News / USA

    With Iowa Caucuses in Sight, Republicans Square Off in Debate

    Republican presidential candidates take the stage before their debate at the North Charleston Coliseum  in North Charleston, S.C., Jan. 14, 2016.
    Republican presidential candidates take the stage before their debate at the North Charleston Coliseum in North Charleston, S.C., Jan. 14, 2016.

    With just under three weeks left until the start of the presidential nominating process, the top Republican contenders faced off Thursday in what was expected to be a contentious debate in the influential early primary state of South Carolina.

    The candidates began by taking aim at the man they hope to replace: President Barack Obama.

    In his opening statement, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas slammed the president's handling of an incident earlier this week in which 10 U.S. sailors were briefly held by Iran after their boats apparently wandered into Iran's territorial waters in the Persian Gulf.

    New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also focused on Obama, promising to "kick [the president's] rear end out of the White House" and referring to him as a "boy" and a "petulant child." Christie also took issue with the president's largely optimistic State of the Union address.

    "On Tuesday night I watched storytime with Barack Obama and it sounded like everything was going amazing," Christie said. He also slammed Obama's handling of the sailor incident.

    "In a Christie administration, they would know much better than to do that," he added.

    Watch video report from VOA's Jim Malone:

    Republicans Clash Over Foreign Policy, Each Other in Debatei
    X
    January 15, 2016 6:38 AM
    The top Republican presidential contenders clashed over foreign policy and economic issues Thursday as well as each other in their sixth debate, this one held in South Carolina. The debate came less than three weeks before the first votes are cast in the U.S. presidential election campaign, and VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

    Clinton also in GOP sights

    Another prominent focus early in the debate was Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.

    Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush brought up the controversy over Clinton's use of a personal email server during her time as secretary of state, saying it could distract her if she became president.

    "If she gets elected, her first 100 days, instead of setting an agenda, she might be going back and forth between the White House and the courthouse," Bush said, to applause.

    Taking center stage at the nationally televised debate was billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump, who continues to lead in almost all national polls.

    Trump defended his tough proposals on border security, which some have said are discriminatory against Mexicans and Muslims.

    "We can't let all these people come into our country and break our borders. We can't do it," Trump said.

    Some polls show Cruz leading Trump in the rural state of Iowa, where party members will vote at caucuses on February 1, kicking off the months-long series of state-by-state contests leading to the party's national convention in July to pick a nominee.

    Trump and Cruz, who both appeal to nontraditional voters upset at the GOP establishment, have in recent days traded a series of increasingly sharp attacks, and that pattern continued at Thursday's debate.

    'Birther' controversy

    On the campaign trail, Trump has repeatedly brought up the issue of whether Cruz is qualified under the constitution to become president, since he was born to a Cuban father and an American mother in Canada.

    Addressing the controversy, Cruz accused Trump of political opportunism in bringing up the issue. "The Constitution hasn't changed since September, but the poll numbers have," he said.

    Cruz instead said the focus should be on "important" issues. "I suggest we focus on who is better qualified to be commander in chief, because that's what matters."

    In response, the blunt-speaking Trump acknowledged that he was raising the issue because "because now [Cruz] is doing a little better." He also quoted experts who say there is a "serious question" about whether Cruz meets the constitutional requirement of being a "natural born citizen."

    "There's a big question mark over your head, and you can't do that to the party," Trump said. "Who the hell knows if you can even serve in office?"

    The frequent clashes between Cruz and Trump were one of the main themes of the debate.

    In one particularly feisty exchange, Cruz repeated his recent accusation that Trump has "New York values," observing that "not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan."

    Trump hit back, saying New York has "great people" who "beautifully" handled the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. "That's a very insulting statement that Ted just made," Trump said.

    Cruz loan controversy

    Cruz also addressed the controversy over a recent New York Times article that claimed the senator failed to disclose, as required, a 2012 Senate campaign loan.

    As he has in past debates, Cruz lashed out at the news media, calling the article a "hit piece" and saying that "if that's the best hit The New York Times has got, they better go back to the well."

    However, Cruz also acknowledged some fault for not reporting the loan from Goldman Sachs. "I made a paperwork error," he said.

    The debate also included Ohio Governor John Kasich, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

    Rubio: Obama would take all guns

    Rubio hit at Obama on gun control, slamming the president's recent executive actions aimed at reducing gun violence as inappropriate and ineffective. He also suggested Obama does not want any Americans to have guns.

    "I am convinced that if this president could confiscate every gun in America, he would. I am convinced that if he could get rid of the second amendment, he would," Rubio said, referring to the part of the Constitution which protects the right to bear arms.

    Instead of focusing on restricting guns, Rubio said his future administration would deal with eradicating terrorist groups, including the Islamic State. Obama "consistently underestimates" IS, Rubio added.

    Cruz-Rubio clash

    Rubio also launched a volley of attacks at Cruz for allegedly changing positions on several key issues involving immigration.

    "That is not consistent conservatism, that is political calculation," said Rubio.

    "I appreciate you dumping your oppo research there," said Cruz.

    "It's your record!" Rubio responded.

    The two Cuban-American senators are locked in a tight battle for second place behind Trump.

    The debate also included Ohio Governor John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

    You May Like

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora