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Vegas debate: Cut everything in budget -- but the military

October 18, 2011|By Robin Abcarian
  • Republican presidential candidates former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) take part in the CNN Western Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas.
Republican presidential candidates former House Speaker Newt Gingrich… (Steve Marcus / Reuters )

The candidates all agreed, for the most part, that everything should be on the table when it comes to budget cuts, but there was disagreement about just how to tame the military budget.

Newt Gingrich, suggested that “historically illiterate politicians” (referring presumably to their illiteracy about history, not their continuing illiteracy, if you see the difference) should not be charged with making “a numerical decision about the defense budget.”

“I’m a hawk,” said Gingrich, “but I’m a cheap hawk. The fact is,  to say I’m going to put the security of the United States up against an arbitrary budget number is suicidally stupid.”

Cain was forced to defend something he had apparently said earlier on CNN, that he would consider negotiating for the release of an American soldier in exchange for all the detainees in Guantanamo Bay.

Bachmann pronounced that position naive, but Cain said he does not believe in negotiating with terrorists and did not recall making that remark to CNN.

Paul, who frequently harps on military spending, said he did not want to cut “any defense. There’s a lot of money spent in the military budget that doesn’t do anything for our defense.” Why, he asked, do we have troops in Korea, Japan and German? “We are broke. This debt bubble is the thing you better worry about,” he said. “It’s imploding. It’s going to get much worse. To cut military spending is a wise thing to do. We would be safer if we weren’t in so many places.”

Santorum was firm: “I would absolutely not cut one penny out of military spending. The only thing the federal government can do that no other level of government can do is protect us.”

He agreed with Bachmann that the central threat in the world is Iran, which Bachmann, memorably, said is run by “a homicidal maniac.”

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