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Rand Paul calls Hillary Clinton a 'war hawk'

Some Democrats might worry “Hillary Clinton will get us involved in another Middle Eastern war, because she’s so gung-ho," he said.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks at the Fancy Farm picnic Aug. 2, 2014 in Fancy Farm, Ky.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks at the Fancy Farm picnic Aug. 2, 2014 in Fancy Farm, Ky.

During an exclusive interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., described Hillary Clinton as a "war hawk" while previewing what a 2016 presidential contest between the two of them would look like.

"Were I to run, there's going to be a lot of independents, and even some Democrats, who say you know what? We are tired of war," Paul said. "We're worried that Hillary Clinton will get us involved in another Middle Eastern war, because she's so gung-ho."

Rand Paul is rumored to be a candidate for the 2016 Republican primary; Hillary Clinton is widely regarded as the favored candidate in the Democratic primary. A contest between the two of them would almost certainly focus on their differing approaches to foreign policy. Whereas Clinton -- who served as President Obama's first secretary of state -- favors widespread extension of American power (both hard and soft), Paul tends to oppose military intervention and advocate winding down U.S. foreign aid.

In an interview with the Atlantic Monthly's Jeffrey Goldberg two weeks ago, Clinton made clear that she still believes in the proactive use of American power abroad.

"I think we’ve learned about the limits of our power to spread freedom and democracy. That’s one of the big lessons out of Iraq," she said. "But we’ve also learned about the importance of our power, our influence, and our values appropriately deployed and explained."

Shortly after "Meet the Press" aired its Rand Paul interview, the Democratic National Committee attacked his "fringe, isolationist vision" in a statement.

“Senator Paul’s foreign policy vision is to retreat from our responsibilities abroad by ending all foreign aid to our allies – including Israel," said DNC spokesperson Michael Czin in the statement.

In fact, Paul has refined his position on foreign aid to Israel somewhat. Earlier this month, he told reporters that he had never proposed eliminating U.S. aid to the country, a claim which the fact-checking website Politifact rated as "pants on fire." As 2016 approaches, Paul seems to have been trying to accumulate some pro-Israel cred, for example by proposing the U.S. cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority.

Paul's interview, which aired on Sunday, was recorded while he was on a much-publicized humanitarian visit to Guatemala. He was there to perform eye surgery on afflicted locals, although he also made a visit to Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina.

"Depicting who I am is, I think, an important part of presenting a face to the public," he said, regarding the publicity for the trip.