WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said GOP “hawks” including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are responsible for creating the Islamic State militant group and inflaming radical Islam by flooding weapons into the Middle East.
Speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday, Paul defended the libertarian sect of the Republican Party and his 11-hour filibuster against the renewal of Patriot Act surveillance tactics. Paul was asked for a response to fellow Republicans Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham who say that ISIS exists because of a lack of intervention in the Middle East.
“I would say it’s exactly the opposite. ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately,” said Paul. “Most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS. These hawks wanted to bomb [Syrian dictator Bashar] Assad, which would have made ISIS’ job even easier. They created these people. ISIS is all over Libya because these same hawks in my party, they loved Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya . They just wanted more of it. Libya is a failed state. It’s a disaster. Iraq really is a failed state.
“So everything they’ve talked about in foreign policy they’ve been wrong about for 20 years, yet they somehow have the gall to point the finger otherwise,” added Paul.
Paul has criticized several members of his party who have embraced government surveillance tactics over national security concerns – placing Paul at odds with much of the GOP a month after announcing his own 2016 presidential campaign. Paul said on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” that Sen. Lindsey Graham and other GOP presidential contenders are “using scare tactics” to get him to back down from his anti-surveillance stance.
Asked why “Lindsey Graham rolls his eyes” at Paul’s backing of privacy rights, Paul conceded there is a split in the Republican Party on the issue. “There is an inconsistency there. And I think that’s what separates some of us more from the libertarian wing of the Republican Party is that we don’t like big government anywhere.”
Backlash against Paul from fellow Republicans has come from a wide swath potential 2016 presidential contenders.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, another potential 2016 presidential candidate, said Wednesday that Paul’s comments are “a perfect example of why Senator Paul is unsuited to be Commander-in-Chief.”
“It has become impossible to imagine a President Paul defeating Radical Islam and it’s time for the rest of us to say it,” Jindal tweeted.
“I think Senator Paul’s record on this issue is quite frankly behind that of President Obama,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said last month. “[Paul has] the worst chance of anybody to make a case against Obama’s foreign policy.”
Paul told “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday that the U.S. should arm Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who are fighting ISIS on the ground. He has encouraged Arab nations to step up and take the fight to ISIS.
“I would take a lot of the equipment that’s rotting in Afghanistan, and I would give it to the Kurds, not to the Shiite government. I would tell the Shiite government that you know what? If you don’t include the Sunnis you’re never going to win this war,” Paul said. He also said he would like to see Turkish troops on the Turkish border helping with the fight.
“The thing is that people need to understand the Middle East is complicated and there are no easy answers. We need to do what we do to protect American interests,” Paul added. “The ultimate victory is going to come when civilized Islam steps up and civilized Islam says that this aberration that is ISIS is intolerable.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Paul have been criticized by other Republicans for their support for ending the National Security Agency’s cell phone data collection program under the Patriot Act. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – another potential presidential hopeful — said Wednesday on Fox News that Paul is “siding” with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who sought asylum in Russia.
“He’s a criminal, he’s hiding in Russia, and he’s lecturing to us about the evils of authoritarian government while he lives under the protective umbrella of Vladmir Putin,” Christie said. “That’s who Mike Lee and Rand Paul are siding with? With Edward Snowden? Come on.”
Christie said the same lawmakers criticizing the NSA would be the ones most outraged at intelligence failures if another attack should happen. “I fear that this kind of debate is showing the kind of complacency that’s going on post 9/11,” he said.