April 12th, 2015
09:41 AM ET

Sen. Rand Paul on Hillary Clinton: "‎I think Benghazi was a 3:00 a.m. phone call that she never picked up."

Today on CNN’s State of the Union, presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY.) spoke to CNN’s Dana Bash about the expected announcement from Hillary Clinton on her candidacy for president, and his views on foreign policy, defense spending and gay marriage.

Text highlights, video and a transcript of the discussion are below.

VIDEO

Does Rand Paul have a problem with women?

Rand Paul: Sexist to treat Hillary Clinton differently

 

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS

Paul on the Clintons: “. . . but I do think that there is sort of a history of the Clintons sort of feeling like they're above the law.  They said they weren't going to take donations, you know, for the Clinton Foundation during the period of time she was secretary of State and there are questions whether they did.”

Paul on how he would act if on stage with Hillary Clinton: “. . . I would treat her with the same respect that I would treat a man, but I wouldn't lay down and say, oh, I'm not going to respond out of some sort of - and I think that's a - that would be a sexist sort of response to say, oh, my goodness, she deserves not to be treated as aggressively, because she's only a woman.

I would never say that about anybody.  And I don't come into our interview thinking, OK, it's a woman versus a man kind of interview.  I just think she's going to ask tough questions, he will ask tough questions, I've got to be prepared.”

Paul on Republican critics of his foreign policy views:Yes.  Here's the interesting thing about this, you know, who's aligned with President Obama, whose foreign policy is closest to President Obama?
Interestingly, many of the hawks in my party line right up with President Obama.  Think about the big issues we've had in the couple - the last couple of years.  The war that Hillary prominently promoted in Libya, many of the hawks in my party were right there with her.  Their only difference was in degrees.  They wanted to go into Libya, as well, they just always want boots on the ground.  Some of the hawks in my party, you can't find a place on the globe they don't want boots on the ground...”

Paul on defense spending: My belief has always been that national defense is the most important thing we do, but we shouldn't borrow to pay for it.  So there really is a division in our party.”

 Paul on gay marriage: I do believe people ought to be left alone.  I don't care who you are or what you do at home or who your friends are or what, you know, where you hang out, what kind of music you listen to, what you do in your home is your own business.  That's always been who I am. I am a leave me alone kind of guy.”

“Well, no.  I mean states - states will end up making the decisions on these things.  I think that there's a religious connotation to marriage.  I believe in the traditional religious connotation to this. But I also believe people ought to be treated fairly under the law.  I see no reason why if the marriage contract conveys certain things that if - if you - if you want to marry another woman that you can do that and have a contract.  But the thing is is the religious connotation of marriage that has been going on for thousands of years, I still want to preserve that. And you probably could have both.  You could have both traditional marriage, which I believe in.  And then you could also have the neutrality of the law that allows people to have contracts with another.”

 TRANSCRIPT

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DANA BASH, HOST:  Senator, thank you very much for sitting down with me.

I appreciate it.

Let's start with the news of the week and Hillary Clinton announcing for president.

Over the past week, you've been really critical of her when it comes to the issue of trust, talking about Benghazi, talking about the donations to the Clinton Foundation.

How far back do you think is fair game?

Do you think Monica?

Do you think Whitewater?

Do you think the Travel Office issues?

I mean what should be in the realm of the public debate now?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY:  You know, I'm not sure that I'll get to decide what's in the realm or not, but I do think that there is sort of a history of the Clintons sort of feeling like they're above the law.  They said they weren't going to take donations, you know, for the Clinton Foundation during the period of time she was secretary of State and there are questions whether they did.

Since then, there are questions of them taking millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, from the sultan of Brunei, countries really have an abysmal human rights record and women's rights record.

And so I think it really - it questions the sincerity of whether or not she would be a champion for women's rights when she accepts money from a country like Brunei, that stones to death people for adultery and realize that this is men accusing women of adultery, not women accusing men, because the men have the only say in the legal system in Brunei.

So it does really - it makes it difficult to - for her message to appear sincere when she's taking money from these foreign countries.

BASH:  You said that you don't get to decide, but you do get to choose where you criticize her and where - and where you don't.

PAUL:  Right.

BASH:  How far back do you think is fair game?

PAUL:  I think that her public policy and public life, you know, will be fair game.

BASH:  Some of your critics on the Republican side...

