Sen. Rand Paul sharply criticized Hillary Clinton for her handling of Benghazi, which he argued should disqualify her to serve as U.S. president, in remarks Friday to members of the Republican National Committee.
He charged that when Clinton served as Secretary of State, the agency was spending money on items that were not needed instead of boosting security for the U.S. diplomats serving in Libya.
“The thing is, is that this is about judgment and we are talking about should we, should we as a country have a commander-in-chief who didn’t provide added security in Libya, didn’t send reinforcements and then gave us nothing but spin?” Paul said. “My opinion is that Hillary Clinton has precluded herself from ever being considered for that position.”
His denouncement of Clinton drew hoots and hollers and loud applause from the room of politically weary Republicans who are anxious to take back the White House in 2016.
In an interview prior to his speech, Paul said he thinks Clinton should again testify to Congress about Benghazi.
“I think it’s really important that you know, for six months leading up to Benghazi, there were multiple requests for more security and she turned them down,” Paul said.
He was also highly critical of Bill Clinton, when he was asked his thoughts about the former president’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. Earlier this year, Paul described Clinton’s actions as “predatory behavior,” in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“I think that he harassed people,” Paul said Friday in the interview. “He was sued multiple times for it, so yes, I think what he did was absolutely inappropriate. Is that being a predator? I don’t know how you want to define it but the thing is, most people would say that it’s contemptible.”
While Paul never mentioned his own political ambitions, his speech to the state GOP leaders and activists was an opportunity for the Kentucky Republican to promote his own agenda and policies, which will serve as his political platform if he decides to run for president. Paul, who publicly acknowledges he is considering seeking the Republican nomination, is frequently leading or consistently places in the top tier of candidates in early 2016 polling.
Paul of Kentucky broke Friday with fellow Republicans who have pushed for stricter voting laws as a way to crack down on fraud at the polls, saying that the focus on such measures alienates and insults African-Americans and hurts the party.
Paul advised his fellow GOP members to be “more sympathetic” toward communities who have felt alienated by Republican policies. The party’s struggle to connect with communities of color was a large part of the focus of a post-mortem commissioned by RNC head Reince Priebus following the 2012 presidential election.
“Everybody’s gone completely crazy on this voter ID thing,” Mr. Paul said in an interview. “I think it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.”
Mr. Paul becomes the most prominent member of his party, and among the very few, to distance himself from the voting restrictions and the campaign for their passage in states under Republican control, including North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, that can determine presidential elections. Civil rights groups call the laws a transparent effort to depress black turnout.
For his part, Paul’s Memphis meeting with the group of pastors was the latest in a series of outreach trips, which included heavily-criticized appearances at Howard University and Detroit, Michigan
“There is only upside potential,” Paul said. “There is no downside.”