Dick Cheney, Dastardly Arms Merchant?

by Rich Lowry

On This Week, Rand Paul danced around his statement on an old tape that Dick Cheney supported the invasion of Iraq because of his association with Halliburton. Yesterday, he said he wasn’t questioning Cheney’s motives, but then commented on how curious it is that Cheney opposed going into Iraq during the First Gulf War and then supported invading after working with Halliburton. Somehow Paul discussed this change without mentioning that perhaps 9/11 had some influence on the vice president’s thinking. I’m guessing this will be Rand Paul’s approach on foreign policy for the duration: trying to soften what he’s said in the past — and presumably truly believes — without disavowing it. From his exchange with Jon Karl:

KARL: But you said we don’t want our defense to be defined by people who make money off the weapons. Are you suggesting that’s why we went to war in Iraq?

PAUL: No. No.

KARL: That our defense was being defined by people making . . .

PAUL: No.

KARL: — money off weapons?

PAUL: — and that’s why I’m also saying that I’m not questioning Dick Cheney’s motives. I think he’s as patriotic as I am and wanting the best for his country.

But I do think that when people go from high levels of government to high levels of industry that are dependent on government money, that there is a…

KARL: Halliburton.

PAUL: — there’s a chance for a conflict of interest. And what I was pointing out is I don’t know the conclusion, is that at one point in time, he was opposed to going into Baghdad, that he was out of office and involved in the defense industry and then he became for going into Baghdad.

Now, his decisions could have changed…

KARL: And you see a connection?

PAUL: No, I’m just saying his decisions could have changed for a variety of reasons. But what I would say is that because of the — that there could be an appearance of a conflict of interest, that we need to be careful — and I’m all for rules. For example, when a senator leaves office, there are restrictions on how quickly they can go back into industry. I’m for making those tougher.

I don’t like that people are going from the Senate and the White House and Congress over to Wall Street and then back again.