Primary GOP candidates go after Obama, Clinton, each other in first 2016 debate; Trump takes spotlight

"Part of the problem this country has is being politically correct. I don't have time for total political correctness," GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said Thursday.
By Doug G. Ware  |  Updated Aug. 7, 2015 at 2:08 AM
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CLEVELAND, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- Viewers hoping for a spirited and entertaining two hours of debate in Cleveland Tuesday evening probably weren't disappointed -- especially when it was Donald Trump's turn to speak.

The debate, broadcast and moderated by Fox News, featured a panel of 10 Republican candidates considered by some to be the frontrunners for the 2016 GOP nomination: Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Rand Paul, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Dr. Ben Carson.

Moderators Chris Wallace, Brett Baier and Megyn Kelly peppered the contenders with a wide spectrum of topics for two hours Tuesday night -- the most centric of which were immigration, terrorism and foreign policy.

On Immigration

Trump, who has previously said Mexican criminals are crossing the border, said Tuesday that a serious effort to secure the border must be a top priority for the next president.

"If it weren't for me, you wouldn't even be talking about illegal immigration ... our leaders are stupid," he said when the topic was raised. "I don't mind having a big door in that wall for people to come into this country legally."

"If they come legally, great. But if they come illegally and get amnesty ... I have never supported amnesty," Cruz said. "[The Obama administration] doesn't want to enforce the immigration laws."

Bush criticized Obama's administration for sitting on the issue "for six long years," and promised that a Republican president would fix it once and for all.

"We need to eliminate sanctuary cities. It's ridiculous. People are dying," the former Florida governor said.

"People are frustrated. This is the most generous country in the world when it comes to immigration," Bush's friend and fellow Floridian Marco Rubio said.

On Terrorism

Paul, who called himself a "different kind of Republican," strongly condemned the government's past authority to collect mass amounts of Americans' cellphone data as part of the war on terror -- a program exposed last year by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"I want to collect more records from terrorists and less records from innocent Americans," he said, shortly before getting into a feisty exchange with Christie -- who he accused of going along with the White House's domestic spying policies.

"I know you gave [Obama] a big hug. If you wanna give him a big hug, go right ahead," Paul snapped.

Christie replied by saying he has fought terrorism at the federal level since he was appointed a U.S. Attorney on Sept. 10, 2001 -- experience he claimed no other candidate has.

"When you're sitting on a subcommittee, you can blow hot air like that," he shot back.

"We have a president who doesn't have a clue," Trump added. "I would say he is incompetent, but that wouldn't be nice."

On the Islamic State

Every single Republican on stage criticized the Obama administration's efforts to combat the Islamic State, calling them ineffective -- and sometimes outright harmful.

"How are we going to defeat ISIS?" Paul asked, claiming that the United States has been indirectly helping the group by sending aid that ends up in terrorists' hands. "I'm the only one [who favors] not arming ISIS."

"ISIS rides around in billions of dollars in U.S. [military] Humvees," he added.

Cruz said if he becomes president, he will begin building up the military to send a message to militants.

"What we need is a commander in chief that makes clear, if you join ISIS, if you wage jihad on America, then you are signing your death warrant," he said. "We will not defeat radical Islamic terrorism so long as we have a president unwilling to utter the words, 'radical Islamic terrorism'."

"It was a mistake. I wouldn't have gone in [in 2003] ... [but] Obama became president and abandoned Iraq," Bush said in response to a question that cited the Islamic State's presence in Iraq.

On the military

Huckabee agreed that rebuilding the military is paramount in bringing stability to a volatile Middle East.

"We have decimated our military," he said. "Most of the B-52s are older than me -- and that's pretty scary."

"I would send weapons to Ukraine," Walker said. "I would reinstate missile defense systems we had in [the Baltic region]."

Christie lamented the reduced number of servicemen and women who are ready to fight, if needed -- saying that as president he would, for example, mandate a minimum of 500,000 active soldiers in the Army.

Carson said the sequestration's fiscal impact has taken its toll on the U.S. Armed Forces.

"If we gave [the military] the mission, they would be able to carry it out," he said. "If we don't tie their hands behind their back, they would carry it out extremely effectively."

On Foreign Policy

President Obama and Hillary Clinton were popular targets Tuesday night, as just about every candidate held them responsible for what they see as failures abroad -- in particular, the recent agreement with Iran.

"We are giving [Iran] $150 billion-plus," Trump said of the Western sanctions that were lifted off Tehran as part of the deal. "If Iran was a stock, you should go out and buy it. What happened with Iran is a disgrace."

"We are leading from behind under the Obama-Clinton doctrine," Walker said.

Cruz had tough words for the current administration all night

"If I'm elected president, let me tell you about my first day in office. The first thing I intend to do is to rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by Barack Obama," he said, adding a few moments later that he would also relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Fighting Each Other

The candidates occasionally set their sights on each other throughout the debate, in addition to the spat between Paul and Christie.

In one instance, Bush called Trump's rhetoric "divisive." In another, Huckabee called out the New York real estate magnate for previously favoring a single-payer healthcare system -- saying that's something Republicans typically don't support.

"You're having a hard time tonight," Trump fired back. "What I'd like to see is a private system ... our system is broken."

The occasional compliment was also given, however.

"Here is the thing about Donald Trump. Donald Trump is hitting a nerve in this country," Kasich said. "He is. He's hitting a nerve. People are frustrated. They are fed up. They don't think the government is working for them. And for people who want to just tune him out, they're making a mistake."

Words Worth Noting

- "God has blessed the Republicans with some good candidates. The Democrats can't even find one," Rubio said when asked about the Role of God in politics.

- "Only Rosie O'Donnell," Trump joked when Kelly mentioned that in the past he has called women "fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals."

- "This country is in big trouble. We don't win anymore. We lose to everybody," Trump said of America's standing in the world.

- "What I say is what I say. Part of the problem this country has is being politically correct. I don't have time for total political correctness," Trump said of his blunt manner of speaking.

- "They call me Veto Corleone," Bush said in describing his performance in evaluating laws as Florida governor.

- "It is worth noting that Iran released the hostages the day Reagan took office [in 1981]," Cruz said, alluding to the fact that not a single American hostage being held in Iran was negotiated into the nuclear deal.

- "We gotta stop worrying about being loved and worry about being respected," Christie said of the United States' standing in the world.

- "I know God doesn't call me to do a specific thing. What God calls us to do is his will," Walker said of God's role in government.

- "The military is not a social experiment. The purpose of the military is kill people and break things," Huckabee said when asked how he would handle transgender American servicemen and women as president.

- "I don't want my marriage or my guns registered in Washington," Paul said when asked what he would do to protect religious liberties in the face of same sex marriage legalization.

- "He wants America to be strong. He wants America to lead," Kasich said of God's role in politics.

- "I'm the only one who separates Siamese twins. I'm the only one to [surgically] take out half a brain -- though if you go to Washington you'd think someone beat me to it," Dr. Carson joked after recognizing he hadn't yet identified any experience he has over the other candidates.

Tune In Next Time

The Democratic National Committee on Thursday announced the date of its first debate of the 2016 campaign. It will be held Oct. 13 in Nevada, where it will be hosted and broadcast live by CNN.

The next Republican debate will be held Sept. 16 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., and will also be hosted and broadcast live by CNN.

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