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Senator Rand Paul on his confrontation today with Hillary Clinton

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

HH: Beginning the program and this hour with Senator Rand Paul of the great state of Kentucky. Senator, welcome back, it’s always good to have you.

RP: Great to be with you, Hugh.

HH: I want to thank you at the beginning just for your straightforward statement regarding the culpability of Secretary Clinton for Benghazi and the acts. There’s quite a lot of comment on this. How long ago had you reached that conclusion that she was indeed culpable?

RP: Well you know, when I first heard about it, everybody seemed to be so concerned about sort of the cover up of everybody talking about was this a movie, or was this regarding a movie. Well, that’s important. To me, it always seemed to be more important why there wasn’t adequate security there, why there weren’t Marines there, why wasn’t this embassy protected like the embassy in Iraq. They just emerged from a war. And so I can understand people making bad decisions immediately in the aftermath, not making an appropriate decision during a gunfight, but I can see no excuse for not reading the cables, the repeated cables and requests and pleas for help, the pleas for security. I find that inexcusable, and I really think whoever made those decisions should never, ever be in that position again, and I think this really disqualifies her from holding higher office, because it’s a serious judgment, it’s a serious error of judgment for her to have put ambassadors and diplomats into an area where there wasn’t adequate security.

HH: Earlier, a couple of hours ago, my colleague, my friend, Sean Hannity, had former Speaker Gingrich on, who said about your remarks that it’s really not all that surprising that a Republican who wouldn’t have appointed her in the first place would say that. But I disagree. I think it’s very surprising. How did your colleagues react?

RP: Some of them called me bad names and profane names as they were huffing out of the room. Those were Democrats. But on our side, no one’s really responded to me on that. I went to lunch, and no one threw anything at me. So no, I think that most of them are disturbed this, also. Many of them have been more disturbed with Ambassador Rice’s comments about whether this was pertaining to a movie. But to me, it’s always been more important that there wasn’t security in advance. I’ve asked repeatedly in speeches, where in the hell were the Marines, and they say oh, well, the Marines are there to guard the paper, and the host country is to guard the ambassador. And I’m like, well, that may be true in Vienna or Paris, but this is a war zone. And to send our ambassador in and have some guys who can’t speak English running around in a Jeep from a militia with a machine gun bungee corded in the back and say oh, this is your protection, that’s inexcusable. We have the resources. There’s no reason why military resources should not be designated in a war zone if you want to have an embassy there. And they should protect, set up a perimeter. This is the way it should be done. I’m fearful that this will happen again in Libya, that it could happen in Egypt, that it could happen if a government forms in Syria, if we’re going to decide to treat embassies the same way in war zones that we treat them in the civilized world, I think it’s a huge mistake.

HH: Now all that aside, why do journalists, who have four minutes to prepare and manage to coordinate their questions for Mitt Romney, but the Republicans in the House and the Senate, who have four months to prepare for this, can’t get their questions sequenced so we get to the bottom of some key issues, Senator? Is there any coordination among staffs before these things come down?

RP: Very little, and I think that’s a problem, too, because you know, one of the questions that I had was whether she read the August 16th memo. Now people did get to that before me. I was one of the last people to ask questions. But that strikes me, and that’s what I wanted to hear, was did you read any of the security requests. And the fact that she didn’t really, to me, that’s the inexcusable error that she made in judgment. You know, she’s done a lot of traveling, but why wasn’t she reading about Libya? Why wasn’t she reading the ambassador to Libya’s memos and cables? Now people say oh, she can’t read every memo, and that’s probably true. She can’t read Bolivia’s and Peru’s every month. But the thing is, Libya was one of the probably top five hot spots in the [world], maybe the top spot in the world, and she wasn’t reading the memos and the calls for security? I just think that’s inexcusable, and it’s bad judgment on her part.

HH: Congressman Tom Cotton just finished questioning her on the House side. And of course, he’s a Harvard-trained lawyer. He’s pretty smart at this, even though he’s a rookie. And he elicited from her the admission that she has spoken to the Libyans about the release of the Tunisian terrorist. And he didn’t have any more time, so he couldn’t follow up with her afterwards. Are you surprised that the Secretary of State has spoken to the Libyans about the release of the Tunisian terrorists and we don’t have details on what was said?

RP: Well, she admitted in our hearing that she has, but you know, the Tunisians basically have released him. And one of the questions in our hearing was whether or not he’s down in Mali fighting, or in Algeria. Was he part of the violence down there? And she says well, we’ve asked them to watch him. But really, you know, we have nobody in custody after several months, nobody in custody for this. And I had an amendment shortly after this that would have said that aid to these countries would be contingent on them agreeing and showing the ability to defend our embassies, and turning over those who were guilty for the assassination or our ambassador. And I think that’s the very least we should do as far as conditioning aid.

