Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a newly announced presidential candidate, got into a testy exchange with NBC “Today” host Savannah Guthrie after she accused him of flip-flopping.
“You have had views on foreign policy in the past that were somewhat unorthodox, but you seem to have changed over the years,” Guthrie said. “You once said Iran was not a threat, now you say it is. You once proposed ending foreign aid to Israel, you now support it, at least for the time being…”
Paul wasn’t happy with the characterization, interrupting to say, “Before we go — before we go through a litany…” (VIDEO: Rand Paul Snaps At Hostile CNBC Host: ‘Slanted… Full Of Distortions’)
But Guthrie talked over the Senator. “And you once offered to drastically cut — drastically wanted to cut defense spending, and now you want to increase in 18 percent. I just want to know if you mellowed out.”
“Why don’t we let me explain instead of talking over me, OK?” Paul said icily. “Before we go through a litany of things you say I’ve changed on, why don’t you ask me a question, ‘Have I changed my opinion?’ That would sort of a better way to approach an interview.”
Guthrie again began to interrupt. ““No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” Paul chided her. “Listen, you’ve editorialized. Let me answer a question. You ask a question, and you say, ‘Have your views changed?’ instead of editorializing and saying my views have changed.”
He went on to explain that he hadn’t flip-flopped on any of the issues. When he came to reducing foreign aid, he said it was a matter of prioritization. “Things will have to be done gradually, and if we are going to try to eliminate or reduce foreign aid, why don’t we start with the countries that hate us, that burn our flag… and so I haven’t proposed removing aid from Israel.”
“But you once did,” Guthrie interrupted again.
“Let me answer the question,” he said exasperatedly. “I still agree with my original statement years ago that ultimately, all nations should be free of foreign aid…”
“Do you still think Iran is not a threat, as you said in 2007?” Guthrie pressed.
“2007 was a long time ago and events do change,” he replied. “[W]hat I would say is that there has always been a threat of Iran gaining nuclear weapons, and I think that’s greater than it was many years ago. I think we should do everything we can to try to stop them, I’ve voted for sanctions to try to stop them.”
Paul stressed that he was one of the few Republicans not “beating the drums of war,” and believed diplomacy was key. “I think my position on Iran is one that reflects the events, and reflects the current history.”