- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
Last night’s CNN-Tea Party Republican debate did little to disabuse anyone of the notion that the Tea Party movement is not overly concerned with anything happening outside U.S. borders — other than building a great big fence on those borders.
While there was an inordinate amount of time spent discussing a Texas HPV vaccination program that has little relevance to federal-level policy, there was no discussion of trade and the word "Libya" was never mentioned. There was no discussion of Europe’s debt crisis or any reference to the developing world. Climate change, which many of the candidates don’t believe in, in any case, was completely ignored. China, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Iraq were mentioned only in passing.
Frustratingly, most of the discussion of Afghanistan and terrorism was dominated by Santorum, Paul, Gingrich, and Hunstman — though, given that this was the Tea Party debate, we also heard surprisingly little from Bachmann or Cain on these issues last night. The views of Mitt Romney and Rick Perry — the two candidates on stage with a realistic chance of becoming president next year –are still frustratingly opaque on several key issues, although as Dan Drezner notes, foreign-policy campaign promises tend to be particularly meaningless.
In any case, let’s go to the highlights!
RON PAUL on America’s Vatican-sized Iraq embassy:
So we have to cut the spending, and a good way to start, there’s a little embassy we built over in Baghdad that cost us a billion dollars. It’s bigger than the Vatican. That’s what’s bankrupting this country, and that’s the easy place to cut. That’s where we should be cutting.
NEWT GINGRICH forgets about the Canadian menace:
We have a simple choice. We can depend on Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, or we can encourage development in the United States of manufacturing, as Rick said. We can encourage development of oil and gas. We can do it by saying we’re going to let you keep more of your money if you create more of what we want. I’m for an energy- independent America, and that means I favor people who create energy.
RICK SANTORUM is against storm troopers:
I’ve said this from the very beginning. What — I’m the son of an Italian immigrant. I believe in immigration. I believe that immigration is an important part of the lifeblood of this country. But what we have is a problem of an unsecure border. Unlike Governor Perry, I believe we need to build more fence. I need — I believe that we need to secure the border using technology and more personnel. And until we build that border, we should neither have storm troopers come in and throw people out of the country nor should we provide amnesty. What we should do is enforce the laws in this country with respect to employers, and we should secure the border. And then after the border is secured, then we can deal with the problems that are in this country. But I — I think it’s very important that we understand and we explain to folks that immigration is an important lifeblood of this country, something that I strongly support and something that we have to do legally if we’re going to have — have respect for the law.
RICK PERRY: Um … have you guys seen the border? It’s really long.
Yes, sir. There’s not anybody on this stage that’s had to deal with the issue of border security more than I have, with 1,200 miles of — of Texas and Mexico. And our federal government has been an abject failure at securing our border.
We’ve had to spend some $400 million of Texas taxpayer dollars to send Texas Ranger recon teams down there. Strategic fencing in the metropolitan areas absolutely has a role to play. But the idea that you’re going to build a wall from Brownsville to El Paso and go left for another 800 miles to Tijuana is just not reality. What you have to have is boots on the ground. You’ve got to have 450 Border Patrol agents trained up, 1,500 National Guard troops. You’ve got to have the aviation assets in the air putting real-time information down to the law enforcement. We understand and know how to secure that border, but we can’t do it alone. And the federal government has to step up and do what their constitutional duty is, and that is to secure the border with Mexico.
SANTORUM includes the night’s most cringe-inducing Freudian slip and weirdest metaphor in one answer:
SANTORUM: Well, I mean, what Governor Perry’s done is he provided in-state tuition for — for illegal immigrants. Maybe that was an attempt to attract the illegal vote — I mean, the Latino voters. But you track Latino voters by talking about the importance of immigration in this country. You talk about the importance of — as — as Newt has talked about for many years, having English as the — as the official language of this country.
I say that as, again, my — my father and grandfather came to this country not speaking a word of English, but it was the greatest gift to my father to have to learn English so he could assimilate into this society.
We’re a melting pot, not a salad bowl. And we need to continue that tradition.
PERRY gets booed for wanting immigrants to be educated, productive members of society:
In the state of Texas, if you’ve been in the state of Texas for three years, if you’re working towards your college degree, and if you are working and pursuing citizenship in the state of Texas, you pay in-state tuition there.
And the bottom line is it doesn’t make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way. No matter how you got into that state, from the standpoint of your parents brought you there or what have you. And that’s what we’ve done in the state of Texas. And I’m proud that we are having those individuals be contributing members of our society rather than telling them, you go be on the government dole.
JON HUNTSMAN’s treason joke falls flat:
Well, first of all, let me say for Rick to say that you can’t secure the border I think is pretty much a treasonous comment. Rick, we can secure the border. We can secure the border through means of fences, through technology, through the deployment of our National Guard troops, we can get it done. In fact, when the elected president of the United States, I would work with you and the other three border governors to ensure that through your law enforcement officials you can verify that that border is secure.
MITT ROMNEY: In their hearts, Latinos know we’re right:
The question began by saying how do we attract Latino voters. And the answer is by telling them what they know in their heart, which is they or their ancestors did not come here for a handout. If they came here for a handout, they’d be voting for Democrats. They came here for opportunity and freedom. And that’s what we represent. And that’s why we’ll win collecting support from Latinos across the country.
With regards to illegal immigration, of course we build a fence and of course we do not give in-state tuition credits to people who come here illegally. That only attracts people to come here and take advantage of America’s great beneficence. And with regards to giving driver’s licenses to people that are here illegally, that creates a patina of legal status. There are sanctuary cities in some parts of the country.
