Foreign policy was little mentioned during the Republican presidential debate Wednesday, as candidates answered detailed questions about their views on economic development and fiscal policy. But a few candidates did launch boilerplate attacks on President Obama for his management of world affairs.
The debate, hosted by CNBC, was billed as a conversation about the economy. Candidates were not asked directly about foreign policy – and when they brought it up, never did they go into detail.
“We have a world that is out of control and has grown dangerous,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said, as he answered questions about a tough editorial in a Florida newspaper calling him out for missing votes in Congress in order to campaign.
Rubio went on to say that Obama has made American foreign policy “unreliable” in the eyes of American allies.
”Our country doesn’t win anymore,” Donald Trump declared during his closing statement. “We lose on trade. We lose with ISIS.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie used foreign policy to turn away from the evening’s opening question, which asked candidates to identify their own weaknesses.
“I don’t see a lot of weakness on this stage, quite frankly,” Christie said.
Christie went on to say that the Democratic candidates include “an isolationist,” though he did not identify the candidate. “For the sake of me I can’t figure out which one is which,” Christie said of the Democratic field.
But the most strident remarks Wednesday came from South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said in the undercard debate held earlier Wednesday evening that he had “never seen” so many threats to the U.S., calling Obama “incompetent.”
“There are more terrorist organizations with safe havens to attack the American homeland than any time since 9/11,” Graham said.
The remarks came as Graham explained his support for the bipartisan budget deal approved in the House Wednesday after negotiations between congressional leadership and the White House. The deal is expected to pass in the Senate, averting a government default.
Graham said he supports the deal because it would would fund the US military. The deal is unpopular among the conservative wing of the Republican Party.
Graham’s performance Wednesday won kudos from 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who said Graham’s message on foreign policy should earn him a place debating the top candidates.
“After hearing @LindseyGrahamSC talk foreign policy tonight, it’s clear he belongs on the big stage,” Romney said over his Twitter feed.
Former New York Gov. George Pataki also said during Wednesday’s undercard debate he would support the deal were he a member of Congress.
“To protect our military, I would have signed it,” Pataki said, noting he has two sons who have served overseas, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.