Interview with Senator Rand Paul

Interview with Senator Rand Paul

By The Situation Room - January 3, 2012

BLITZER: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, the son of presidential candidate Ron Paul, is joining us now live from Iowa.

Senator, always good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I just want to be precise on the issue of Iran. When it comes to Santorum saying he's ready to bomb, he's ready to bomb Iran to prevent it from getting a nuclear bomb -- your dad has a very different position. Just outline what your dad's position as far as Iran is concerned.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You know, Ron Paul doesn't want Iran to have nuclear weapons. He thinks it could destabilize the Middle East. But should they get nuclear weapons, he thinks there are some choices, that we shouldn't box ourselves into a war.

Interestingly two days ago, the head of Mossad, Tamir Pardo, said exactly the same thing. If we keep saying it's an existential threat to Israel, we box Israel and the United States into a cataclysmic war without a choice and I think people like Santorum are dangerous in the sense that I don't think they're thinking through the issues of what the unintended consequences of war are.

And I think what the American people need and what Republicans should think about is, you want a commander-in-chief who's in charge of nuclear weapons who will not use them carelessly, who will not take the nation to war carelessly, and who also understands that Congress gets to vote on declaring war. One man should never decide for our country to go to war.

BLITZER: When you heard Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, tell me last week that if your dad got the Republican presidential nomination, he couldn't get vote for him. What was your reaction?

PAUL: I guess the thing is that I'm worried about the rest of the nominees in the sense that I don't want to have a commander-in- chief who would recklessly take us to war, so when they say Ron Paul's dangerous, I think completely the opposite. I think what would be dangerous would be to have a commander-in-chief who is reckless, who would talk us to war.

Interestingly, they try to paint Ron Paul's position as outside the mainstream. The three previous heads of the U.S. Central Command, Generals Zinni, Abazaid and Fallon, all have warned against an attack. Meir Dagan, the former head of Mossad, has warned against a preemptive attack.

People think Israel is this monolithic body of people that all want the same thing. Israel has divided opinion on this. Two heads of Mossad, the previous head of Shin Bet, the previous head of the military intelligence, Gabi Ashkenazi, there are a lot of people who have expressed some doubt about whether or not it's a good idea to invade or have a war with Iran.

BLITZER: You know, some of these latest ads that your dad's campaign is doing in Iowa, one of them suggesting Mitt Romney is really a liberal. Do you consider Romney, the frontrunner, together with your father right now, a liberal?

PAUL: You know, I'm unaware of that.

I know that the campaign is putting out some things on Rick Santorum, talking about how he voted to double the size of the Department of Education, how he voted for No Child Left Behind, how he voted for Medicare Part D, the largest entitlement program in the last decade, and how Rick Santorum has also supported foreign aid repeatedly.

You know, I came from the Tea Party movement. I don't know any conservative Republican or any Tea Party member who thinks foreign aid is a good idea when we have this massive debt. And Rick Santorum, I don't think has ever voted against foreign aid.

BLITZER: So you go so far as to call Rick Santorum a liberal?

PAUL: What I would say is that as you rise to the top, you get more scrutiny and welcome to the top tier, maybe for Rick Santorum. If he does well here tonight, he's going to have some explaining to do. He's going to have to explain these votes.

Foreign aid is not something the vast majority of Americans support, but definitely not conservatives. Most conservatives thought Medicare Part D, the expansion of Medicare when Medicare was already short of money, wasn't a good idea and most good old Reagan conservatives think we should be eliminating the Department of Education, not doubling it in size.

So, Rick Santorum on a lot of economic issues has been I think most charitably described as a moderate, but you could say a moderate to liberal. Look, he supported Arlen Specter not only for Senate but for president. He supported him against Pat Toomey, who most of us think of as a good conservative.

So, I think these are choices that show that really Rick Santorum running as a conservative may not be all it's cracked up to be.

BLITZER: Just to be precise, as far as the other six Republican candidates out there -- as far as you know, you're father would vote for any of them over President Obama, is that right?

PAUL: All I can say is that I pledge to support the Republican nominee. And I -- my dad will have to speak for himself on what he's decided. I think he would like if the nominee weren't him, but right now, it looks like we have a real chance of winning. But if it weren't him, I think he would like to see a nominee who doesn't want to go war recklessly, who understands that the president doesn't go to war unilaterally, that the president needs the approval of Congress and that most Americans or many Americans are growing weary of war and would like to see us begin to come home from Afghanistan.

So I think if he had a nominee that were willing to accept some of those positions, I think he would consider supporting the nominee. But, ultimately, I think right now, we're trying to be that nominee.

BLITZER: How's he going to look tonight, do you think? What are you internal poll numbers tell you?

PAUL: You know, very good. I traveled around the state with my dad yesterday. We made five stops, hundreds and hundreds of people at every stop. Every room was overflowing. I mean, the excitement is contagious.

We finished up the night last night about 9:00 at our headquarters just outside of Des Moines. Over 250 kids, all between the ages of 20 and 30. I mean, the excitement is electric.

It's amazing that my dad really gets these young people. I mean, the young people are really excited over him and I think it's because they see a genuineness, that he's not always politically correct. He doesn't always try to tell you what you want to hear. He just tells you the truth as he sees it.

BLITZER: What does he need to do in terms of finishing tonight, next Tuesday, in New Hampshire, to continue this struggle?

PAUL: You know, I think he's getting a good amount of the Republican vote. But what puts him over the top is that he appeals to independents. Most recent CNN polls have shown that when you poll independents, Ron Paul is beating all other Republican candidates.

And that's what you need to win. That's why I think a lot of these pundits who are saying, oh, he can't win, he's not electable -- I thought getting elected was about getting independent vote. He's doing quite well with that. He actually attracts independents and Democrats at a higher rate than any other Republican candidate. And when you put him up against President Obama, you find that he does about equal to Romney and head and shoulders above every other candidate.

BLITZER: Senator Paul, thanks very much for coming in. Give our best wishes to your dad. Good luck out there.

PAUL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky. 

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