Rand Paul on the fight against ISIS

Rand Paul on the fight against ISIS

By Caitlin Dickson

If Rand Paul were commander in chief, his strategy for fighting Islamic militants in the Middle East would start with the Kurds.

“I would arm the Kurds directly,” the Republican senator and potential presidential candidate told Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric. The two sat down in Washington on Wednesday, just hours after the FBI announced it had arrested three men charged with plotting to join the Islamic State, or ISIS, and stage attacks against the United States.

Despite urging Congress to make an official declaration of war — for the first time since World War II — against ISIS last November, the Kentucky senator’s reputation as an isolationist still precedes him. Dismissing that as a “mischaracterization,” Paul told Couric he’s not willing to send American troops to fight anywhere if the people who live there are not also willing to fight.

And he believes the Kurds — the disenfranchised ethnic groups whose Iraqi contingent has been fighting ISIS for months — are particularly up to the task.

“The only people over there that can fight and have been showing some ability to fight are the Kurds,” Paul said. “The president has been sending weapons to Baghdad. They’re not adequately getting to Kurdistan. I would fund them directly. I would take some of the weaponry that we have left over in Afghanistan and I would send that directly to the Kurds.”

But at home where, Couric pointed out, the FBI is currently involved in over a thousand counterterrorism cases in all 50 states, Paul made clear that even the threat of ISIS was not enough to shake some of his staunchest convictions. These include his dedication to sending “a clear signal to the president that it’s unacceptable for him to write the law,” even at the risk of defunding the Department of Homeland Security.

Another conviction is his staunch opposition to the Patriot Act, which Couric said a high-level law enforcement source cited as influential in apprehending the three men arrested Wednesday.

“I think you can have the Constitution. You can have the level that says you have to have probable cause and you have to call a judge,” he said. “You have to name the person that you’re interested in investigating. You can do all of that and stop terrorists at the same time.”

“People weren’t doing their jobs, and they went crazy-hysterical after 9/11, saying, ‘Oh, we need all these new powers. Please, give us your liberty, you know, in exchange for security,’” he continued. “But really they weren’t doing their job [and that] is why we didn’t catch terrorists before.”

Perhaps most unwavering of all Paul’s convictions is his firm belief that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to blame for the 2012 terror attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi and that her failure to “defend our ambassador,” should “preclude her from even being considered for the higher office.”

“The biggest mistake Hillary Clinton made, and I think this will be an albatross over her neck for the rest of the campaign — I don’t think she’ll be able to overcome this — is that when she was asked to provide security for Benghazi, she didn’t do it,” he said.

Certain about the future of the Clinton campaign, Paul was decidedly less declarative when asked about his own White House aspirations.

“Sometime in March, in April, we’re going to make a firm, final decision,” he said. “I’m someone who wants to defend the country, but I’m not eager for war. And we’ll make that presentation to the people and see if it resonates.”

He may not be ready to announce his candidacy, but Paul showed he’s adept at dodging uncomfortable questions when Couric brought up recent comments his father, former Republican Representative and three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul, made claiming that members of the Congressional Black Caucus were only anti-war “because they want all of that money to go to food stamps.”

“I have a great relationship, you know, with the Congressional Black Caucus,” Paul replied when pressed for a comment on his father’s words. “I am probably the leading voice among Republicans for reforming the criminal justice system. I’m the only Republican who has been saying over and over again that the war on drugs has had a disproportionate impact on people of color. I’ll continue to fight those battles, and I think I’ll be judged on my own actions.”

A diversion, for sure, but a smooth one. Not only did he manage to avoid being implicated in his father’s indiscretion, Paul planted the seed for his next sitdown with Couric, this time accompanied by his unlikely partner in criminal justice reform, Democratic Senator Cory Booker.

Also Wednesday, Couric talked to the bipartisan duo about the Redeem Act, the comprehensive sentencing reform bill that Paul and Booker co-sponsored over the summer. The Redeem Act aims to crack down on the country’s recidivism epidemic by providing nonviolent offenders who’ve served their time the opportunity to expunge their records and, ideally, become gainfully employed.

This serious, and potentially historic, piece of legislation is the product of an unlikely collaboration that blossomed, of all places, on Twitter.

“[Paul] has the same penchant that I do to use that platform for important policy issues but [also] just to be yourself and joke around,” Booker told Couric. “So, I got up in his Festivus list of grievances, and I let him have it back. And before you knew it we were talking about drug policy reform.”

Watch the full interview below:


Get to know Kelley Paul, Senator Rand Paul's wife, by watching the clip below: