Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The GOP debate live-blog post 

I'll be live-blogging the Republican presidential debate at this post, with numbered paragraphs reflecting each new post. Note that I missed the first debate -- catastrophic TiVo failure that may or may not have been related to human error -- so I'm coming to these guys fresh!

Check back early and often.

Glenn's round-up of live-blogging links is here.

First comment: Could somebody explain to me why Sean Hannity is so popular?

Second comment: My reactions are never those of the average voter. The point of this is entertainment and food for thought, not prediction or partisanship.

Quotations are, in fact, approximate, so if on revelation of the transcript I have blown it, cut me some slack. We're not the MSM, you know.

1. Katon Dawson, the GOP's state chairman in the Palmetto State, is everything I expected him to be. Without really having heard of him before, I might add.

Introductions: I had no idea that Tommy Thompson's ears were so asymmetrical.

2. I, for one, am delighted that we are not going to ask for reactions to Jerry Falwell's death. That would have been beyond tedious.

First question to McCain: Why should Americans continue to fight and die when Iraqi politicians do so little?

McCain: A solid response, the best line: "When we lost the war in Vietnam, they didn't follow us home. They will this time."

To Romney: Can you forsee any circumstances under which you would pull out of Iraq without leaving behind a stable political and security situation?

The Mittster: "Well, I'm certainly not going to project failure. It is critical for us to remember that Iraq must be considered in the context of ... the global jihadist effort."

First gaff of the night: Romney talks about the "Caliphate," and says, "they have come together, as Shia and Sunni, and Hezbollah and Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda." This is both wrong and shallow, and I desperately hope Romney does not mean what he says. If there is one thing we need in our national security it is nuance.

3. To Brownback: "Is the pursuit of consensus any way to win a war?"

Brownback: "We have to pull together to win this war. We can't have one party for this war and one party against the war." Pushes the three state solution. Mrs. TH: "Oh, that'll solve it."

To Giuliani: "You said that Congressional Republicans who called for a timetable are 'fundamentally irresponsible.'"

Giuliani: It is irresponsible to give your enemy a timetable for your retreat. "They have followed us here." Cites the Fort Dix bombers. "The worst thing to do in the face of that is to show them weakness." Good answer.

4. To Ron Paul: "Are you running for the nomination of the wrong party."

Paul: Strong answer -- the best "anti-war" answer I have heard, far more coherent than anything from the Democrats. Still, he does not address the "weakness" issue, which dominates the thinking of the hawks.

5. Huckabee: Glib, but a smoothie. So far, the most personally appealing of the group.

Gilmore regarding Iran: "There is no choice but to bring together the people of the world to put on mandatory sanctions...." The American people have to come to a real serious conclusion about whether we can tolerate Iran having a nuclear weapon.

6. To Romney: Is your pledge to avoid raising taxes pandering to the base?

Romney: I will not raise taxes. Much better answer than on Iraq and the war, which even on reflection I continue to think was asinine.

McCain: "We didn't lose the election in 2006 because of the war in Iraq, we lost it because we were spending money like a drunken sailor."

Huckagee: "The first thing is to enact a fair tax, and put a going out of business sign on the IRS." So far, the set piece line of the night: "We've got a Congress that has spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop."

7. To Giuliani: "Show me where you exercised fiscal discipline."

Giuliani: "Spending actually decreased compared to the increase in population and inflation, and I did it in the most difficult place to do it." Proposes "Reagan-like" budget cuts, and includes the innovative idea that we should not replace retiring federal employees, or at least not more than half of them.

Brownback: Sucks up to Iowa big time with the ethanol play.

8. Thompson: Governor Ears tosses out the claim that he has served up "1900 vetoes," more than all the other candidates of both parties combined. Sounds like some cheesehead line-item thingy -- anybody know? Completely dodged the question to serve up three programs that he would eliminate, and responds incoherently about eliminating some program that involves a "stockpile." Boo.

9. Rich Lowry nails it.

10. Da break. Good debate so far, more substantive than the Democratic debate, less childish. Chris Wallace is going to change that.

Wallace to Gilmore: Asks him about his "Rudy McRomney" line in an effort to shake things up a bit.

Gilmore didn't name names, as Wallace requested.

Giuliani: "'Rudy McRomney' wouldn't make a bad ticket!" Rudy goes after the Democrats. "There is something big at stake here...", and quotes Hillary in her most statist moments.

Wallace pushes Rudy on his social liberalism, and Giuliani says he "ran the most conservative government in 50 years in New York City," which is a best-hockey-player-in-Ecuador standard if there ever was one. Still, he dealt with it.

11. Same questioning of conservative credentials to McCain. McCain fairly plausibly responds that he is trying to work together to get stuff done when he compromises, and that makes him more suited to lead. McCain is doing well here, I think.

