The Ups and Downs in the Foreign Policy Debate


You can read the entire transcript of this debate for the first hour here, and for the last half hour here. The portions I’ve noted in this post are, in my opinion, the times when a candidate had an “UP” moment or a “Down” moment. I understand there may be other portions of this entire transcript that are more important in your opinion. Included is the time when the remarks were made.

The first UP for Rick Perry and Down for Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann:

8:22 Scott Pelley: Governor Perry, why is Pakistan playing a double game, saying that it supports the United States one moment and then supporting terrorists who are killing American troops the next? What’s going on there?

8:23 Rick Perry: Listen, I– I think we’re havin’– an interesting conversation here, but the deeper one– that the speaker makes a reference to is the whole issue of foreign aid. And we need a president of the United States working with a Congress that sends a clear message to every country. It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s Pakistan or whether it’s Afghanistan or whether it’s India.

The foreign aid budget in my administration for every country is gonna start at zero dollars. Zero dollars. And then we’ll have a conversation. Then we’ll have a conversation in this country about whether or not a penny of our taxpayer dollar needs to go into those countries. And Pakistan is clearly sending us messages, Mitt. It’s clearly sending us messages that they– they don’t deserve our foreign aid that we’re getting, because they’re not bein’ honest with us. American soldiers’ lives are being put at jeopardy because of that country and the decisions that they’re make–

–and it’s time for us as a country to say no to foreign aid to countries that don’t support the United States of America. They’ve been doing this for years. Their political people are not who are in charge of that country. It’s the military. It’s the secret service. That’s who’s running that country. And I don’t trust ’em. And we need to send clear messages. We need to do foreign aid completely different. I’m tellin’ you, no dollar’s goin’ into those countries. As a matter of fact, if they want any American aid, any country, unless we say differently, the American manufacturing, big companies, small companies, going in to help create economic impacts in those countries rather than just dollars flowin’ into some administration.

8:25 Michele Bachmann: Pakistan is a very difficult area, because they have been housing terrorists and terrorists have been training there. Al Qaeda, as well as Hikani, as well as other militias dealing with terrorist organizations. But I would not agree with that assessment to pull all foreign aid from Pakistan. I would reduce foreign aid to many, many countries. But there’s a problem, because Pakistan has a nuclear weapon. We have more– people affiliated with Al Qaeda closer to that nuclear bomb than in any nation.

8:28 Rick Santorum: Well, let me just stop back and– and– and say I disagree with a lot of what was said up here. Pakistan must be a friend of the United States for the reason that Michele outlined. Pakistan is a nuclear power. And there are people in this– in that country that if they gain control of that country will create a situation equal to the situation that is now percolating in Iran.

So we can’t be indecisive about whether Pakistan is our friend. They must be our friend. And we must engaged them as friends, get over the difficulties we have, as we did with Saudi Arabia, with– with respect to the events of 9/11.

The first UP for Herman Cain:

8:34 Scott Pelley: And that’s time, Mr. Speaker. Thank you very much. Mr. Cain, you’ve often said that you’ll listen to your generals for their advice before making decisions as commander in chief. How will you know when you should overrule your generals?

8:35 Herman Cain: The approach to makin’ a critical decision, first make sure that you surround yourself with the right people. And I feel that I’ll be able to make that assessment when we put together the cabinet and all of the people from the military, etcetera. You will know you’re makin’ the right decision when you consider all the facts and ask them for alternatives. It is up to the commander in chief to make that judgment call based upon all the facts.

And because I’ll have a multiple group of people offering different recommendations, this gives me the best opportunity to select the one that makes the most amount of sense. But ultimately, it’s up to the commander in chief to make that decision.

The first UP for Newt Gingrich:

8:45 Scott Pelley: Speaker Gingrich, if I could just ask you the same question, as President of the United States, would you sign that death warrant for an American citizen overseas who you believe is a terrorist suspect?

8:47 Newt Gingrich: Well, he’s not a terrorist suspect. He’s a person who was found guilty under review of actively seeking the death of Americans. If you engage in war against the United States, you are an enemy combatant. You have none of the civil liberties of the United States. You cannot go to court. Let me be– let me be very clear about this. There are two levels. There’s a huge gap here that– that frankly far too many people get confused over. Civil defense, criminal defense, is a function of being within the American law. Waging war on the United States is outside criminal law. It is an act of war and should be dealt with as an act of war. And the correct thing in an act of war is to kill people who are trying to kill you.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham asked a question that was a Down for Ron Paul and an UP for Rick Perry:

9:05 Senator Lindsay Graham: Thank you. A comment first. Thank you all for running for president. I’m proud of each and every one of you. Thank you very much. Three-part question. I hope I can remember all three parts. Within days of taking office, President Obama, by executive order, stopped the CIA from using classified enhanced interrogation techniques that are not water-boarding. There’s a presumption that every person at Gitmo, under the Obama administration, should go into civilian court, not military commission. And the Obama administration recently said that any future captors in the war on terror would not go to Gitmo. Would you continue these policies? If you would change them, why?

