Rand Paul hits back at Cruz’s foreign policy dig


(J. Scott Applewhite/AP, File)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in a new op-ed appears to take exception to Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Tex.) comment that his foreign policy is more Reagan-esque than Paul's.

Cruz on Sunday contrasted himself with Paul, suggesting he has a more hawkish view than the Kentucky senator, with whom he's simpatico on the vast majority of major issues.

"I think U.S. leadership is critical in the world, and I agree with him that we should be very reluctant to deploy military force abroad, but I think there is a vital role, just as Ronald Reagan did," Cruz said on ABC's "This Week."

In an op-ed Monday morning on Breitbart.com, Paul says Republicans shouldn't be appropriating Reagan's image for their own gain.

"Reagan was a great leader and President," Paul writes. "But too often people make him into something he wasn’t in order to serve their own political purposes."

Paul added -- without naming Cruz -- that certain people do this "for lack of their own ideas and agenda." He notes that many Republicans have criticized Reagan's foreign policy as not forceful enough -- a parallel to Paul's own political career.

"Today, we forget that some of the Republican hawks of his time criticized Reagan harshly for this too, again, calling him an appeaser," Paul writes.

Paul concludes: "Today’s Republicans should concentrate on establishing their own identities and agendas, as opposed to simply latching onto Ronald Reagan’s legacy — or worse, misrepresenting it."

Cruz's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The op-ed was the second in two days in which Paul sough to clarify his non-interventionist foreign policy views. In a new Time magazine op-ed, he said that he would be tougher on Russian President Vladimir Putin than President Obama.

"The real problem is that Russia’s president is not currently fearful or threatened in any way by America’s president, despite his country’s blatant aggression," Paul says in the op-ed. "But let me be clear: If I were president, I wouldn't let Vladimir Putin get away with it."

Paul's words are interesting because he comes more from the more non-interventionist wing of the GOP rather than the neoconservative wing that dominated the party last decade. Paul's father was even more non-interventionist, but the younger Paul has carved out a middle-ground approach.

Paul says clearly in the same op-ed that he doesn't favor military intervention -- indeed, few are talking in those terms at this point -- but he does lay out several other options that Obama hasn't exercised.

Among these options are forcing Russia out of the G-8 (Russia is set to hold a G-8 summit in June), reinstating missile defense shields in Poland and the Czech Republic, and suspending loans and aid to Ukraine -- money Paul says could find its way into Russia's pockets because of the debt Ukraine owes its larger neighbor.

Paul's foreign policy views and how they fit into today's GOP continue to be a major question mark as he gets closer to what appears likely to be a 2016 presidential bid.

Updated at 12:05 p.m.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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