Rick Perry and Rand Paul Slug it Out in Prep for 2016
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The Fiscal Times
July 14, 2014

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul battled back and forth in the nation’s op-ed pages over the weekend in an argument about American military involvement overseas. The two likely candidates for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 have spilled a lot of ink trying to claim the foreign policy mantle of Ronald Reagan, but in the process have forgotten the rule Reagan said he tried to live by: “You should speak no ill of a fellow Republican.” 

Paul got the ball rolling with an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal last month in which he argued against the U.S. military re-engaging in Iraq. “Many of those clamoring for military action now are the same people who made every false assumption imaginable about the cost, challenge and purpose of the Iraq war. They have been so wrong for so long. Why should we listen to them again?” 

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He cited Reagan era Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger’s policy that U.S. troops be committed overseas only in cases of vital national interest, with clear objectives, and with the reasonable expectation of public support. 

For some reason it took him the best part of a month, but Perry responded to Paul’s op-ed in a Friday article in the Washington Post that accused his fellow Republican of isolationism and compared him to those who, in the Reagan years, “promoted accommodation and timidity in the face of Soviet advancement.”

Perry, citing in particular the danger of the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS), the militant Islamic group that now controls large swathes of those two countries, said Paul was willfully ignoring threats to the United States. 

“Who can doubt that other bin Ladens are lurking in the labs and training grounds of this group’s newly gained territory?” Perry wrote. He added, “Paul’s brand of isolationism…would compound the threat of terrorism even further.”

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That’s when things started to get personal.

On Monday morning, Paul took to Politico to rebut the Texas governor, but couldn’t resist getting in a few digs that went well wide of the policy argument, starting with Perry’s now-trademark dark-rimmed glasses.

“There are many things I like about Texas Gov. Rick Perry…” he wrote. “But apparently, his new glasses haven’t altered his perception of the world, or allowed him to see it any more clearly.”

He added, “With 60,000 foreign children streaming across the Texas border, I am surprised Governor Perry has apparently still found time to mischaracterize and attack my foreign policy.”

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Paul went on to accuse Perry of misunderstanding and ignoring his record of foreign policy statements and said he “seems entirely comfortable repeating the history, the rhetoric and presumably, the mistakes” of previous administrations that led the country into overseas adventures like the Iraq war.

Whether Perry will fire back is an open question at the moment, but the exchange makes it clear that as we edge closer to 2016, rather than training all their fire on President Obama and Congressional Democrats, Republican presidential hopefuls will be finding themselves on the receiving end of more and more friendly fire.

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A longtime reporter on the intersection of the federal government and the private sector, Rob Garver is National Correspondent, based in Washington, D.C. He has written for ProPublica, The New York Times and other publications.