Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich in the Republican presidential debate in… (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters )
It only took a few minutes for Newt Gingrich to display the bluntness that has become his signature quality during the Republican presidential debates.
Gathered at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall in Washington, the GOP presidential hopefuls were quizzed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer on foreign policy topics. First up was the Patriot Act.
Asked whether the Patriot Act should be strengthened, Gingrich launched into a lecture about "the difference between national security requirements and criminal law requirements." The government should be allowed to pursue suspected terrorists differently than the way domestic criminals are sought, he said.
"I'd look at strengthening [the Patriot Act] because I think the dangers are literally that great," Gingrich said.
Next up was Ron Paul, the libertarian-minded candidate who couldn't disagree more.
"That is unpatriotic because it undermines our liberty," Paul said. "We have drifted into a condition that we were warned against because our founders were very clear. They said don't be willing to sacrifice liberty for security."
Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was an American, Paul noted, suggesting that the McVeigh case was an example of the proper way to deal with terrorists.
"McVeigh was a vicious terrorist," Paul said. "He was arrested. Terrorism still on the books, internationally and nationally, is a criminal -- it's a crime, and we should deal with it. We dealt with it rather well with Timothy McVeigh."
"Timothy McVeigh succeeded," Gingrich fired back. "That's the whole point."
He added: "I want a law that says you try to take out an American city, we're going to stop you."
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann sided with Gingrich, arguing that "technology is very different" now, before turning her sights on President Obama.
"This is one thing we know about Barack Obama -- he has essentially handed over our interrogation of terrorists" to the American Civil Liberties Union, she said. "He's outsourced it to them."
Jon Huntsman followed with a position that leaned slightly closer to Paul.
"I think we have to be very careful in protecting our liberties," he said.