At a time when there appears to be a burgeoning rift in Republican ranks over the government’s use of drones, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Friday argued that he, not Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), represents former President Ronald Reagan’s true legacy in the party.
In a tense interview on Fox News, anchor Shepard Smith brought up the emerging schism between hawks such as McCain and non-interventionists like Paul.McCain and his longtime ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) each blasted Paul earlier this week for the Kentucky libertarian’s epic 13-hour filibuster over the nomination of John Brennan to lead the CIA.
Smith brought up McCain’s ardent support for military intervention in the past, as well as an infamous Beach Boys parody once sung by the Arizona Republican that seemed to express support for bombing Iran. The latter reference drew McCain’s ire.
“You really believe that?” McCain asked Smith incredulously.
“Sir, all I’m asking is is it your sense that Rand Paul may be bringing together people in the basement who align maybe in some cases more closely with the left than with the right,” Smith said.
McCain bristled at Smith’s reference to his “joke” about a strike against Iran and then argued that his vision of establishing “peace through strength” upholds Reagan’s legacy more than Paul’s isolationism. The two-time presidential candidate also quibbled with the notion that he’s an “interventionist.”
“I’m of the party of Ronald Reagan and there’s been a debate in our party for years and years about whether we should withdraw to fortress America or not. But to say we’re interventionists is a mislabeling and absolutely false,” McCain said. “We are for a strong America and we believe that’s the best way to prevent war rather than a weakened military, which many of my colleagues now support who are the isolationists, which goes all the way back to post-World War I.”