Huckabee claims he "cut taxes 94 times as governor" when asked about increasing gas taxes, and says he "won't apologize for building roads," which is hilarious, if you think about it.

To Romney, the same general question regarding conservative credentials.

Mitt: "Marriage has always been about marriage between one man, and one woman!" Mrs. TH: "Heh. He got the Morman thing in."

12. Thompson gets into counting viable stem cell lines and bleating on about adult stem cells. There is stupidity down this road. I, for one, have no patience for it, but then, on this topic I'm a big liberal secularist murdering dirtbag.

13. Giuliani is answering well on the question of abortion -- the respectful libertarian perspective, and calls for reducing abortions and increasing adoptions.

Huckabee, the Baptist, goes all out for the respectful pro-life position, and does it well.

Brownback talks about whether the fetus is "a viable person." If I did not know his position was staunchly pro-life, I'd think this was code for a compromise position. But I know it is not, especially in South Carolina, so I find it to be peculiar.

14. Chris Wallace turns the lens on illegal immigration, and sets up Tancredo with a softball. This was the first truly lazy question of the night, and if Wallace does not follow up with a left hook he has handed Tancredo a free shot at a soliloquy.

McCain: "The point is, the American people expect us to sit down and work this issue to an agreement.... We need a comprehensive solution, and it has to be bi-partisan." Follows up with "I intend to work on the hard things, not the easy ones."

Romney: Secure the border, have employment verification, and give no advantage to people who have already come here illegally. Good red-meat line: "McCain-Kennedy will do for immigration what McCain-Feingold did for campaign finance."

Giuliani: Calls for a national ID. We need to be sensible about immigration. We need a technological fence, a tamper proof ID card, and a database.

I am a well-known "dove" on this issue, and generally like McCain's approach. Either way, it does not get my pulse racing. Sorry, guys!

15. Duncan Hunter: "This administration has a case of the slows on border enforcement."

16. Another question to Ron Paul on Iraq, again wondering if he is running for the nomination of the wrong party.

"The Republican party has lost its way." Paul calls for a return to Republican isolationism, in effect.

As suggested, Paul gets dangerously close to saying that we invited the attack. Giuliani smashes him in an outside-the-rules interjection in the "I paid for this microphone" moment of the evening. "I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for 9/11 but I've never heard that one." Paul dodges his demand that he withdraw the program with a discussion of blowback.

That was a great moment for Rudy, at least by my light. Rich Lowry agrees.

17. To McCain: The Stars and Bars question, summong moans from the crowd! "It is settled. I think it is time that we all moved on on this issue." Biggest applause of the night.

18. Tom Tancredo is totally incoherent on the topic of global warming and energy policy. Just sayin'.

19. Hume: Hypothetical -- There have been successful attacks, and prisoners taken in connection with a related attack have gone to Gitmo and are believed to have information about future attacks. What to do?

McCain: Very strong on the "torture" argument -- he admits that there is a one-in-a-million chance that as President he alone would authorize tough methods, and then denounces torture.

Giuliani: "Use every method they can think of" -- and gets applause. Giuliani is winning on national security tonight, at least among the hawks. I like him, I must say, and am not turned off by the social liberalism.

Romney: "I want them in Guantanamo. I don't want them on our soil. Some people have said we should close Guantanamo. I think we should double Guantanamo." Wow. Out Rudying Rudy.

Hume pulls a Wallace, and asks Sam Brownback whether in the case of the hypothesized domestic terrorist attack he "would go to the United Nations." Huh? Brownback smashes it out of the park, but it was such an obvious softball we would have been gravely disappointed if he had not.

Duncan Hunter: "This would take a one sentence conversation with the Secretary of Defense." This is idiotic, and a stupid version of Rudy's eloquent toughness.

20. Hume asks Gilmore how he would sustain the American economy after the next domestic attack. "What would you do?"

Gilmore responds with the claim that he had to deal with this as governor of Virginia, and then wanders off into a discussion about the United Nations and "preparedness" and partnership with local law enforcement. He completely ignored the economic question.

Huckabee is brilliant in this response, and I cannot do it justice here. "It cannot be business as usual when Americans are attacked on this soil." Great stuff. If I were a social conservative I'd love to get behind him.

Paul: "The lower the taxes the better, but we should find places we should cut spending as well." Then he descends into incoherence.

Tancredo: "I'm looking for Jack Bauer at that time."

21. Wallace: "What does it say about the Republican party that there is no woman, no Hispanic, no minority in this field of presidential candidates?"

Gilmore: "I worked very hard to bring in minorities, stepped up and spoke up against church burnings...." Wallace pushes: "Does it bother you that there are no minority or female candidates?" Gilmore: "Examine my record."

