Candidates Pick Fights on Patriot Act, Immigration

Republicans debate national security
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2011 7:00 PM CST
Updated Nov 22, 2011 9:03 PM CST
Gingrich in Spotlight as Republicans Square Off
Santorum, Paul, Perry, Romney, Cain, and Gingrich.   (Getty Images)

The Republican candidates were back at it tonight, this time in Washington and this time with a focus on national security. (Click to read about Mitt Romney's first-name moment.) Some highlights:

  • Newt Gingrich: Strongly backed the Patriot Act. "All of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives," he said, and the government needs tools to protect Americans. He also argued that the US could "break Iran within a year" in part by sabotaging its refineries, reports AP. An outright attack should be a last resort, he added.
  • Immigration: Big fight coming? Gingrich favored allowing some immigrants to stay, reports the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t believe that the party that says it's the party of the family is going to say it’s going to destroy families that have been here for more than a quarter of a century,” he said. “I'm prepared to take the heat in saying: Let's be humane in enforcing the law." His view caught immediate flak from Romney and Bachmann, notes Politico.
  • Ron Paul: Called the Patriot Act "unpatriotic because it undermines our liberties" and would create a police state. "You might prevent a crime. But the crime then will be against the American people." On Israel, he broke with the pack, notes the New York Times blog: "I think they are quite capable of taking care of themselves." And the drug war is "another war we ought to cancel."

  • Mitt Romney: He said his first trip as president would be to Israel. In addition to calling out Gingrich on immigration, he disagreed with Jon Huntsman on Afghanistan: "This is not a time for America to cut and run." He favored "crippling sanctions" on Iran over an Israeli strike.
  • Jon Huntsman: He called for the bulk of troops to return from Afghanistan, especially given the struggling US economy. He sided more with Paul than Gingrich on the Patriot Act, notes the Washington Post. He also said China would never go along with Iran sanctions.
  • Rick Perry: He said the Obama administration has been an "absolute failure" in gathering intelligence on terrorists, and he asserted that the biggest foreign policy challenge is "how we're going to deal with China," notes the Wall Street Journal blog. He would not send Pakistan "one penny" until it proves it's an ally.
  • Michele Bachmann: Said President Obama has "outsourced" our ability to interrogate terror suspects to the ACLU. She called Perry's plan to cut off aid to Pakistan "highly naive." She also called Pakistan "too nuclear to fail."
  • Herman Cain: He backed privatizing the TSA (as did Perry) and refining but not eliminating the Patriot Act. He opposed a no-fly zone over Syria. (He also gave Wolf Blitzer a new nickname.)
  • Rick Santorum: He backed profiling at airports. We should be trying to "find the bomber, not the bomb."
(More Newt Gingrich 2012 stories.)

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