Rand Paul’s first week as an officially announced candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 may not have gone exactly as planned.
His announcement before thousands of supporters in Louisville was partially overshadowed by a series of testy media interviews in which he appeared angry and combative. Several of those interviews were with female reporters, reinforcing an already-extant narrative about Paul having problems being questioned by women — and a tendency for, as some on Twitter put it, #Randsplaining.
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The junior senator from Kentucky made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows yesterday, and spent a significant amount of his time there arguing against the idea that he is somehow intolerant or disrespectful of women.
“I think women have come a long way,” he told Dana Bash on CNN’s State of the Union. “Women are in positions not because they are women, they’re in positions like yours because they are intelligent and they should be equal to their counterparts and treated equally.”
Bash pointed out that, should Paul receive the GOP nod for the presidency, his likeliest Democratic opponent right now appears to be Hillary Clinton. Would Paul feel a need to treat her differently than he would treat a male opponent, Bash asked.
“I would treat her with the same respect I would a man, but wouldn’t lay down and say I’m not going to respond…. I think that would be some sort of sexist response, to say, ‘Oh, my goodness she deserves not to be treated as aggressively because she’s only a woman.’”
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Over the weekend, Paul showed that he definitely will not shy away from criticizing Clinton. As the political media waited for Clinton’s official announcement of her candidacy, Paul’s campaign released its first advertisement, which attacked Clinton directly.
“Hillary Clinton represents the worst of the Washington machine: The arrogance of power, corruption and cover-up, conflicts of interest and failed leadership with tragic consequences,” the ad said.
On multiple Sunday show appearances, Paul took the opportunity to attack Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, saying on Meet the Press, "I think the thing is about the Clintons is that there's a certain sense that they think they're above the law.”
In a criticism he repeated on several of the shows, Paul told host Chuck Todd that it was “unseemly” and an act of “hypocrisy” for the Clintons to accept donations to their charitable foundation from countries that severely oppress women, while at the same time Clinton tries to position herself as the feminist, pro-woman candidate against a GOP that she suggests is waging a war on women.
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“Hillary Clinton has taken money from countries [where] rape victims are publicly lashed,” he said, referring to Saudi Arabia. “I would expect Hillary Clinton, if she believes in women's rights, she should be calling for a boycott of Saudi Arabia. Instead, she's accepting tens of millions of dollars.”
Paul also attacked Clinton’s performance while Secretary of State, criticizing her for favoring military intervention in Libya and of arming rebels in Syria, as well as, of course, the murder of four Americans at the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.
On CNN, he also took an opportunity to ding some of the defense hawks in his own party who have criticized him for being weak on national security issues. “The war that Hillary prominently promoted in Libya, many of the hawks in my party were right there with her,” he said. “Their only difference was in degrees. They wanted to go into Libya, as well, they just always want boots on the ground.”
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Paul added: “My belief has always been that national defense is the most important thing we do, but we shouldn’t borrow to pay for it.”
Last month, the senator proposed an amendment to the Republican 2016 federal budget that would have increased defense spending, but would have paid for it by cutting foreign aid and other spending.
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