Candidates criticize Obama at veterans forum
December 10th, 2011
07:06 PM ET
6 years ago

Candidates criticize Obama at veterans forum

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) - Just hours before six presidential candidates were set to meet at a debate at Drake University, three of those candidates addressed a small crowd of roughly 50 Iowans at a candidates forum hosted by Veterans for a Strong America.

Speaking mostly about veterans' issues and national security, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Texas Gov. Rick Perry took turns professing their support for the armed services and criticizing President Barack Obama for his handling of international relations.

Michele Bachmann had also committed to attend the forum, but the group's founder Joel Arends told CNN that her campaign telephoned just 20 minutes before the event was supposed to begin to inform him that she wouldn't be coming. The congresswoman's husband Marcus Bachmann spoke in her stead. A spokeswoman for the campaign said that Bachmann had bowed out so she could continue preparing for the debate.

Arends opened up the forum by saying that his group was created to familiarize veterans across the country with those running to be their president, not to advocate for any one candidate's election. With that goal in mind, Arends introduced Gingrich, who quickly outlined what he views as the most important national security problems facing the country today, making a point to exclude any threat from China's rise.

"There is no Chinese problem if we do the right things in America," Gingrich said. "If we have the right economy to create manufacturing, if we have the right use of science and technology, if we reform our education system, the fact is the Chinese couldn't catch us in 100 years if we truly liberated 300 million people to maximize their capabilities."

Gingrich also criticized Obama's handling of the Arab Spring, demonstrating the president's failing through the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

"When the number of Christians in Iraq dropped from 1.2 million, when Americans arrived to about 500,000 today because 700,000 have fled, I don't regard that as a victory for the modern world," Gingrich said. "When you watch Coptic Christian churches, which go back 2,000 years, being burned in Egypt, I don't think that's an Arab spring. I think it may become an Arab hurricane."

The next candidate to speak was Santorum, who levied some of the most pointed attacks on the president, implying that Obama may be intentionally weakening America.

"The radical Islamists are as strong now as they have been maybe since the events of 9/11 because this president has betrayed Israel and his allies consistently and has aligned himself with those who seek to do us harm," Santorum said. "I wish it was naïve, but I'm not sure it is."

The only candidate to take questions from the audience, Santorum quickly dismissed the first questioner's suggestion that some retired military officers believe that armed forces should be better prepared for the effects of climate change.

"I think the speculative effects of climate change on the military are so speculative and so long term that for the United States military to spend any time on such a thing is not a wise allocation of resources on our part," Santorum said. When asked if he viewed climate change as a problem for the military he said, "I do not."

Perry – the last candidate to speak – was introduced by the debut of his campaign's latest video. Shot in black and white, the video featured a series of veterans who have endorsed the Texas governor relaying stories from the battle field and explaining why Perry was their choice to be the next president.

After retelling some of the stories featured in the video and urging the veterans present to consider joining his campaign's team, Perry went on to criticize Obama for seeking the approval of the UN before intervening overseas and for how one of his advisers has characterized his foreign policy strategy.

"When it comes to act we will not wait for the approval of some multilateral debating society, we will act swiftly and we will act decisively," Perry said.

"We won't wage war with one hand tied behind our back when I'm president of the United States," Perry added. "Some have called that 'leading from behind,' with this president I call it leading from the back nine."

The largest applause line of the afternoon came when Perry waded into a local issue. A small firestorm sparked at Iowa State University after a lecturer in the English department wrote a letter in the school's newspaper criticizing college Republicans for collecting sundry items to send to soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The professor argued that soldiers are paid well-enough to buy goods for themselves, and the group's charity should instead be focused on people who "really need them."

"I'm really proud of the college Republicans at Iowa State University who filled boxes and worked through their time off from school to give gifts to be delivered to our fighting men and women in Afghanistan," Perry said to applause. "And I want the English professor who attacked them to know that while it may be your first amendment right to spout nonsense, you wouldn't be able to do it if it wasn't for those fighting men and women who are serving around the world today."

