There were no heated attacks between the candidates at Saturday's Republican presidential debate at Wofford College in South Carolina, but there were some disagreements in the foreign policy debate over foreign aid and the use of torture.
Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain said he does “not agree with torture. Period.” He added, however, that he would trust his military leaders to decide what constitutes torture. When asked whether waterboarding is torture or an enhanced interrogation technique, Cain said it is enhanced interrogation, not torture.
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann agreed and said that, as president, she would be willing to use waterboarding to interrogate terrorism suspects.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman took a different view.
“Torture is illegal in our law and in international law,” Paul said, and “waterboarding is torture.” He also called waterboarding “immoral,” “impractical,” “uncivilized,” and “un-American.”
“This country has values, we have a name brand,” Huntsman said, “we diminish our standing in the world when we torture.”
On the topic of foreign aid, Texas Governor Rick Perry said that “the foreign aid budget in my administration will start at zero dollars.” Every nation that currently receives foreign aid should justify why they should continue receiving foreign aid in order to continue receiving funds, Perry argued.
Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum disagreed. Pulling foreign aid from Pakistan would be dangerous, they argued, due to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.
“The next commander in chief needs to understand from day one the intricacies in the Middle East,” Bachmann, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, said.
“Pakistan must be a friend of the United States for the reason Michele Bachmann outlined, Pakistan is a nuclear power,” Santorum added.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich thought that Perry's proposal “makes perfect sense,” and he used Egypt as an example of a nation that should justify its foreign aid. “The degree to which the Arab Spring becomes an anti-Christian spring is certainly something which bothers me a great deal,” Gingrich said.
Later in the debate, Perry was asked if he would start Israel's foreign aid at zero dollars. He said he would and “zero-based budgeting is where we need to go.”
Cain had previously stated that one of his priorities as president would be to clarify who the United States' friends are and who its enemies are. A moderator reminded the audience of this, then asked, “Pakistan, friend or foe?”
“We don't know, because, it is not clear. Pakistan is where Osama Bin Laden was found and eliminated,” Cain answered.
Most of the candidates said that a military strike on Iran would be on option if Iran seeks to obtain nuclear weapons. Paul, on the other hand, said it would not be worthwhile to go to war with Iran to keep it from obtaining nuclear weapons. If we were to go to war, though, Paul said he would follow the Constitution by first obtaining a declaration of war from Congress.
Santorum said that he had already helped put into place many of the ideas supported by the other candidates. He noted that he sponsored the Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2005, which provided funds for pro-democracy rebels in Iran and sanctions against the Iranian government. He complained, though, that President George W. Bush did not provide funds for implementation of the Act and President Obama cut funding for the program.
The debate was filled with other criticisms of Obama's foreign policy as well.
“We have a president right now who thinks America is just another nation. America is an exceptional nation. We have a president who thinks the way to conduct foreign policy is through his personal affects on other people. I believe the way to conduct foreign policy is through American strength,” Romney declared.
When Gingrich was asked to elaborate on a previous criticism of Romney, he declined. Instead, he said, “let me say, compared to this administration, talking about a friend who is a great business manager is an enormous improvement over Barack Obama.”
In Wednesday night's debate in Michigan, Perry embarrassed himself when he could not remember that the third department he would cut as president was the Department of Energy. He was able to joke about it, to the delight of the audience, in this debate.
“Governor Perry, you advocate the elimination of the dept of energy,” a moderator said.
“Glad you remembered it,” Perry interrupted.
“I've had some time to think about it sir,” the moderator joked.
Perry answered, “me too.”