Rand Paul: Charles Krauthammer is 'just wrong'

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," April 8, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: Breaking tonight, in the 24 hours since republican Rand Paul joined the race for the presidency he has taken a pounding from the press and the pundits. The question now, was it fair?

Welcome to "The Kelly File," everyone. I'm Megyn Kelly.

Reaction came almost immediately after the first-term senator declared his candidacy in front of a roaring crowd in Louisville, Kentucky. First, he was criticized on his foreign policy positions. Then he was accused of flip-flopping. And The Washington Post even went after the facts that he used in his rollout speech.

But one of the more pointed criticisms came not from the left wing media but from best-selling conservative writer and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer.


CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Whatever name you want to put on Paul's position, isolationist or noninterventionist, he is without a doubt the one Republican who will be running who is the closest to Obama in his view of foreign policy.


KELLY: Senator Paul has already kicked off a very busy series of campaign stops. He joins me tonight from South Carolina. Great to see you, Senator. Thank you for being here.

So, let's start with Charles Krauthammer. Because he's beloved by so many in the Republican Party. And people say if I have to choose between Charles and Rand Paul, who do I side with?

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY., CANDIDATE FOR GOP PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION: And here's the thing. You know, I like Charles. He's a fellow physician. And we have a good personal relationship. But you know what, sometimes he's just wrong. And what I would say the reason he's wrong is that if you look at who's closest to President Obama on foreign policy, it would be the people who have supported his policies like the war in Libya.

And I think the neocons both in our party have been very close to President Obama on all of these issues. The only place that they have differed is in degrees. I have been the one who opposed the war in Libya. I was the one opposed to Obama bombing in Assad when the Syria -- beginning of the Syrian conflict. I was the one opposed to Obama's arming of the Syrian rebels, of the Islamic rebels.

See, the neocons have been in favor of all of these things. And they're actually much closer to President Obama than I am.

KELLY: Is he a neocon, is Charles Krauthammer a neocon?


PAUL: Excuse me?

KELLY: Is Charles a neocon?

PAUL: Well, I would say that Charles on this issue is incorrect.


KELLY: I know. But I'm just trying to understand what you mean because you've been saying a lot about neocons. And who are they? In your mind, you know, who are they? What section of the Republican Party do you mean?  Like Bill Crystal? Lindsey Graham?

PAUL: It's more of a philosophy. And they will know when you talk about them, they will know who they are. But the reason I don't choose to bring up names is I don't want to make this about personalities. But there's a philosophy of neo-conservativism. And I think they were wrong in Libya --


KELLY: Yes. But when you say that -- when you say that, I mean, this is -- you have to fight before you can fight for any general election against Hillary Clinton who I know, you have been, you know, remarking on, you have to win the GOP nomination. And can you do it by alienating what was at least as of a few years ago said to be about 10 percent of the GOP, which is neoconservatives.

PAUL: Well, yes, but here's the thing, Megyn. I didn't start this. It's not my choice to start out by having a war with Republicans. But I will tell you for example in polling in Iowa about two months ago they asked the question, are you -- do you favor Rand Paul's foreign policy of being less involved, or do you favor John McCain's policy of being more involved intervening more in war around the world. And it's actually pretty evenly split. About half Republicans thinks, yep, John McCain's always right and we should have troops in 15 countries and be at war continuously. But about half the party says, you know what, Rand Paul has a point. Sometimes we get involved and it actually backfires on us. I think Libya's an example of that. And I think had we toppled Assad, ISIS would have been stronger. And I think our arming of the Islamic rebels in that civil war has allowed ISIS to get stronger.

KELLY: Well, we got in too late. I mean, their response to that is we got in too late. We started arming at a time when the wrong people had taken over.

PAUL: But the truth --


KELLY: But let me make the comment that people that you're criticizing say -- excuse me, let me ask the question. The people you're criticizing say we should have been arming those rebels. The decision to arm the rebels was not the wrong one. It just should have happened earlier while it was, you know, the sort of doctors and the lawyers and not yet the radical Islamists.

