Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) learned of the release of four Americans from Iran while campaigning in New Hampshire. When he broke the "good news" to a town hall audience in Manchester, the crowd broke into applause. Then he went on, arguing that the release of people he had advocated for was proof that diplomacy worked.
"It was done, I think, because even though Iran is a country with very limited freedom, we were willing to negotiate," Paul said. "It goes to temperament. All the other Republicans are telling you -- rip up that agreement. I say, 'Really? Don't we want to see if it works first?’"
Paul, who had opposed the agreement and signed a critical letter from Republicans to Iran, had campaigned for the release of Saeed Abedini, an American pastor who set up home churches in Iran. "We’ve met with his wife," he said. "We’ve been big advocates of trying to get him home." Now that the day had come, Paul saw a reason to follow the nuclear agreement.
"I’m hopeful that this means Iran is going to begin behaving in a more civilized fashion," Paul said in an interview before arriving at another event, in Newport. "Some will remark that this happens on the eve of money being released to them from the exchange account, but it may mean it’s a new opening and thawing of relations. I’ve always said that negotiations are better than war, and the if Iran adheres to this, it will be a good agreement. The reason I was concerned before was that I worried there wasn’t sufficient leverage."
In Manchester, and in the follow-up interview, Paul criticized his Republican rivals for not seeing hope in the prisoner release. "It's about the decision over who you want as a commander in chief," Paul said. "Part of that judgment is that you want someone with wisdom, strength, and ability to carefully evaluate situations without acting rashly. The other people onstage want to react strongly against anything Obama does, without considering the consequences of what they are saying."
Asked about the argument that a tougher negotiation -- or a tougher president -- could have brought about a quicker release, Paul didn't see it. "That argument would come from people who just want to find fault with the president," he said. "When something good happens, rather than trying to find fault, we should celebrate it."