Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Wednesday denied that he had changed his views about expanding the campaign against Islamic State militants in the Middle East.
The Weekly Standard caught up with the Kentucky Republican on Capitol Hill and inquired about his hawkish turn toward advocating for more airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
TWS: Senator Paul, could you say what's changed in the last couple months in your thinking on ISIS? You were still uncertain about bombing back in August. Now you support it. What in your mind has changed?
PAUL: I still have exactly the same policy. And that is that intervention militarily should be through an act of Congress.
But while it's true that Paul has always said Congress should approve military action, his response fails to address the fact that he's changed his views on whether or not the U.S. should ultimately intervene.
In June, following President Barack Obama's decision to send military advisers to Iraq, Paul argued against intervention in the war-torn country, in part by raising concerns that any airstrikes would effectively turn the U.S. into "Iran's air force." Later that month, after Obama announced that the U.S. would carry out airstrikes to defend ethnic minorities threatened by militants, Paul said he had "mixed feelings" about the operation. By September, Paul had completely shed the trappings of libertarian non-interventionism and endorsed bombing the Islamic State, arguing that "Peace through Strength," a motto of former President Ronald Reagan, "only works if you have and show strength."
"I’ve said since I began public life that I am not an isolationist, nor am I an interventionist," he wrote in Time. "I look at the world, and consider war, realistically and constitutionally."
By denying that he changed his position, Paul is employing the same tactic he used when trying to neutralize the controversy over his stance on the Civil Rights Act. This summer, Paul denied ever objecting to parts of the landmark legislation, even though fact-checkers have concluded that he was trying to "essentially erase what he said in 2010."
At least one fellow Republican is unconvinced by Paul's act. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, another presidential aspirant, unloaded on Paul last week for "trying to convince Americans that he was against U.S. intervention before he was for it."
"The Kentucky senator is trying to tell us he’s not an isolationist," he wrote in Politico. "That dog won’t hunt."