PAUL: Right. Right. But the truth of the matter is that's incorrect. In 2013 we put 600 tons of weapons in there. There was no dearth of weapons going in there. The problem was we were putting weapons in there, Saudi Arabia was, Qatar was, but it was indiscriminate. And the weapons were flowing to al Nusra, they were flowing to so-called moderates. But a CIA analyst put it this way said, the only thing moderate about the rebels in Syria is their ability to fight. Our American arms went very quickly to ISIS. The Saudi Arabian arms went to ISIS. ISIS is strong today because they're fighting with western arms. I think it's a terrible tragedy --

KELLY: What are we going to do about it? Because the thing that, you know, the thing that I've heard -- this week we had General Michael Flynn, Retired General Michael Flynn in the program and he used to run up until July, the Defense Intelligence Agency. And he and General Jack Keane and some other top military experts have said we're not talking all military.  Nobody's saying this is an all-military battle. But when it comes to fighting radical Islam, we're going to have to be more aggressive. We're going to have to have a multifaceted approach. And, yes, it's going to include boots on the ground and it's going to include a strong robust military option. Do you agree with that?

PAUL: A lot of it. As far as the boots on the ground though I would say that the boots on the ground need to be Arab boots on the ground.  Ultimately civilized Islam's going to have to rise up and be part of this.  I think the Jordanians have been provoked enough that they will put boots on the ground. I think the Saudi Arabians need to step up. And I want to see battalions where thousands of Saudi Arabians are marching at the front of the battalions. Because frankly the Saudi Arabians have been a big part of this problem overtime. I think the Qataris need to be fighting at the front lines, the Kuwaitis need to be at the frontlines. The Turks need to be at the front lines, but you have to have Arab boots on the ground.

KELLY: Let's talk about the rollout of your campaign. Because you've already taken a hit for your behavior in a couple of interviews. Now, I'm going to get to -- this is twofold for me. Some are saying that it's a woman issue. Some are saying it's just a sort of a behavior issue for a presidential candidate. I want to show the audience what we're talking about and get you to respond. Standby.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, HOST, "THE TODAY SHOW": 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 -- wait, wait, wait, once drastically wanted to cut defense spending and now you want to increase it 16 percent. I just wonder if you've mellowed out.

PAUL: Yes. Why don't you let me explain instead of --


PAUL: -- talking over me, OK? Before we go through a litany of things you say I've changed on, why don't you ask me a question, have I changed my opinion?

GUTHRIE: Have you changed your opinion --

PAUL: That would be a better way to approach an interview.

GUTHRIE: Okay. Is Iran still not a threat?

PAUL: 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.

KELLY EVANS, CNBC: Senator, I'm sure you know that most of the research on this indicates that these actually cost more money over the long-term than they saved.

PAUL: That's incorrect. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's go back again. Your premise and your question is mistaken.

EVANS: All right. It works that first year, Senator.

PAUL: Hey, hey, let me finish -- hey, Kelly, let me --

EVANS: I'm sorry, go ahead.

PAUL: Calm down a bit here, Kelly.


KELLY: When you see those clips, Senator, what do you think now?

PAUL: You know, I think that interviews are difficult. Like right now while we're doing this interview I can't see you. You know, I'm in a remote -- by a remote camera in South Carolina.

KELLY: Uh-huh.

PAUL: When an interview's contentious and when an interview is full of a lot of opinion and editorializing and it's a long-winded question that's setting you up to say, well, you know, you've been beating your wife all these years and when are you going to stop beating your wife? It's very difficult in those contentious interviews. I don't think it makes for good TV on both sides. And I do lose my cool. And I lost -- I do lose my temper some time. And I should be better at that, but the thing is you don't get any visual clues. And it's much harder to have, I think usually when you're sitting down with someone it's easier to have a reasonable conversation. But you've watched TV. You see TV where it's just yelling back and forth. And I don't think people like that necessarily. But, you know, I wasn't the one starting the contention --

KELLY: Those women were not yelling at you. They were not yelling at you.

