Washington- With just days before the second primary contest of the 2016 election, the Republican presidential candidates faced a skirmish of national security and veterans’ questions in the eighth national debate on Saturday.
All of the hopefuls took shots at President Obama and Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton for being too weak on defense and too naive on foreign policy. Throughout the campaign thus far, the Republican field has promised to plus-up defense spending and restore military power might they say, was diminished over the last eight years.
Donald Trump said he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding”, or simulated drowning, at the Republican debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Saturday.
His Republican rival Ted Cruz, asked whether the practice notoriously used under the Bush administration during the war on terror was torture, denied it was by saying: “Under the definition of torture, no, it’s not. It is enhanced interrogation. It does not meet the generally recognized definition of torture.”
But the Texas senator added: “I would not bring it back in any sort of widespread use. And indeed I’d join with Senator [John] McCain in prohibiting line officers from employing it.”
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, brother of former president George W Bush, under whom waterboarding was used by the CIA, said: “It was used sparingly, Congress has changed the laws and I think where we stand is the appropriate place.”
Meanwhile, Marco Rubio said it was inappropriate to discuss interrogation techniques.
The Republican candidates were debating ahead of the primary on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the latest poll of likely Republican primary voters published Friday found Trump dominating the race, although he lost last week’s Iowa caucuses to
Cruz, with a fierce battle between Rubio, Cruz and Kasich, who are tied for third place.
New Jersey governor Chris Christie ambushed Florida senator Marco Rubio by laying bare Rubio’s rhetoric as repetitive, rehearsed and off-point. “You have not been involved in a consequential decision,” Christie told Rubio.
Rubio seemed shaken by the attack, repeating a single sentence, about the fiction of Barack Obama not knowing what he was doing, three times.
“Marco, the thing is this,” Christie said at the debate at St. Anselm’s College in New Hampshire. “When you’re president of the United States, when you’re a governor of a state, the memorized 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is at the end of it doesn’t solve one problem for one person,” Christie said.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush added to the Rubio criticism, saying that Americans shouldn’t gamble on a candidate who doesn’t have executive experience.
“Marco Rubio is a gifted politician and he may have the skills to be president of the United States,” Bush said. Bush then compared Rubio to Obama, who entered the White House without executive experience.
Regarding defeating ISIS, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said: “When I say saturation carpet bombing, that is not indiscriminate,” he said. “That is targeted at oil facilities. It’s targeted at the oil tankers. It’s targeted at command and control locations. It’s targeted at infrastructure. It’s using overwhelming air power.”
He added: “We should use overwhelming force, kill the enemy and then get the heck out. Don’t engage in nation-building but instead, allow our soldiers to do their jobs instead of risking their lives with politicians making it impossible to accomplish the objective.”
Nevertheless, business mogul Donald Trump, who has also promised to step up U.S. attacks on ISIS fighters, said cutting off the group’s finances will be the key to defeating them. “Four years ago I said bomb the oil and take the oil,” he said. “And if we did that, they wouldn’t have the wealth they have right now. Now, I still say the same thing, because we’re doing little pinpricks”.