HAZARD — The Republican U.S. Senate candidates turned up the volume on their television-ad shouting match Monday, this time over the sensitive issue of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Trey Grayson, Kentucky's secretary of state, used his latest ad to again hammer his rival, Bowling Green eye surgeon Rand Paul, on national security issues.
"Paul even wonders whether 9/11 was our fault," a female announcer says in the spot that began airing Thursday. The commercial then shows Paul speaking at a Blue Grass Policy Institute forum in March 2009, saying: "Maybe some of the bad things that happen are a reaction to our presence in some of these countries."
Paul, in that quote, was paraphrasing his father, Texas congressman and 2008 presidential candidate. Ron Paul made a comment in a 2007 presidential debate that U.S. foreign policy, such as building military bases in Muslim countries, fueled anger among radicals. Despite being booed by the GOP audience, the comment helped raise the elder Paul's national profile.
After paraphrasing his father, Rand Paul went on to say during that 2009 forum that "I think that message can be presented and be something that Republicans can agree to."
Paul, a Bowling Green eye doctor, vehemently denied that he believes U.S. foreign policy has been a justification for the Sept. 11 attacks. In an interview, he said Grayson "takes three to four words out of context and he draws a conclusion that is not true."
Paul cut a response commercial Sunday.
"America was attacked, and fighting back was the right thing to do," Paul says directly to the camera in the new 30-second spot. "Now a desperate Trey Grayson is using 9/11 to attack my integrity and my patriotism. Trey Grayson, your shameful TV ad is a lie and it dishonors you."
The Grayson campaign has culled several quotes from among the hours of Paul's recorded speeches that reside on Youtube and other sites. Grayson ticked off some of those lines at Saturday's Republican Party 5th District Lincoln Day dinner in Corbin.
"He even thinks we played a role in causing 9/11," Grayson said of Paul.
Among Paul's quotes Grayson cited were: "They come here because we're over there" and "they're in our face in our country because we're in their country.'"
In neither of those quotes does Paul say the terrorists were justified in attacking.
Still, Paul's foreign policy views are more nuanced than his statement in his response ad that "fighting back was the right thing to do."
For instance, Paul has said he agrees an immediate strike against terrorists in Afghanistan after 9/11 was warranted but objects to past presidents, rather than Congress, making the decision to go to full-scale war.
Despite domestic issues, such as the recently passed health care bill and the economy, which remain the dominant topics with voters, Grayson has tried to use national security issues to highlight differences with Paul, who leads in recent polls. Grayson has unabashedly embraced government efforts aimed at terrorists, including keeping the detention camp in Guantánamo Bay and supporting the U.S. Patriot Act.
Paul said in an interview he disagrees with the Patriot Act because "I think you should have a warrant before you go into someone's house."