PAUL: Well, I wasn't yelling at them either. Basically it was a talking over each other kind of thing.

KELLY: But do you regret it?

PAUL: I don't think it makes for good TV.

KELLY: Do you regret shushing the one reporter and jumping on it -- Savannah Guthrie's not exactly known for her, you know, aggressive unfairness.

PAUL: Right. I think the question was unfair. Do I think that I responded appropriately? You know, I would rather not have contentious interviews. I would rather do 30 minutes with Charlie Rose laid back in a lazy-boy chair.

KELLY: I know but we only got a few minutes with you. So, we got to get in, we got to get out. I've got eight minutes with you. So, there's not a lot of time for niceties. You know, you understand the position the reporters are in.

PAUL: I do.

KELLY: And the question, I'm going to get to the woman thing in a minute.  But the question some people are asking about you is whether you're ready for primetime because it's only going to get worse. You know it's only going to get worse. It's going to get more contentious. When you get up on that stage for those presidential debates you're going to get pounded.  It's going to be ugly. That's the way the process works now. And you told Hannity last night you can't get overly emotional. Did you get overly emotional?

PAUL: But I think also that people want someone who will stand up and not just roll over and take it. Do you remember Reagan when he said I paid for the microphone, I'm going to speak my peace? So I think people do want on occasion they feel like for example like in the debates the last time some of us wanted Romney to be tougher against Obama after Benghazi. I'm not going to lay down and let Clinton talk over me.

KELLY: But the audience has got to be with you if you're going to do it.  They've got to be with you.

PAUL: Yes.

KELLY: And there's a real question about whether you're pulling this trigger too early in these interviews and whether you're alienating people by being too defensive. Media, we ask questions that are sometimes stupid.  Sometimes unfair. Your job as the politician is to give the answer you want to give and try to use your time on the national air waves to make your points, right? I mean, people are accusing you now of being too thin-skinned.

PAUL: Well, I think we could all get better. I mean, I'm not perfect.  And, you know, we try to do this starting from 7:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night some nights. But the thing is is that contentious interviews are not one-sided in a sense that, oh, it's all my fault that this is a contentious interview. If people start out and basically start out with mischaracterizing your position and then saying, well, defend why you've changed your position when in reality the question should be, did I change my position because on all three questions my answer is no, I didn't change my position. So it's a question. But if you start out and you make a conclusion then you're writing op-eds and then you should be in a different business.

KELLY: Well, I'll tell you this. Chuck Todd came out and said you have to be careful because you attacked two prominent female interviewers. The Guardian said you were condescending to female reporters. And I as a female reporter will say to Chuck Todd and The Guardian, we don't need your help. Savannah Guthrie doesn't need your help. Kelly Evans doesn't need your help. And you are entitled to push back on the interviewer just as much as you would if it were a man. So these male commentators can butt out. We can give as good as we get. But the thin-skinned question whether it's a female or a male reporter, that one I say is fair. I'll give you the final word, sir.

PAUL: I think it is. And I mean to say anything can I do better, yes. Am I sometimes thin-skinned? Yes. But am I equal opportunity? I mean, I had a tiff with a male reporter today, has nothing to do with sexuality. When I think of doing an interview with you, I don't think whether you're a man or woman, I think of an intelligent person going to ask me questions.

KELLY: I know that.

PAUL: I don't think of who the person is that's asking the question.

KELLY: I know that. Here we had a robust back and forth. And I know you'll come on the program again. People, to me it's ironic that the people trying to step in and protect these female interviews are themselves being sexist while they're suggesting that you were sexist because you didn't kowtow and weren't polite enough to your female interviewers. So, there's my two cents on it. I'll let you go on that note.

Senator, great to see you.

PAUL: Thanks, Megyn.

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