Cruz and Rubio clash as Trump defends Muslim ban at GOP debate

LAS VEGAS - In a presidential race reshaped by national security fears, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio clashed over U.S.

See Full Article

military intervention, government spying on Americans' communications and immigration Tuesday night, as front-runner Donald Trump defended his provocative call for banning Muslims from the United States.

Struggling former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush found his footing in trying to discredit Trump's qualifications for the White House, chiding the brash billionaire for trying to "insult your way to the presidency."

Tuesday night's debate was the first for Republicans since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, which heightened fears of terrorism in the United States. The attacks have ignited a political debate about President Barack Obama's campaign to defeat the Islamic State in the Middle East and the nation's security posture in preventing attacks in the U.S.

Trump's call for temporarily banning Muslims from the U.S. - a proposal roundly criticized by his rivals - dominated much of the discussion heading into the debate. He said he wasn't seeking to discriminate against Muslims.

"We are not talking about isolation; we're talking about security," he said. "We are not talking about religion, we are talking about security."

Bush dismissed the proposal as unserious, saying "Donald is great at the one-liners, but he's a chaos candidate and he'd be a chaos president."

In a moment that might help ease anxiety among Republican leaders, Trump pledged he would not seek to run as an independent. If he should lose the nomination, some fear he would make such a move, possibly preventing the nominee from defeating the Democratic challenger. "I am totally committed to the Republican Party," Trump said.

He was largely spared from criticism by Cruz and Rubio, who said they understood why Trump had raised the idea of banning Muslims. Instead, they focused on each other, engaging in lengthy debates over their differences on national security and immigration, one of the most contentious issues in the Republican primary.

Rubio, of Florida, defended his support for eventually providing a pathway to citizenship for some people in the U.S. illegally, an unpopular position within the Republican Party. Rubio was a co-author of comprehensive Senate legislation in 2013 that would have created that pathway, but he has since said the nation's immigration crisis must be addressed in piecemeal fashion, with legalization only an option after the U.S.-Mexico border is secured.

Seeking to draw a sharp contrast with Rubio, Cruz went further than he has previously in opposing legalization for people in the U.S. illegally. He declared: "I have never supported legalization and I do not intend to support legalization."

The two senators - both Cuban-Americans in their 40s - have been sparring from afar for weeks, and their rivalry could become one of the dominant forces in the race as the first voting contests in February draw near. The Texas senator is on the rise, particularly in Iowa's kickoff caucuses, and is casting himself as a more electable alternative to Trump, while Rubio is seeking to straddle the divide between his party's establishment and more conservative wings.

Rubio positioned himself as the hawk on national security, defending American efforts to oust dictators like Syria's Bashar Assad from the Middle East. He also accused Cruz of weakening the government's ability to track terrorists because he voted in favour of legislation to eliminate the National Security Agency's bulk phone-records collection program and replace it with a more restrictive effort to keep the records in phone companies' hands.

"We are now at a time when we need more tools, not less tools," Rubio said. "And that tool we lost, the metadata program, was a valuable tool that we no longer have at our disposal."

Cruz argued that his vote helped "reform how we target bad guys" by allowing the government to search more phone numbers.

"Marco knows what he's saying isn't true," he said. "What he knows is that the old program covered 20 per cent to 30 per cent of phone numbers to search for terrorists. The new program covers nearly 100 per cent."

Beginning after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the NSA secretly collected the daily calling records - but not contents of conversations - for most Americans, including people never suspected of any crime.

A new law, called the USA Freedom Act, passed in June with broad, bipartisan support. It ordered the NSA to end bulk collection after a six-month transition that expired last week.

The senators also displayed differences in their strategies for targeting the Islamic State. The extremist group claimed responsibility for the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, and one of the shooters in California pledged allegiance to the group on Facebook shortly before she and her husband shot and killed 14 people at a holiday party.

Cruz called for using "overwhelming air power" to destroy the Islamic State, while Rubio said airstrikes would have to be supplemented by ground troops, including American special operations forces.

President Obama has largely relied on airstrikes to target the militants in Iraq and Syria. However, he's also sent troops to Iraq to help train and assist local forces and recently approved sending special operations forces into Syria.

