The foreign policy battle between Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulVaccine 'resisters' are a real problem Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Journalist Dave Levinthal discusses 'uptick' in congressional stock trade violations MORE (R-Ky.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP campaign arm outraises Democratic counterpart in September House passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure Senators call for answers from US firm over reported use of forced Uyghur labor in China MORE (R-Fla.) escalated Sunday on the political talk shows and Twitter, with the Florida lawmaker labeling Paul the “chief cheerleader” of Obama’s foreign policy.
“Rand, if he wants to become the chief cheerleader of Obama’s foreign policy, he certainly has a right to do that,” Rubio told ABC News. “I’m going to continue to oppose the Obama-Paul foreign policy on Cuba because I know it won’t lead to freedom and liberty for the Cuban people, which is my sole interest here.”
The two Republican lawmakers and possible 2016 presidential candidates have spent the better part of the week exchanging barbs over President Obama’s recently announced efforts to normalize relations with Cuba by easing trade and travel restrictions and re-establishing an embassy in Havana.
Paul has supported the move, saying it will open Cuba up to American ideas and products and help expedite the fall of the Castro regime. Rubio has not, arguing the changes will reward the Communist government in Havana despite its brutal human rights record.
Paul struck back on Twitter a few hours after Rubio’s appearance on “This Week,” saying the Florida Republican had forgotten to mention his own “support for Obama's funding of [the Muslim] Brotherhood, arming Islamic rebels, and Hillary's war in Libya.”
The Kentucky lawmaker has opposed providing aid to Egypt’s government because of the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood there, and he argued that President Obama exceeded his constitutional authority in conducting airstrikes in Libya. He’s also opposed a law that allows the Pentagon to equip and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The bickering was just the latest between the two lawmakers.
In an interview earlier this week on Fox News’s “The Kelly File,” Rubio said Paul had “no idea what he’s talking about” on Cuba. The Kentucky Republican fired back on the same program the following night, branding Rubio an isolationist and saying his criticism was “rude and inappropriate.”
In an interview on Sunday with CNN, the Republican Party’s 2008 presidential nominee suggested the wide gulf on foreign policy issues within the party could mean that international affairs will play a bigger role in the 2016 primaries than at any point since the Cold War.
“It's sort of a traditional conflict that's gone on within our party, but because of the world we live in today, I think national security will play a much greater role in affecting the views of the voters,” Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump attacks Meghan McCain and her family In Montana, a knock-down redistricting fight over a single line McCain: Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner had 'no goddamn business' attending father's funeral MORE (R-Ariz.) said. “I think that's going to make it much more interesting in some respects. And so therefore, you may see greater divisions from people like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and people on the other side like Rand Paul and others. So, I think you may see that kind of debate play a much greater role in this upcoming nomination fight.”