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Defense cuts, immigration policy: Key moments in Tuesday night's GOP presidential debate
Key moments in Tuesday night's Republican presidential debate:
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney warned against future cuts to the nation's defense budget, saying nearly $1 trillion in potential cuts could undermine the nation's military clout. He underscored his support for Israel, saying if elected, his first foreign trip would be to Israel.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry noted that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had said the cuts would hurt the military. "If he's a man of honor, he should resign in protest," Perry said.
GINGRICH ON IMMIGRATION
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the nation's immigration policies shouldn't separate people "who have been here a quarter century" from their families. Gingrich said illegal immigrants without any ties to the U.S. should be deported and the nation should control its border. But he said Republicans shouldn't "adopt an immigration policy which destroys families which have been here a quarter century and I'm prepared to take the heat for saying let's be humane in enforcing the law."
On the sweeping anti-terrorism law known as the Patriot Act, Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas sparred, with Gingrich saying the United States needs all of its power to prevent another attack. Paul said the law infringes on liberties; the other candidates sided with Gingrich in putting protecting the homeland ahead of civil protections.
All of the candidates ' except Paul ' said the United States could not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon and should work with ally Israel to prevent it. While they differed on how best to change regimes in Tehran, they were largely unified on the need for new leadership in that country.
FORMER REPUBLICAN AIDES
The debate included questions from a litany of former top aides to Republican presidents.
Ed Meese, who served as attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, asked about a long-range extension to the Patriot Act. David Addington, who was chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, asked the candidates what they would do to protect American interests in the region surrounding Syria.
Paul Wolfowitz, a deputy defense secretary under President George W. Bush, asked about the wisdom of the Bush administration's spending billions of dollars to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa.
IS AFRICA A COUNTRY?
Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, responding to Wolfowitz's question, referred to Africa as a country. Santorum noted that he worked on legislation to battle AIDS in Africa during his time in the Senate. "Africa was a country on the brink. On the brink of complete meltdown and chaos, which would have been fertile ground for the radical Islamists to be able to ' to get ' to get a foothold," he said.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
One questioner noted that George W. Bush was never asked about al-Qaida, an issue that would dominate his presidency, during the 2000 presidential debates. Republicans were asked about the national security issues that most worry them but get little attention.
Santorum said he was concerned about the spread of socialism in Central and South America. Paul said he worried most about another war. Perry said China was foremost on his mind.
Romney ticked off a series of concerns, listing China, Iran becoming a nuclear threat and Latin America. Businessman Herman Cain pointed to potential cyberattacks. Gingrich cited weapons of mass destruction, the potential for an electromagnetic pulse attack and a cyberattack.
Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota pointed to the militant group al-Shabab. And former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman turned to domestic concerns over the economy, the national debt and a lack of trust in Congress. "We've got to get on our feet domestically," he said.
When debate moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Cain whether it's appropriate for Muslim Americans to get more extensive pat downs or security screenings at airports, he got an interesting response.
"No, Blitz. That's oversimplifying it," Cain said, mixing the CNN anchor's last name with his first. As Cain began responding, he caught himself and said, "I'm sorry, Blitz, I meant Wolf, OK?"
When the Georgia businessman finished his answer, Blitzer had his retort. "Thank you, Cain," Blitzer said to laughter.