The Fox News Republican Presidential Debate in New Hampshire

by Ryan on September 5, 2007

in Election 2008,Politics

This evening I watched the last “Thompson-free” Republican debate between the eight noteworthy declared candidates. Brit Hume, Chris Wallace, and Wendell Goler were the moderators. All but Chris Wallace tried to stay out of the business of trying to create the headlines, rather than just the candidate’s position. But it was not nearly as bad as the CNN or the MSDNC moderators. No Wolf or Chrissy to inject their own fame into the debate. Fox News asks the deeper, probing questions that Republican primary voters are interested in.  Here’s a transcript.  That’s why the Dems are scared of Fox. Carl Cameron was at “Young’s Restaurant” in New Hampshire where he had some folks ask questions of the candidates, too. It wasn’t great, but it is a medium that has potential, not like the YouTube fiasco.

I divided the debate into the seven topics chosen by the moderators and have some personal comments about the highlights of each section:

#1: Fred Thompson: The candidates were asked right off the bat what they thought of him, as Fred is a lingering presence, scheduled to officially announce on Leno later this evening. McCain was the only one who really took a jab at him. Oh, the others got digs in, but McCain chose to play up Thompson’s lazy stereotype. Typical of Smeagol in this case.

#2: Illegal Immigration:

–Giuliani apparently did not have “the luxury of political rhetoric” in 1994 when he all but declared NYC a sanctuary city. I wasn’t impressed with that cop out.

–McCain was all about addressing failures, bringing up Katrina, Iraq and what he still refuses to call amnesty, even falling back on the last refuge of a trapped politician by citing what the “dictionary” says. Poor Smeagol.

–Mike Huckabee inferred that racism plays a major role in people’s opinions about the issue, but he missed the mark with me. Thumbs down on that one. Who’s a racist: those who realize that the vast majority of illegals are Mexican and should therefore recognize that trying to solve the problem starts with Mexico, or those who want to keep a permanent underclass of low-paid Mexicans working in the fields or in unworthy jobs?

–Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo are very strong on enforcement and really want to confront this problem. It is Tancredo’s only stand out issue. Hunter was good too and has accomplishments.

#3: Family Values and Social Issues:

–Larry Craig was briefly dealt with by Brownback and Hunter. Hunter had a great flag-waving line about public service and his father’s line, “What did you do for America today?”, while contrasting the Republicans with the Democrats on this issue: Republicans lose their job for indiscretion, Democrats get committee chairs.

–Romney and Huckabee dealt with abortion. Romney sees it as a state issue, while Huckabee wants a Human Life Amendment, using the miner’s analogy of how though we didn’t know them, we all hope they’re OK. Sanctity of human life kudos.

–Libertarian Ron Paul stepped in to chat about guns. Did you know that guns could have prevented 9/11? Sure, in the mind of Ron Paul. If the feds stepped out of gun control, and if the airlines let guns on the plane in the late 1990s when gun control was just behind the lock-box in public concern, then maybe the hijackers would have thought twice about hopping on those planes. Quite a stretch. I love this guy, he should do stand-up!

–Brownback got a question on gay marriage. Since marriage is a “foundational institution” gay marriage as a “vast social experiment” is not done in a vacuum and European nations who’ve tried it have huge numbers of single moms and broken families. I thought it was a good, well-articulated response.

–Although this was asked later in the debate by a PoliSci Major at Young’s Restaurant during desert, Giuliani was asked about being a moral leader and leading by example. This was an obvious dig at his crazy personal life with numerous marriages under his belt. Giuliani stuck to his public record. I think that a candidate’s private life has some bearing on their public attitudes. Giuliani’s socially liberal positions are probably rooted in this.

#4: National Security/Iraq:

–Smeagol let out a little Gollum on this one, revving up with “I know war” and blasting Romney for Romney’s insistence that we wait until Petraeus’ report next week before claiming the Surge is working for sure– you know, waiting for all the facts before positing his opinion. Suddenly the mantra, “It’s working [my precious],” responded McCain (I added the brackets).

–Libertarian Ron Paul, however, had the best exchange of the night with Mike Huckabee. Ron Paul brushed off the notion that our troops in Saudi Arabia had anything to do with 9/11, despite Bin Ladin’s own statement to the contrary. Ron Paul also said that we should leave Iraq right away, damning the consequences, to which Chris Wallace made the point about Paul letting “marching orders from al Qaeda” run our foreign policy in the region. Not too happy about being shown a mirror, Paul responded quickly with being tasked with getting his “marching orders from the Constitution” and that America has committed an invasion and should pay no more consequences (by the way, is Ron Paul being paid by the Democrats? He should be, giving their fringe free advertising). After a yawning interlude from Sam Brownback, Huckabee looked at Ron Paul and said that since we broke Iraq, we own it and have a responsibility fix it. To which Ron Paul responds with a wacked-out flurry of conspiratorial nonsense– I’m starting to get a picture of why his supporters support him. Paul said that the American people did not go into Iraq, but it was the neo-cons that hijacked our foreign policy and are ruining the party. Huckabee responded brilliantly: “our honor is more important than our party.” Bam! Ron Paul, like many Democrats, does not seem to respect our democratic process or have a basic understanding of our Constitution. We elected Bush, Bush appoints a congressionally approved cabinet, Bush got his authorization for war from Congress, which is just as legally binding as a formal declaration. Had Ron Paul been awake since 1945, he’d notice that little detail. By the way Bush got reelected with the first majority since 1988. These are not facts to be belittled the way Ron Paul knocks on them. But he’s Ron Paul… always good for a laugh. It feels good rooting against this guy.

