Rand Paul went after rival Marco Rubio’s foreign policy credentials on Thursday, saying the Florida senator “continues to be confused” by the Iraq war and “contradicts himself almost on a daily basis.”
In an appearance on Fox News earlier in the day, Rubio said the U.S. has a responsibility to Iraq to “build a functional government that can actually meet the needs of the people in the short- and long-term. And then ultimately, from that, we can hope it would spring a democracy.”
When asked if that constituted nation building, Rubio said, “It’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”
Paul, who favors less U.S. intervention overseas, has called for a strong national defense “unencumbered by overseas nation building.” His campaign used Rubio’s comments as a chance to take a swipe as his 2016 rival.
“Just weeks after Sen. Rubio failed to coherently express his position on the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he continues to be confused by the war and the basics of foreign policy,” Paul spokesperson Sergio Gor said in a statement. “Sen. Rand Paul, like most Americans, believes the Iraq war was a mistake and opposes nation building while Sen. Rubio contradicts himself almost on a daily basis.”
Last month Rubio said he would not have backed the Iraq war had he known there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but has also previously said the world is safer because Saddam Hussein no longer leads the country.
Paul has said the Iraq war resulted in chaos and U.S. intervention in the Middle East has led to the rise of ISIS, a position that has put him at odds with most of his opponents vying for the Republican nomination.
Lindsey Graham, who joined the 2016 race this week, said Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton would “tear him apart.” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is likely to enter the race later this month, said Paul is "unsuited to be commander-in-chief."
While most current and potential candidates have steered away from taking direct shots at one another, Paul has both received and delivered plenty in the opening months of the nominating contest.
The Kentucky senator’s attack on Rubio comes one day after he slammed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for defending National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records.
“Gov. Bush appears completely unaware of the facts about the government’s illegal and unnecessary spying [on] the American people and made it clear his position is based on politics, not policy and the Constitution,” Gor said in a statement to Politico on Wednesday.