U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday accused President Barack Obama of using last week’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino to push for tighter gun-control measures.
“You don't stop the bad guys by taking away our guns,” Republican Cruz said of Democrat Obama, who – speaking from the Oval Office on Sunday – called for tighter gun-control measures to prevent would-be mass shooters from buying assault weapons. “You stop the bad guys by using our guns.”
The Texas presidential hopeful took part in a presidential forum with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-Charleston, at Furman University.
Cruz dismissed criticism that he was being insensitive when, on Friday in Iowa, he rolled out a Second Amendment coalition, two days after the San Bernardino shootings, which left 14 dead and 21 wounded.
“I don't think it's my job to be sensitive to Islamic terrorists,” he said.
Like other Republican presidential candidates, Cruz also criticized Obama for not using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorist,” distancing terrorist organizations from Islam.
“You’ve got the president of the United States standing up, saying the Islamic State isn't Islamic,” Cruz said of Obama, who has said ISIS is practicing a perversion of Islam, not the religion. “There's a reason they don't call it the Presbyterian State.”
In an email, S.C. Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison accused Cruz of espousing “hateful rhetoric,” typical of GOP “fringe elements.” He also criticized Cruz for threatening a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security.
Cruz and other Republicans in Congress pushed to tie funding for the terrorist-prevention agency to reversing Obama’s executive orders on immigration, which would have protected many undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Talking to reporters before the forum, Cruz called for a more aggressive approach to defeating the Islamic State terrorist organization, namely through increasing air attacks. Asked whether he would commit U.S. ground troops to fight in Syria, Cruz said, “I am keeping the door open to doing whatever is necessary to win.” The decision on how to achieve that goal, he said, “should be based on military judgment.”
Cruz has been amplifying his war rhetoric recently. Last week, Cruz said he would “carpet-bomb (ISIS) into oblivion.”
Cruz did not answer a reporter’s question Monday about how he would prevent civilian casualties from a widespread bombing campaign. Instead, he said the first Persian Gulf War is an example of the effectiveness of “carpet-bombing.”
Cruz’s stop in the Palmetto State comes after a visit to Iowa, where he is surging in the polls. Cruz has 24 percent support from GOP caucus-goers in that early nominating state, surpassing onetime GOP frontrunner Donald Trump at 19 percent, according to a poll released Monday.
The GOP race in SC
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is in fourth place in South Carolina, according to an average of primary polls. Where the top four candidates stand:
Donald Trump: 29 percent
Ben Carson: 22.7 percent
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida: 13.3 percent
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas: 12.3 percent