DES MOINES, Iowa: Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates (from left) Sen Rand Paul, Sen Marco Ru­bio, Ben Car­son and Sen Ted Cruz stand on­stage dur­ing the Pres­i­den­tial Fam­ily Fo­rum on Fri­day. — AP Repub­li­can can­di­dates talk re­li­gion, se­cu­rity at fo­rum

Hope­fuls keep the tone cor­dial

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

DES MOINES, Iowa: Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates gath­ered Fri­day in Iowa avoided talk­ing about reg­is­ter­ing Mus­lims, com­par­ing some Syr­ian refugees to ra­bid dogs or even at­tack­ing each other. In­stead, they held a civil con­ver­sa­tion and fo­cused their crit­i­cism on US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. Seven of the 2016 can­di­dates took on a cor­dial tone and al­most uni­ver­sally agreed about pro­tec­tion of re­li­gious lib­erty dur­ing a fo­rum put on by an evan­gel­i­cal con­ser­va­tive group that drew more than 1,000 peo­ple. But they dif­fered in style and tone as po­ten­tial com­man­ders in chief in light of the at­tacks in Paris by the Is­lamic State.

The emerg­ing ri­valry be­tween Texas Sen Ted Cruz and Florida Sen Marco Ru­bio was seen in the can­di­dates’ de­scrip­tion of their ap­proach to the Is­lamic State. Cruz, a fa­vorite among evan­gel­i­cal con­ser­va­tives, won in­stant ap­plause in de­fend­ing his call for giv­ing pref­er­ence to Chris­tian refugees leav­ing Syria. “It is nei­ther of­fen­sive nor unAmer­i­can to em­brace the sim­ple com­mon­sense propo­si­tion that, of course, we should de­fend this na­tion and not in­vite in peo­ple who the ad­min­is­tra­tion can­not guar­an­tee are not ter­ror­ists here to mur­der in­no­cent Amer­i­cans,” he said.

Ru­bio, seek­ing to ap­peal to both main­stream and re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives, tried to project com­pe­tence as a po­ten­tial com­man­der in chief. “Paris occurred and the ISIS at­tacks are oc­cur­ring be­cause ISIS has a safe haven in Syria and Iraq and in­creas­ingly in Libya from where they are train­ing fight­ers and co­or­di­nat­ing th­ese at­tacks abroad,” he said. “We should not al­low th­ese safe havens to ex­ist. They should be tar­geted now.”

Also at­tend­ing the round­table-style con­ver­sa­tion mod­er­ated by Repub­li­can poll­ster Frank Luntz were re­tired neu­ro­sur­geon Ben Car­son, Ken­tucky Sen Rand Paul, for­mer Arkansas Gov Mike Huck­abee, for­mer Penn­syl­va­nia Sen Rick San­to­rum and for­mer tech­nol­ogy ex­ec­u­tive Carly Fio­r­ina. Chris­tian con­ser­va­tive vot­ers tra­di­tion­ally wield sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence in the Iowa cau­cuses be­cause they tend to be or­ga­nized and mo­ti­vated to par­tic­i­pate. Car­son has led some re­cent Iowa polls and has a strong evan­gel­i­cal fol­low­ing. The soft-spo­ken Car­son was a less ac­tive part of the con­ver­sa­tion than many of the oth­ers on the stage, es­pe­cially on is­sues of for­eign pol­icy. He cited the rise of “po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness” as a key prob­lem in pub­lic dis­course, say­ing it is “used as a con­trol mech­a­nism and it’s used for in­tim­i­da­tion”.

Dis­cus­sions

The wide-rang­ing dis­cus­sion also dealt with re­li­gious lib­erty, for­eign pol­icy and ed­u­ca­tion. Im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy was not dis­cussed, and no spe­cific ques­tions were asked about the con­cept of a gov­ern­ment data­base to track Mus­lims in the United States, which drew con­dem­na­tion from sev­eral Repub­li­can can­di­dates af­ter ri­val Don­ald Trump ex­pressed sup­port for the idea.

Ques­tions about faith at the fo­rum were aimed at il­lus­trat­ing the can­di­dates’ be­liefs, not point­ing up any dif­fer­ences among them. “All the peo­ple on this stage ... love our na­tion, love our coun­try, and love God,” Fio­r­ina said. “Peo­ple of faith make bet­ter lead­ers. Faith gives us hu­mil­ity.” Paul re­peated a call for Repub­li­cans to push Democrats on whether they sup­port any re­stric­tions on abor­tion ac­cess. “We’re go­ing to make them de­fend that 7 pound ba­bies have no rights a minute be­fore they’re born,” he said.

Pro­test­ers op­pos­ing the de­por­ta­tion of mil­lions of im­mi­grants in the coun­try il­le­gally in­ter­rupted the be­gin­ning of the fo­rum and were re­moved by po­lice. Like-minded demon­stra­tors con­tin­ued to in­ter­rupt the event now and then and were re­moved. Huck­abee said he wasn’t trou­bled by the ruckus. “I re­al­ize it’s a re­minder that we live in the great­est coun­try on earth and we al­low peo­ple to dis­agree with us,” he said. — AP

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