Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), after speaking on the Senate floor about surveillance legislation, speaks to reporters after exiting the Senate floor on Capitol Hill, May 31, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty

How Rand Paul assigns blame for terrorist attacks

During Sunday’s Senate debate on provisions of the Patriot Act, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) made some provocative comments, some of which he’s walked back. But while the first part of this quote made headlines – for good reason – there was something about the second part that also struck me as noteworthy.
“People here in town think I’m making a huge mistake. Some of them I think secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me. One of the people in the media the other day came up to me and said, ‘Oh, well, when there’s a great attack aren’t you going to feel guilty that you caused this great attack?’
“It’s like, the people who attack us are responsible for attacks on us. Do we blame the police chief for the attack of the Boston bombers?”
In fairness to Paul, the Republican senator has already moved away from the claim that his critics “secretly want” a terrorist attack just to spite him. It was an ugly thing to say, and the Kentucky lawmaker conceded yesterday that his emotions got the better of him “in the heat of battle.”
But the other part of the quote is fairly compelling: when there’s a terrorist attack, the first instinct should be to blame the terrorists themselves, not U.S. policymakers.
It’s a perfectly defensible position, but does Paul actually believe it? I’m reminded of this piece from The Hill just two weeks ago:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) charged hard after Hillary Clinton on Saturday, saying her responsibility for the 2012 Benghazi, Libya, attacks shows she should never be president.
“I think that Hillary Clinton’s failure to defend our ambassador should forever preclude her from that office,” Paul said at the Iowa Republican Party’s Lincoln Dinner on Saturday.
He accused Clinton, at the time the secretary of State, of failing to adequately protect U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans who died in the 2012 attacks.
“The one thing you have to do as Commander in Chief is defend America and its interest,” Paul said.
Hmm. So, “the people who attack us are responsible for attacks on us,” unless it’s in Libya, at which point, Hillary Clinton is responsible for attacks on us?
For Rand Paul, we don’t blame the Boston police chief for the attack of the Boston bombers, but we do blame the Secretary of State for an attack on a U.S. outpost in North Africa?