OXON HILL, Md. — Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said Friday he understands some conservatives' skepticism toward his foreign policy views but emphasized that the first priority of the president must be national security.
The likely 2016 presidential contender used his turn before activists gathered near Washington at the annual Conservative Political Action Committee that he would not allow his libertarian leanings to trump the need to keep the United States safe. He added that the current threat from Islamic State militants must be confronted and their fighters hunted down.
"We must protect ourselves from jihadists without losing who we are in the process," Paul said. "We should promote stability, not chaos."
Paul's foreign policy views at times put him at odds with other Republicans. Paul tends to questions domestic government surveillance programs and favor limited U.S. involvement abroad, a break with many of his likely rivals for the GOP nomination.
Pointing to places like Pakistan, Paul said American taxpayer dollars should not foot a foreign policy budget for nations that challenge the United States.
"I say not one penny more to these haters of America," Paul said.
But privacy and civil rights cannot overtake the need to defend the United States from the Islamic State group.
"Without question, we must now defend ourselves and American interests from this barbarous aberration," Paul said.