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POLITICS: PennAve

Rand Paul defends Jeb Bush on immigration, clarifies Iraq criticism of Dick Cheney

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U.S. senator and likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul on Sunday criticized the recent suggestion of another possible GOP hopeful, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, that illegal immigration to the U.S. is an "act of love" rather than a felony.

Paul said that Bush "might have been more artful, maybe, in the way he presented this," but that he wasn't "terrible" for making the comment.

The libertarian Kentucky senator offered that he would have said that "people who seek the American Dream are not bad people ... however, we can't invite the whole world."

When you say that entering the U.S. without authorization is an "act of love" but then "you don't follow it up with, but we have to control the border," Paul said, "people think ... that the whole world can come to our country."

Paul added that the Republican Party has to change the perception that they vilify those who enter the country illegally.

In an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl in New Hampshire, where he was for the conservative Freedom Summit event, Paul also talked about his recently unearthed comments critical of another figure close to former President George W. Bush, namely former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Mother Jones, a left-leaning political magazine, reported last week that Paul had said before becoming a candidate for senator in 2009 that Cheney changed his mind about invading Iraq after earning hundreds of millions of dollars as CEO of the oil fields services company Halliburton.

On Sunday, Paul stated that he wasn't questioning Cheney's motives, and that he doesn't think Cheney "did it out of malevolence. I think he loves this country as much as I love the country."

But Paul also allowed that he thinks Cheney's private-sector experience may have shaped his opinions as vice president, saying that "there's a chance for a conflict of interest. At one point in time he was opposed to going into Baghdad, then he was out of office and involved in the defense industry, and then he became for going into Baghdad."

Later in the interview, Paul maintained that his foreign policy beliefs are in line with those of Ronald Reagan, and defended his 2012 vote against a resolution saying that the U.S. should do anything to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The people who say "we will never stand" for Iran gaining nuclear weapons, said Paul, "are voting for war."

Paul said that it would be a mistake for Iran to get nuclear weapons, and that "it's not a good idea to announce ... in advance" that they would not face a U.S. military response if they did.

"Should I announce to Iran, well, we don't want you to [get nuclear weapons], but we'll live with it? No, that's a dumb idea to say that you're going to live with it," Paul said, adding that "however, the opposite's a dumb idea, too."

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