Bernie Sanders couldn’t have said it better:
“There’s a group of folks in our party who would have troops in six countries right now — maybe more,” the Kentucky senator told hundreds of activists at a GOP cattle call that has drawn every major presidential aspirant. “This is something, if you watch closely, that will separate me from many other Republicans. The other Republicans will criticize Hillary Clinton and the president for their foreign policy, but they would have done the same thing – just 10 times over!”
“Six countries – maybe more”? Which countries, Senator? And how many of your rivals have proposed sending troops to Syria? To Yemen? To Libya? (Do we have to count Lindsey Graham?)
Rand Paul is trying to separate himself from other candidates on foreign policy while not appearing to be a head-in-the-sand isolationist. But in doing so, does he have to lie like a Democrat about his opponents?
“Everyone who will criticize me wanted troops on the ground, our troops on the ground, in Libya,” he said. “It was a mistake to be in Libya. We are less safe. Jihadists swim in our swimming pool now. It’s a disaster.”
Did Ted Cruz want troops on the ground in Libya? Did Scott Walker, Chris Christie, or any other GOP governor who might run for president want troops on the ground in Libya? Marco Rubio specifically advised against troops on the ground in Libya, believing that the president could have intervened “more decisively” but rejecting American military intervention.
Paul’s statement is either an ignorant rant or a baldfaced lie. Falsely accusing opponents of things they don’t believe and wouldn’t do obscures Paul’s real problems with rank-and-file Republicans who want a president to stand up strongly for American interests and want to make America the pre-eminent military and economic power in the world once again. Many simply don’t believe his foreign-policy ideas are proactive enough. They are suspicious of his libertarian leanings on national-defense strategy.
One aspect of a Paul campaign Republican regulars can get behind is his position on NSA snooping:
Contrasting himself with most others in the field, Paul also promised to end the federal government’s collection of American phone records if elected president. “I’m a Republican who believes in the right to privacy,” he said. “It doesn’t mean collecting 300 million people’s phone records. The 4th amendment is not consistent with a warrant that says Mr. Verizon on it. Last I heard Mr. Verizon isn’t a person.”
“Your phone records are yours,” he declared. “It’s none of the government’s damn business what you’re doing on your phone.”
“You can say damn in New Hampshire, can’t you?” he quipped.
“Damn straight,” a man yelled back from the crowd.
NSA spying is a peripheral national-security issue and there is disagreement among the candidates about how much of what the NSA has been doing is really necessary. This is a legitimate way for Paul to put distance between himself and his rivals — as long as he accurately enumerates their positions.
But otherwise, Paul’s rank dishonesty in describing what his opponents would do if elected is intolerable. Might we see a sound bite of Paul dishonestly ripping his opponents in a Hillary Clinton commercial? Perhaps the senator should think about that the next time he feels compelled to grossly exaggerate the positions of his opponents.