SIMI VALLEY, Calif., Sept. 16 (UPI) — The top 11 Republican candidates for president had another opportunity Wednesday evening to showcase their ideologies in a debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.
The debate, broadcast and moderated by CNN, was a follow-up to the last event in August. Wednesday’s featured the same candidates as the previous primetime debate except for the addition of Carly Fiorina, a former executive for Hewlett Packard.
On the Iran nuclear deal
Much of the first part of the three-hour debate focused on the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, which has been criticized by Republicans and some Democrats since it was signed earlier this summer.
Many on the panel blasted the accord and said they would throw it out if they are elected.
“They [Iran] threaten the very existence of Western civilization,” Huckabee said, believing Tehran will not take the deal seriously. “This agreement, the president treats like the Magna Carta but the Iranians treat it like toilet paper.”
“This Iran nuclear deal is nothing short of catastrophic,” Cruz said. “On my very first day in office, I will rip to shreds this catastrophic nuclear deal.”
The Obama administration’s deal lifts economic sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restriction of its nuclear program to the laboratory — a deal that many Republicans say won’t work and only emboldens a nation that has long held deep-seeded contempt for the United States.
On Russia and Vladimir Putin
CNN anchor and debate moderator Jake Tapper asked the candidates how they would deal with what many see as an emerging threat in Russia — and Moscow’s repeated sabre-rattling at the behest of President Vladimir Putin’s government.
“The only way [Putin] will stop is if he senses strength and resolve on the other side,” Fiorina said, adding that she wouldn’t even engage in talks with the Russian president — a strategy some others on the panel dismissed.
Fiorina was strong in her prime-time debut. Relegated to the “undercard” in the first Republican debate on Aug. 6, she was aggressive and proposed solutions to issues posed by moderators.
“We do need to be engaged in Russia,” Paul responded. “We [ignored Russia] in the Cold War, and it would be a big mistake to do it again.
“Think if Reagan had said that during the Cold War.”
Many of the candidates were asked what they would do to stop the perceived Russian aggression, but only Fiorina answered the question — saying she would build up military defenses, including the missile defense system in Poland and other strategic sites to keep any Russian threat militarily in check.
On the spread of terrorism
The fight against terrorism, like in the first debate, was a major topic of discussion Wednesday. The main questioned posed on this issue seemed to center around whether or not the next president ought to increase or decrease intervention in terror states like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I think the belief that somehow by retreating America makes the world safer has been disproven every single time it’s ever been tried,” Rubio said. “The more we disengage, the more airplanes from Moscow you’re gonna see flying out of Damascus and Syria.”
“Sometimes intervention makes us less safe,” Paul retorted, using the U.S.-led capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as an example. “Iran is now stronger because Hussein is gone.
“Hussein was the great counterbalance to the Iranians. When we complain about Iranians, the Iraq war made it worse.”
“Let them fight each other and then pick up the remnants,” he said.
“The most dangerous person in any room is the person who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know,” Huckabee said. “The reason Barack Obama has been dangerous to this country, and why we better elect somebody who has executive experience, is because we can’t afford another eight years having a person in the office who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.”
Trump claimed he was the only one on the panel who was against military intervention in Iraq in 2003, although Carson said he, too, advised former President George W. Bush against the invasion.
On each other
Wednesday’s debate seemed to contain fewer instances of in-fighting among the candidates than in their first meeting in August, but there were a few jabs — and Trump was involved in most of them.
“Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage,” the real estate magnate said at the beginning of the debate. “You do have your 1 percent [of votes].”
Paul called Trump’s blunt manner of speaking “sophomoric” and said he’d be uncomfortable having him in the White House with his finger on the nuclear arsenal button.
“Are we not way above [talking down to people]? And are we not worried to have someone like that in charge of our nuclear arsenal?” Paul questioned.
The proposition of Trump’s finger on the button was one of the first questions posed to the candidates.
“You can’t just talk about this stuff and insult leaders around the world and expect a good result,” Bush added. “You have to do this with a steady hand.”
Fiorina, the only woman on the prime-time panel, said it’s a question better posed to the American people.
“That’s not for me to answer. That’s for the voters to answer,” she said.
On the impact of the George W. Bush administration
A common theme in Wednesday’s debate was the effect on 2016 from the last GOP White House and the leadership of Jeb Bush’s brother.
“Your brother and his administration gave us Barack Obama,” Trump said. “Because it was such a disaster those last three months that Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have been elected [in 2008].”
“He kept us safe,” Bush countered, recalling his brother’s response to the Sept. 11terror attacks when the United States was at one of the most vulnerable positions in its history.
Bush was also asked about the people he has chosen to be his advisers should he win the GOP nomination and the election — many of whom were involved in some fashion in the administrations of his father, George H.W. Bush, and his brother, George W. Bush.
The former Florida governor answered by saying it’s almost impossible to find experienced and qualified advisers who weren’t involved at one time in the two most recent Republican administrations.
On the new $10 bill and their Secret Service code names
At the end of the event, each of the candidates was asked which woman they would choose to be on the new $10 bill — to replace Alexander Hamilton — and what Secret Service code name they would choose for themselves:
Paul: Susan B. Anthony and “Justice Never Sleeps”
Rubio: Rosa Parks and “Gator”
Cruz: Rosa Parks and “Cohiba”
Huckabee: Janet Huckabee (wife) and “Duckhunter”
Carson: Sonya Carson (mother) and “One Nation”
Trump: Ivanka Trump (daughter) and “Humble”
Bush: Margaret Thatcher and “Eveready”
Walker: Clara Barton and “Harley”
Fiorina: Wouldn’t change the $10 bill and “Secretariat”
Kasich: Mother Teresa and “Unit One”
Christie: Abigail Adams and “True Heart”
They said it There were several other amusing, interesting or provocative remarks made by the candidates at the Reagan presidential library Wednesday.
