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Mr. Paul, a Texas congressman, said in an interview Saturday with the Associated Press that he wasn’t piling on and that Mr. Perry had “a human reaction.” Mr. Paul said he was trying to bring up his own proposal to abolish five federal agencies.

“But when he talked about three departments, the thing that flashed through my mind was, ‘But I’m for five.’ That’s why I held up five fingers. Only three?” Mr. Paul said.

Mr. Paul has heaped plenty of criticism on Mr. Perry, the Texas governor, and did so again during Wednesday’s debate. But Mr. Paul said he offered sympathy as the candidates left the stage.

“I said: ‘You know, we all do that, you know,’ ” Mr. Paul said. “But I said: ‘You’re not supposed to do it on national television.’ “

Mr. Paul spoke to a crowd of more than 200 Saturday at a veterans event in Spartanburg, where he and Mr. Perry and other GOP candidates were appearing at a debate on foreign policy in the evening.

WHITE HOUSE

First lady says she feels welcome in Hawaii

First lady Michelle Obama told spouses of international leaders at a luncheon in Hawaii on Sunday that she feels welcome in America’s 50th state because of its “spirit of openness and tolerance.”

“I feel like this is my home away from home, a place where I feel welcome and open and optimistic,” Mrs. Obama said during the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, at the seaside resort of Ka’a’awa, Hawaii.

“Folks here view their differences as strengths - not as weaknesses. And people of all different backgrounds live together and work together and seek to learn from each other,” the first lady said.

President Obama was born in Honolulu, and his wife joked that his birthplace was a compelling factor when she agreed to marry him.

“That’s really one of the reasons I married Barack,” Mrs. Obama said. “When I realized that this is where we’d be spending the holidays, I said, ‘Yes - I love you!’”

From wire dispatches and staff reports