Pawlenty Backs Waterboarding in GOP Debate

Heavyweights absent as GOP hopefuls clash for first time in SC
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2011 2:59 AM CDT
Updated May 6, 2011 6:46 AM CDT
Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party banned the media from photographing the debate, so here's a file photo of Tim Pawlenty.   (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

(Newser) – And so it begins. The battle for the Republican nomination kicked off in South Carolina last night with the first presidential primary debate. Most high-profile contenders skipped the event, leaving the stage to Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, and Gary Johnson, Politico reports. Some highlights:

  • Pawlenty said that while he tips his hat to President Obama for finding and killing Osama bin Laden, the president should be challenged on his position on "enhanced" interrogation techniques. The former Minnesota governor, revising his earlier position, says he now supports the use of techniques like waterboarding under certain circumstances.

  • Ron Paul made it clear that Republicans aren't all singing from the same sheet. The Texan congressman expressed support for legalizing heroin and said gay marriage should be none of the government's business.
  • Paul's fellow libertarian, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, supported legalizing marijuana. Too much money is spent on enforcing drug laws and "90% of the drug problem is prohibition-related, not user-related," he said. Johnson and Paul were both against waterboarding.
  • Rick Santorum, asked if blocking health care reform was more important than preventing America from defaulting on its debt, said Obamacare is "a game-changer and it has to be stopped. As conservatives we have to stand up and stop this."
  • Herman Cain, asked why he thought he could win, said he was proud that he hadn't held office before. His rivals "have held public office before, how's that working for you?" asked the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza. "Let's have a problem-solver."
Click to read about why AP, Reuters skipped the debate.

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