Sen. Rand Paul in Manchester, New Hampshire on Friday March 20

Apr 7, 2015 3:15 PM

Steinhauser: Amb. Bolton questions Rand Paul on natl. security; still mulling 2016 run

NH1 Political Director -

CONCORD - As Rand Paul formally announced his presidential campaign, the GOP senator from Kentucky came under attack, not just from Democrats as expected, but from fellow Republicans.

And one of the people leading the charge was John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush.

Bolton, who's mulling his own bid for the 2016 GOP nomination, questioned Paul's positions on national security and foreign policy. Paul has come under fire in recent months from foreign policy hawks over his stance on nuclear negotiations with Iran and a host of other international hot spots, with many characterizing Paul as an isolationist who's in-line with his father Ron Paul, the libertarian-minded former congressman from Texas who ran three times for the White House urging an anti-interventionist platform.

In an interview with NH1 News, Bolton said Tuesday that "I think this is really a political problem for Sen. Paul. I think his philosophy is essentially the same as his father's but you don't get to be the nominee of the Republican Party for the presidency pursuing that line. So I think Sen. Paul's issue is that his philosophy and his ambitions are in competition and on any given day on any given issue it's a coin toss where he's going to come out. He's changed on the defense budget; he's changed on the threat of terrorism; he's changed on aid to Israel."

Bolton added that "I believe in redemption. I hope he becomes someone in the mainstream of the national security views of the Republican Party, but he'll have to address the question himself, in his own conscience, and with his supporters, that these changes have come with a declaration of his presidential candidacy."

Asked if he would support Paul if the senator won the GOP nomination, Bolton said "I'm going to support the nominee of the Republican Party in any conceivable circumstance. But to me it just underlines why it's so important to get as the Republican nominee somebody who truly believes really deeply and emotionally that protecting the country is the president's first duty."

Bolton's comments came as a pro-Republican group urging a hard line against Iran went up with a new ad slamming the younger Paul.

"The Senate is considering tough new sanctions on Iran. President Obama says he'll veto them. Rand Paul is standing with him. Rand Paul stands with Obama's negotiations with Iran. And he doesn't understand the threat," says the narrator in a new spot by the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America.

The commercial then uses an audio clip of Paul from 2007, when he was supporting is father's bid for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, saying "you know it's ridiculous to think that they're a threat to our national security."

The ad ends with the narrator saying "Rand Paul is wrong and dangerous. Tell him to stop siding with Obama, because even one Iranian bomb would be a disaster."

The Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America is a pro-Republican non-profit group. They say their spot will run on the Fox News Channel as well as in New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina, the three states that kick off the primary and caucus calendar. The ads in New Hampshire will run on broadcast stations, including WBIN-TV.

Doug Stafford, one of Paul's top political advisers, said in a statement that "the Washington machine is worried that our message is resonating across all 50 states. These attacks are false. Senator Paul has voted for Iran sanctions and continues to believe that Iran should be forbidden from acquiring nuclear weapons."

And in his announcement speech Tuesday afternoon in Louisville, Kentucky, Paul showed off his more muscular language on Iran, saying "we brought Iran to the table from strength, through sanctions I voted for. Now we must stay strong. That's why I co-sponsored legislation that insures that any deal between the US and Iran must be approved by Congress."

"I will oppose any deal that does not end Iran's nuclear ambitions and have strong verification measures," Paul added.

Bolton's 2016 game plan

Bolton will speak next week at the NHGOP's "First in the Nation Leadership Summit," which is attracting nearly all of the GOP presidential candidates and possible contenders. It will be Bolton's second visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state this year.

Bolton considered a bid for the 2012 GOP nomination before deciding against a run. If he does launch a campaign in 2016, he'll be considered a very longshot, even though foreign policy and national security are expected to play a larger role in the election

"I'm still doing due-diligence in terms of making my own decision. I don't think I'm driven by a particular timetable. I think I'm in a unique position in that respect from, different from all the conventional politicians who are all jumping in now. I think I've got a little bit more flexibility. And I want to be sure, this is an important decision obviously, I want to be sure to take enough time to think through the implications. And that's what I'm doing. Talking to a lot of people and seeing what a campaign would look like and how it might affect the overall debate," Bolton told NH1 News.

Asked what his campaign would look like, Bolton said "it would be a 360 degree campaign. I'm motivated by my concern that people understand that the president's most important duty is protecting the country, and I think that's what all the candidates have to measure up to. But I also understand that if you are going to be serious about this, you have to address all the issues that people are concerned about, the economy, immigration, and a whole range of other issues, and I would be prepared to do that. A lot of it would be internet driven. We've done a lot in the super PAC I set up in the last election cycle, through social media and direct communication. And I think we would handle the campaign that way."


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