The Republican presidential debate took an early focus on casino mogul Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was the first candidate on stage to directly attack Trump’s policy.
“It’s not a serious proposal,” Bush said. “It will push the Arab world away when we need them to engage.”
“Trump is great at one-liners,” Bush continued. “But he is a chaos candidate.”ASSOCIATED PRESS – Jeb Bush speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Despite his opposition to a complete ban on Muslim entry to the U.S., Bush has spoken in support of a religion-based system for refugee admissions from Syria in which Christians would take priority over Muslims. He did not reiterate that position during the debate, and instead insisted that “the refugee issue will be solved if we destroy ISIS” in Iraq and Syria.
Bush supports directly arming the Kurdish peshmerga fighters in the fight against the Islamic State. He noted that it would be impossible to ask Muslims to work with the Americans to defeat the so-called Islamic State if they are banned from entering the U.S.
The former Florida governor honed in on Trump again later in the debate, saying he would be well-equipped to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin because he won’t get his information from the weekend television news shows — a reference to Trump’s September admission that he forms his foreign policy opinions by watching “the shows.”
Instead of rebuffing Bush’s jab by spelling out a strategy for countering Putin, Trump accused the debaters — including conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt — of being “very unprofessional” for goading Bush into attacking Trump in an effort to boost ratings.
“I think it’s very sad that CNN leads Jeb Bush down a road by starting all the questions, ‘Mr. Trump this, Mr. Trump that.’ I think it’s very sad,” Trump said.
“Although, Santorum, good guy. Governor Huckabee, good guy,” Trump quickly added, referring to his top defenders during the debate earlier in the night that showcased the candidates at the bottom of the polls.