The most aggressive cry came from former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who said the Islamic State wants to bring back an ancient form of Islam that promotes the beheading of Christians and Jews.
“I have a suggestion,” he said. “Let’s bomb them back to the 7th Century.”
Texas Senator Ted Cruz slammed President Barack Obama for being “unable to utter the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’” Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said the country’s “enemies need to fear us again.”
More doom came from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who said radical Islam is “running wild.” Former Texas Governor Rick Perry warned that the struggle with violent Islamic extremists will last a long time and require “the same resolve that we [had] to defeat Soviet Communism.”
The speeches on Saturday and a dinner Friday night gave South Carolinians a close-up look at five candidates among a crowded field of Republicans likely to seek the party’s 2016 presidential nomination. The state is the first Southern primary stop and until 2012 predicted the eventual nominee.
Of the candidates that showed up in South Carolina, Cruz was the only declared candidate in attendance. Bush reiterated that he is considering a run. Santorum and Perry also may run. At Friday’s Silver Elephant fundraising dinner, Graham all but announced he’ll soon get in the race.
“I’ve never seen so many threats to our homeland as I see today,” Graham said Saturday to the loudest applause of his otherwise subdued speech. “There are more terrorist organizations with more safe havens, more capability, more weapons, more men, than hit us on any time before 9/11.”
Cruz, dressed in a suit, talked up his stalled legislation that would revoke the citizenship of any American who joined the Islamic State.
“We need a president who’s not an apologist for radical Islamist terrorism, suggesting that it’s just like the Crusades and the Inquisition,” he said. “We need a president who says ISIS is the face of evil and we will stop it.”
Santorum, also in a suit and wearing boots, said he and others were correct four years ago when they said radical Islam was on the rise, even as the country celebrated the decline of Al-Qaeda.
“You can’t defeat ISIS unless you define the enemy for who it is,” he said. “This is an enemy that wants to bring back a version of Islam that was popular in the 7th Century, a radical idea about beheading and crucifixions.”
Bush, dressed the most casual of the candidates in a tieless button-down shirt, said the U.S. is no longer feared. An important step back would be to restore the U.S. relationship with Israel, he said. The U.S. also needs to step in when Christians are persecuted in countries like Libya and Kenya, he said.
Perry said the U.S. and its western values of freedom are now pitted against a totalitarian world view of Islamic fanatics.
“The great lesson in history is that strength and resolve bring peace,” he said, “and order and weakness and vacillation invite chaos and conflict.”