Also see:

Romney jabs Gingrich over space ideas

Santorum predicts last-minute surge

Gingrich, Romney joust via surrogates

Gingrich: Palestinians are an 'invented people'

Filed under: 2012 • Iowa • Michele Bachmann • Newt Gingrich • President Obama • Rick Perry • Rick Santorum • Veterans
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Larry L

    As a veteran of 34 years I feel qualified to speak about our CINC – I've served during a lot of them. President Obama has executed his role magnificently, even considering the mess he inherited from criminals. Bush and Cheney should be held accountable for using false information to start the war, entering the war without any sort of exit strategy, and hiding corruption by defense contractors throughout the debacle. They pulled away from Afghanistan and went to "finish Daddy's war" – causing all of the positive gains to be erased. They invaded one of the few countries not associated with the 9/11 terrorists and wasted over 5000 American lives, trillions American treasure, and caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq. When it comes to veterans, Republicans should STFU.

    December 10, 2011 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  2. susan leonhardt

    Now they are trying to win an election on the backs of our veterans and current military personnel in the fields of a foreign country. What is wrong with the GOP? Why can't you talk details, instead of trashing people

    December 10, 2011 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  3. lonestarst8

    Ron Paul isn't mentioned in this article. what happened to fair and balanced media coverage.

    December 10, 2011 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  4. lonestarst8

    America is waking to the fact that U have to Vote for Ron Paul

    December 10, 2011 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  5. Vin Dicated

    The GOP are liars.

    December 10, 2011 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  6. Jilli

    Wow. Unbelievable. These folks have no shame.

    President and Mrs. Obama have done more FOR the troops than the previous admin. Considering the previous admin lied our way into a war that should have never been waged – then sent those soldiers to the field without sufficient protection – they treated them like dirt. It take huge cohones to criticize this commander in chief – especially considering his successes. The republican candidates know no shame. Pathetic.

    December 10, 2011 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  7. Phil

    These candidates are light years behind on offering any credible opinions on foreign policy. I hope you Americans are smart enough not to elect any of them.

    December 10, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  8. JulesT

    What a crock, as a veteran I can surely say that our President has been nothing but supportive, to us and to our Allies. He has done more to prevent terrorism, and I am proud to solute him. As for the GOP candidates running now, I cannot imagine having to solute any of them; they lack the traits, values and ethics (especially lack integrity), that are instilled in all leaders. I don't even think they could name them.

    December 10, 2011 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |

    He is not worthy of critizism!

    December 10, 2011 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Just look at Obummie. Clueless. Enough said.

    December 10, 2011 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  11. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    The draft dodger Gingrich should have a lot to say to Vets...

    December 10, 2011 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  12. Bootstomper

    What do any of these losers know? Perry has early alzheimers and the rest of this field is a joke.

    December 10, 2011 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  13. Marie MD

    Hey newton, the war in Iraq was started by your buddy, the other village idiot from TX. Regarding Arab Spring it didn't matter what the President did or didn't do or say because you and your rethug cronies couldn't make up their minds what was right until the President said blue then you all would say red.
    The overpoopulator has already over populated Earth seven times over and, yes, the President is weakening America because most Americans seem to be too dumb and stupid to realize that the teapublikans don't have their best interest at heart and these people still don't get it! And rich secessionist you are truly funny, leading from the back nine from someone who plays golf ad nauseum (I know someone who works at one of the clubs you go to – you can't hide what you do) and who has a hunting camp in a state that allows canned hunting of wild animals. Anyone check his racist ranch for this kind of animal abuse yet?

    December 10, 2011 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  14. MikeH

    Just 50 Iowans were allowed to attend. Are you kidding? Hand-picked probably. Sounds like the Republicans are scared s***less of a real cross-section of Americans. Republican presidential candidates (except perhaps Ron Paul) are yellow-bellied chicken hawks, they'd wet their undies if they had to answer real questions from real Americans.

