How National Security Tough Talk Is Taking over the GOP Campaign
Policy + Politics

How National Security Tough Talk Is Taking over the GOP Campaign

Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/US Air Force

The 2016 presidential race is undergoing a sweeping reconfiguration, with national security taking on new prominence following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the downing of Russian fighter jet by Turkey that has the U.S. and its allies calling for calm on both sides.

Not surprisingly, the entire GOP presidential field has blamed President Obama and his policies for the current state of global affairs and, in particular, for the rise of ISIS, which still controls large swaths of territory inside Iraq and Syria.

Related: How Obama's Response to ISIS Is Boosting Trump and Cruz

While the presidential hopefuls have been unanimous in their scorn of the administration, they’ve diverged on how they would handle terrorism, emphasizing different aspects of their resumes to convince voters they are the best choice to keep them safe.

Here are some of the approaches that have stood out:

Donald Trump.
The day before the carnage in Paris that killed 130 people, Trump said he would “bomb the s--- out of” ISIS if he were elected.

Since the attacks, the billionaire has called for the “surveillance of certain mosques” and creating a database for Syrian refugees who enter the country. He also wants to bring back waterboarding, an interrogation technique ended by Obama and considered by many to be torture.

Related: Donald Trump’s 8 (Most Recent) Blatant Lies

“Would I approve waterboarding? You bet you’re ass I would, in a heartbeat,” Trump said Monday at a campaign event in Ohio, adding he would approve “more than that.”

"Only a stupid person would say it doesn't work,” he said of waterboarding. “And you know what? If it doesn't work, they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing."

Jeb Bush.
In a speech at the Citadel last week, the former Florida governor called for U.S. ground troops to battle ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria.

In doing so, Bush finally stopped tip-toeing around the baggage associated with his brother, President George W. Bush, who started the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Related: Rubio Is Right: Time for Boomers to Pass On the Power

The former state house chief has doubled downed on strident calls for military action, attempting to make up ground on Trump, who has now spent four months atop the polls.

“Are we fighting a war or is this a law enforcement exercise? Make it a war,” he said Tuesday during a campaign stop in South Carolina.

Marco Rubio.
In the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks, the Florida senator sought to burnish his hawkish credentials and called the conflict between the West and the Islamic State a “clash of civilizations.”

Rubio, 44, stuck with that theme in his first television ad, which began airing nationally on Tuesday on cable.

“This is a civilizational struggle between the values of freedom and liberty, and radical Islamic terror,” he says in the 30-second spot.

"What happened in Paris could happen here. There is no middle ground," Rubio adds. "These aren't disgruntled or disempowered people. These are radical terrorists who want to kill us, because we let women drive, because we let girls go to school."

The surging White House hopeful, who last week rolled out a four-point plan to defeat ISIS that features ground troops and the creation of a no-fly zone for civilians in Syria, closes the ad by saying “there can be no arrangement or negotiation. Either they win or we do.”

Chris Christie.
On Tuesday, the New Jersey governor and former U.S. attorney opened up on his GOP rivals, claiming their inexperience leaves them unprepared for the foreign policy challenges a commander in chief faces.

“New is untarnished, but new is untested. New is not necessarily reliable. New seems fabulous until the moment comes when you need experience,” he said in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “Less than one term in the U.S. Senate has proven to be woeful training in the Oval Office.”

The remarks, referencing Obama’s political career, seemed to be aimed at Rubio and fellow contenders, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY), both in their first terms.

Christie, who was bumped from the main stage of the last GOP debate, is trying to gin up enough support to rejoin the top-tier when the candidates gather again next month. In addition to trumpeting his law enforcement background, he reportedly has begun to talk in deeply personal terms about the friends he lost in the September 11 terrorist attacks.