Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and a Republican presidential contender, speaks on the floor of the U.S. Senate, May 20, 2015, at the Capitol in Washington, during a long speech opposing renewal of the Patriot Act. 
Photo by Senate TV/AP

Rand Paul reconsiders whether his critics want a terrorist attack

Last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) appeared on msnbc and raised a few eyebrows by linking ISIS to hawks in his own party.
“ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately,” the Republican said. “And most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS. These hawks also wanted to bomb Assad, which would have made ISIS’s job even easier. They created these people.”
The assertion that Republicans helped “create” ISIS was not well received among Paul’s Republican brethren, but last night, he made matters far worse during the debate on Patriot Act provisions. Some of his critics, Paul said on the Senate floor, may “secretly want there to be a [terrorist] attack on the United States so they can blame it on me.”
It’s a striking accusation. As we discussed earlier, a senator and presidential candidate seemed to suggest his rivals – including his ostensible allies in his own party – are actually hoping for a deadly attack in order to spite Rand Paul.
This morning, the Kentucky lawmaker appeared on Fox News, where he was unwilling to stand by his talking point (thanks to my msnbc colleague Dafna Linzer for the heads-up). When the Fox host asked who he was referring to, Paul said:
“I think sometimes in the heat of battle, hyperbole can get the better of anyone. That may be the problem there.”
May be?
Fox’s Bill Hemmer pressed further, asking whether Paul’s prepared to take back what he said on the Senate floor last night.
“Sometimes going after people’s motives and impugning people’s motives is a mistake, and in the heat of battle sometimes hyperbole can get better of all of us,” Paul replied.
When the host pressed further, trying to get a straight answer, the senator said with a smirk, “I think by calling it ‘hyperbole,’ that means I may have exaggerated the case.”
You’ll notice that at no point did Paul actually take responsibility for his original accusation, but he came close, and the presidential hopeful probably won’t go further.