Washington (CNN)Rand Paul says he won't let the heat he's faced over testy interviews with female journalists stop him from attacking Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail.
Paul denies sexism, says Clinton deserves tough treatment
That, he said, would be sexist because it would ignore the reality that "women are in positions not because they're women," but because "they're intelligent and they should be equal to their counterparts and treated equally."
And, in an interview with Dana Bash on CNN's "State of the Union," he hit the Democratic frontrunner for aligning on foreign policy with President Barack Obama and "the neo-cons in my own party" -- highlighting a key distinction between Paul and many of his rivals in the 2016 race for the White House.
Paul's comments came in the wake of criticism over how he handled challenging questions in interviews with NBC's Savannah Guthrie after launching his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, and one weeks earlier with CNBC's Kelly Evans.
Bash asked Paul whether he'll treat Clinton differently to avoid concerns that he has an issue with women.
"I would treat her with the same respect that I would treat a man, but I wouldn't lay down and say, 'Oh, I'm not going to respond out of some sort of' -- and I think that would be a sexist response to say, 'Oh, my goodness, she deserves not to be treated as aggressively, because she's only a woman," Paul said.
"I would never say that about anybody. And I don't come into our interview thinking, 'OK, it's a woman versus a man kind of interview," he said. "I just think she's going to ask tough questions, he will ask tough questions, I've got to be prepared."
Paul also lambasted Clinton's time as secretary of state, struggling to name any positive accomplishments for the former first lady and New York senator during those four years.
He said the Clinton Foundation's acceptance of donations from foreign countries like Saudi Arabia and Brunei "questions the sincerity of whether or not she would be a champion for women's rights."
Referencing an ad from Clinton's 2008 campaign, Paul said she's proven unworthy of being a commander-in-chief based on her oversight leading up to the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya.
"I think Benghazi was a 3:00 a.m. phone call that she never picked up," he said. "She didn't -- she didn't provide the security, not just that day, for nine months. Dozens and dozens of requests for more security, all completely ignored by Hillary Clinton."
Paul laid into both Obama and Clinton and hawks in the Republican Party -- some of whom he'll face in the 2016 primary -- drawing what could be the most significant distinction between his isolationist tendencies and other GOP candidates who advocate a more interventionist foreign policy.
"Some of the hawks in my party, you can't find a place on the globe they don't want boots on the ground," Paul said.
He pointed to Libya, where he said "that war made us less safe" because "there are now large segments of Libya that are pledging allegiance to ISIS, supplying arms to the Islamic rebels in the Syrian civil war. "
He said he also opposed arming Syrian rebels or bombing Syria's leadership -- as "the neo-cons in my party" did -- "because I fear that if you bombed [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, you would allow ISIS to grow stronger."
"My point is that [Republicans] are actually agreeing with Hillary Clinton and agreeing with President Obama that the war in Libya was a good idea," Paul said.
"I'm not agreeing with either one of them," he said. "They're over here both for war. I'm over here saying that that war made us less safe, that it made radical Islam or allowed radical Islam to rise up in Libya."