots on the ground" and insisting that they, not he, resemble a continuation of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy.
"Here's the interesting thing about this, you know, who's aligned with President Obama, whose foreign policy is closest to President Obama?" Paul said on CNN’s "State of the Union." "Interestingly, many of the hawks in my party line right up with President Obama. Think about the big issues we've had in the couple -- the last couple of years. The war that Hillary prominently promoted in Libya, many of the hawks in my party were right there with her. Their only difference was in degrees. They wanted to go into Libya as well, they just always want boots on the ground. Some of the hawks in my party, you can't find a place on the globe they don't want boots on the ground."
Speaking out against the war in Libya is a common refrain for those opposed to military engagement, and Paul has repeatedly made this same criticism in the past. His willingness to make it again shows that, at least on some matters, he’s not going to muddy previously held positions in order to soften his image. The same held true with respect to Syria, with Paul suggesting once more that he would be comfortable keeping President Bashar Assad in power.
“I didn't support the arming of the Syrian rebels because I felt like it would make al Qaeda and ISIS worse. I didn't support the bombing of Assad. President Obama supported the bombing of Assad. So did the neo-cons in my party,” said Paul. “So, really, they're together in supporting many of these interventions, and I've been the one not supporting these interventions, because I fear that if you bombed Assad, you would allow ISIS to go stronger.”
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