DES MOINES, Iowa – The Republican candidates for president used a nationally televised morning debate to mock Democrats on foreign policy, taxes and health care while sparring with each other over abortion and the administration’s anti-terrorism efforts.
From a stage in Iowa, the state where the nation’s voting will begin in five months, the GOP candidates said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” program that their Democratic rivals support plans for “socialized” medicine and predicted that taxes would be raised if a Democrat returned to the White House.
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, of Illinois, in particular, was singled out for saying last week that he would act against terrorists in Pakistan without the support of its president. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney contrasted those comments with Obama’s remark during a recent debate that he would be willing to meet with all foreign leaders.
“I mean, in one week he went from saying he’s going to sit down, you know, for tea, with our enemies, but then he’s going to bomb our allies,” Romney said. “He’s gone from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in one week.”
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani sparked loud applause when he declared that “the knee-jerk liberal Democratic reaction – raise taxes to get money – very often is a very big mistake.” And Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., declared his disappointment in the Democratic push to end the war in Iraq.
As in past encounters, the Republicans largely agreed on the need to continue the Iraq war, saying that leaving the country too quickly would disrupt the fight against terrorism.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, whose front-runner status has slipped away in a wave of fundraising and staff woes, stuck to his guns on the war, saying there will be catastrophic consequences if America abandons Iraq.
The lone voice in continued opposition to the war, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, was again outspoken about America’s involvement.
“Just come home. We just marched in. We can just come back,” he said.
Most candidates said their vice president would have a more limited role in government than is often ascribed to Vice President Dick Cheney. And several questioned President Bush’s desire to spread democracy around the world by encouraging elections.
The 90-minute debate was the first opportunity in two months for Republican candidates to highlight their differences before a national audience. Also participating were Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and Tommy Thompson, former Wisconsin governor and secretary of health and human services.