Republican Presidential Hopefuls Debate National Security, Foreign Aid

Posted November 23rd, 2011 at 4:25 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Republican presidential hopefuls debated how to deal with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran's nuclear program in Washington Tuesday in their latest televised debate.

Questioned about U.S. aid to Pakistan, Texas Governor Rick Perry said he would cut the aid unless Pakistan proves it has America's best interests in mind. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann responded that U.S. aid is necessary to secure Pakistan's nuclear weapons program and keep Pakistan as an ally in the war on terrorism.

On illegal immigration, former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich broke with many of his fellow debaters by calling for a “humane” approach. Gingrich took the lead in national opinion polls for the first time this week in the race for the Republican nomination.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Utah governor and China ambassador John Huntsman clashed over Afghanistan. Romney repeated his argument that the president needs to listen to his commanders “on the ground” and be wary of withdrawing troops too soon. Huntsman disagreed, saying the president is the “commander in chief” and must make his decision based on a variety of inputs. He supports a drawdown of troops in Afghanistan.

Governor Perry named China as a top threat to U.S. national security, condemning its one-child policy and saying its communist leaders are not running a “country of virtues.” He said Chinese communism is “destined for the ash heap of history.”

On Iran, businessman Herman Cain said he would support Israel if it had a workable plan to conduct a military strike on Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Congresswoman Bachmann criticized President Barack Obama for, in her view, trying to engage and negotiate with Iran.

In just six weeks, voters will begin the first of the series of primary elections and caucuses to choose who of these eight candidates will represent the Republican party.

Going into Tuesday's debate, Gingrich held the lead in at least three national opinion polls , with former governor Romney not far behind. Cain is trailing in third after losing support amid sexual harassment allegations and public speaking blunders.

The Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday shows likely Republican voters believe Romney has the best chance to defeat Mr. Obama.

Romney is already making his case against President Obama with his first television ad of the campaign. The ad sharply criticizes Mr. Obama's record on the economy. But the White House hit back Tuesday, with press secretary Jay Carney accusing the Romney campaign of “blatant dishonesty” for taking something the president said out of context.

Romney's commercial shows Mr. Obama saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.” But the full statement reveals Mr. Obama was actually quoting the campaign of his rival in the 2008 election, Senator John McCain.