McCain, speaking Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," characterized Paul's position as a "Fortress America" stance that became popular in the years between the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the U.S. entrance into World War I.
"I do believe that the things we're seeing in the world today — in greater turmoil than at any time in my lifetime — [are] a direct result of an absence of American leadership. And we are paying a very, very heavy price now, and we will in the future, until we decide to understand that America has an essential role in maintaining peace and stability throughout the world. And that does not mean sending combat troops everywhere," he said Sunday.
Paul represents a wing of the Republican Party that favors reduced foreign military presence as a way to curb spending, a position his critics have decried as isolationist, and to reduce the influence of corporations that profit financially and politically off a large military budget.