GINGRICH will meet the threats of tomorrow with … congressional hearings:
I think we are at the edge of an enormous crisis in national security. I think that we are greatly underestimating the threat to this country. And I think that the day after we celebrated the 10th anniversary of 9/11 we should be reminded exactly what is at stake if a foreign terrorist gets a nuclear weapon into this country.
We have failed for a decade to deal with North Korea. We have failed for a decade to deal with Iran. The developments in Egypt and Turkey are much more dangerous than anybody is looking at in this country. And I think we need, frankly, to ask for a very serious national dialogue.
I’d like to see both the House and Senate right now holding hearings on three levels of security. What do you do in Mexico where there’s a civil war underway next door to us? What do you do in the Middle East where we have totally underestimated the scale of the threat? And what do you do about our national domestic industrial base which is crucial if we’re going to be competitive with China?
RON PAUL does his Ron Paul thing:
First thing I would like to do is make sure that you understand there’s a difference between military spending and defense spending. I’m tired of all the militarism that we are involved in. And we’re wasting this money in getting us involved. And I agree, we are still in danger, but most of the danger comes by our lack of wisdom on how we run our foreign policy.
So I would say there’s a lot of room to cut on the military, but not on the defense. You can slash the military spending. We don’t need to be building airplanes that were used in World War II — we’re always fighting the last war.But we’re under great threat, because we occupy so many countries. We’re in 130 countries. We have 900 bases around the world. We’re going broke. The purpose of al Qaeda was to attack us, invite us over there, where they can target us. And they have been doing it. They have more attacks against us and the American interests per month than occurred in all the years before 9/11, but we’re there occupying their land. And if we think that we can do that and not have retaliation, we’re kidding ourselves. We have to be honest with ourselves. What would we do if another country, say, China, did to us what we do to all those countries over there?
So I would say a policy — a foreign policy that takes care of our national defense, that we’re willing to get along with people and trade with people, as the founders advised, there’s no authority in the Constitution to be the policeman of the world, and no nation-building. Just remember, George Bush won the presidency on that platform in the year 2000. And I still think it’s a good platform.
SANTORUM, again, uses up way too much ammunition fighting with Ron Paul:
SANTORUM: On your Web site on 9/11, you had a blog post that basically blamed the United States for 9/11. On your Web site, yesterday, you said that it was our actions that brought about the actions of 9/11. Now, Congressman Paul, that is irresponsible. The president of the United States — someone who is running for the president of the United States in the Republican Party should not be parroting what Osama bin Laden said on 9/11. We should have — we are not being attacked and we were not attacked because of our actions. We were attacked, as Newt talked about, because we have a civilization that is antithetical to the civilization of the jihadists. And they want to kill us because of who we are and what we stand for. And we stand for American exceptionalism, we stand for freedom and opportunity for everybody around the world, and I am not ashamed to do that. BLITZER: Thirty second, Mr. Paul. PAUL: As long as this country follows that idea, we’re going to be under a lot of danger. This whole idea that the whole Muslim world is responsible for this, and they’re attacking us because we’re free and prosperous, that is just not true. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda have been explicit — they have been explicit, and they wrote and said that we attacked America because you had bases on our holy land in Saudi Arabia, you do not give Palestinians fair treatment, and you have been bombing — (BOOING)
PAUL: I didn’t say that. I’m trying to get you to understand what the motive was behind the bombing, at the same time we had been bombing and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis for 10 years. Would you be annoyed? If you’re not annoyed, then there’s some problem.
HUNTSMAN: Things will work out for the women of Afghanistan once America gets its shine back:
SAHAR HEKMATI, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Hi. My name is Sahar Hekmati. I was brought here from Ronald Reagan. I am from Afghanistan. And my question to you is, as the next president of the United States, what will you do to secure safety and protection for the women and the children of Afghanistan from the radicals?
HUNTSMAN: We are 10 years into this war, Sahar. America has given its all in Afghanistan. We have families who have given the ultimate sacrifice. And it’s to them that we offer our heartfelt salute and a deep sense of gratitude. But the time has come for us to get out of Afghanistan. We don’t need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan nation- building at a time when this nation needs to be built. We are of no value to the rest of the world if our core is crumbling, which it is in this country. I like those days when Ronald Reagan — you talked about — when Ronald Reagan would ensure that the light of this country would shine brightly for liberty, democracy, human rights, and free markets. We’re not shining like we used to shine. We need to shine again. And I’m here to tell you, Sahar, when we start shining again, it’s going to help the women of Afghanistan, along with any other NGO work that can be done there and the collaborative efforts of great volunteer efforts here in the United States. We can get it done, but we have to make sure that the Afghan people increasingly take responsibility for their security going forward.
PERRY kinda, sorta, maybe supports troop withdrawal:
Well, I agree with Governor Huntsman when we talk about it’s time to bring our young men and women home and as soon and obviously as safely as we can. But it’s also really important for us to continue to have a presence there. And I think the entire conversation about, how do we deliver our aid to those countries, and is it best spent with 100,000 military who have the target on their back in Afghanistan, I don’t think so at this particular point in time. I think the best way for us to be able to impact that country is to make a transition to where that country’s military is going to be taking care of their people, bring our young men and women home, and continue to help them build the infrastructure that we need, whether it’s schools for young women like yourself or otherwise.
ROMNEY shills for the Anglophile vote (background on Churchill-gate here):
You know, one of — one of my heroes was a man who had an extraordinary turn of phrase. He once said about us, he said, you know, you can count on the Americans to get things right after they’ve exhausted all the alternatives. And now and then we’ve made a couple of mistakes. We’re quite a nation. And this man, Winston Churchill, used to have his bust in the Oval Office. And if I’m president of the United States, it’ll be there again.
In case you missed ’em, here were the highlights of last week’s debate.