Watch: Cruz, Rubio, and Trump Trade Barbs on Foreign Policy

Republican presidential candidates Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump battled on foreign policy during Thursday’s CNN GOP debate.

Cruz said, “[W]e need to nominate a Republican candidate that can lay out a clear difference with both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on foreign policy. One of the real challenges with both Donald and Senator Rubio, is that they have agreed over and over again, with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. So, for example, in Libya, both of them agreed with the Obama/Clinton policy of toppling the government in Libya. that was a disaster. It gave the country over to radical Islamic terrorism, and it endangered America. Another example is John Kerry. John Kerry, Senator Rubio voted to confirm John Kerry as secretary of state, I voted against him, and Donald Trump supported John Kerry against George W. Bush in 2004, gave him a check, and John Kerry has been the most anti-Israel secretary of state this country has ever seen. His diplomacy has been a disaster. And if we nominate someone who agreed with John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton on foreign policy, we’re not in a strong position to win the general election.”

Trump responded “I think I gave them both checks to be exactly honest. I think they both liked me very much.” Cruz then cut in, “But you called for Bush to be impeached.” Trump responded that Bush “did a hell of a bad job as far as that’s concerned.” Cruz responded by re-iterating that Trump called for Bush’s impeachment, and gave Kerry money. Trump said that “the check came before.”

He continued that he “never discussed Libya.” And that the world would be better off if Libya’s government wasn’t toppled.

Rubio responded that Libya’s government wasn’t toppled by the US, but rather by the Libyan people, and “The only choice before America that this president is does it happen quickly, or take a long time? And I argued if it takes a long time, you’re going to have rebel forces emerge like these radical Islamists that take advantage of the vacuum. And that’s what happened. That’s where the term ‘lead from behind’ came. And that’s the foreign policy that apparently Senator Cruz appears to agree with.”

Rubio continued that he did vote to confirm Kerry, because every day Kerry wasn’t confirmed “was another day Hillary Clinton was still in charge of the State Department. And she was absolutely horrible. I couldn’t imagine that they were going to find somebody even worse than her, but this president never ceases to amaze.”

He added, “[O]n South Korea…Donald is asking to be commander-in-chief. And he’s saying these guys need to do more. They — South Korea contributes $800 million a year to that effort, and Japan contributes as well. And here’s why our commitment to that regional security is so critical, Donald, because if we give — if we walk away from them, both Japan and South Korea will become nuclear weapons powers. … Which is why we have to rebuild the military, but why we can’t walk away from our Asia-Pacific defense status.”

Trump responded, “I never said walk away. I wouldn’t want to walk away. I want them to pay us much more money. we cannot afford to subsidize.” When Rubio cut in to ask how much, Trump responded, “A lot. I’ll negotiate a lot more money than you’ll ever get.”

He continued, “As far as John Kerry is concerned, there has been no tougher critic of this man, I think he negotiated one of the worst deals in the history of our country, the Iran deal, where they get their $150 billion and all of the other things that take place. It is a disaster for this country, and speaking of Israel, it’s a disaster for Israel. I’m no fan of John Kerry.”

Cruz the countered, by saying that Trump did say he supported toppling Libya’s government, and pointed to his website, where the interview would be.

He further stated, “I will say, John Kerry’s foreign policy has been a disaster for decades. That’s why I voted against him, when it came up. And the fact that Donald Trump would write him a check and support him against George W. Bush shows exceptionally poor foreign policy judgment.”

Cruz then pointed to him pressing the White House on whether they were economically boycotting Israel when they blocked civilian flights into the country before adding, “[D]uring every battle on Israel, the natural question is, where was Donald? If this is something he cares about, why has he supported anti-Israel politicians, from Jimmy Carter, to Hillary Clinton, to John Kerry, for four decades? If you care about Israel, you don’t write checks to politicians who are undermining Israel.”

Trump responded, “There is nobody on this stage that has done more for Israel than I have. Nobody. You might say, you might talk, you’re politicians, all talk, no action. I’ve been watching it all my life. There is — you are all talk and no action.”

Cruz then said, “Then name one specific thing you’ve done.” Trump then stated, “I mean, first of all, this guy’s a choke artist [pointing to Rubio] and this guy’s a liar [pointing to Cruz]. You have a combination of factors. He can’t do it for the obvious reason, and he can’t do it because he doesn’t know how to tell the truth. other than that, I rest my case.”

Rubio then said this was “typical” behavior for Trump by “going right for the outrageous statement” in a policy debate.

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett