Rand Paul chided Rudy Giuliani for comments the former New York City mayor made about Barack Obama's love for his country. In a television interview with local Louisville station WAVE, Paul said, “it's one thing to disagree on policy” but “it’s a mistake to question people’s motives.”
It's an admirable principle. But it’s one that Paul routinely abandons when he talks about hawks in his own party.
On at least two separate occasions, Paul accused Dick Cheney of taking the country to war to enhance Halliburton’s profits. At a campaign appearance in Montana on behalf of his father in 2008, Paul noted that Cheney had opposed going to Baghdad to oust Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War. Cheney, Paul argued, used arguments “exactly mirroring my dad’s arguments for why we shouldn’t have gone in” to Baghdad. He continued: “And this is Dick Cheney saying this. But, you know, a couple hundred million dollars later Dick Cheney earns from Halliburton, he comes back into government. Now Halliburton’s got a billion-dollar, no-bid contract in Iraq.”
In an appearance the following year, shortly before he started his own campaign for Senate in Kentucky, Paul made the claim again. Cheney’s opposition to pressing the war further was “why the first Bush didn’t go into Baghdad. Dick Cheney then goes to work for Halliburton. Makes hundreds of millions of dollars – their CEO. Next thing you know, he’s back in government and it’s a good idea to go into Iraq.”
Paul’s charge resurrected a long-discredited claim once made by mainstream Democrats, including John Kerry’s presidential campaign, but later largely abandoned to the far-left antiwar fringe. A “fact check” by the New York Times, certainly not an outlet friendly to Cheney, reported, “Mr. Cheney’s critics concede that there is no concrete evidence that he has pulled any strings on Halliburton’s behalf.” The paper noted that Cheney “bought an insurance policy that guaranteed a fixed amount of deferred payments from Halliburton each year for five years so that the payments would not depend on the company’s fortunes.” Profits from stock options were donated to charity.
Andrew Sullivan, in a column otherwise defending Paul, called his attacks on Cheney “foolish as well as stupid … It is asinine and completely fruitless to make unprovable slurs.”
It wasn’t just Cheney. Paul has regularly questioned the motives of other conservatives who disagree with him on foreign policy and national security. In 2014, Paul accused Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war, of wanting “15 wars more.”
In a discussion with the Federalist last year, Paul discussed the 2016 Republican field made the case for a non-interventionist presidency. He framed the choice this way: “If you look at who do we choose to be in charge of the nuclear arsenal, do you want someone who is trigger-happy or eager to begin a nuclear war or do you want someone who believes that, ‘my goodness that would be a terrible thing.’” Paul did not specify which of his potential rivals is “eager to begin a nuclear war.”
Paul doesn’t only question motives of hawks or “neocons” in extemporaneous remarks, he does so in speeches he delivers from prepared texts and in op-eds.
According to a transcript posted at the Washington Note by Steve Clemons, Paul gave a speech at the Center for the National Interest in which he accused neocons of being eager for war and xenophobic. Neocons oppose negotiation, according to Paul, “because ‘foreigners’ can’t be trusted.” And, he argued, “neoconservatism” has become “neo-isolationism in which diplomacy and war is – if not the first option – the preferred option.” In an op-ed for Breitbart.com, Paul criticized hawks – or “some politicians,” as he called them – on Russia as “politicians who have never seen war talking tough for the sake of their political careers.”