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What the Presidential Candidates Are Saying About the Paris Attacks

The Democratic presidential candidates observe a moment of silence for victims of the Paris attacks at the beginning of their debate on Saturday. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
The Democratic presidential candidates observe a moment of silence for victims of the Paris attacks at the beginning of their debate on Saturday. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The terror attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 changed the debate in the presidential race from who is most against the political establishment to who would be the best commander in chief.  

On Nov. 14, the Democratic presidential contenders spent more of their debate focused on foreign policy than the planned topics of economic issues, with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton getting criticized over the Obama administration policy she helped write. Republican candidates, particularly the embattled establishment types, used the weekend to tout their national security credentials and criticize the Obama administration’s national security policy.  Roske on Politics: O’Malley on ISIS

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Hillary Rodham Clinton  said the U.S. should respond to the Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, but not do it alone.  

“It cannot be an American fight. And I think what the president has consistently said — which I agree with — is that we will support those who take the fight to ISIS,” she said at the debate. “I don’t think that the United States has the bulk of the responsibility. I really put that on [Bashar Assad] and on the Iraqis and on the region itself.” Martin O’Malley , the former Maryland governor, challenged Clinton’s view, saying America needs to take a larger role in dealing with the Islamic State.  

“It cannot solely be America’s fight,” he said, but, “we must rise to this occasion in collaboration and with alliances to confront it.”  

Bernard Sanders, who has made his name in politics by mainly talking about economic issues rather than foreign affairs, spent only a few seconds of his minute-long introduction at the debate addressing the Paris attacks.  

“Let me concur with you and with all Americans who are shocked and disgusted by what we saw in Paris yesterday. Together, leading the world, this country will rid our planet of this barbaric organization called ISIS,” at which point he turned to his standard stump speech criticizing millionaires and billionaires and income inequality.  

Donald Trump, t he  Republican front-runner, took to the air  Monday to criticize the Obama administration’s handling of the Islamic State.  

“If I were president, we probably wouldn’t be in the problems we had right now. It’s incredible — we had an attack and then bombed all these sites. Why didn’t we bomb the sites before?” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “The other thing, I’d be explaining the problem to people. We have a president that doesn’t even use the term and won’t use the term, ‘radical islamic terrorism.’ Hillary Clinton did not want to use the term in the debate.”  

Trump also said he would “attack the oil” to “obliterate their sources of wealth”; attack the banking system; and “watch and study” the mosques in America with radical leaders. When asked if he would follow the French lead and shut down theses mosques, Trump said, “I’d hate to do it, but it’s something you’re going to have to strongly consider.”  

Ben Carson ,  the political outsider who has struggled when discussing foreign policy in the past, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he would like to rally an international coalition to target ISIS. But he would not name the foreign leaders he would call.  

Instead, he said those countries will join if “it appears that we’re making progress, that all of the Arab states and even the non-Arab states who are, I think, beginning to recognize that the jihad movement is global.”  

When asked about what kind of military presence he might be in favor of deploying, Carson also hedged.  

“For me to pretend like I have all that knowledge and the ability to formulate the specific plans is foolish, and I think anybody else who thinks they know it all is foolish also,” he said.  

Sen. Marco Rubio,  in response to news that at least one of the attackers might have have gotten into France along with a group of Syrian refugees, said the United States cannot accept more refugees in light of the attack.  

“You can have a thousand people come in and 999 of them are just poor people fleeing oppression and violence,” he said. “But one of them is an ISIS fighter — if that’s the case, you have a problem. There’s no way to vet that out. There’s no background check system in the world that allows us to find that out because who do you call in Syria to background check them?”  

Jeb Bush,  on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, said the U.S. should show more will in the fight against the Islamic State.  

“We should declare war, and harness all of the power that the United States can bring to bear, both diplomatic and military, of course, to be able to take out ISIS,” he said. “We have the capabilities of doing this. We just haven’t showed the will.”  

Bush said in his view, the U.S. should limit refugees by focusing on admitting Syrian Christian refugees.  

“I do think we have a responsibility to help with refugees after proper screening, and I think our focus ought to be on the Christians, who have no place in Syria anymore,” he said.  

Ted Cruz,  in a statement on Nov. 13, said, “America must stand with our allies against the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism,” and said American leaders should not be afraid to call it that.  

“We must immediately recognize that our enemy is not ‘violent extremism.’ It is the radical Islamism that has declared jihad against the West,” he said. “We must make it crystal clear that affiliation with ISIS and related terrorist groups brings with it the undying enmity of America — that it is, in effect, signing your own death warrant.”  

John Kasich, when he took the stage at a campaign event in New Hampshire following the attacks, led the crowd in a prayer.  

“We keep the families in Paris in our prayers, the children who’ve been frightened to learn of the death of their mom or their dad or their brother or their sister,” he said. “We know this evil can be all around us, but we know in the end it’s the strength that you provide, the hope ultimately that you provide, that can help these folks deal with this terrible tragedy and recover. And we’ll stand with them.”  

Lindsey Graham  on Monday took to the morning shows — seated shoulder-to-shoulder with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee — to encourage a stronger military response to ISIS following the Paris attacks. Graham said American forces should join with Arab armies and NATO nations to deploy ground troops against the Islamic State.

“There’s a real opportunity here to rally the world. I think Paris made things more real than ever,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe .” “They’re not the J.V. team, but they’re certainly not 10 feet tall. The worst possible solution is half measures. If we just drop a few bombs on these guys and that’s it, they’ll certainly be stronger.”

Graham added that “there’s a perfect storm going for us to get hit at home,” pointing to cuts to spending on intelligence and the military, and said that shutting down the refugee flow is “no substitute” for taking out ISIS in Syria.

Chris Christie  said the Obama administration’s response to ISIS shows the U.S. needs a “president who sees the world as it really is, not how he wishes it would.”  

“When I’m president of the United States, America will be a nation of action again, and action in the interest of one goal: Protecting the safety, security and freedom of the American people,” he said .  

Carly Fiorina : The former CEO of HP criticized President Barack Obama for an interview he gave hours before the Paris attacks in which he said ISIS was being “contained ” in the Middle East.  

“They are not a JV team, Mr. President. They are not contained. They are at our shores and their measure of victory is the body count,” she said.  

Rand Paul , who has opposed overextension of American forces in foreign conflicts, used the Paris attacks to criticize Rubio for his opposition to a measure that would have hardened the screening of immigrants and refugees entering the U.S.  

The Kentucky senator said he tried to introduce an amendment to an immigration bill sponsored in part by Rubio and New York Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer, but “all of the authors voted against any conservative amendments. And I think that was a mistake, not only for the bill, but also for our national security.”  

Bobby Jindal,  the Louisiana governor, joined other state chief executives voicing concerns over refugees entering the county, Jindal sent a letter to Obama with pointed questions about the safety and screening measures in place.  

“In light of these attacks on Paris and reports that one of the attackers was a refugee from Syria, it would be prudent to pause the process of refugees coming to the United States. Authorities need to investigate what happened in Europe before this problem comes to the United States,” he wrote.  

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