In an effort to boost his media exposure, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has tried to discredit Rep. Ron Paul's responses in the GOP debate Wednesday in New Hampshire.Thursday, Huckabee called Texas Rep. Paul's comments during the debate "ludicrous" and "unacceptable." The former Arkansas governor conflated a previous debate comment with Wednesday's debate to suggest that Paul blamed America for 9/11. Has Paul made "ludicrous" statements? I decided to look at what he's said in the debates and do some fact-checking. It turns out Ron Paul had to set the record straight early in the debate after Fox News' moderators misquoted him, suggesting that he wanted citizens to be able to carry guns on airplanes to thwart attacks. Not true, said Paul. His actual words were: "Responsibility for protecting passengers falls with the airline, not the government, not the passengers." Paul favors small government and private responsibility. Next came the question that prompted the comments Huckabee objects to so much. Chris Wallace asked Paul if he would pull troops from Iraq in spite of predictions of a bloodbath, al Qaeda camps and death for U.S. supporters in Iraq. Paul's spirited answer: "The people who say there will be a bloodbath are the ones who said it would be a cakewalk, it would be slam dunk, and that it would be paid for by oil. Why believe them?"
He was alluding to Vice President Dick Cheney's prediction that we'd be greeted in Iraq "with candy and flowers." Paul Wolfowitz, a former Bush aide, claimed that Iraqi oil would pay for the entire war, and some estimates were as low as a few billion dollars. Larry Lindsey, Bush's former economic adviser, was severely criticized for saying the war would cost $100 billion to $200 billion. It has surpassed $700 billion to date. How can Huckabee call Paul's statement "ludicrous" when the facts speak so strongly to the contrary? The Bush administration hasn't gotten anything right in Iraq: no al Qaeda connection, no weapons of mass destruction, no cost to the taxpayer -- the list goes on and on. In that same segment, Paul repeated an assertion from a previous debate: "The fact that we had troops in Saudi Arabia was one of the three reasons given for the attack on 9/11." True or not true? Al Qaeda did
issue a fatwa -- a judgment on Islamic law -- saying the United States committed three "crimes": military occupation of the Arabian peninsula, U.S. aggression against Iraqis, and U.S. support for Israel and refusal to recognize Palestinians. In a prior debate, Paul mentioned Michael Scheuer, a former CIA agent and chief of the agency's bin Laden station from 1996 to 1999. Scheuer, a bin Laden expert whose books include Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam and the Future of America and Imperial Hubris , defended Paul's statements at a May 24 press conference and confirmed that al Qaeda's response is blowback from bad policy in the Middle East.
And yet, Paul's remarks are somehow ludicrous and unacceptable? I don't think so, and neither does his camp. I spoke with Paul's communications director, Jesse Benton, who said, "It's unfortunate that Mike Huckabee would demagogue on such an important issue." Paul commented further on the war in Iraq. First, he decried going to war without first declaring war. The U.S. Constitution requires that the president declare war by making a request to Congress. We haven't had a formal war declaration since World War II. Second, he asserted that the Iraq war is illegal under international law. War may be waged if approved by the U.N. Security Council, if it's sought as a matter of self-defense, or if it's a response to an overwhelming humanitarian emergency. None of these apply in Iraq. The U.N. Security Council's nine members didn't approve of our invasion, nor was the war in self-defense. Humanitarian grounds also falls short as an excuse for the invasion. So, were Paul's comment ludicrous and unacceptable? Hardly. The record from the debate is clear: Paul has his facts straight. I'm not sure this can be said for the other candidates on the stage Wednesday night.