Rand Paul is backtracking after video surfaced last week from 2009 showing him suggesting that former Vice President Dick Cheney wanted to send Americans to war in Iraq to help his former employer, military contractor Halliburton, make money.
After his comments were repeatedly condemned by conservatives, the Kentucky GOP senator says now that he “wasn’t intending really to impugn [Cheney’s] personal motives.”
“I think he is a patriot as much as anyone else, and wants what’s best for the country,” Paul told Business Insider after an event in New Hampshire. “I don’t always agree with him, but I don’t question his motives.”
As for his suggestion that Cheney only wanted to go to Iraq after working for Halliburton, Paul told the outlet: “The point I was trying to make is one similar to one Eisenhower made. He said that the military-industrial complex — beware, because then they could be influencing policy by people who make money off government contracts.”
But in the comments from 2009 first reported by Mother Jones, a liberal magazine, Paul seemed to in fact be questioning Cheney’s motives.
In video from a 2009 appearance Paul made before college students in Kentucky before he ran for the U.S. Senate, Paul discussed how Cheney in 1995 was against invading Baghdad in the first Gulf War.
“Dick Cheney then goes to work for Halliburton,” Paul said then. “Makes hundreds of millions of dollars, their CEO. Next thing you know, he’s back in government and it’s a good idea to go into Iraq.”
Since those comments surfaced, hawkish Republicans have pounced, arguing these foreign policy views are what will disqualify him if he pulls the trigger on a 2016 run for president.
Cheney’s daughter, Liz Cheney, responded to the video by linking him to the left: “It’s not surprising since Senator Paul often seems to get his foreign policy talking points from Rachel Maddow,” she said.
That Paul would backtrack on his comments is not surprising. The libertarian-leaning son of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul is working hard to build a political organization ahead of a likely 2016 run for president and is trying to woo the GOP donor class — the sort of crowd who would have a strong distaste for such remarks.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Paul plans to meet with top donors to former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign next week in Boston.