Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Blog

By Jamila Benkato

Just weeks away from the Iowa Presidential Caucus, Republican Presidential candidates met in Sioux City, Iowa to discuss everything from to economy to Ronald Reagan. Below are key quotes from the evening concerning Iran, Israel, Iraq, immigration and foreign policy in general. Key quotations from recent past debates are available here, here, and here.

 

 

 

GENERAL FOREIGN POLICY

Perry:

“Well, I have already called for a overfly zone -- no fly zone over Syria already. They are Iran's partner. They are attached at the hip. And we have to stand firm with our ally in that region, Israel. There needs to be no space between the United States and Israel. And this administration has absolutely bungled.

It is the most muddled foreign policy that I can ever remember in my lifetime whether it was in '09 when we had the opportunity either covertly, overtly or other ways of helping the Iranian citizens as they were trying to overthrow that repressive regime, whether it was working with Mubarak, and trying to have a moderate to come in and replace him, whether it was leading from behind, as we have seen in Libya, and now we have seen this president, as Mitt and Newt have both talked about, asking the Iranians to give us back that drone.”

“If we are going to be able to defend America, from Iran, from Hezbollah, from Hamas, that are using Mexico as a border, as a way to penetrate in the southern part of the United States. Venezuela has the largest Iranian embassy in the world there. We know what is going on. It is time for this country to have a real conversation about a Monroe Doctrine again like we did against the Cubans in the 60s.”

[Note: Perry borrows generously from his opponents’ vocabulary in the first comment above, echoing Huntsman’s line about “no blue sky between us” at RJC 2012, and emphasizing the 2009 Iranian protests – one of the key parts of Santorum’s RJC 2012 speech. This is also a confusing statement – it seems to be a list of things Perry disagrees with, but the examples of Libya and Egypt do not make sense together in this context.]

Santorum:

“There are training camps, jihadist training camps in Central and South America. They're working with the drug cartels. And they are planning assaults on the United States. That is what we know is going on right now. And we are doing -- this president has ignored that threat. Has insulted our allies like Honduras and Colombia, deliberately. Has embraced -- as he has the other scoundrels in the Middle East, has embraced Chavez and Ortega and others in Central and South America, not promoting our values and interests.

We need a brand new initiative, an initiative that says that we will promote our values in this region and we will stop the spread of terrorism in Central and South America.”

 

IRAN 

Paul:

“There's no U.N. evidence of [Iran being close to having a nuclear bomb]. Clapper at the -- in our national security department, he says there is no evidence. It's no different than it was in 2003. You know what I really fear about what's happening here? It's another Iraq coming. There's war propaganda going on. 

And we're arguing -- to me, the greatest danger is that we will have a president that will overreact and we will soon bomb Iran. And the sentiment is very mixed. It's -- it's very mixed even in Israel. You know, there -- the -- a head of the security for Israel, who just recently retired, said that it wouldn't make sense to do this, to take -- to take them out, because they might be having a weapon. So I would say that the greatest danger is overreacting. There is no evidence that they have it. And it would make more sense -- if we lived through the Cold War, which we did, with 30,000 missiles pointed at us, we ought to really sit back and think and not jump the gun and believe that we are going to be attacked. That's how we got into that useless war in Iraq and lost so much in Iraq.”

“So already the president  - and I think he is wisely backing off on the sanctions, because it's going to be an economic calamity if you take all the oil out of Europe. So I think that makes sense. He knows these sanctions are overreaching. Sanctions are an act of war when you prevent goods and services from going into a country. We need to approach this a little differently. We have 12,000 diplomats in our services. We ought to use a little bit of diplomacy once in a while.”

“But to declare war on 1.2 billion Muslims and say all Muslims are the same, this is dangerous talk. Yeah, there are some radicals, but they don't come here to kill us because we're free and prosperous. Do they go to Switzerland and Sweden? I mean, that's absurd. If you think that is the reason, we have no chance of winning this. They come here and explicitly explain it to us. The CIA has explained it to us. It said they come here and they want to do us harm because we're bombing them.”

Santorum:

“Iran is not any other country. It is a country that is ruled by the equivalent of al Qaeda on top of this country. They are a radical theocracy. The principle virtue of the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to President Ahmadinejad, is not freedom, opportunity, it's martyrdom.

The idea, Ron, that mutual assured destruction, like the policy during the Cold War with the Soviet Union would work on Iran when their principle virtue is martyrdom, is -- mutual assured destruction with respect to Iran would not be any kind of, you know, idea of preventing a war. It would be an inducement to a war.

This is what their objective is. Their objective is to in fact create a calamity. This is what their theology teaches. They believe that it is their mission to take on the West. They don't hate us because of what we do or the policies we have. They hate us because of who we are and what we believe in.

