'The enemy is radical Islam,' Rand Paul says
© Greg Nash

Presidential hopeful Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump escalates fight with NY Times The 10 GOP senators who may break with Trump on emergency On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 MORE on Thursday said the U.S. is engaged in a conflict against Islamic extremists who are “haters of mankind.”

The Kentucky Republican said radical Muslims practice a “barbarous aberration” of the Islamic faith, and it’s up to the United States to counter their fanaticism.

“The enemy is radical Islam,” Paul said at a campaign rally in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

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“I will do everything in my power to defend America from these haters of mankind,” he added, speaking with the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier as a backdrop.

President Obama drew criticism in February for saying terrorists in the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) did not represent the Muslim faith. 

“They’re not religious leaders; they’re terrorists,” Obama argued during a Feb. 18 White House summit about countering violent extremism.

 “We are not at war with Islam,” he continued. “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.” 

The president's remarks took fire from Republicans, who said he was bowing to political correctness by skirting around Islam’s role in terrorism.

“How can you talk about defeating an enemy you cannot name?” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) asked in a Feb. 18 statement.

As he has done in the Senate, Paul on Thursday called on lawmakers to freeze foreign aid to any country that expresses hostility toward the U.S.

“I say not one penny more to these haters of America,” he urged. “Let’s quit using money to build bridges in foreign countries and start building bridges at home.”

Paul promised that he would use American military force wisely should he win the Oval Office. All too often, he charged, past presidents had not pondered the consequences of putting boots on the ground overseas.

“There is no greater responsibility for a president than determining when we go to war,” Paul said.

“I vow never to take the country to war without just cause and the constitutional approval of Congress,” he vowed.

“War is not a game and should not be used for political advantage,” he concluded. “Too many political lawmakers in Washington have not learned that.”

Paul faces skepticism from defense hawks in the GOP who view him as an isolationist. The senator has addressed that criticism head-on this week, using his presidential launch speech to claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan and his pursuit of “peace through strength.”

The senator on Thursday said a more efficient government would ensure stronger national security as well

“A government inept at home will not succeed in building nations abroad,” he declared.

Paul officially announced his White House run Tuesday in Louisville, Ky. He has already raised more than $1 million in campaign funds.