Skip to main content

Should Obama lock Tim Cook in the White House? Welcome to tonight's Republican debate

Should Obama lock Tim Cook in the White House? Welcome to tonight's Republican debate

Share this story

Pool/Getty Images

At a loony debate tonight filled with yelling and schoolyard attacks, CNN asked a few of the remaining Republican candidates if they would side with Apple or the FBI in the government's fight to hack an alleged terrorist's iPhone. They're all on team FBI, and it was a mess.

Marco Rubio was given the question first, and walked back recent comments about the danger of back doors by echoing the FBI's assertion that the government only wants to go after one phone. "Absolutely," Rubio said, when asked if he would somehow order Apple to comply with the FBI's request if made president. Ted Cruz echoed Rubio, focusing on the argument that the government only wants to unlock a single iPhone in the FBI's possession. Then, Ben Carson joined in with a soliloquy on the separation of powers. "We have the constitution, we have the Fourth Amendment... but we have mechanisms in place with the judicial system that will allow us to gain material that is necessary as a whole or the community as a whole, and that's why we have FISA courts, and things of that nature," Carson said.

Why won't President Obama lock people in a room and demand solutions?

But the most bizarre answer came from John Kasich, who changed-up his performance as the most reasonable man on stage by turning the White House into a detention center for practical policy solutions. "Where has the president been?" Kasich asked, saying that President Obama should have locked stakeholders behind a door until they came up with a solution. "That's why you want a governor," Kasich said. "I do this all the time."

(President Obama already had the meeting Kasich is talking about.)

Apple's fight with the government could take a long time to resolve in courts, but it's already part of a national debate. Many of Apple's peers, including Microsoft and Google, have come to the company's defense this week. Apple has maintained that the government's demand effectively requires Apple to create a back door to the iPhone, and that fulfilling the request would set a dangerous precedent. Critics of the demand argue that the order would would likely lead to burdensome law enforcement requests in the future. More importantly, Apple says it could jeopardize the security of iPhones owned by millions of customers.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has led Apple's defense and has stated that encryption is an issue that should be resolved through a deliberative process in Congress. "No one would want a master key built that would turn hundreds of millions of locks," Cook said on ABC this week. "Even if that key were in the possession of the person that you trust the most, that key could be stolen. That is what this is about." In Congress, Apple may face a difficult fight against public opinion.