And we need to make sure that they do not have a nuclear weapon. And we should be working with the state of Israel right now. We should use covert activity. And we should be planning a strike against their facilities and say, if you do not open up those facilities and not close them down, we will close them down for you.”

Bachmann:

“…we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Iran will take a nuclear weapon, they will use it to wipe our ally, Israel, off the face of the map, and they've stated they will use it against the United States of America.”

 

IRAQ AND THE US MILITARY 

Romney:

“The right course for America is to strengthen our economy, our values, our families, and our military. We need to rebuild our Navy and go from nine ships a year to 15. We need to modernize our Air Force. We need 100,000 new additional troops in our military. We need to take care of our veterans in the way they deserve. It is time for us to recognize once again a strong military does not create war. A strong America prevents people from trying to test us around the world.”

Bachmann:

“Well, I think clearly the biggest mistake that President Obama has made -- and there are many when it comes to foreign policy -- has been the decision that he made regarding Iraq. He was essentially given on a silver platter victory in Iraq, and he's choosing intentionally to lose the peace. And we all know what's going to happen. We know that Iran is going to be the hegemon and try to come into Iraq and have the dominant influence. And then Iraq will essentially have dominance from the Persian Gulf all the way to the Mediterranean through its ally, Syria.” 

[Note:    This is a remarkable take on the end of the Iraq war. Bachmann and others have criticized Obama’s decision to end the war in previous debates, but here Bachmann appears to both not understand the concept of hegemony and vastly overestimate the speed with which Iraq will develop cohesive and effective regional influence.] 

Gingrich:

“I think most of us, most Americans would say you know if you are firing missiles at me, that may not be a good gesture. OK? The United Nations camps that we have helped fund have been training grounds for terrorism.

As Congressman Bachmann pointed out the last time we debated, she was over there with textbooks that are clearly teaching terrorism that are indirectly funded by the United States through the UN. We have no obligation to lie and every obligation to tell the truth about how bad the UN bureaucracy is and why it ought to be fixed or we ought to radically cut what we're paying.”

[Note: Several of Gingrich’s claims here parrot right-wing Israeli propaganda, including the claim that

Palestinian textbooks teach terrorism. Both Bachmann and Gingrich claimed this in the last debate. Gingrich’s line about not lying about the Middle East echoes his sentiment in the last debate as well.]

 

IMMIGRATION

Romney:

“So you say to people who are here illegally today, you are not going to be able to work here unless you register, unless -- and we will give you transition period of time, and then ultimately you have got to go home, apply for permanent residency here or citizenship, if you want to try and do that, but get in line behind everyone else.

My view is, people who have come here illegally, we welcome you to apply but you must get at the back of the line, because there are millions of people who are in line right now that want to come here legally. I want those to come here legally. Those that are here illegally have to get in line with everybody else.”

Gingrich:

“But let me say on this whole issue of immigration. On day one, I would drop all the lawsuits against Arizona, South Carolina, and Alabama. It is wrong for the government.  I would propose -- I would propose cutting off all federal aid to any sanctuary city that deliberately violated federal law.”

Huntsman:

“But in terms of immigration, and illegal immigration, this president has so screwed up this economy, nobody is coming anymore. There is nothing to come for. I mean, there's not a problem today. Just take a look at the numbers coming across. 

I mean, the numbers, it was posted the other day, lowest in four decades. So I say, you know, we have got to secure the border, of course. We have got to deal with the 11, 12 million people who are here. But let's not lose sight of the fact that legal immigration is an engine of growth for this country. Half of the Fortune 500 companies in this country today were founded by immigrants.”

 

OTHER INTERESTING COMMENTS

Huntsman:

On China, religious tolerance, and shared values: “The best thing to do, invite a few dissidents who are seeking freedom and want to expand democracy in China to the United States embassy, the kind of thing that I used to do. That is what matters to the Chinese people who are looking for change and looking for reform these days. That is the kind of thing that over time is going to create enough swell of change and reform in that country that is going to make the U.S.-China relationship successful longer term.

Because eventually, we need more than just a transactional relationship. We need shared values infused into this relationship. Let's face it, the 21st Century will only have two relationships that matter: the United States and China. For that to succeed, we need shared values. That is democracy. That is human rights. That is recognition of the role of the Internet in society. That is greater tolerance toward religion, and so much more.”

Gingrich:

On who the real radical is: “I believe I can debate Barack Obama, and I think in seven three- hour debates, Barack Obama will not have a leg to stand on in trying to defend a record that is terrible and an ideology that is radical.”

On federal judges and freedom of religion: “I've been working on this project since 2002, when the Ninth Circuit Court said that "one nation under God" is unconstitutional in the Pledge of Allegiance. And I decided, if you had judges who were so radically anti-American that they thought "one nation under God" was wrong, they shouldn't be on the court.”

 

Transcript available here

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