Paul “If the [Supreme] Court can just make a decision, and we just all surrender to it, we have what Jefferson said is judicial tyranny,” he said concerning the court’s decision on same-sex marriage.
“I’d like to see more rehabilitation and less incarceration,” he said when asked about the legality of marijuana.
Huckabee “I’d put my wife on there. She has fought cancer and lived through it. She has raised three kids, five great-grandkids and she put up with me. I mean, who else could possibly be on that money?” he said when asked who he’d put on the $10 bill.
Rubio “You can pass all the gun laws in the world, like the left wants, the criminals are going to ignore it because they are criminals,” he said when asked if gun control would reduce violent crime.
Cruz “I can’t wait to stand on that debate stage with Hillary Clinton and make abundantly clear that if you vote for Hillary, you are voting for the [Iranian] Ayatollah Khameini,” he said in a discussion about the Iran nuclear deal.
“If, instead, the president Bushes had appointed Edith Jones and Mike Luttig, which is who I would have appointed, Obamacare would have been struck down three years ago and the marriage laws of all 50 states would be on the books,” he said of George W. Bush’s appointment of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.
Carson “We have to be mature enough to recognize that our children will have no future if we put our heads in sand,” he said of the war on terror.
“President George W. Bush is a great friend of ours. We spent many wonderful days at the White House. I haven’t been there in the last seven years. I’d probably have to have a food tester,” he said of the last Republican administration.
“The moderate Arab states would have been so concerned about that they would have turned over Osama bin Laden and anybody else you wanted on a silver platter within two weeks,” he said of the former Bush administration’s failure to eliminate dependence on foreign oil.
Trump “I never attacked him on his [appearance], and believe me there’s plenty of subject matter right there. That I can tell you,” he said after Paul accused him of criticizing others based on their appearance.
“You were supposed to make $1 billion in the state. You’ve lost $2.2 million. That’s not a Democratic talking point, that’s a fact. When the people of Iowa found that out, I went to No. 1 and you went down the tubes,” he said responding to Walker’s economic record in Wisconsin.
“Totally false,” he replied, when Jeb Bush claimed Trump once lobbied him as Florida governor over a casino deal.
“Nobody has control of me, other than the people of this country,” he said, noting that no one is able to “buy” him with political donations.
“More energy tonight. I like that,” he said when Bush interrupted as he tried to answer a question from Jake Tapper.
“I’m OK with it,” he said of Gov. Christie’s idea for America’s rich to forfeit Social Security for the benefit of middle and lower income citizens.
Bush “The one guy I know of that tried to get me to change my views is Trump. He wanted casino gambling in Florida,” he said when asked to respond to Trump’s assertion that he is a “puppet.”
“Send a signal to Iran that we have Israel’s back,” he said of his intention as president.
“I’m opposed to the decision, but you can’t just say you can’t get married now,” he said in reference to the Kentucky clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“I’m my own man,” he said when asked about his planned advisers in some way being tied to the former Bush administrations.
“When Trump talks about judgement, who would have been the best negotiator [in his opinion] to deal with Iran? It wasn’t a Republican. It was Hillary Clinton,” he said of Trump’s past alliance with Democrats.
“We don’t have to be the world policeman but we have to be the world leader,” he said of America’s global role.
“Forty years ago, I smoked marijuana and I admit it. I’m sure others have and may not want to say it in front of 25 million people. My mom is not happy that I just did,” he said of marijuana’s legality in some states.
“Eveready because it’s very high energy,” he quipped about his potential Secret Service code name, chiding Trump for earlier saying he liked Bush’s increased energy level in Wednesday’s debate.
Walker “We don’t need an apprentice in the White House. That’s what we have now,” he said of Trump’s candidacy, with a pun on the NBC reality show Trump used to star in.
“I’d love to play cards with this guy because Obama folds on everything,” he said referring to the president’s deal with Iran.
“I gotta say thanks to Carson and Gov. Huckabee [for choosing their wife and mother]. Thanks a lot for making the rest of us look like chumps up here,” he said when it was his turn to name a woman for the $10 bill.
Fiorina “These things have gone on for so long because no one challenges status quo,” she said when asked about past leadership.
“We are misleading young people when we tell them marijuana is just like having a beer,” she said of marijuana’s legality in some states.
“The marijuana that kids are smoking today is not the same as the marijuana that Jeb Bush smoked 40 years ago,” she said of the same issue.
“We ought to recognize that women are not a special interest group,” she said when asked who she would put on the $10 bill.
Kasich “If I was watching this at home, I’d be inclined to turn it off,” he said at the beginning of the debate, noting that no solutions were being proposed by any of the candidates.
“We should defund Planned Parenthood.”
“When we shut the government down … if we have a chance of success and it’s a great principle, yes. The president is not going to sign this,” he said of Cruz’s support of a government shutdown over the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
Christie “I wake up every morning as an outsider,” he said, responding to a question about whether he can win as an outsider.
“After those planes hit, for five and-a-half hours after that, I couldn’t reach [my wife]. Didn’t know whether she was dead or alive, and we had three children at the time,” he said when talking about terrorism, noting that his wife worked two blocks from the old World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I will tell you what those people wanted … was for America to answer back for what had been done to them,” he said after Carson said he wouldn’t have even gone into Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
“What Gov. Bush said before was the truth. We were safe for those seven years and Barack Obama has taken that safety away from us,” he said of the George W. Bush administration.
“[Hillary Clinton] is going to want to put more money into a system that has lied to us and has stole from us,” he said of Social Security.
The next Republican debate is scheduled for Oct. 28 at the University of Colorado. The debate will be broadcast live by CNBC.