Gingrich vs. Paul on Patriot Act: 'That’s the Whole Point. Timothy McVeigh Killed a Lot of Americans'

Fred Lucas | November 23, 2011 | 11:58am EST
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( – The two GOP candidates tied for second place in New Hampshire faced off about the USA Patriot Act on Tuesday, as Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), arguing that terrorism should be dealt with as a criminal offense, said,  “We dealt with it rather well with Timothy McVeigh,” referring to the Oklahoma City bomber convicted under criminal law.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia said there are stark differences between national security and criminal law, telling Paul, “Timothy McVeigh succeeded. That’s the whole point. Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of Americans. I don’t want a law that says after we lose a major American city, we’re sure going to come and find you. I want a law that says you try to take out an American city, we’re going to stop you.”

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The two Republican presidential candidates sparred Tuesday night during the CNN-Heritage Foundation-American Enterprise Institute debate about foreign policy and national security at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.

Edwin Meese, a former U.S. attorney general who holds the Ronald Reagan Chair in Public Policy at the Heriatage Foundation, asked the first question of the night, pointing out that since the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001, at least 42 terror attacks aimed at the United States were thwarted, and that the Patriot Act was instrumental in stopping that.

The Patriot Act allows federal law enforcement to have greater surveillance when investigating possible terrorists; more flexibility in obtaining search warrants; increased information sharing among government agencies to connect the dots; gives national security law enforcement the same tools to investigate terror activities that the FBI and domestic law enforcement had to investigate organized crime and drug dealers; and increased penalties for those involved in terror-related crimes.

Other candidates weighed in on the matter, but Gingrich and Paul had the most heated exchange and demonstrated the clearest contrast on the issue.

Gingrich has become the new frontrunner in the race, but only slightly leading former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in most polls. Meanwhile, Paul has had a strong showing in many polls.

Gingrich and Paul are tied for second place in New Hampshire, according to a Suffolk University poll, at 14 percent each. Romney leads with 41 percent in the state. Nov. 15 Rasmussen poll of Iowa voters found Gingrich is leading the pack with 32 percent, while Paul comes in fourth at 10 percent.

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