WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Longshot Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul on Thursday gave front-runner Rudy Giuliani a list of foreign-policy books to back up his contention that attacks by Islamic militants are fueled by the U.S. presence in the Middle East.
“I‘m giving Mr. Giuliani a reading assignment,” the nine-term Texas congressman said as he stood behind a stack of books that included the report by the commission that examined the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
Giuliani was mayor of New York when Islamic militants slammed two commercial airliners into the World Trade Center, a role that has vaulted him to the front of the Republican presidential pack despite his liberal social positions.
“I don’t think he’s qualified to be president,” Paul said of Giuliani. “If he was to read the book and report back to me and say, ‘I’ve changed my mind,’ I would reconsider.”
Paul advocates a limited U.S. foreign policy, including an end to the war in Iraq and a reduction in troop levels abroad.
Paul said he was unfairly attacked during last week’s debate by 10 Republican presidential hopefuls, when Giuliani dismissed his contention that U.S. policies in the Middle East had contributed to the attacks in New York and Washington.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th,” Giuliani said to wild applause.
A spokeswoman for Giuliani derided Paul’s latest comments.
“It is extraordinary and reckless to claim that the United States invited the attacks on September 11th,” Maria Comella said in an e-mail.
“And to further declare Rudy Giuliani needs to be educated on September 11th when millions of people around the world saw him dealing with these terrorist attacks firsthand is just as absurd.”
Paul barely registers in opinion polls of Republicans hoping to win their party’s nomination to contest the November 2008 presidential election.
An obstetrician-gynecologist from the Houston area, Paul frequently strays far outside the Republican mainstream.
He voted against the Iraq war resolution in 2002 and has proposed abolishing the Homeland Security Department and diminishing the Federal Reserve. His 1988 bid for president as the Libertarian candidate drew just slightly more than 400,000 votes nationwide.
Paul said it was irresponsible of Giuliani and other leaders to not examine the motivations of al Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups.
Among the books on Paul’s reading list were: “Dying to Win,” which argues that suicide bombers only mobilize against an occupying force; “Blowback,” which examines the unintended consequences of U.S. foreign policy; and the 9/11 Commission Report, which says that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was angered by the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.
Another book on the list was “Imperial Hubris,” whose author appeared at the press conference to offer support for Paul.
“Foreign policy is about protecting America,” said author Michael Scheuer, who used to head the CIA’s bin Laden unit. “Our foreign policy is doing the opposite.”
A Giuliani campaign official could not confirm whether he had read any of the books on Paul’s list.