Trump stands out in debate of US presidential hopefuls
Republican presidential candidates clashed over immigration, abortion, foreign policy, Iran in TV debate

Donald Trump made a strong showing in the first debate among the ten leading Republican presidential candidates broadcast on Fox News late Thursday.

While it is not clear if any single candidate won the debate, observers noted that real-estate billionaire Trump made a strong showing, along with former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Candidates clashed over immigration, abortion and foreign policy, with particular attention paid to the recent nuclear deal with Iran.

A surprising development in the debate was that all 10 candidates agreed to oppose the deal.

It did not take long for Trump to make his mark.

When asked if the candidates would pledge to refrain from running a separate campaign if they do not receive the GOP nomination, Trump was the sole candidate to refuse the promise.

From that point, the property mogul continued to sport the contrarian mantle, defending controversial statements about women, claiming to have started the debate on immigration and lashing out at the debate’s moderators.

On foreign policy, he was similarly brash:

"We don’t have time for tone,” Trump said, referencing Daesh’s beheadings of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa. "We have to go out and get the job done,” he added.

Jeb Bush said Trump’s language was "divisive”, calling on his fellow Republicans to refrain from similar politics.

"We’re not going to win by doing what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama do every day -- dividing the country,” he said. Bush promised to "change every aspect of regulations that are job killers. You get rid of Obamacare. You embrace the energy revolution in this country."

Rubio said in his opening remarks that he will "make of this century a new American century". He promised to seek the repeal of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law which, he said, "eviscerates small businesses and small banks".

But Republicans were able to unite on at least two issues -- their shared contempt for the Iran nuclear deal, which Congress is currently weighing, and President Barack Obama.

"I would be so different from what you have right now, like the polar opposite," Trump said of Obama’s handling of Iran, while also dismissing Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiating efforts.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said Iran "is not a place we should be doing business with”, vowing to repeal the nascent agreement if elected president.

"It is yet another example of the failed foreign policy of the Obama-Clinton doctrine," he said.

Senator Rand Paul struck a slightly more nuanced tone, saying he would not rule out diplomacy but criticizing the administration for what he said was negotiating from a place of weakness.

"I would have never released the sanctions before there was consistent evidence of compliance," he said.

One of the night’s most sensational moments came when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie engaged in a heated exchange with Paul, an avowed libertarian, over mass surveillance.

"I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from innocent Americans," Paul said to cheers. "I’m proud of standing for the Bill of Rights and I will continue to stand for the Bill of Rights."

The Bill of Rights refers to the first 10 amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and are widely regarded as protections of fundamental freedoms.

Christie, who served as a U.S. district attorney during the Bush administration from 2002 to 2008, called Paul’s answer "completely ridiculous".

He continued: "Listen senator, when you’re sitting in a subcommittee just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that," he said. "When you’re responsible for protecting the lives of the American people, then what you need to is to make sure that you use the system the way it’s supposed to work."

In a surprising move, Texas Senator Ted Cruz used his closing statement to announce that he would move Washington’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem if elected to the White House -- a move that successive presidents have resisted since Congress called for the action in 1995, fearing that it could harpoon potential peace efforts.

In order to ensure that all 17 Republican candidates received airtime, the seven lowest polling candidates were relegated to a pre-prime time debate that expectedly touched on the Republican front-runner.

Former Texas governor Rick Perry blamed Trump for using "his celebrity rather than his conservatism".

And former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina said she "did not get a phone call from Bill Clinton" taking a swipe at Trump for a recent call with the husband of the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.

One of the hot-button issues was the recently signed Iran nuclear deal, which was criticized by Fiorina.

Asked what her first order of business would be as president, Fiorina said she would call Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and tell him the U.S. would insist on tougher inspections on nuclear facilities.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who said that he would try to protect the U.S. by keeping its forces in the Middle East, stressed that the Iran deal and Washington’s Syrian policy, were disasters.

For the first time in the history of primary debates, a party’s presidential field has swollen to 17 candidates, where the lower-tier candidates are polling at 3 percent or less.

Graham, former New York governor George Pataki, and former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore are lower than 1 percent.

Republicans will have a second chance to thrash out their differences during the second presidential debate scheduled for Sept. 16 in California.

Last Modified: 2015-08-08 08:10:46
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