Paul vs. Perry: Never Eye-to-Eye

Rick Perry, governor of Texas.

Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Rick Perry, governor of Texas.

Leave it to Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist, to comment on Rick Perry’s eyeglasses.

“Apparently his new glasses haven’t altered his perception of the world, or allowed him to see it any more clearly,” Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky eyed as one of his party’s most likely candidates for president in 2016, writes today at Politico.com.

This is an act of defense on Paul’s part, a position he finds himself in as fellow Republicans work at undermining his potential position in early primary states, as Bloomberg’s Jonathan Allen reports.

Perry punched first, characterizing Paul as an “isolationist... in a world where isolationist policies would only endanger our national security.” The Texas governor’s essay in the Washington Post last week called it “disheartening” to hear fellow Republicans such as Paul “ignore what’s happening in Iraq. He called Paul ”curiously blind.”

Which led to the eye doctor’s counter-attack today.

The senator says he supports continuing U.S. assistance to the government of Iraq, including armaments and intelligence “to prevent ISIS from becoming a threat.” Unlike Perry, however — who advocated during the 2012 Republican primary presidential debates sending U.S. troops back into Iraq –Paul opposes dispatching troops again.

Perry, for his part, is not espousing a new deployment of troops today. Yet Paul suggests that Perry “couldn’t be more stuck in the past, doubling down on formulas that haven’t worked, parroting rhetoric that doesn’t make sense and reinforcing petulant attitudes that have cost our nation a great deal.”

“Governor Perry writes a fictionalized account of my foreign policy so mischaracterizing my views that I wonder if he’s even really read any of my policy papers,” Paul wrote at Politico.

Those aren’t only reading glasses Perry is wearing. The horn-rims he adopted following his failed campaign for president in 2012 — when he forgot the third federal agency he’d disband in a debate — “oops, sorry” — carry that studied look of someone doing his homework this time.

Of course, Paul and Perry have been parrying for some time now.

“If Gov. Perry decides to run for president,” Paul said on Fox News last summer, “I think there would be three good reasons why he could be president: Texas is a big successful state, he’s a long-term governor and… I can’t remember the other one.”

If Perry wants another way in on this debate, he could take a closer look at the certification questions Paul has faced as a physician in Bowling Green. The Louisville Courier-Journal had taken note during Paul’s campaign for Senate that the candidate presenting himself as a “board-certified ophthalmologist”  actually lacked certification by the American Board of Ophthalmology. Rather, it was a National Board of Ophthalmology that he and others started in 1999 that certified him.

“I took the American Board of Ophthalmology (the largest governing body in ophthalmology) boards in 1995, passed them on my first attempt (as well as three times during residency), and was therefore board-certified under this organization for a decade,” Paul explained in the Post and other venues. “In 1997, I, along with 200 other young ophthalmologists formed the National Board of Ophthalmology to protest the American Board of Ophthalmology’s decision to grandfather in the older ophthalmologists and not require them to re-certify.”

If Paul and Perry don’t see eye-to-eye on much, their focus on a hand-to-hand fight over foreign policy is one of only many conflicts that guarantee a spectacle of a contest for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination.

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