Cruz: California attack possibly act of 'Islamic terror'

2015-12-03 18:09
Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz hugs businessman Edward Czuker after being introduced to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington. (Susan Walsh, AP)

Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz hugs businessman Edward Czuker after being introduced to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington. (Susan Walsh, AP)

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Washington - Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz opened a meeting of Jewish activists on Thursday with a moment of silence for the victims of the mass shooting in California, and said he is worried the attack is an act of what he called "Islamic terrorism."

"All of us are deeply concerned that this is yet another manifestation of terrorism, radical Islamic terrorism here at home," the Texas senator told the meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Cruz was the first of the major Republican candidates for president to speak on Thursday at the meeting of the RJC, a group backed by casino billionaire and major Republican donor Sheldon Adelson.

"This horrific murder underscores that we are at a time of war," Cruz told the crowd in downtown Washington. "Whether or not the current administration realises it or is willing to acknowledge it, our enemies are at war with us.

"I believe this nation needs a wartime president to defend it," he said.

The FBI in Los Angeles has said it is investigating several possible motives for Wednesday's shooting in San Bernardino, which left 14 people dead and seriously wounded more than a dozen others.

David Bowdich, assistant director of the bureau's Los Angeles office, said the possible motives include workplace violence and terrorism. He did not elaborate.

The coalition, for which Adelson is a major funding source and board member, has held presidential forums in almost every election year since 1988. Apart from the debates, this is one of the only 2016 events that has attracted every single candidate to one room.

Matt Brooks, RJC's executive director, said that unlike the debates - where candidates often have just a few seconds to respond to questions - Thursday's forum gives plenty of time for deep explanations of policy.

Attendees, he said, "are looking to see who passes the commander-in-chief threshold. They want to know what's in their hearts and guts on these weighty issues".

While there's no chance on Thursday for the candidates to personally interact with Adelson, many of them have already met with him. Another opportunity is less than two weeks away, when the December 15 Republican debate will take place at the Venetian, a Las Vegas casino and hotel that's part of Adelson's international entertainment empire.

Each of the candidates is strong on the issues that concern Adelson the most, chief among them protection of Israel, said his political adviser, Andy Abboud.

The RJC's presidential forum offers candidates the chance to impress other wealthy donors, too. And many of the super political action committees aligned with candidates, including former Florida governor Jeb Bush's Right to Rise, are hosting events Thursday night.

Many of the candidates have been eager to portray themselves as close to Adelson.

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump, who is leading the polls, has said he is so wealthy that he doesn't need the help of donors like Adelson.

In an October 13 interview on Fox News, Trump said, "I like Sheldon a lot. He's been a person I've known over the years. We have a very good relationship."

On the eve of the gathering, Trump declared himself a "big, big fan" of Israel, and said chances for a lasting peace rest with the Jewish state. "A lot has to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal - whether or not Israel wants to sacrifice certain things," he said.

Read more on:    donald trump  |  ted cruz  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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