Sheesh. It bothers me. Why didn't he say "Hey, Romney's a minority!" That, at least, would have been both funny and honest.

22. Wendell hits Hunter with a softball question about China. Sheesh again. Hunter wants "a two way street, not a one-way street," but how is free trade anything other than a two-way street? Nobody is forcing us to buy all that cheap stuff; who doesn't like underwear that costs $1.50 a pair?

Me, I think Giuliani and McCain did well for themselves, Huckabee distinguished himself as the most eloquent of the group, and Mitt Romney was the big loser. I'm sorry to say. If the press isn't all over his gaff about the Islamists "coming together," then it is asleep at the switch.

Release the hounds.

UPDATE: J-Pod thinks it's Rudy, by 31 lengths.

One other note. I missed the first Republican debate, but in this one the speakers were far more willing to adhere to the rules than the Democrats were in their debate. Really, only Giuliani the New Yorker broke through the rules, and he was hammered down. Is there a difference between Republicans and Democrats in this?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue May 15, 10:36:00 PM:

Thanks for your commentary.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue May 15, 11:05:00 PM:

Said it before, but worth repeating: Romney is not the leader Republicans should be looking for. His record as a 1 term governor in Massachusetts is an embarrassment to his party, which he did nothing to sustain and left in disarray. There is no record of accomplishment or of service to anything but his own ends. He is neither an inspired leader nor someone who knows how to work with a divided government. And you should be worried about his gaffs on foreign policy.

On the other hand, if he stays in the race and ends up with the nomination, the Democrats are going to pick up a lot of Independant voters who will see right through this guy.  

By Blogger Viking Kaj, at Tue May 15, 11:45:00 PM:

My daughter likes Newtie as a dark horse, and I am not sure that I don't agree. Most of the rest of this crew are not impressing me. If Newt remains fiscally conservative, and as detached from the present administration as he has been, he probably is not out of this thing at this stage.

BTW, my daughter also knows Rudi's daughter and says that his family will be a greater issue as the campaing goes on. Apparently they are really unstable.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Tue May 15, 11:49:00 PM:

There is nobody I would rather shoot the breeze with than Newt Gingrich, and he should be every candidate's domestic policy adviser. But he is unelectable.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed May 16, 12:47:00 AM:

And as usial the liberal news media will ignore it some some dumb event like HUG A TREE FOR GAIA or KISS A DONKEY FOR PETA event  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed May 16, 04:01:00 AM:

Probably the first time, and maybe the most vivid time I disagree with Tigerhawk.

Although I love the question about Mr. Hannity...

McCain is old, tired, uncertain, and cannot explain his liberal policy advancement disasters.

Also, if anyone should understand 'mistakes' in a battle zone, it is Senator McCain.

John McCain tosses those who implemented his policy in Iraq under the bus, with this 'mishandled' garbage.

This appeasing liberal democrats with this 'mishandled' spin is absurd, and he is unwittingly demeaning thousands who served bravely in Our Armed Services.

I don't agree about Mr. Romney. The Man did quite well again. No one is perfect, but the Man is impressive. And I don't agree with your interpretation of his remarks on the Iraq issue. Romney grasps the GWOT and seems to understand the need for aggressive offense.

Is Mittster? A sign of your not seeing Romney in a fair light?

It is no wonder so many Libs are out to get Romney and Rudy, for they defy the tired stereotyping of the weak minded liberal.

A real threat to the Democrat slant, often used to demean Republican Conservative support.

Even though FOX was better than MSNBC, (which is easy to do), they blew a real chance for interest, but cutting off the rebuke of Ron Paul and changing subject.

anyway, just thought i would respond, but greatly appreciate the effort of the live blog.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Wed May 16, 06:19:00 AM:

Well, HNAV, I am actually not very partisan and politics, per se, is not really my thing, so as I said up front, I usually don't see these things the way others do. Obviously, the press also missed my point on Romney's gaff (which I still hope does not reflect his real thinking about the Islamists), so maybe I'm all wrong. A couple points, though:

McCain: In general, I have my doubts on several fronts. Last night, I think he did well, and was not "tired or uncertain." He has the most difficult record to defend, because it is the longest and it is in the Senate, where people make compromises every day, so he is the easiest to pick at. In light of that, I don't think the "old and tired" criticism holds up on last night's performance, even if we have seen it in other settings.