    December 10, 2011 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  15. normajean @ verizon ,com

    Interesting that it's the ones doing nothing constructive that lowdly complain about the one doing the most..... We voters are NOT stupid....we know that this is a two party system of government and that if the other party { who is NOTnameless in my house} would do their part and work with the president in stead of working so hard to make him a "ONE TERM PRESIDENT" ..we might be well on our way out of this Bush mess.! I am, by far, not the only voter who looks at the three of them..McConnell, ,Boehner and Cantor ...knowing in my heart and mind that these three are out of control!!!!!!

    December 10, 2011 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  16. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I don't see any statements that show what the candidate would do. I would have liked to hear (or read) what these people would have done differently.

    December 10, 2011 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  17. John

    You Republican are the one that like to wage war on other Country. President did the right think to go thought the UN first be for he did anything In Libya. And the President didn't wage war on Libya ,and not a single American Life was lost there either. And what we did do Is Over after six months. The war you Republican started over ten years ago and Is Till going on that Cost America Trillions In dollars and 1,000s of life. That American Father and Mother have up there son and Daughter like for. And for what ,the two Country don't even want us there In the First Place. And In Iraq It was just a Big Republican LIE was the reason we were there.

    December 10, 2011 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  18. Name king

    These folks find every thing to critidize this president on, I am surprise his approval rate is still in the forties. They say the president promised that the economy jobless rate wouldn't go over 8 percent. This was when every one thought the great recession economy was retracting at 4 percent. We now learnt that the economy was actually retracted at 9 percent and it wasn't a great recession the repubs policies dump us in an actual depression. This president had took this country from way back from the dumpster and all the repubs can see is negative. They don't notice that down town is not deselated like 2008 anymore. They shut their eye as the country stopped its momentum at 9 percent and came all the way back to start.growing again. They hate that we stopped shredding over a quarter million jobs a month, and have been adding private sector jobs for the past 22 month straight. They hate the fact that consumers are getting g back their groove and spend more young holiday season than any other time in recent memory. They are terrified that the jobs rate fell from 9 percent to 8.6 percent. They will not accept anything positive, they only see negative, hey wishful thinking sometimes don't come through repubs so be very afraid this election.

    December 10, 2011 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  19. gg

    what they are saying is we will not let your trianing go to waste

    December 10, 2011 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  20. sara

    I hoped that they told them that their party was the one who appealed the affects of agent orange relating to heart disease and other tumors for 8 years before the Obama administration stopped it gave Viet Nam vets their due

    December 10, 2011 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  21. Donkey Party

    And people wonder why the filthy, lying, anti-American domestic terrorist GOP-baggers are so despised. What miserable sub-humans they are.

    December 10, 2011 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  22. george of the jungle

    gosh has anyone in the republican party said anything good about our president since he took office??? I guess more than half the population must be wrong to think he is trying to help the economy. I am sick of hearing them bash the president. If I actually saw them working togeather than I would tend to listen to them if they had a valid complaint. But this constant bashing and negitivity just keeps me from taking any of them seriously. That and some of the dumbest remarks ever.

    December 11, 2011 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  23. underoverit

    These "candidates" are uterly repulsive, newt and his "Invented people" comment and santorums implication about obama being in with the arab spring. Perry rumbling some drunken tidbit about not waiting for approval from other countries and 1 hand blah blah and blah. We are not the worlds dictating country and we should not be trying to police the world by saying these are real people and these are fake people, Regardless of your views Obama has done alot for this country on foriegn affairs and has consistently made the right choices. From Libiya, to Bin Laden, to iraq. BUT go ahead people vote for one of these GOPTP president wanna bes and watch our standing in the world go farther down the drain than when "W" was president!

    December 11, 2011 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  24. International guy

    If any of these guys become president, we'll have only one friend! They have no clue what they are talking about. Talking points simply meant for the uneducated and ingnorant.

    December 11, 2011 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  25. JM in Minnesota

    Perry is constantly using his First Amendment right to spout nonsense. It's why he's so far down in the polls.

    December 11, 2011 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
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