9:10 Ron Paul: I think that this is a mess. It’s a mess because we have a bad foreign policy. We’re pretending we’re at war. We haven’t declared the war, but we’re at war against a tactic. And therefore– there’s no limits to it. So we create these monstrosities. And we do think outside the law. We come up with assassination, allowing the president to decide who’s going to be assassinated?

And– lo and behold, three Americans now have been on the list. They’ve been assassinated. But they don’t talk about the second one, because the second one happened to be a 16 year old son of Awlaki. So what are we doing here to accept this idea that our president, and this lawlessness, to pursue? And that– we some day will be subject to those same courts.

So no, you don’t. You want to live within– in the law and obey the law. Because– otherwise, it’s going to be very bad for all– all of us. And– this whole idea that– now we can be assassinated by somebody that we don’t even like to run our medical care, and giving this power to the president to be the prosecutor, the executor, the judge and the jury, we better look at that carefully before you automatically endorse something like that.

9:11 Rick Perry: Yeah. Let me just address Congressman Paul. And I– Congressman, I– I respect that you wore the uniform of our country. But– in 1972, I volunteered to serve the United States Air Force. And the idea that we have our young men and women in combat today, Senator, where there are people who would kill them in a heartbeat, under any circumstance, use any technique that they can, for us not to have the ability to try to extract information from them, to save our young people’s lives, is a travesty. This is war. That’s what happens in war. And I am for using the techniques, not torture, but using those techniques that we know will extract the information to save young American lives. And I will be for it until I die.

South Carolina Sen Jim DeMint asked a question the moderator directed Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman to answer. The two establishment candidates gave weaker answers than Herman Cain or Rick Perry would have given. At least we now have Mitt on the record as to what specific cuts he would make.

9:14 Jim Demint: Thank you. And thank you all for being in South Carolina tonight. Federal spending and debt are not only our greatest economic problems, they’re our largest national security problem. Yet the president and the Congress continue to spend and borrow at record levels. Just adjusting the spending on existing federal programs will not solve the problem. What federal functions will you eliminate or return to the states in order to balance our budget?

9:15 Mitt Romney: Absolutely. Right now, we’re spending about 25 percent of the economy at the federal level. And that has to be brought down to a cap of 20 percent. I’ll get that done within my first term, if I’m lucky enough to get elected. How do you do that?

One, it’s eliminating programs. A lot of programs we like, but we simply can’t afford. The first we will eliminate, however, we’re happy to get rid of. That’s Obama Care. And that’ll save us $95 billion a year by my fourth year.

Other programs we like: the Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts– Public Broadcasting. These are wonderful– features that we– we have of the government. But we simply can’t go out and borrow money from China to pay for them. They’re not that essential.

In terms of returning programs to the states: Medicaid, a program for the poor, should be returned to the states. Let the states manage it. And if we grow it, at inflation plus one percent, we’ll save $100 billion a year by returning that to the states. And finally, we have to make the federal government more productive. It is just way too over– over-burdened with– with excessive personnel. I’ll reduce the personnel by at least ten percent, and link the pay of federal employees with the pay in the private sector. We should not pay government workers more than the people of America were paying for it.

9:16 Jon Huntsman: Thank you, Senator Demint. It’s an honor to be with you in your state– as– as it is– many other great leaders of South Carolina. I think it’s absolutely appropriate that– Admiral Mullen would say that our most significant national security threat is right here at home. And it’s our debt. I completely buy into that.

And if we’re gonna get this nation moving in the right direction, we need to recognize that debt, as 70 percent of our GDP and moving up, becomes a national security problem. You look where Japan is, well over 100 percent debt to GDP. Greece, 170 percent– to GDP. Italy, 120 percent.

So you get a sense of where our tomorrow is if we don’t tackle the debt and spending. My speech was a very short one on debt and spending. It’s three words: The Ryan Plan. I think The Ryan Plan sets out a template that puts– everything on the table. Medicaid– like– Governor Romney, I’d send back to the states. Education, I wanna move closer to the states. You move education closer to the decision makers, the school boards, the families, you’re a whole lot better off.

