After President Obama made his case to the American people for engaging with Syria over its use of chemical weapons Tuesday night, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., one of Congress' most vocal critics of the military action, blanketed cable news shows as a self-appointed foil to the president.
"I see no clear ally for America on either side of this civil war," Paul said on Fox News immediately after the president's prime-time speech. "It’s not that we don’t have sympathy [for Syrian victims], we just don’t have an American or a military objective here."
Paul, a likely 2016 Republican presidential contender, has been an outspoken opponent of the president's proposal to launch tactical strikes on Syria. He argued Tuesday that there are no good choices between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the anti-government rebels battling him. Those rebel groups, U.S. officials said, include al Qaeda operatives.
"Assad is really bad, but his control of chemical weapons, I’m not sure it that’s much worse than al Qaeda with chemical weapons," Paul said.
Paul had previously said he would vote against a resolution in Congress to authorize the use of military force against Syria, but the president asked Tuesday that such a vote be put on hold while diplomatic efforts to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons program are explored.
Even as he opposed military intervention, though, Paul said Assad should be punished because there was no doubt that his regime used chemical weapons on his own people Aug. 21, killing 1,400, including hundreds of children.
"I think there should be a way Assad pays," Paul said on CNN. "The guy who did this deserves death, the death penalty."
Paul's unusual rebutal of the president's East Room address to the nation was pre-taped and posted online after he made live remarks on CNN and Fox News. Fox News aired both Paul's live and recorded comments after Obama spoke.