GOP presidential candidates met in Washington D.C.’s Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall on Tuesday evening and sparred over national security issues.
This is the first debate former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich walked on to the stage as the solid front runner.
Republican candidates gave their thoughts on whether or not the Patriot Act should be extended, which sparked a back and forth between Mr. Gingrich Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
“The key distinction for the American people to realize is the difference between national security requirements and criminal law requirements,” Mr. Gingrich explained.
“The Patriot Act is unpatriotic because it undermines our liberty,” Rep. Paul said. “I’m concerned as everybody is about the terrorist attack.” Rep. Paul later said that other investigative techniques captured Timothy Mcveigh as opposed to using tools from the Patriot Act.
“That’s the whole point. Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of Americans,” Mr. Gingrich responded.
“I don’t want a law that says after we lose an entire American city we’re going to find you.”
Texas Governor Rick Perry stated he would want to do away with unionization of the Transportation Security Agency, while former Senator Rick Santorum said he supported further scrutiny of muslims at airport security gates.
Rep. Michele Bachmann called Rick Perry’s call to cut off all funding to Pakistan “highly naive,” saying that the United States has to know what is happening on the ground in Pakistan, particularly when to knowing that Al Qaeda is not stealing nuclear weapons from the country.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney argued with Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman over pulling out in Afghanistan too soon.
“We haven’t done a very good job defining and articulating what the end point is in Afghanistan,” said Mr. Huntsman. “And I think the American people are getting very tired about where we find ourselves today.”
“Are you suggesting, governor, that we just take all our troops out next week or what…what’s your proposal?” asked Mr. Romney.
“I said we should draw down from 100,000. We don’t need 100,000 troops,” Huntsman replied.
He added, “We need a presence on the ground that is more akin to 10,000 or 15,000. That will serve our interests in terms of intelligence gathering and special forces response capability. And we need to prepare for a world, not just in South Asia, but, indeed, in every corner of the world in which counter-terrorism is going to be in front of us for as far as the eye can see into the 21st century.”
Mr. Romney answered, “This is not time for America to cut and run.” He explained, “We have been in for 10 years. We are winding down. The Afghan troops are picking up the capacity to secure their country. And the mission is pretty straightforward, and that is to allow the Afghan people to have a sovereign nation not taken over by the Taliban.”
Former Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain held his own saying he would only support an Israeli attack on Iran if the plan was “credible.”
“I would first make sure that they had a credible plan for success, clarity of mission and clarity of success,” Mr. Cain said. “Remember, when you talk about attacking Iran, it is a very mountainous region. The latest reports say that there may be 40 different locations, and I would want to make sure that we had a good idea from intelligence sources where these are located.”