GREENVILLE, S.C. — Tracing the roots of Friday’s attacks in Paris in part to an unwillingness among U.S. leaders to call out "radical Islamic terrorism," U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said Saturday that he would not be afraid of such tough talk as president. But the Texas Republican stopped well short of calling for the U.S. to engage in a land war in the Middle East.
Campaigning in South Carolina, Cruz lashed out at President Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, saying that political correctness cannot stand in the way of fighting terrorism.
"We need a president that makes abundantly clear to any militant across the face of the earth, if you go and join ISIS, if you wage jihad against the United States of America, then you are signing your death warrant," Cruz said during a religious rally at Bob Jones University, one of several appearances he’s making this weekend in the early primary state.
"There is a consequence to having an administration, to President Obama, to Hillary Clinton being unwilling to calling radical Islamic terrorism by its name," he added. "And as president, I will do just that."
Cruz said that from a military standpoint, the U.S. should focus on empowering Kurdish soldiers already in place to take on ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
"We have boots on the ground: the Kurds are our boots on the ground," he told reporters just before he spoke at Bob Jones University. "We ought to be arming the Kurds and using overwhelming air power."
He also criticized the president and Clinton, the former secretary of state, for endorsing the allowing some Syrian refugees to come to the U.S.
"President Obama and Hillary Clinton's idea that we should bring tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees to America is nothing less than lunacy," he said earlier in the day on Fox News.
But he also mentioned the president in an opening prayer, still noting the need to not shy from targeting terrorism.
"We ask that you would be with President Obama ... in the face of this horrific terrorist attack," he said. "We ask that our leaders understand this is not some random ill-defined random extremism, this evil, radical Islamic terrorism needs to be called out what it is and it needs to be defeated."
Otherwise, during the Bob Jones rally, Cruz focused on evangelical issues. Event speakers included Cruz's wife, Heidi Cruz, and his father, Rafael Cruz, along with Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, a socially conservative group. Cruz hosted a similar Iowa rally in August.
The rally featured several people delivering testimonials describing legal entanglements involving the public practice of their faith and litigation over gay marriage. To roaring cheers, Cruz focused on gay marriage and abortion.
"The greatest trick the left has ever played was to convince conservatives that America doesn't share our values," he said. "That is a lie."
He went on to stress that the country "was built on Judeo-Christian values" and that the rally attendees "terrify Washington" as a political force.
"Liberty is never safer than when politicians are terrified," he added.
Cruz will continue his swing of town halls and meet and greets through the Palmetto State, hitting many of the population centers through Monday afternoon.