PAUL:  Oh, I don't have any critics, do I?

BASH:  I know.  It's shocking.  You do have critics on both sides, as you know.

But some of your Republican critics argue that you are actually to the left of Hillary Clinton on foreign policy, that she's more hawkish than you are.

PAUL:  Yes.  Here's the interesting thing about this, you know, who's aligned with President Obama, whose foreign policy is closest to President Obama?

Interestingly, many of the hawks in my party line right up with President Obama.  Think about the big issues we've had in the couple - the last couple of years.  The war that Hillary prominently promoted in Libya, many of the hawks in my party were right there with her.  Their only difference was in degrees.  They wanted to go into Libya, as well, they just always want boots on the ground.  Some of the hawks in my party, you can't find a place on the globe they don't want boots on the ground...

BASH:  But that's their point, that you're to the left...

PAUL:  No.

BASH:  - of all them.

PAUL:  No.  That - my point is, is that they are actually agreeing with Hillary Clinton and agreeing with President Obama that the war in Libya was a good idea.  I'm not agreeing with either one of them.  They're over here both for war.  I'm over here saying that that war made us less safe, that it made radical Islam or allowed radical Islam to rise up in Libya.

There are now large segments of Libya that are pledging allegiance to ISIS, supplying arms to the Islamic rebels in the Syrian civil war.  President Obama supported this.  Hillary Clinton supported this.  And so did the hawks in my party.

Only they differed only on degrees.  I didn't support the arming of the Syrian rebels because I felt like it would make al Qaeda and ISIS worse.

I didn't support the bombing of Assad.  President Obama supported the bombing of Assad.  So did the neo-cons in my party.

So, really, they're together in supporting many of these interventions and I've been the one not supporting these interventions, because I fear that if you bombed Assad, you would allow ISIS to go stronger.

There are two million Christians in Syria and do you know what?

If you asked them who they would choose, they'd all choose Assad over ISIS, because they see the barbarity of perhaps both, but they see the utter depravity and barbarity of ISIS.

And so bombing Assad probably isn't a good policy.  These are great foreign policy questions.  There will be great debates.  And I - I look forward to having them.

BASH:  Is there an area where you think Hillary Clinton was successful as secretary of State?

PAUL:  I think really that the issue in Benghazi is an enormous issue because it's the one, as commander-in-chief, she would be there for the 3:00 a.m. phone call.  I think Benghazi was a 3:00 a.m. phone call that she never picked up.

She didn't - she didn't provide the security, not just that day, for nine months.  Dozens and dozens of requests for more security, all completely ignored by Hillary Clinton.

BASH:  The question is, was there something that she did that was good?

PAUL:  That's what I was trying to think.  I was getting through the things that I remember that aren't so good and trying to think of something good.  I'm not so certain of that.  I think she took her eye off a very important zone.

She was also a big believer in putting arms indiscriminately into the Syrian civil war.  I think that made ISIS stronger.

BASH:  One last question about Hillary Clinton.

Over the past week, as you well know, there has been some criticism of you and about your interaction with female interviewers, questioning whether you have an issue with women.  You said that you get equally annoyed with men - men and women.  I get that.

PAUL:  That's probably true.

BASH:  I get that.

But perception is reality sometimes in politics, so if you are the Republican nominee and you're on the stage with Hillary Clinton, a female opponent, are you going to have to pull your punches given the perception of you now?

PAUL:  I think women have come a long way.  Women are in positions not because they're women, they're in positions like yours because they're intelligent and they should be equal to their counterparts and treated equally.

But I can tell you that the interviews in the last couple of days probably got it easier than what I gave to Eliot Spitzer on your program here, probably about a year or so ago, because the thing is is that I'm unwilling to let people characterize things unfairly.  And if someone is going to write an op-ed on me in the question, that's fair for them to try to do it, but it's also fair for me to try to set the record straight that they're editorializing in the question.

BASH:  What about if you were on the stage with Hillary Clinton?

Would you because cognizant of the fact that she would be a female opponent?

PAUL:  You know, I'm always polite and even in all the interviews where I'm accused of maybe being too aggressive, I've never yelled or screamed.  I don't get out of control.  I'm - I - I do - I do try to be polite and I've always treated it that way.

