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GOP Presidential Hopeful Rand Paul Clashes With Media


This week, we've also seen political confrontations caught on video. Republican Sen. Rand Paul clashed with TV reporters who asked about some of his shifting positions, including positions on national security. Some Republicans have criticized the presidential candidate as an isolationist. Yesterday, Sen. Paul made a speech in South Carolina in front of an aircraft carrier. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea was there.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The crowd of a few hundred arrived at Patriots Point near Charleston Harbor in shirt sleeves and summer dresses. In the noon-hour sunshine, there was even some seersucker. And there was pre-speech entertainment by the West Ashley High School marching band playing some Katy Perry.


GONYEA: But the big set piece was the USS Yorktown, sitting off in the distance and now a museum and tourist attraction. Some in the audience wore ball caps noting past military service in Vietnam or Iraq. Sen. Paul said as commander in chief, his desire for peace would not be mistaken for passivity.


SENATOR RAND PAUL: The world should not mistake our reluctance for war for inaction. And if war should prove unavoidable, America will fight with overwhelming force, and we will not relent until victory is ours.


GONYEA: The aircraft carrier was there to symbolize Paul's commitment to a strong military, but foreign policy is a tricky issue for him. His father, Ron Paul, the former congressman and three-time presidential candidate, was a loud critic of what he saw as a U.S. too eager to deploy military force. Rand Paul campaigned for his father back then. But as a U.S. senator, he's distanced himself from some of his dad's views and from some of his own past statements. That quickly became an issue this week. Take this interview on the "Today Show" two days ago. Here's NBC's Savannah Guthrie.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: You once said Iran was not a threat. Now you say it is. You once proposed ending foreign aid to Israel. You now support it - at least for the time being. And you once offered to drastically cut...

PAUL: Yeah, well, before we...

GUTHRIE: ...Wait, wait, wait...

GONYEA: Sen. Paul made it clear he did not like the line of questioning.



PAUL: No, no.

GUTHRIE: Is Iran still not a threat?

PAUL: You've editorialized - no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Listen, you've editorialized. Let me answer a question.


PAUL: You ask a question, and you say, have your views changed, instead of editorializing and saying my views have changed.

GONYEA: And there were other difficult encounters with journalists this week. The Associated Press asked Sen. Paul about his position on abortion. He says he's pro-life, but in the past, Paul has both opposed and supported exceptions in the case of rape, incest or risk to the life of the woman. He declined to clarify where he stands now. And when reporters in New Hampshire followed up on the topic, he said they should instead put this blunt question to the Democratic National Committee.


PAUL: Why don't we ask the DNC, is it OK to kill a 7-pound baby in the uterus?

GONYEA: It's not exactly the campaign rollout he planned. In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer this week, Sen. Paul acknowledged a need to not be so quick to pick a fight during interviews. At the same time, he dismissed accusations that he especially has a problem with female interviewers.


PAUL: You know, I think I've been universally short-tempered and testy with both male and female reporters. I'll own up to that.

GONYEA: Meanwhile, back at the event in Charleston, Rand Paul supporter and former Congressman J. C. Watts spoke to the audience before the candidate's speech. Like many Republicans, Watts sees the clashes with the media as a badge of honor for Sen. Paul.


J. C. WATTS: He only announced on Tuesday, and they started to attack him on Wednesday. And I remind you of what my dad used to say to me often - dogs don't bark at parked cars.

GONYEA: Taking on the media is a well-traveled path for Republican presidential candidates. Don't expect it to subside for this campaign. Sen. Paul, meanwhile, continues his announcement-week tour today at the University of Iowa. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Charleston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.