And I think there are some economic development functions, as well, legitimately that you can move closer to the state. But we’ve got to get our spending closer to 19 percent– of our GDP as opposed to this unsustainable 24, 25 percent.

The last question of the night was to Rick Santorum about how he would respond as president if there were loose nukes in Pakistan. This was a DOWN moment for Santorum and Gingrich, and an UP moment for Huntsman:

9:22 Major Garrett: Senator Santorum, this week, National Journal and The Atlantic magazine reported that, for various reasons, some related to paranoia in Pakistan about what United States might do, they are moving operational nuclear weapons in that country, unguarded, in trucks. If you were commander in chief, and intelligence came to you that one of those nuclear weapons was lost or possibly in the hands of terrorists, how would you respond?

9:23 Rick Santorum: I would be working with the intelligence community within Pakistan. Again, it’s a compromised community. I understand there– there are relationship with ISI, with the Haqqani Network. Again, depending on the circumstances that we’re dealing with here– it– you would hope you would be able to work with the– with the intelligence community and work, if necessary, in support– in a support nature, whether it’s– with– human intelligence or– or– other types of surveillance, and potentially with the special forces– on the ground.

But again, this is clear. This is not one– you don’t cowboy this one. You don’t fly in to Afghanistan– I mean excuse me, to Pakistan and try to interdict a nuclear weapon. You’ve gotta work with the people in the– in power in the government to– to make sure that that accomplish–

9:25 Newt Gingrich: Well, look. This is a good example of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into since the Church Committee so-called reforms in 1970s. We don’t have a reliable intelligence service. We don’t have independent intelligence in places like Pakistan. We rely on our supposed friends for intelligence. They may or may not be our friends. And the amount of information we might or might not have might or might not be reliable.

This is a very good example of scenarios people oughta look at seriously and say, “We had better overhaul everything from rules of engagement to how we run the intelligence community, because we– are in a very dangerous world.”

9:26 Jon Huntsman: The– lemme just– on Pakistan for one second. Because it’s pretty clear. There’s one man in charge in Pakistan. I’ve negotiated with the Pakistanis before, both in government and in business. They’re a tough bunch. General Kayani’s in charge. He’s head of the military, which is head of ISSI. It isn’t President Zardari, make no mistake about that. And I’d say you don’t have a choice.

Then I would pick up the phone and call Special Operations Command in Tampa and say, “I’ve got a job for SEAL– SEAL team number six. Prepare to move.” You don’t have a choice. When you have a loose nuke, you have no choice. And we have to take charge. That’s called leadership, and that’s what I would do as president.

With– with respect to Europe, we have two problems. One, Europe is our second largest export market. $240 billion we export to Europe every year, second only to Canada, $250 billion a year. As– if Europe goes down, as a metastases spreads, they’re gonna buy less. And we’re gonna lose jobs unless we can find other markets– as those exports begin to diminish. That’s gonna be problem number one, and we need to prepare for that.

Number two, it’s gonna spread throughout the banking system to the point where it’s gonna hit us and the United States. And with banks that are too big to fail in this country, we’re in deep trouble.

This debate did not change my preferences regarding the candidates. I still lean toward Rick Perry, and Herman Cain is my second choice. The answer Newt gave for the last question makes me wonder why people are drawn to him.

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Mike gamecock DeVine
November 14, 2011 9:27 am

Newt identifies the problems of U.S. intelligence since the liberal Democrats gutted the CIA under Frank Church’s leadership and that should cause people not to be drawn to Newt how? Maybe the gamecock is missing something what with all the beat Gator and hometown/alma mater debate excitement?

November 14, 2011 3:20 pm

During a briefing once, on the Geneva Conventions, an interesting line of questioning came up. This line of questioning lies at the heart of the weakness in America’s Global War on Terrorism, just as it has on every war we’ve fought since 1945. The Situation: As a Soldier you see a terrorist hiding amongst a group of civilians, in fact he grabs one and uses her as a shield. Holding her tightly against him he advances, brandishing a weapon, intent on harming you and your fellow Soldiers. What do you do? What can you do? The Answer: You shoot through… Read more »

Queen Hotchibobo
November 14, 2011 11:49 pm

Good ups vs downs. I didn’t get to watch the debate either, and I haven’t read the transcript, but these are good sorts. I didn’t hit Newt as hard for the loose nukes answer because I think he just identified the reason that intelligence is a problem and went all the way back to that and pointed out that the bad war fighting capacity we have has to be addressed before something like a loose nuke happens, but he probably should have said that we would, of course, have to do something to prevent a loose nuke from becoming stolen… Read more »