During the final Republican presidential debate on Tuesday with only 7 weeks left before the first Iowa caucus that kicks off the nomination process, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump came up against fierce attacks from former Florida governor Jeb Bush and several other candidates over a variety of national security and foreign policy issues.
Bush called Trump a “unhinged” after he proposed banning non-U.S. Muslims from entering the United States, and said on Tuesday night that America’s influence has declined while this president has “destroyed our military, our allies no longer trust us, and our adversaries no longer respect us.”
Bush advocated for a no-fly zone in Syria, safe zones for refugees, and building up a military force.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tx), who has been rising in the polls as of late, was one of the only candidates who resisted attacking Donald Trump, even after Trump called Cruz “a maniac” over the weekend.
But Cruz talked tough like Trump concerning national security issues.
“We need a president who understands the first obligation of the commander-in-chief is to keep America safe” Cruz said.
Cruz explained that we will hunt down and kill terrorists.
If that wasn’t enough, Cruz took it to the next level, “We will utterly destroy ISIS.”
Cruz distanced himself from political correctness that has sometimes characterized Democrat attitudes in Washington D.C. and said “We will not be prisoners to political correctness. Rather, we will speak the truth.”
Cruz admitted that America is at war and our enemy is violent extremism.
“It is radical Islamic terrorist. We have a president who is unwilling to utter its name” Cruz explained.
Ben Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, echoed that sentiment and likened the U.S. to a patient who is in critical condition and will not be cured by political correctness or cured by timidity.
Leading in the polls by a wide margin as a political outsider, Republican billionaire Donald Trump, known for making headlines week after week with his inflammatory comments and tough talk about handling undocumented immigrants and Muslims coming to the United States, responded to the criticism about isolating America through his controversial policies.
“We are not talking about isolation. We’re talking about security. We’re not talking about religion. We’re talking about security” Trump said.
Senator Marco Rubio criticized President Obama’s recent address to the American public following the December 2nd terror attack in San Bernardino that killed 14 innocent Americans.
“I wish he hadn’t spoken at all. He made things worse. Because what he basically said was we are going to keep doing what we’re doing now, and what we are doing now is not working” Rubio said.
Governor Chris Christie, a former prosecutor, said that if a center for the developmentally disabled in San Bernardino, California, is now a target for terrorists, that means everywhere in America is a target for terrorists.
Christie spoke about his experience working on the Patriot Act after 9/11 and offered a plan to renew the tools that the surveillance and law enforcement community were using under President George Bush.
“What we need to do, Wolf, is restore those tools that have been taken away by the president and others, restore those tools to the NSA and to our entire surveillance and law enforcement community.”
Rubio made a strong case for relying on better data gathering to prevent a terror attack.
“Because I promise you, the next time there is attack on….. an attack on this country, the first thing people are going to want to know is, why didn’t we know about it and why didn’t we stop it? And the answer better not be because we didn’t have access to records or information that would have allowed us to identify these killers before they attacked” Rubio said.
Senator Marco Rubio also said ISIS needs to be confronted with serious proposals.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul criticized Rubio’s beefed up record keeping approach and then slammed his political record in the Senate that involved him advocating for immigration reforms.
“You know, I think Marco gets it completely wrong. We are not any safer through the bulk collection of all Americans’ records. In fact, I think we’re less safe. We get so distracted by all of the information, we’re not spending enough time getting specific immigration — specific information on terrorists” Paul said.
“On his Gang of Eight bill, he would have liberalized immigration, but he did not — and he steadfastly opposed any new border security requirements for refugees or students” Paul added.
Paul pushed for tighter control of the U.S. border.
“The thing is, is that every terrorist attack we’ve had since 9/11 has been legal immigration. Marco wants to expand that. I want more rules, more scrutiny, and to defend the country, you have to defend the border” Paul said.
During the “undercard” debate of candidates who have lower poll numbers, New York Governor George Pataki criticized Trump’s Muslim proposal, calling it “un-American, unconstitutional, and it is wrong.”
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said that Trump can’t declare war on Islam and apologized to U.S. Muslim allies.
“Donald Trump has done the one single thing you can’t do: Declare war on Islam itself,” Graham said.
“To all of our Muslim friends throughout the world like the King of Jordan and the president of Egypt, I am sorry. He does not represent us” Graham added later.