I would treat her with the same respect that I would treat a man, but I wouldn't lay down and say, oh, I'm not going to respond out of some sort of - and I think that's a - that would be a sexist sort of response to say, oh, my goodness, she deserves not to be treated as aggressively, because she's only a woman.

I would never say that about anybody.  And I don't come into our interview thinking, OK, it's a woman versus a man kind of interview.  I just think she's going to ask tough questions, he will ask tough questions, I've got to be prepared.

BASH:  Well, that's good to hear.

On those tough questions, let's talk about defense spending.

You - when you first came to the Senate, you proposed decreasing defense spending by about $164 billion and then, in the past couple of weeks, really, you proposed increasing by $190 billion.

Why the change?

PAUL:  I proposed several five year budgets.  And for me, the most important thing of the five year budgets has been to balance.  So all of my five year budgets have balanced.

The last one I produced was a couple of years ago, did actually increase defense spending above the military sequester.  But I did it by taking money from domestic spending.

My belief has always been that national defense is the most important thing we do, but we shouldn't borrow to pay for it.  So there really is a division in our party.

One of the other potential presidential candidates put forward an amendment and he said, I'm going to increase defense spending, but I'm going to borrow the money and make the debt worse.

So I put up what's called a side by side.  I put up an amendment saying, yes, I, too, believe in strong defense, but I don't believe in borrowing it.

So what separates me from the rest of the Republican field is I believe in a strong national defense, but I do not think you should borrow money from China to do it.

So my amendment distinguished myself from the rest of the Republican field because I said I will only pay for defense by cutting spending elsewhere.

BASH:  That - that may be true, but you're also somebody who's trying to prove that you are not weak on national security, so by proposing an increase in military spending before you announced for president could look like pandering.

PAUL:  Well, three or four years ago, we did the same thing, so we have been, for quite some time, proposing increases in military spending but always - the point really isn't so much how much or what the increase is that I believe that any increase in spending should be offset by decreases in spending somewhere else.

And this is a key point, because this differentiates me from the rest of the Republican field, who, many of them are profligate spenders for defense.  Many liberals are profligate spenders for welfare.  And they get together, that's the - that's the union in Washington, is right and left come together and they're spending us into oblivion.

So the president is I am different.  I will not increase spending for anything unless it's offset by corresponding decreases in spending elsewhere in the budget.

BASH:  Let's talk about a social issue, gay marriage.  In New Hampshire, you said, I will fight for your right to be left alone.  I realize that you believe gay marriage is a state issue, but why do you believe just as a core principle, as a libertarian, that people should be left alone, but not when it comes to their right to marry somebody they love?

PAUL:  I do believe people ought to be left alone.  I don't care who you are or what you do at home or who your friends are or what, you know, where you hang out, what kind of music you listen to, what you do in your home is your own business.  That's always been who I am.

I am a leave me alone kind of guy.

BASH:  But not when it comes to marriage.

PAUL:
  Well, no.  I mean states - states will end up making the decisions on these things.  I think that there's a religious connotation to marriage.  I believe in the traditional religious connotation to this.

But I also believe people ought to be treated fairly under the law.  I see no reason why if the marriage contract conveys certain things that if - if you - if you want to marry another woman that you can do that and have a contract.  But the thing is is the religious connotation of marriage that has been going on for thousands of years, I still want to preserve that.

And you probably could have both.  You could have both traditional marriage, which I believe in.  And then you could also have the neutrality of the law that allows people to have contracts with another.

BASH:  Anything you want to tell me about your - your first week, any highlights, low lights, regrets?

PAUL:  Let me think.  It's been just kind of a piece of cake.  I don't know.  They've been so nice to me.  I mean everywhere I go.  And...

BASH:  And meanwhile, back on planet earth.

PAUL:  Yes.  No, actually the people have been.  The media not always so much, but the people have been very nice to me and we've had extraordinary turnouts.  We had a couple of thousand people in Louisville.  We had packed rooms in New Hampshire.  We had packed audiences in South Carolina.  We just got offstage in Iowa with probably, I don't know, 700, 800 kids with so much energy, all - a lot of them saying they want something different, someone who will defend them on criminal justice and won't take away all their rights and privileges if they make a youthful mistake.

People who do want the more reasonable and rationable foreign policy.

BASH:  Thank you, Senator.

Appreciate it.

PAUL:  Thank you.

Thank you.

BASH:  Appreciate your time.

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