Warren: Keeping America Safe Includes Cutting the Defense Budget

By Susan Jones | January 15, 2020 | 5:22am EST
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) says she would cut the defense budget as part of her plan to keep America safe. (Photo: Screen capture)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) says she would cut the defense budget as part of her plan to keep America safe. (Photo: Screen capture)

(CNSNews.com) - Tuesday night's CNN-hosted Democrat debate in Iowa began with a discussion about the qualifications of each candidate to serve as commander-in-chief.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she's the best prepared person to be commander-in-chief because she's been to war zones; she's worked with military leaders; she's visited the troops; and she would cut the defense budget.

Host Wolf Blitzer noted that in a new CNN/Des Moines Register poll, "almost a third of your supporters say your ability to lead the military is more of a weakness than a strength of yours. Why are you best prepared to be commander-in-chief?" he asked Warren:

"I believe the principal job of the commander-in-chief is to keep America safe," Warren said:

And I think that's about judgment. I think it starts with knowing our military. I sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee. I work with our generals, with our military leaders, with our intelligence, but I also visit our troops. I visit our troops around the world.

I've been to Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Jordan, to South Korea. I've been to lots of places to talk with our troops. And I fight for our troops, to make sure that they get their pay, that they get the housing and medical benefits that they've been promised, that they don't get cheated by giant financial institutions.

You know, I have three brothers who were in the military, and I know how much our military families sacrifice. But I also know that we have to think about our defense in very different ways. We have to think about cyber. We have to think about climate. We also have to think about how we spend money.

We have a problem with a revolving door in Washington between the defense industry and the Department of Defense and the Pentagon. That is corruption, pure and simple. We need to block that revolving door, and we need to cut our defense budget.

We need to depend on all of our tools — diplomatic, economic, working with our allies — and not let the defense industry call the shots.

Businessman Tom Steyer said he's qualified because "I worked internationally around the world for decades" and he understands "how America interacts with other countries." He also would cut the defense budget.

Steyer said the job of commander-in-chief "isn't so much about experience, it's about judgment." And he said he agrees with Sen. Warren that "we are spending dramatically too much money on defense." Steyer said he would spend the money elsewhere.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she's qualified because she is "someone who has dealt with these life-and-death issues and who has made decisions." She opposed the Iraq war, she said, and as president, she said she would renegotiate a nuclear deal with Iran.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said he opposed the war in Iraq; he supports the War Powers Act; and "I am able to work with Republicans. I am able to ring people together to try to create a world where we solve conflicts over the negotiating table, not through military efforts."

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he would bring a "different perspective" to the job.

"The next president is going to be confronted with national security challenges different in scope and in kind from anything we've seen before, not just conventional military challenges, not just stateless terrorism, but cybersecurity challenges, climate security challenges, foreign interference in our elections. It's going to take a view to the future, as well as the readiness, to learn from the lessons of the past. And for me, those lessons of the past are personal," Buttigieg said.

And finally, former Vice President Joe Biden -- who supported Bush's war in Iraq -- tried to explain why he's the best qualified person to be commander-in-chief:

I said 13 years ago it was a mistake to give the president the authority to go to war if, in fact, he couldn't get inspectors into Iraq to stop what — thought to be the attempt to get a nuclear weapon. It was a mistake, and I acknowledged that.

But right — the man who also argued against that war, Barack Obama, picked me to be his vice president. And once we — once we were elected president, he turned — and vice president, he turned to me and asked me to end that war.

I know what it's like to send a son or daughter, like our colleague has gone to war in Afghanistan, my son for a year in Iraq, and that's why I do it very, very reluctantly. That's why I led the effort, as you know, Wolf, against surging tens of thousands of troops into Afghanistan. We should not send anyone anywhere unless the overwhelming vital interests of the United States are at stake. They were not at stake there. They were not at stake in Iraq. And it was a mistaken vote.

But I think my record overall on everything we've done has been — I'm — I'm prepared to compare it to anybody on this stage.

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