Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said Friday that “Obama-Clinton foreign policy” is to blame for growing threat of Islamic terrorism at a gathering of social conservatives in Iowa.
Hosted by the Family Leader Christian advocacy group, the forum provided seven of the remaining GOP presidential candidates a platform to speak to evangelical and born-again Christian activists that can make or break a campaign. And it was much different in nature from the first four GOP debates.
Candidates sat side-by-side at a “Thanksgiving table.” Instead of attacking each other, they trained fire at Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton - in particular , over The White House’s plans to resettle 10,000 refugees in the United States from war-torn Syria.
The event also featured former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who had failed to qualify for a prime time debate because of lackluster polling
Mr. Cruz ripped into the president and Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential nominee.
“These refugees are fleeing the disaster that was caused by the Obama-Clinton foreign policy that has led to the rise of radical Islam throughout out the Middle East,” Mr. Cruz said.
Mr. Cruz said Mr. Obama is “serving as an apologist for radical Islamic terrorism.” The Texas Republican said the refugees should be resettled in the Middle East in majority Muslim countries, and emphasized that the United States is spending “ten-times” what any other nation spends on humanitarian efforts aimed at helping those displaced.
“I get tired of President Obama and Hillary Clinton lecture the American people that we are somehow ungenerous when we are providing for these people, but we don’t want to risk the safety of our children here at home.”
The candidates vowed to defend religious liberty, to fight for traditional marriage and to support the pro-life movement - including the push to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding. They also warned about the breakdown of the family and how that has fed into erosion of the nation’s values.
“This nation was not founded on political principles,” Mr. Rubio said. “This nation was founded on spiritual principles.”
Several of the candidates, meanwhile, said Democrats have used “political correctness” as a weapon to shut down debates over social and religious issues that conservatives hold dear, and to cover up the damage their liberal policies are doing to the country.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson likened the behavior to a third grader who calls someone names.
“But as you got more mature you began to be able to engage in rational discussion, and explain the reasons for your disagreement with someone,” Mr. Carson said. “But the less capable you are of explaining your disagreement, the more likely you are to engage in infantile behavior.”
Mr. Carson added that he looks at people like that with sympathy and says to himself: “That used to be a cut little baby, I wonder what happened.”
Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fioriana also took part in the event.
Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham did not attend.
The forum was very personal at times.
Mr. Santorum teared up as he shared the story about how he was “angry about God” after his one of his kids died hours after birth. Mr. Cruz opened up about his parents divorce, and Mrs .Firoina talked about her battle with cancer and losing her daughter to drug addiction.
“There is no possibility that I could have endorsed that loss unless Jesus had been with me all the way,” she said.
Robert Vander Platts, the head of The Family Leader, set the table by calling for a spiritual revival and saying the nation needs a person who is prepared to “stand in the gap” for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, traditional marriage and Israel - and against the disputed Iranian nuclear program and the ISIS.
“I don’t think revival is going to come on Air Force One, but I hope and I pray and I believe that one day the person riding on Air Force One is part of a wide-spread systemic revile. That is what it is going to take for this country, for this generation and the next generation,” he said.
Mr. Trump is running neck-and-neck with Mr. Carson in Iowa, with each of them capturing 24 percent, followed by Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz, who have about 12 percent support, according to Real Clear Politics average of polls.
The Family Leader is expected announce whether it will endorse a presidential candidate between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Mr. Vander Plaats signaled Friday that it is likely would be one of the candidates in attendance.
“I truly believe the next president is going to be around that table,” he said.