WASHINGTON (AP) — He called her a warmonger. She called him a terrorist-supporting loser. And on it went as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney engaged in the latest Republican contest to influence — or just figure out — the president’s foreign policy.
At issue are matters of war and America’s role in Afghanistan and the world. Paul has long tried to persuade Trump to trust his “America First” instincts and downscale military action in places like Afghanistan and Syria.
Others have counseled a more traditional GOP approach. And with Trump ousting hard-line national security adviser John Bolton this week — which Paul celebrated — more hawkish lawmakers worry about what’s next, especially in Iran, where Trump seems eager to deal.
But the weighty questions gave way to Twitter ugliness after Trump canceled a secret meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David, scheduled for just days before the anniversary of 9/11.
“Camp David is where America’s leaders met to plan our response after al Qaeda, supported by the Taliban, killed 3000 Americans on 9/11,” Cheney tweeted Sept. 8, in line with Bolton. “No member of the Taliban should set foot there. Ever.”
Then Trump fired Bolton, and Paul tweeted Sept. 10: “The threat of war around the world has been greatly diminished, with John Bolton out of the White House.” The next day, he added: “Why do some neocons continue to advocate for endless wars? I stand with @realdonaldtrump on ending wars.”
Cheney shot back: “I stand with @realDonaldTrump and our men and women in uniform who will never surrender to terrorists, unlike @RandPaul, who seems to have forgotten that today is 9/11.”
While Cheney and Paul have both opposed Trump at times, their fight is tinged by political legacies. Paul, a libertarian, is the son of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Cheney, No. 3 in the House Republican leadership and weighing a run for a Senate seat in 2020, echoed the interventionist approach of her father, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush’s vice president on 9/11.
All of that — and Republican division over whether the U.S. should continue to wage its longest war ever — came into play as Paul and Liz Cheney, the faces of GOP isolation and intervention, respectively, dished out a rapid-fire series of hold-my-drink burns.
“Hi @Liz_Cheney,” Paul wrote Thursday, “President @realDonaldTrump hears all your NeverTrump warmongering. We all see your pro-Bolton blather. I’m just grateful for a president who, unlike you, supports stopping these endless wars.”
Cheney then raised Paul’s bit for the GOP presidential nomination: “Hi @RandPaul. I know the 2016 race was painful for you since you were such a big loser (then & now) with a dismal 4.5% in Iowa. No surprise since your motto seems to be ‘Terrorists First, America Second.’”
Paul in turn brought up Cheney’s father: “Hey @Liz_Cheney I feel like you might just be mad still about when Candidate Trump shredded your Dad’s failed foreign policy and endless wars.”
“Weird,” Cheney replied, “I don’t see you on stage here, @RandPaul. Oh, right. My bad — you had already lost.”