As for the "mishandling" of Iraq, McCain is right. Iraq has been horrendously mishandled, although generally not in the ways that the Democrats and the press claim (although some of what they say is right). I'm not one who is worried about the pecadillos, but there were some big mistakes during the Bremer era, enough for a month of blog posts. Some were "fog of war" errors, but others were indefensible in light of history. Long fight to be had there. The biggest mistake, though, was not shifting gears much earlier. Bush, Rumsfeld and the others were basically in denial for the period between the summer of 2003 (when the insurgency began to manifest itself to the point of dozens of attacks per day) and the destruction of the Golden Mosque in February 2006. We basically lost 30 months clinging to the old understanding of Iraq. It was horrendous, and McCain is right.

Acknowledging this has nothing to do with "dishonoring" the soldiers. It has to do with weakness at the top, both in the Army (in particular) and in the SecDef's office. The biggest proof of this is that during 2003-2004 the various divisional commanders in Iraq adopted wholly different tactical responses to the insurgency. Why? Because there was no unified conception of the insurgency in theater at CENTCOM about the proper way to deal with it. That's lame.

Actually, I went into the debate liking Mitt Romney -- "the Mittster" was just me being playful. But I replayed his comment about the Islamists, and I think it was a big mistake of fact. Now, it certainly won't be a big political mistake if nobody notices, and it doesn't appear as if they have.  

By Blogger Georg Felis, at Wed May 16, 02:45:00 PM:

One reason to use multiple tactical responses to the insurgency is there are multiple tactical situations in this insurgency. Cookie-cutter, one size fits all solutions don’t.

War has a bad habit of being a thousand solutions, all bad. You just have to pick the least-bad solution and run with it. We can criticize all we want but like any large complex system, doing X over here to make it look good will always cause a Z to happen on the other end and may give a much worse result.

Looking back at the debate, I would be willing to vote for *any* of the Republican candidates (except Ron Paul) over *any* of the Democrat candidates, and the debate only solidified my position. Although I really like Romney and Rudy, and hope they wind up Prez and VP.  

By Blogger Viking Kaj, at Wed May 16, 06:33:00 PM:

Hey, did you know the Mittster is the grandson of Mormons who moved to Mexico to avoid being charged under federal anti-polygamy laws???

I think McCain is the Manchurian candidate...

As regards Iraq, I would argue that the mistakes were originally made when we ignored all of the Pentagon war plans and went with Franks Iraq light plan. We won the invasion, but lost the war.

As regards Newtie, I guess it was just wishful thinking, I keep hoping, probably in vain, that there is a bona fide fiscal conservative left in the Republican party.  

By Blogger Roy Lofquist, at Wed May 16, 06:34:00 PM:

Dear Sirs,

I am what you might call a seasoned political junkie. My life long interest was triggered by watching the 1952 Democratic National Convention on TV.

I am not an effective electoral prognosticator by any means so I will not attempt to comment on the show-biz of the debate. What I can comment on is how I pick a president.

First, debates are a very poor way to assess the suitability of someone to be president. They are certainly entertaining and part of the beauty contest which is the election. Very seldom do they address the matters which are central to the duties and powers of the president.

The president has a strong influence in setting domestic policy but it is the power of the bully pulpit. He has very little constitutional power to control it. Thus, social and economic issues are the prerogative of the Congress.

The president's constitutional powers are enumerated in the Constitution. They are commander in chief, conduct of foreign policy, appointment of executive officers and the federal judiciary, and the veto.

As CIC he has the sole power to control the disposition of forces and the strategic and tactical actions they take. The legislature controls the composition of the forces and their rules of conduct.

He has wide power and discretion in the conduct of foreign policy, but all legally binding agreements, treaties, are subject to approval by two thirds of the Senate.

He has the power of appointment but is subject to confirmation by 60 percent of the Senate. The 60 percent requirement is not in the Constitution but establishd by the rules of the Senate.

The veto requires one third of both houses to sustain it. In Federalist Papers No.73 Publius (the collective name for those supporting the adoption of the Constitution) asserts that the veto should be rare and used only to protect the constitutional powers of the president or to hinder laws that abridge the constitutional rights of the people. In this respect George Bush is the most conservative president in my lifetime. I find that those arguing about how many vetoes they have cast or how many they will cast deeply misunderstand the Constitution.

OK, so how do I pick a president? I do it based upon a number of equally important characteristics. They are broad agreement with his policy statements, sober disposition, reasoning ability, an understandig of his powers and duties and his moral character. With that my assessment of the three leading contenders.

I lived in Arizona for 30 years, so I have been watching McCain for a long time. I have never been comfortable with the idea of him as president. As to a specific case which was brought up in the debate. He opposes torture on the basis, amongst other reasons, that if we do it the enemy will feel free to torture our guys. This is illogical and not in accordance with history. Since WWII our enemies have tortured prisoners repeatedly without regard to our conduct.

Mr. Guiliani has, for quite some time, displayed a lack of temperament, dignity or moral sensibity.

Mr. Romney, so far, meets my criteria.


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