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Eying 2016, Rick Perry and Rand Paul Spar Over Foreign Policy

Image: Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry gives a speech during the Texas GOP Convention in Fort Worth, Texas on Thursday, June, 5, 2014. In his address, the longest-serving governor in the state's history focused more on the future and national issues than his political legacy at home. (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry) Rex C. Curry / AP

A feud over foreign policy between Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Rand Paul is heating up as both Republicans eye their party’s mantle for the 2016 presidential election.

The clash between the two conservative lawmakers exposes a widening rift in the GOP between the party’s traditionally hawkish establishment and a less interventionist wing fueled by the public’s fatigue with foreign wars.

Image:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry talks to members of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security about the humanitarian and national security crises going on along the Texas-Mexico border Thursday July 3, 2014 in McAllen, Texas. Perry said that the tens of thousands of Central American children entering the U.S. illegally is both a humanitarian crisis and a national security one. (AP Photo/The Monitor, Gabe Hernandez) MAGS OUT; TV OUT Gabe Hernandez / AP

Perry, once an early favorite of Tea Party-aligned conservatives in the 2012 campaign, hopes to take up a Reaganite rallying cry of “peace through strength,” echoing establishment Republicans who grumble that the dialing back of American military presence in the Middle East has sparked instability in the region. Paul, whose libertarian streak has earned him a strong position in the early jockeying for the next run for the White House, has based his nascent presidential platform on civil liberties, a smaller defense footprint and a less aggressive U.S. stance in world affairs.

The war of words between the two men – each fashioning himself as a Beltway outsider - has played out in op-eds in DC-based newspapers over the last few days.

Last week, Perry – who’s already been generating headlines for his criticism of the president over immigration policy - slammed Paul’s “isolationist policies” in a Washington Post op-ed, calling the Kentucky lawmaker “curiously blind” to the threats posed to America’s national security by Islamic extremists.

Rick Santorum on Meet the Press: 'Republicans Need a Positive Vision' 0:36

On Monday, Paul struck back, with a bonus dig at the trendy new eyewear sported by the Texas governor – a look observers say may be designed to boost Perry’s intellectual credibility.

“Apparently his new glasses haven’t altered his perception of the world, or allowed him to see it any more clearly,” Paul wrote in a POLITICO op-ed titled “Rick Perry is Dead Wrong.”

Image: Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. smiles as he listens to a question during his public address at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, Friday April 25, 2014, in Cambridge, Mass. Fighting to move beyond his father's shadow, Paul is crafting new alliances with the Republican Party establishment during a Northeast tour that began Friday in Boston. The 51-year-old Kentucky Republican, son of libertarian hero and former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, headlined an afternoon luncheon hosted by top lieutenants of former presidential nominee Mitt Romney _ a private meeting that comes as Paul weighs a 2016 presidential bid of his own. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia) Stephan Savoia / AP

Noting Perry’s support for returning troops to Iraq, Paul writes that “On foreign policy, Perry couldn’t be more stuck in the past, doubling down on formulas that haven’t worked, parroting rhetoric that doesn’t make sense and reinforcing petulant attitudes that have cost our nation a great deal.”

Apparently his new glasses haven’t altered his perception of the world, or allowed him to see it any more clearly

Paul’s stance appears to be more aligned with public opinion overall. An April NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed that just 19 percent of Americans say that the United States should be more active in world affairs, versus 47 percent who said the country should take a less active role globally.

Within Paul and Perry’s party, the numbers are also split. A plurality of Republicans – 45 percent – say they’d like America to take a step back on world affairs, compared to three in ten who say they want to see more engagement and 21 percent who say the current level of activity is correct.

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