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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Republican Debaters Have A Military Problem

Last night’s Republican debate highlights the distinct difference between the candidates who equate America’s leadership in the world with more military hardware and more aggressive policies and those who think we’ve got enough stuff and need to do a better job with what we’ve got.

A key exchange was between senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, with Rubio advocating a trillion dollars in additional spending to rebuild the U.S. military and Paul asking how a true conservative can call for a massive spending increase when we already “spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined.” He was dismissed by Rubio as an isolationist.

This odd couple thinking also was illustrated by Carly Fiorina’s repeated eloquent calls for smaller government countered by her support for a military buildup and the creation of a U.S. military no-fly zone over Syria that could very likely lead to the United States shooting down Russian planes. Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Rubio all strongly agreed with the concept of a no-fly zone, seemingly portraying Russia as nearly as big a threat to America as the radical Islamic group ISIS.

As is often the case, Donald Trump sounded a different note. If Russian leader Vladimir Putin “wants to go and knock the hell out of ISIS, I am all for it, 100%, and I can’t understand how anybody would be against it,” he said. For Trump, North Korea, Iran and China are much bigger concerns, and voters agree.

Trump also pointedly steered clear of the military spending debate and put the emphasis on smarter trade and economic policies to reassert America’s world leadership.

Voters have long called for across-the-board spending cuts in the federal government, but Republicans who insist on more defense spending will find it difficult to convince Democrats intent on protecting all entitlements that they are serious about cutting the size of government. Past experience shows, however, that no one is really serious about cutting spending, they just like to talk about it.

For Rasmussen Reports, I’m Fran Coombs.