GOP candidates spar over security in debate
Republican presidential contenders jousted over Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East and raised the specter of terrorists striking U.S. cities with nuclear bombs in a tense national-security debate that laid out sharply contrasting views on how to keep America safe from attack.
WASHINGTON — Republican presidential contenders jousted over Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East and raised the specter of terrorists striking U.S. cities with nuclear bombs in a tense national-security debate that laid out sharply contrasting views on how to keep America safe from attack.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry questioned the value of supporting nuclear-armed Pakistan, a tenuous ally.
"To write a check to countries that are clearly not representing American interest is nonsensical," he said, drawing a rebuke from Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
"With all due respect to the governor, I think that's highly naive," she said. "We have to recognize what's happening on the ground. There are nuclear weapons all across this nation, and potentially al-Qaida could get a hold of these weapons. These weapons could find their way out of — out of Pakistan into New York City or into Washington, D.C., and a nuclear weapon could be set off in this city."
The Obama administration's plan for a gradual pullout of U.S. troops from neighboring Afghanistan was another flash point in the debate in Washington, D.C., co-sponsored by CNN and two conservative think tanks, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has struggled to break out of the bottom tier in the GOP race after serving as President Obama's ambassador to China, argued that using 100,000 troops for "nation-building in Afghanistan" was not serving U.S. interests.
"Are you suggesting, governor, that we just take all our troops out next week, or what's your proposal?" former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney interjected.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came under fire from Romney and Bachmann for his proposal to control illegal immigration with a local elected board — similar to the World War II Selective Service Board — to determine which immigrants should be deported and which should stay.
"If you've come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home, period," Gingrich said. Bachmann and Romney suggested that would amount to amnesty.
Gingrich clashed with Rep. Ron Paul, of Texas, over renewal of the Patriot Act surveillance law.
"I'd look at strengthening it," said Gingrich, who argued that nuclear-terrorism suspects should not be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Paul said the Patriot Act was "unpatriotic because it undermines our liberty." Paul also differed over civil rights with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who called extension of the Patriot Act a necessary step when America remains at war with terrorists and advocated ethnic profiling.
Asked by CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer what groups should be profiled for security purposes, Santorum said, "Obviously Muslims would be someone you'd look at."
Former restaurant-industry lobbyist Herman Cain, who came under fire early in the race for saying he would not name any Muslims to his Cabinet or to the federal bench, dodged the question of whether American Muslims should "get more intensive pat-downs or security when they go through airports than Christian Americans or Jewish Americans."
"No, Blitz, that's oversimplifying it," Cain responded, shortening the anchor's last name. "I happen to believe that if you allow our intelligence agencies to do their job, they can come up with an approach — I'm sorry, Blitz; I meant Wolf, OK?"
WASHINGTON — Democrats Tuesday criticized Mitt Romney's first campaign commercial, which they said distorted comments by President Obama to make it look as if he were running away from his record on the economy.
In the ad, Obama is heard declaring, "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose."
Left out was the context for Obama's comment, which he made during the 2008 presidential election — he was talking about his opponent, Sen. John McCain, of Arizona.
What Obama said was, "Sen. McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, 'If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.' "
Brad Woodhouse, communications director for the Democratic National Committee, called Romney a "serial deceiver" and said "his deceptions know no bounds."
Romney's top advisers called the response "hysterical" and accusing Obama's campaign of routinely lying about Obama's record.
TV show accused
of candidate insult
NEW YORK — A Democratic congresswoman says NBC should apologize for its "insulting and inappropriate" treatment of Republican presidential contender Michele Bachmann when she appeared on Jimmy Fallon's late-night talk show.
As Bachmann was introduced on the show early Tuesday, house band The Roots played a snippet of a 1985 Fishbone song with a title that includes a vulgar term for a dishonest woman. Rep. Nita Lowey, of New York, said Bachmann "deserves to be treated with respect."
The song, about a relationship gone wrong, isn't political. Among its cleanest lyrics: "She always says she needs you, but you know she really don't care."
The Roots' bandleader, Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, said later Tuesday that the song was a "tongue-in-cheek and spur-of-the-moment decision."
"The show was not aware of it, and I feel bad if her feelings were hurt," Thompson said.
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