Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul said Thursday evening that Bush administration officials were gleeful after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks because it gave them a pretext to invade Iraq.
"Just think of what happened after 9/11. Immediately before there was any assessment there was glee in the administration because now we can invade Iraq," the Texas Republican told a group of mostly young backers in Iowa. He went on to suggest officials are now setting the stage for an invasion of Iran.
Paul, who was tied for second in this week'sof likely Iowa caucus-goers, is making a strong push in the Hawkeye state in hopes of scoring an upset victory in the first-in-the-nation January 3 caucuses. Paul volunteers have been working to convince Paul's mostly young supporters - many of whom will be on holiday break from college when the caucuses take place - to be sure to make it to their caucus site.
Paul's libertarian views - on the foreign policy front, he wants to dramatically reduce the U.S. military presence abroad and end all foreign aid - put him at odds with many Republican voters. A poll from Gallup this week found that 62 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters.
But if no candidate can consolidate support in Iowa, Paul could emerge victorious in the caucuses even if he gets less than 30 percent support. Paul's supporters tend to be more passionate about their candidate than the backers of many of his rivals, which could give him an advantage if bad weather discourages less-motivated Iowans from getting to their caucus site on January 3.
In response to Paul's comments Thursday evening, former Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleisher Tweeted: "The man is nuts."
On "Face the Nation" last month, Paul said that while the average American didn't cause the Sept. 11 attacks, " if you have a flawed policy it may influence it."
"I think there's an influence and that's exactly what the 9/11 commission said that's what the DOD has said and that's also what the CIA has said and that's what a lot of researchers have said," said Paul. "...our policies definitely had an influence and you talk to the people who committed it and those individuals who would like to do us harm. They say yes we don't like American bombs to be falling on our country and we don't like the intervention that we do in their nation so to deny this I think is very dangerous. But to argue the case that they want to do us harm because we're free and prosperous is very dangerous notion because it's not true."
He added: "So I'm saying policies have an effect but that's a far cry from blaming America. I mean in America, you're supposed to be able to criticize your own government without saying you're un-American."Full CBS News coverage: Ron Paul