DEARBORN — When foreign policy worked its way into the economy-focused Republican Presidential candidates’ debate in Dearborn on Tuesday, the indignant voice of Texas Congressman Ron Paul stood out among the nine men on stage.
When moderator Chris Matthews of MSNBC asked each candidate whether, if elected president, they would need authorization from Congress to take military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities, eight of the nine insisted that it would depend on the scenario. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said that he would sit with lawyers before making such a decision, and Congressman Duncan Hunter said that approval isn’t necessary if the target is fleeting.
|Republican Presidential candidates’ debate in Dearborn on Tuesday October 9, 2007. REUTERS|
Paul shouted his answer to the question.
“Absolutely. This idea of going and talking to attorneys totally baffles me. Why don’t we just open up the Constitution and read it? You’re not allowed to go to war without a declaration of war.
“Now, as far as fleeting enemies go, yes, if there’s an imminent attack on us. We’ve never had that happen in 220 years.”
The incensed Libertarian went on to call the idea that Iranians could pose an imminent attack on the U.S. “preposterous.”
“This is just war propaganda, continued war propaganda, preparing this nation to go to war and spread this war not only in Iraq, but into Iran, unconstitutionally. It is a road to disaster for us as a nation. It’s a road to our financial disaster if we don’t read the Constitution once in a while,” Paul said.
In his response, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani challenged Paul’s assertion that the U.S. has never faced an imminent attack.
“I don’t know where he was on September 11th,” Giuliani said.
Paul shot back, “That was no country. That was 19 thugs. That had nothing to do with a country.”
The exchange was one of only a few heated moments in the debate, along with a squabble between Giuliani and Romney about who is more dedicated to lowering taxes.
|Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul speaks to The Arab American News reporter Khalil AlHajal at this week’s debate in Dearborn, Michigan. PHOTO: Ali Suleiman/TAAN|
Romney was asked the one question in the debate directly related to Arab Americans.
The question came from CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo during a lightning round.
“Arab Americans are feeling a bias, after September 11, from their fellow Americans… How would you change that?” she asked, noting Dearborn’s large Arab American population.
Romney responded that the U.S. recognizes equality and welcomes people of all nations. He went on to say that the country also has to be kept safe.
“And we’re going to pursue any avenue we have to, to ensure that people who might be preaching or teaching doctrines of hate or terror are going to be followed into a church or into a school or a mosque, or wherever they might be.”
He said that people aren’t discriminated against based on backgrounds and faiths in the U.S.
“The countries that we’re battling around the world, they’re the ones that distinguish based on those things, and we don’t.
“And we, of course, welcome Arab Americans here in Dearborn and in places across our country.”
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, a supporter of Romney, when asked after the debate about the former governor’s response, said that Bartiromo’s question presupposed the association that Romney made between Arab Americans and “preaching or teaching doctrines of hate or terror.”
“There’s been so much discussion about very organized, specific groups… Maybe that’s why they allude to it,” said Bouchard, who is Arab American himself.
He said that he believed Romney’s point was that everyone in America should be entitled to the same rights.
On Romney “welcoming” Arab Americans to Dearborn, Bouchard said that historically, different groups have been treated as unwelcome in American communities at different times, and that Romney meant that Arab Americans should be accepted.
“One ethnicity or the other at one point or another is in the barrel… He was saying that they should be welcome.”
The term “Islamofascism” was used twice in the debate by former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in describing threats that the country faces.
After the debate Paul described the term as fake.
“They do that to make you think that we’re fighting Hitler.”
Other notable moments in the debate included Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo steering the economic debate toward illegal immigration countless times, prompting laughter from the audience near the end, when Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who had mentioned his mother in a previous response interjected “My mother is not an illegal immigrant.”
Arizona Sen. John McCain revealed during the debate that he has a glass of ethanol every morning before breakfast.
Outside of the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, where the debate was held, dozens of demonstrators, a mix of supporters of various candidates and war protesters, marched along Michigan Avenue carrying signs and symbolic props.
Meanwhile, in a poll of 1200 likely Michigan voters conducted by Strategic Vision, LLC Oct. 5-7, when asked who they would support in 2008, 24 percent of Republican respondents chose Giuliani. Twenty percent chose Romney. Thompson received 15 percent. Ten percent chose McCain, five percent Huckabee, four percent Paul, two percent Tancredo, and Hunter and Brownback one percent each.
Eighteen percent were undecided and the margin of error was three percent.
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton received by far the most support among Democrats polled, at 42 percent.
Clinton announced Tuesday that she will remain on the Michigan ballot, after four other Democratic candidates, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina withdrew their names from the Jan. 15 primary.
The candidates withdrew because the Michigan Democratic Party violated Democratic National Committee rules by moving the state’s primary date to January, ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s campaign said that they tried to withdraw, but state officials said they did not file the paperwork on time.