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Cruz fires up conservatives, says bomb Islamic State 'back to the Stone Age'

Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, made clear this weekend his foreign policy strategy for dealing with the militant group Islamic State: “bomb them back to the Stone Age.”

"They want to go back and reject modernity," he said. "Well, I think we should help them. We ought to bomb them back to the Stone Age."

Cruz made his remarks Saturday in Dallas at a summit for Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of the billionaire GOP donors Charles and David Koch.

The influential gathering of conservatives also included speeches by a few other potential 2016 GOP White House candidates -- Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

Cruz also staked out his position on such domestic issues as the U.S. border-illegal immigration crisis and the Affordable Care Act.

“In the year 2017, a Republican president in the Rose Garden is going to sign a bill repealing every word of ObamaCare," he said.

Cruz joked about inviting President Obama to the southern border to see where thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children have poured into the country. The president declined such an invitation from Perry.

"I figured out the only way there is a chance in heaven he might come (is if) I'm inviting him to come to a golf course," Cruz said.

A crowd of more than 3,000 at a hotel ballroom serenaded him with calls of "Run Ted, Run."

However, Cruz ignored direct questions about a presidential campaign when he met with reporters after the speech.

He told conservatives in the audience, "Each of you is here because we are part of a grassroots fire that is sweeping this country. … We are building an army."

On Friday, Perry and Paul pounced on Obama's "we don't have a strategy yet" comments earlier in the week regarding the violent militant faction of Islamic State attacking cities in Iraq.

"Yesterday, the president admitted he had no strategy to deal with ISIS," Perry said, drawing hoots and hisses from a packed convention hall. "The deepening chaos in Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and Ukraine is all the clear and compelling evidence the world needs of a president one step behind, lurching from crisis to crisis."

Paul fired up the audience by suggesting that Obama's lack of leadership showed he'd been on the job too long.

Republicans criticizing Obama's foreign policy is nothing new, but there are deepening divisions within the GOP over how to move forward.

The broader debate pits those who favor the GOP's traditional muscular foreign policy -- a group that includes Perry and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio -- and those, like Paul and Cruz, who prefer a smaller international footprint. The so-called isolationist approach plays well with grassroots activists and a war-weary public, but worries many Republican officials and donors who prefer an aggressive American role in world affairs.

The intra-party divisions largely weren't much on display at the Americans for Prosperity event, but will become clearer as the crowded group of possible presidential candidates tries to distinguish themselves in the coming months.

Pence didn't mention Obama's comments. He told the Associated Press afterward only that “the president of the United States is the commander of chief of our armed forces. I wouldn't want to prejudge what his military advisers counsel."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.