Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said Friday that his newly revealed presidential ambitions are motivated by what he views as a "lack of a real defense policy or defense debate" among leading 2016 contenders like Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX).
"A number of people in the last several months, particularly in New York but also around the country, were concerned about what they feel is a lack of a real defense policy or defense debate among Republican candidates for president, focusing primarily on Rand Paul and Ted Cruz," King said during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Criticism of U.S. drone policy by the likes of Cruz and Paul has drawn the ire of hawks such as King and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), setting the stage for a potential split within the GOP on national security. The New York congressman said Paul, who led a marathon filibuster earlier this year to demand answers on the use of drones to target Americans, has misplaced his priorities in the debate. King also expressed concerned that Republicans "needlessly antagonize" blue collar constituencies.
"It bothers me when the leading Republicans out there, someone like Rand Paul, seems more concerned about an American being killed in Starbucks by a CIA drone than he is about Islamic terrorism," King said. "So I think we are the party of Eisenhower and Reagan, which believed in strong national defense. Also, I believe the Republicans have managed to cut themselves off from what used to be the old Reagan coalition. They're the building trade unions, the operating engineers, the construction workers, the cops, the firefighters. We needlessly antagonize them. So on just two issues, national defense and reaching out to what I believe are really hardcore workers who should be part of the republican majority. I'm certainly willing to be out there and be a spokesman to see where this goes."