New Jersey Sen. Chris Christie, who has been on the rise in New Hampshire, sought to assert himself in the national security discussions. He called for a no-fly zone over Syria and vowed to shoot down a Russian plane if it were to violate that space.

"Not only would I be prepared to do it, I would do it," he said. "We would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if, in fact, they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now."

The debate's focus on national security was a detriment for Carson, who has struggled on complex international matters. He punted on questions about surveillance and his own qualifications for being commander in chief.

Carson has also raised the prospect of running as a third-party candidate, but like Trump, he ruled that option out in the debate.

Also on the main stage Tuesday night were former business executive Carly Fiorina; Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Four lower-polling candidates appeared at an earlier event: former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York Gov. George Pataki and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

-----

AP writers Lisa Lerer and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • B.C. leaders set for televised debate

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- Leaders of British Columbia's political parties will enter living rooms across the province tonight as they take part in a televised debate. Liberal Leader Christy Clark says the event will give her a chance to talk directly to voters about the choices they face come election day on May 9. Source
  • N.B. touts gender parity as five women appointed to provincial court

    Canada News CTV News
    FREDERICTON -- New Brunswick has appointed five woman judges, bringing gender parity to the provincial court, and named the first female chief judge. Premier Brian Gallant said Judge Jolene Richard will be promoted to chief judge of the provincial court. Source
  • South Korea presidential front-runners agree gays shouldn't be in military

    World News CBC News
    South Korean presidential front-runner Moon Jae-in has outraged persecuted sexual minority groups by saying during a television debate that he opposes homosexuality, something his supporters say he had to do to win office in the deeply conservative country. Source
  • Calgary couple accused of abusing nieces and nephew to learn fate in June

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY -- A couple accused of abusing their two nieces and a nephew with implements that included wooden spoons, needles and barbecue forks are to learn their fate in June. The children's parents were killed in a car crash in the United States in 2006 and the kids, who were all under 10, were adopted by their maternal aunt and uncle, who moved them to Calgary. Source
  • U.S. softwood tariffs prompt NDP claim of "inaction" against Christy Clark

    Canada News CTV News
    BURNABY, B.C. - British Columbia NDP Leader John Horgan is accusing Liberal Leader Christy Clark of delay and inaction in the wake of American demands for duties on Canadian softwood. Horgan issued a news release saying he is disappointed by the United States government's decision to level an average 20 per cent duty on Canadian softwood, effective May 1. Source
  • Halifax council votes to put Cornwallis name on city property under microscope

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- In a move Halifax's mayor calls a step toward reconciliation with indigenous people in the municipality, regional council has voted to examine the use of Edward Cornwallis's name on city property. Mayor Mike Savage says council's decision Tuesday stands by a pledge it made in 2015 to develop a strong working relationship with the city's aboriginal residents based on truth, dignity and mutual respect. Source
  • Alberta needs new operations centre to manage disasters: minister

    Canada News CTV News
    EDMONTON -- Alberta is looking at building a new operations centre to better manage how it responds to disasters such as the Fort McMurray wildfire. Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson said the need for a larger and more modern nerve centre is one of the lessons learned from the fire last May that forced more than 80,000 people to flee the area and destroyed 2,400 homes and buildings. Source
  • White House lack of transparency in Michael Flynn investigation blasted

    World News CBC News
    President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, appeared to violate federal law when he failed to seek permission or inform the U.S. government about accepting tens of thousands of dollars from Russian organizations after a trip there in 2015, leaders of a House oversight committee said Tuesday. Source
  • Police nab suspects in Paraguay robbery involving tens of millions

    World News CBC News
    Twelve men suspected of taking part in a dramatic, multimillion-dollar theft from an armoured car company in a Paraguayan border city have been arrested in Brazil, officials in the Brazilian Federal Police said Tuesday. The men are thought to be among roughly 50 men who used explosives to blast into the vault of the Prosegur company in Ciudad del Este, then escaped into Brazil, Federal Police Inspector Fabiano Bordignon said. Source
  • LCBO workers vote overwhelmingly in favour of a strike

    Canada News CBC News
    Liquor Control Board of Ontario staff have voted 93 per cent in favour of a strike as their union continues to bargain for a new collective agreement. Voting by members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union was held Monday and Tuesday. Source