The first Republican presidential primary debate — with some of the key contenders AWOL — kicked off the nomination fight Thursday with shots at President Barack Obama’s domestic and foreign policy.
The faceoff, co-sponsored by Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party, came just days after Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed. Bin Laden’s death sharply reoriented the debate among the five candidates here — the first 15 minutes were spent on foreign policy — not jobs, the economy or the national debt, which have been key issues for the GOP.
Former Governor of Minnesota came out with a sharp dismissal of Obama’s foreign policy record: “That moment (Bin Laden assassination) is no the sum total of America’s foreign policy. He’s made a number of other decisions relating to our security here and around the world that I don’t agree with. … To give you one example, in Libya, he made a decision to subordinate our decision-make together United Nations. I don’t agree with that.”
"The issues that have come up while he's been president, he's gotten them wrong strategically every single time," Pawlenty said. At one point, he referred to the United Nations as "pathetic organization".
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum went even further, saying, “The decision that he made with Osama Bin Laden was tactical decision, it wasn’t a strategic decision. The issues that have come up while he’s been president, he’s gotten them wrong strategically every single time.”
Santorum, confronted with past statement that Muslims are pre-disposed to extremism, says "I'm not anti-Islam." Said he's just realistic, and that there's an opportunity to "engage those in the Muslim world... who want to abandon those radical principles."
Herman Cain an African-American businessman and former CEO of a pizza chain, even mentioned PM Netanyahu, defending interrogation and water-boarding on terrorists, quoting PM Netanyhu: "The Terrorists main object is, to kill all of us".
Texas Congressman Ron Paul, considered the "intellectual grandfather" of the Tea Party movement, said Israel had become too dependent on the United States when asked how he would respond to an Israeli strike in Iran.
Israel should be responsible for its own fate, he said during the debate, adding that if the Jewish state wanted to attack Iran, the Americans should not tell the Israelis what to do.