Politifact-checking the GOP debate in Las Vegas
Terrorism and immigration fueled many of the claims during the GOP debate on CNN in Las Vegas
The Republican presidential candidates tangled over their approaches to defeating terrorism at home and abroad during Tuesday night's debate in Las Vegas, their first matchup since the San Bernardino mass shooting.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pushed back against frontrunner Donald Trump's proposed Muslim ban, and Sens. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul went back and forth over their views on immigration and government surveillance of Americans' phone records. But several statements missed the mark on accuracy.
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The debate kicked off with a discussion over Trump's controversial call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Many GOP candidates have criticized the proposal, including Cruz.
However, Cruz said, "everyone understands why Donald has suggested what he has," given President Barack Obama's response to the terrorist attacks in California and Paris.
"President Obama and Hillary Clinton are proposing bringing tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to this country, when the head of the FBI has told Congress they cannot vet those refugees," Cruz said.
Cruz's description of FBI director James Comey's comments is inaccurate, so we rated the claim: Mostly False.
In his testimony, Comey said he could not personally vet every refugee admitted to the United States (which would be required under a bill put forward by House Republicans). But he's never said that the government cannot vet the refugees.
Comey has testified there are challenges and risks to the screening process. He's also said the process is "effective," and we've gotten "dramatically" better at the task in the past few years.
Bush attacks Trump's record on ISIS
Bush sparred with Trump throughout the night, calling the billionaire "a chaos candidate." At one point, Bush ridiculed Trump's proposal to go after the families of terrorists as an unserious idea, further evidence, in Bush's view, Trump is incapable of thinking things through as commander-in-chief.
"Look, two months ago Donald Trump said 'ISIS was not our fight,'" Bush said.
Right away, Trump denied that he said such a thing. But Bush's claim rates: Mostly True.
The comments that fit within Bush's time frame came Sept. 28, 2015, when Trump sat for an interview with CNN's Erin Burnett. Trump does appear to suggest Russia and Syria should be the countries to primarily fight ISIS.
"Let Syria and ISIS fight. Why do we care?" Trump said. "And let Russia, they're in Syria already, let them fight ISIS."
Trump made comments closer to what Bush said about five months ago, in a July 8 interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper. Trump used the words, "That's not our fight," in describing the situation with ISIS.
"The situation with ISIS has to be dealt firmly and strongly. When you have people being beheaded -- I would love not to be over there. That's not our fight. That's other people's fight. That's revolutions, that's whatever you want to call it, religious wars."
Rubio and an 'open border'
During an intense and somewhat wonky debate over immigration, Cruz and Paul targeted Rubio as soft on amnesty for illegal immigrants and on protecting the border.
One of Paul's attacks received our worst rating.
"He thinks he wants to be this 'Oh I am great and strong on national defense,'" Paul said of Rubio, "but he is the weakest of all the candidates on immigration. He is the one for an open border that is leaving us defenseless."
The claim Rubio "is for an open border" rates: Pants on Fire.
Rubio co-authored a 2013 bill as part of the "Gang of Eight" that included billions of dollars for border enforcement and more border agents.
"If Sen. Rubio was really for open borders, the Gang of Eight bill wouldn't have been 1,198 pages long while doubling the size of border patrol," said Alex Nowrasteh, an expert on immigration at the libertarian Cato Institute.
After the bill died, Rubio has repeatedly said border security needs to be beefed up. Paul's claim is inaccurate and ridiculous.
Rubio: Cruz supports 'legalizing' illegal immigrants
In a juicy moment from the Rubio-Cruz showdown, Rubio tried to portray Cruz as being soft on immigration policy, which Cruz immediately denied.
"Ted, you support legalizing people who are in this country illegally," Rubio said. "Ted Cruz supported a 500 percent increase in the number of H1B visas, the guest workers that are allowed in this country. And Ted supports doubling the number of green cards."
The claim that Cruz supports legalizing people who are here illegally rates: Mostly False.
Cruz proposed an amendment in 2013 to the immigration bill that would have stripped the citizenship provision. But it would have kept intact the language in the Senate bill that allowed illegal immigrants to still apply for the Registered Provisional Immigrant program in the overall bill, which would have resulted in a work permit and 10 years later application for permanent residency.
But it's a stretch for Rubio to label Cruz as a supporter of legalization when he was an ardent critic of the overall bill for months and voted against it.
So what's carpet-bombing, anyway?
Moderator Wolf Blitzer tried to pin down Cruz on his controversial "carpet bombing" proposal to deal with ISIS, asking Cruz if he means he wants to carpet-bomb the civilian-heavy ISIS capital of Raqqa, "yes or no?"
Cruz responded: "You would carpet bomb where ISIS is -- not a city, but the location of the troops. You use air power directed -- and you have embedded special forces to direct the air power. But the object isn't to level a city. The object is to kill the ISIS terrorists."
But there's a problem: What Cruz described isn't carpet bombing. What he described is actually the opposite of carpet bombing, so we rated his explanation False.
The defining characteristic of carpet bombing is it's indiscriminate -- not targeted. The first use of the term dates to around World War II, when Allied strikes during and following the invasion of Normandy killed an estimated 40,000 French civilians. Later in the war, a three-day joint U.S.-British attack on Dresden, Germany, stirred up monumental fires that killed more than 125,000 people. And in Tokyo, a March 1945 attack using six tons of incendiary bombs burned almost 16 square miles and killed more than 80,000 people. Other examples from the Korean War and the Vietnam War are sometimes cited.
Given the downsides of carpet bombing -- especially large civilian casualties, which don't reflect well on the bombing nation in a media-interconnected world -- it's not a military tactic used often today. For one thing, it's arguably outlawed by the 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions. The more important factor is today's precision-guided "smart" bombs and delivery systems provide better targeting without any loss in explosive power.
The World War II examples of indiscriminate attacks were undertaken "because more precise bombing was not possible," said John Pike, the director of globalsecurity.org. "The U.S. tried precision daylight bombing where they tried to hit individual factories, but they were too vulnerable to enemy fighters and anti-aircraft artillery, so they joined the Royal Air Force in burning down German cities at night."
The statement: Rand Paul says Marco Rubio "is the one for an open border." .
The ruling: An open border allows people to travel freely or with very few restrictions between two countries. Rubio doesn't support anything like that. He was one of the authors of a 2013 bill that included billions for border security and more border agents. After that bill died in the House, Rubio has repeatedly said that the border must be secured before the Senate can revisit changing immigration laws.
We rate this claim: Pants on Fire.
PolitiFact staff writers Louis Jacobson, W. Gardner Selby and Jon Greenberg contributed to this article. Politifact Florida is a partnership between The Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald to check out truth in politics