Fresh off his presidential straw poll win at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Sen. Rand Paul told Newsmax TV
on Tuesday that the likely Democratic nominee for 2016, Hillary Clinton, has no business seeking the Oval Office.
The Kentucky Republican told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner that Clinton's reported use of a personal email account exclusively
to do her work as secretary of state troubles him less than her handling of another matter: the attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
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"The main thing that bothers me, and should preclude her from being considered for the presidency, is that she didn't defend our mission in Benghazi," said Paul, referring to the September 2012 attack by militants on the U.S. embassy compound in Libya, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died.
"She was asked repeatedly for security, didn't defend the embassy … and then as a consequence we lost our ambassador there," said Paul.
Clinton must also address reports
that her family foundation has accepted donations from foreign governments before, during, and after her tenure at the State Department, he said.
The contributions create the appearance "of foreign countries buying influence with someone who could potentially run for the presidency," said Paul.
"There's a lot of things she's going to have to answer," he said, adding that "some of her behavior really should make a lot of Americans think twice about whether or not to consider her" for the White House.
But Paul emphasized failings that led to Benghazi, an incident that remains under intense scrutiny to this day. A House select committee on Benghazi
chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy is preparing for Clinton to testify to the panel.
"There's a bar that everyone who wants to run for the president has to cross, and that's, 'Will you defend our country, will you defend our people, and will you defend American interests?'" said Paul.
"If you're not able to do that, or not up to the task, then really you shouldn't be president," he said. "And that's why I've said Benghazi should preclude her from consideration. Because it wasn't just she made mistakes that day; it was for nine months preceding that.
"She was probably asked 20 times for more security for that embassy," said Paul. "When I asked her, 'Did you read the cables from Ambassador Stevens?' she acted as if she didn't have time; she was too busy traveling the world and showing that she was a great traveling secretary of state.
"But there's a real problem when the ambassador is pleading for help and saying that we're in danger of being overrun, and you continue to reduce the security forces there," said Paul.
Worse, he said, was the motivation for reducing security around American personnel in Libya after the fall of strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
"It's sort of this politically correct kind of thing that they didn't want to have arms, they didn't want our people to wear their uniforms, they didn't want our people to even wear their military boots because that somehow would offend the sensibilities of the Libyans," said Paul. "And it just shows poor judgment that she was unable to really get beyond that to say our first mission is actually to protect our people in the field."
On the same day that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress, and warned against trusting in nuclear negotiations with Iran, Paul expressed his own doubts about whether the United States can talk Iran out of attempting to develop nuclear weapons.
Paul wondered whether President Barack Obama has "the force of character" to reach a credible deal, and he said that Congress is stepping into the debate over Iran because lawmakers want to be sure the U.S. is negotiating "from a position of strength."
Paul also discussed House Speaker John Boehner abandoning the fight
to defund the president's executive orders on immigration.
Paul agreed that Obama has been "writing law" on multiple policy fronts, in violation of the Constitution and the doctrine of separation of powers, and said he voted to defund the president's order to begin making arrangements for millions of immigrants here illegally to stay in the country.
But Paul questioned whether Congress has picked "a winnable battle" by trying to use Department of Homeland Security funding to challenge Obama on immigration.
Over the weekend, Paul finished first in a presidential straw poll of attendees at CPAC. On Tuesday, he sounded heartened by the win as he described the "extraordinary young crowd" on hand for the annual gathering in Washington, D.C., of conservative leaders and activists.
Young voters sided with Obama in 2008 and 2012 "but they've become disaffected," especially with revelations of the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' phone records, he said.
"There's an opportunity there with kids," he said of his party's presidential prospects in 2016, adding that voters might consider him someone who can carry the Republicans' message to new constituencies without "diluting our principles."
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