Republicans Trade Personal Insults, Threaten War on Iran and Pledge Israel Support at Primary Debate

War, terrorism, pending global doom and national security for both the United States and Israel were hot topics as candidates squared off Wednesday in Miami for the third debate between Republican presidential candidates. And in between, plenty of very, very personal insults.

If there was one clear winner in the NBC-hosted debate, it was Israel. All five candidates expressed strong support in the first debate after the Hamas attack on Israel Oct. 7.

“I would wipe Hamas off the map,” said Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, adding that the United States also needs to confront Iran, the main supporter of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists. “You have to strike in Iran. You cannot negotiate with evil, you have to destroy it.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said eliminating Hamas is fair game, since “they want to wipe Israel off the map.”

That got the ball rolling about serious military action by the United States, from the Israeli conflict to protecting the southern border, to confronting China’s military expansion and use of anti-democracy propaganda through the social media platform TikTok.

Republican front-runner Donald Trump continued his tactic of skipping the debate, and DeSantis said the former president is letting voters down.

“Donald Trump is a different guy than he was in 2016. He owes it to you to be here,” DeSantis said, adding Trump should explain some of the economic and political failures of his presidency.Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie added that Trump can’t lead the country while he is immersed in criminal trials.

“Anybody who is spending the next year and a half of their life trying to keep themselves out of jail and courtrooms can’t lead this party,” Christie said.

While all candidates stood by Israel, billionaire businessman Vivek Ramaswamy said he and the American people are tired of spending American lives and billions of dollars on war in the Middle East, while he said both Democrats and Republicans have been too “bloodthirsty” for involvement in “foreign wars.”

“I’ll keep us out of World War Three,” Ramaswamy said. As they all agreed that the ultimate enemy to the United States and democracy in the world is Communist China, Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said she would “stop all trade with China” unless China stops its alleged underground export of the lethal drug fentanyl to the United States.

All three debates have featured stinging barbs between some of the candidates, especially Haley and Ramaswamy. Their feud reached a new low Wednesday, when Haley muttered “You’re just scum” to Ramaswamy after he brought up her daughter.

In an earlier debate, Haley had chided Ramaswamy for using TikTok. On Wednesday night Ramaswamy raised the issue again, saying Haley’s daughter had also used TikTok, and that she should “take care of your own family.” Haley responded: “Keep my daughter out of your voice.”

Christie and DeSantis focused on how TikTok might be as much of a threat as China’s growing military expansion.

“TikTok is not just spyware. It is polluting the minds of young people,” Christie said, alleging that China was stirring up hatred toward Jewish people. “This is China trying to further divide the United States.”

DeSantis said “China is the top threat that we face,” and said besides banning TikTok he would send U.S. troops to the southern border to stop alleged Chinese-backed smuggling of fentanyl.

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