McCain: Rand ‘The Worst’ on Foreign Policy, Graham ‘Understands the Best’

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) shot back at Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) for referring to him and Senator and prospective presidential candidate Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as “lapdogs for President Obama” on Wednesday’s “Your World with Neil Cavuto” on the Fox News Channel.

“Senator Paul is the worst possible candidate of the 20 or so that are running on the most important issue, which is national security. And talking about being wrong, in 2007, he said Iran — it would be ridiculous to call Iran a threat to the United States’ national security. Last summer, he publicly doubted whether ISIS was a threat to the United States’ national security, the list goes on and on. In 2011, he proposed a budget that would have cut defense by 30%. 2011, budget would have eliminated all foreign assistance to Israel. He said Iran isn’t a threat to Israel. The record is very clear, that he simply does not have an understanding about the needs and the threats of United States national security” McCain stated. He later added, “the realities of the world today [do] not allow for the isolationist policies. We’ve already seen what happens from, ‘leading from behind,’ leading from far behind. And that’s what Rand Paul would do.”

McCain also defended his support for arming the Free Syrian Army, citing the opinion of the “entire national security team,” CIA head Gen. David Petraeus, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. He continued, arguing, “if we had armed them, Bashar Assad would have been overthrown, and we would have had a nation. 200,000 people would not have been slaughtered with millions as refugees. One of the greatest genocides committed in recent history by Bashar Assad. He was about to go. It was the President of the United States himself, who said it’s not a matter of — whether, but when Bashar Assad is going to leave. Dempsey, the Chairman and Joint Chiefs of Staff and Panetta both said it’s inevitable that Bashar Assad will go. So, we watched while the Iranians came in with 5,000 Hezbollah, tons and tons of equipment, training, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.”

He continued, responding to Rand’s criticism of the US’ intervention in Libya, saying “we didn’t lose a single plane, or pilot in [the] Libyan operation. Gaddafi was at the base of — gates of Benghazi. He was going to slaughter thousands of people. And after he — after he was taken out, we walked away. Again, leading from behind. If we had done the same thing in Europe after World War II, after we defeated Nazi Germany, terrible things would have happened in Europe as well. Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman, and I called for and begged for the kind of assistance that Libya needed at that time. And now, again, leading from behind, we’re paying a very heavy price for it.”

The discussion then turned to McCain’s feuds with another Senator and presidential candidate, Ted Cruz (R-TX). McCain didn’t say whether he like Cruz or Rand more, and maintained that he likes both personally. He also stated, “Ted Cruz has a much better handle on our national security issues. And I’m not — look, Lindsey Graham is my candidate. He’s the guy that understands the best.”

He also said, “[Senator and presidential candidate] Marco Rubio (R-FL) is excellent on these issues,” and named New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Jeb Bush as prospective GOP candidates with “good credentials,” but maintained that Lindsey Graham is his candidate “first, last, and always.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett