Republican Ron Paul blasted rival Newt Gingrich on foreign policy Wednesday, calling the former House speaker a "chicken hawk" for advocating U.S. overseas military conflicts even though he avoided service as a young man.
Paul made the comments as the presidential battle shifted to New Hampshire, which hosts the first in the nation primary next Tuesday. The Texas congressman has pledged to compete vigorously there after placing third in Iowa's kickoff caucuses. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum came in a virtual tie for first, while Gingrich placed a distant fourth.
Speaking to CNN, Paul was asked to respond to Gingrich, who has depicted Paul's foreign policy views as "dangerous." Paul has pledged not to commit U.S. troops overseas unless the U.S. is attacked or is facing imminent danger _ a position that has made him popular among students and many independent voters but is generally outside the Republican mainstream.
Paul said Gingrich was willing to put soldiers in harm's way even though he'd never gone to war himself.
"When Newt Gingrich was called to service in the 1960s in the Vietnam era, guess what he thought about danger? He chickened out on that and got deferments and didn't even go," Paul said, adding, "Some people call that kind of program a chicken hawk, and I think he falls into that category."
Paul, 76, served as an Air Force flight surgeon for five years during the Vietnam era. Gingrich, 68, received deferments as a college student and a father.
Paul appeared on several network television shows Wednesday morning before stepping off the campaign trail to return to Texas. He planned to travel to New Hampshire Friday for several campaign events.