You have to admire The Citadel.

In a world where simple things like right and wrong have become ambiguous, the military college upholds some pretty strong values: respect, tradition and integrity.

But the greatest trait of all, according to the men and women of El Cid, is honor.

The Corps of Cadet Honor Code is simple and unambiguous: “A cadet does not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do.”

If a cadet is convicted of one Honor Code violation, the punishment is expulsion.

The Corps ain’t playing.

Plagiarism falls under cheating, defined by The Citadel Honor Manual as “the act of using someone else’s words or ideas as your own without giving proper credit to the source.”

By that reckoning, it’s a good thing the ridiculously optimistic (probable) presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul only spoke at The Citadel.

If he tried to enroll, they’d throw him out on his tin ear.

Can’t see eye to eye

Every day we get a new example of Paul’s rather, uh, liberal lifting of other people’s work and passing it off as his own.

Reporters have found examples of entire paragraphs block-lifted from other sources and used for “his” newspaper columns or in “his” books.

This is not one or two mistakes; it’s a trend.

Paul has called this stuff footnoting errors, and said it wasn’t done on purpose. You know, the staff did it. According to The Citadel Honor Code, ignorance of the code is no excuse.

But then, Rand Paul has been amateur hour from day one. How else do you explain a guy who hired Charleston’s own Jack Hunter — the “Southern Avenger” — to ghost write a book and work in his Senate office, then feign shock when reporters ask about the neo-Confederate he has on staff?

It’s clear Paul doesn’t think the rules apply to him. When the ophthalmologist didn’t want to bother getting re-certified through conventional avenues, he just formed his own certification outfit.

Luckily, none of his patients has complained yet that he lacks the medical credentials to do his job. None of them have reported suffering from narrow vision.

That’s just his blind supporters, who probably don’t see a problem with Paul stealing other people’s work.

The definition of lie

In fairness, almost every politician uses staffers and flunkies to write their op-ed pieces or their books.

The candidates are far too busy primping for cable news appearances to take the time to actually research or formulate a thought beyond “lower taxes!”

The lone exception to that rule may be former Sen. Fritz Hollings, who still writes his own editorials on occasion. Not coincidentally, Hollings is a Citadel man.

Now, Paul supporters will point out that President Obama and Vice President Biden have had their own brushes with plagiarism. Fair point. But nobody has found entire pages in “Dreams From My Father” lifted from poor think-tank scribes.

At The Citadel on Tuesday, Paul said that Benghazi disqualifies Hillary Clinton from holding public office. Debate that all you want, but Paul doesn’t seem to think lying — which is what plagiarism is — should be construed as any big deal.

Presidents Nixon and Clinton might have thought the same way once.

Fact is, Paul doesn’t need to worry about Clinton; he needs to worry about Chris Christie. Most folks in the Grand Old Party know that nominating Paul or that other right-wing knucklehead, Ted Cruz, is a surefire way to give the White House back to the Clintons.

What Paul needs to worry about is plagiarism. But he seems to be content to blame the media for harping on it.

There’s a word for that, too. In The Citadel’s Honor Code it’s called quibbling, defined as “the use of ambiguous or vague language to evade a point at issue.”

That’s another violation of the Honor Code, by the way.

So Paul needs to quit lurking around South Carolina thinking he’s going to be president. He couldn’t even pass muster at The Citadel.

Reach Brian Hicks at