HH: If there are more questions to be asked, and I believe that there are, why confirm Senator Kerry or vote on the confirmation unless and until she comes back and answers more questions? I mean, we have a right to know the answers to these things.

RP: Yeah, I agree, but I think they made an agreement already that basically, we’ll have a hearing tomorrow, and I will ask him some of the same questions, because see, the problem doesn’t end with Secretary Clinton going. When you have a Secretary Kerry in charge, there’s still the question remains, are we adequately protecting our embassy in Libya, and should it be under the State Department? Or really, should it be under the Department of Defense? I really think the Department of Defense and a general should be making decisions for security in Libya because it’s a war zone. I think it’s a mistake to have a couple of Marines there who they say do not protect the ambassador. And the decision on how best to protect an embassy in Tripoli, and probably in Somalia, and probably in Yemen, probably in a dozen places around the world, really needs to be much tighter in conjunction with the Department of Defense, and with actual generals who know how to protect a perimeter.

HH: I’m talking with Senator Rand Paul about the testimony today of still Secretary of State Clinton, soon to be former. Senator Paul, Jamie Weinstein recently wrote that you want people to know that you’re pro-Israel. You just went to Israel. They just had elections yesterday. Are you surprised by the result, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s narrow reelection?

RP: Well, I think people have been predicting for a long time that he would win, and that his coalition would still be the dominant coalition. When we were there, we also met with Naftali Bennett, who has a new party that’s forming. They got fourth place. Some had predicted that he would score higher. I think the one thing that I’m aware of, and I think people in our country need to be more aware of, is that Israel is a very pluralistic society. Over here, sometimes, I think the debate over what should happen in the Middle East seems to be all one-sided without a lot of debate. In Israel, there’s a great deal of debate, and they live close to the problem. They’re the ones who have the missiles raining down on their head from Gaza. So I think we need to realize and recognize how the debate is pluralistic over there, and how it’s not always easy. You don’t always know what your enemies will do if you react in one way or another. And so I just caution people that we, the problems are complicated, and we don’t always know what the best answer is, but that we need to fully think these things through before we fully decide what is our response, and how we’re going to handle Middle East problems.

HH: You will soon have to vote on Senator Hagel’s nomination. Here is what Senator Hagel said about Israel.

CH: The reality is that you intimidate a lot, not you, but the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. And again, I’ve always argued against some of the dumb things they do, because I don’t think it’s in the interest of Israel.

HH: Do you intend to vote for Senator Hagel? And what did you make of his comments there referring to the Jewish lobby?

RP: You know, I haven’t made up my mind, yet. I have been listening, reading all sides on this. On the other side of the coin, I would say that you know, he’s a guy who served honorably in the military, and I think that people who have served honorably, have been wounded in combat, are people who do know a lot about war. And I think that they have a healthy reluctance to go to war, but they also have a desire to have a strong national defense. And so I think that can be said on one side of the coin. Many of his other statements, I don’t necessarily agree with. I don’t really agree with almost anything Senator Kerry supports, but may well vote for Senator Kerry as well.

HH: Senator Paul, though, is there a Jewish lobby?

RP: Well, I think there’s a lobby that is in favor of strong relations with Israel. They aren’t all Jewish. They’re often Evangelical Christians as well, and just ordinary folks. So yeah, there’s a lot of people interested in the issue, but I would also say that every Jewish American doesn’t have the same beliefs, every Israeli Jew doesn’t have the same beliefs. So I think there’s really more diversity of opinion than people let on.

HH: And does that at all figure in our calculus of Senator Hagel’s fitness, given the looming confrontation with Iran and his opposition to Iranian sanctions?

RP: I think we’re pretty unified in favor of the sanctions on Iran. I have voted for the sanctions on Iran, and I’ve said repeatedly that I think the only way the sanctions will ultimately work, and the only way we can avoid, hopefully avoid war over there, is that if we get China and Russia engaged in this. China and Russia are big trading partners, as is Japan and India as far as buying Iranian oil. I think the only way we make this work is we need to enlist China and Russia. And it’s not going to happen through show votes in the Security Council. It needs to be us letting them know that we’re big trading partners of theirs, and if they want to continue being big trading partners of ours, they need to help us with their trading partner, Iran. And I think if we had them on board, I think we actually could talk Iran down.

HH: Senator Rand Paul, thanks for joining us.

End of interview.

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