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Paul and Santorum spar over foreign policy

AP

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

At the CNN-Tea Party Express debate last night, the Tea Party crowd that gathered in Tampa, FL booed Texas Congressman Ron Paul after describing what he believed was the motive behind al Qaeda's attacks on 9/11. Paul also was challenged by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum over a blog post written on 9/11 by his campaign blogger.

In response to a question moderator Wolf Blitzer read from Twitter -- "Do you plan to decrease defense spending to balance spending? Or do you believe high spending is essential to security?” –- Paul (only one of two military veterans on the stage) tried to explain the difference between military spending and defense spending.

“There's a lot of room to cut on the military, but not on the defense. You can slash the military spending,” Paul explained, “We don't need to be building airplanes that were used in World War II -- we're always fighting the last war.”

He went on to say, “Most of the danger comes by our lack of wisdom on how we run our foreign policy,” and he repeated a statistic he uses on the campaign trail in Iowa:

“We're under great threat, because we occupy so many countries. We're in 130 countries. We have 900 bases around the world. We're going broke. The purpose of al Qaeda was to attack us, invite us over there, where they can target us. And they have been doing it.”

Paul went on to claim that al Qaeda has committed “more attacks against us and the American interests per month than occurred in all the years before 9/11” -- because the U.S. is “occupying their land.”

This didn’t sit well with Santorum, who has attacked Paul’s foreign policy views previously, and went after him for a blog post written by the campaign’s blogger Jack Hunter -– a conservative radio host and columnist for The American Conservative Magazine.

“On your Web site on 9/11, you had a blog post that basically blamed the United States for 9/11... You said that it was our actions that brought about the actions of 9/11."
Santorum fumed, "Now, Congressman Paul, that is irresponsible... Someone who is running for the president of the United States in the Republican Party should not be parroting what Osama bin Laden said on 9/11.”

Santorum received a loud applause from the audience, which later cheered at the idea that it is time to get out of Afghanistan.

The blog post on Paul’s campaign website that Santorum questioned asked what America has learned from 9/11, and concluded it is highly questionable that the nation learned anything. Hunter pointed to a statement made by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who said if Congress cuts the defense budget, “We’re doomed to suffer another attack.” The blogger called Rumsfeld’s conclusion “beyond absurd,” and then quoted the former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit, Michael Scheuer, to defend the position.

“Our growing number of Islamist enemies are motivated to attack us because of what the U.S. government does in the Muslim world and not because of how Americans live and think here at home,” Scheuer is quoted as saying.

Santorum strongly disagreed with that assertion. “We are not being attacked and we were not attacked because of our actions. We were attacked ... because we have a civilization that is antithetical to the civilization of the jihadists. And they want to kill us because of who we are and what we stand for.”

Paul didn't retreat from his position.

“This whole idea that the whole Muslim world is responsible for this, and they're attacking us because we're free and prosperous, that is just not true. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda have been explicit... They wrote and said that we attacked America because you had bases on our holy land in Saudi Arabia, you do not give Palestinians fair treatment, and you have been bombing…”

At this point, Paul was interrupted by a chorus of boos. He tried to talk over them, pleading with the audience to understand his position.

"I didn't say that. I'm trying to get you to understand what the motive was behind the bombing, at the same time we had been bombing and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis for 10 years. Would you be annoyed? If you're not annoyed, then there's some problem.”

Immediately following the debate and the boos from the crowd, the Paul campaign sent a Tweet highlighting that Paul has raised more money from members of the military than all the other campaigns –- including President Obama –- combined.