–Hunter, Romney and Tancredo were all opposed to a quick withdrawal and had nuanced answers that saw Iraq as one theater in a global war. Much more in touch with a long-term strategy and reality. Romney got smacked down by a diner at Young’s Restaurant who has a son in the service and mocked Romney’s comparison of his sons serving in Romney’s campaign to military service. Romney handled it well, I thought, but the point was stinging. He also addressed the broke it-fix it debate saying that the debate’s not about “broken pottery” but about our future in the region

#5: Presidential Power and the War on Terror:

–Romney’s approach to wiretaps would be to use them within the law, but be aggressive and stay on the offense.

–McCain got his tailor-made “enhanced interrogation” question posed to Tancredo first, who’d use them in extreme, to which McCain would not. Simple, boilerplate, day at the office Q&A.

–Both Giuliani and Hunter would “absolutely” leave Gitmo open. Good for them! Our enemies should fear us, and our friends can take those S.O.B.s in Gitmo anytime they want. Yet, they remain at Gitmo. hmmm…

#6: Taxes and Spending:

–Finally a topic we can all agree upon. Cut ‘em. Cut ‘em deep. But, the Fox crew found the “tax pledge.” Uh oh! Not everyone on stage signed it, meaning that they pledge to cut or maintain current tax rates if elected! McCain did not, since he’ll “stand on his record” in the Senate, which includes 23 times voting for good tax cuts, but being against the 2003 tax cut that has propelled our economy. Not good. Giuliani tip-toed around the whole thing saying that the only pledge he’ll take is to uphold the Constitution, though his “intention” is to cut taxes. If he can’t pledge to cut or maintain tax-levels in a Republican primary, he’s not to be trusted on this issue. I know he doesn’t want to get trapped, but this issue is a ridiculous one to take that stand on. Bullocks in my view, bullocks.

–Romney defended his record in Massachusetts. I give him a little slack, having grown up in Massachusetts’ shadow.

–Huckabee had a Fair Tax orgasm. I haven’t studied this closely enough, but talk of reforming our tax code is always great in and of itself.

–Libertarian Ron Paul defended his intention to get rid of the IRS. OK. But also, the Federal Reserve. Meh, it has its purpose. But, wait! It’s Ron Paul! Let’s, in the middle of a War on Terror, eliminate the CIA, Department of Homeland Security, and possibly the FBI too! Liberty for security? Not in loony land of Libertarian Ron Paul! Let’s have al Qaeda run our foreign policy and put them on the honor system! Priceless.

#7: Iran Hypothetical:

–Seven candidates on stage: Iran should not get nukes and we should use everything at our disposal from negotiations, to economic ties, to calling in favors from our friends and allies, to threatening and even using force. Of course, nearly all of them scoffed at the idea of a hypothetical question as such, but did respond responsibly. Giuliani even harkened back to Ronald Reagan for guidance by winning “the Cold War without firing a shot, but with pointing a thousand missiles.” The point was echoed by Smeagol.

–Ron Paul: let Israel defend herself. Wow.

In sum:

I thought the debate was pretty good. We haven’t seen a Fox debate in a while. You always get better, more uncomfortable questions from Fox than from the other networks, and you get nothing from the Democrat debates– they’re all afraid of upsetting She Who Must Not Be Named in fear that she might look past them for cabinet posts after her coronation. But, it’s now time to start trimming the field. But who won? Perhaps Fred Thompson since we were reminded once again that the field, while good, is not exciting; we may need some invigoration with a new candidate who people seem to be willing to follow. But of the evening’s candidates I think that Romney probably eeked it out on style, being able to respond to attacks well and offering a nice, center-right message.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

criminyjicket September 5, 2007 at 11:47 pm

i switched during the debate to Larry King live. Trust me when I tell you, Bill Clinton won the debate.

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Mike September 6, 2007 at 12:11 am

Since I’m always criticizing CNN and MSLSD for their woeful debate moderators, I have to do the same for Fox. Chris Wallace and to a lesser extent Wendell Goler should omit the editorializing from their questions next time. That line about Ron Paul taking marching orders from Al Qaeda, which was admittedly as funny as it was true, should have been said by a candidate or not at all. They were also tougher on Romney than most of the others, though I think that worked to Mitt’s advantage.

I think Huckabee won this one. In my view, he stood out this time as he has a few times before. Hunter was solid as always (I hope our nominee puts him on the ticket). The frontrunners were all kind of flat tonight though so I’ll call it a draw among them.

One thing is clear though, our field is clearly more serious than the other party.

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Treva Abel September 6, 2007 at 12:33 am

In my opinion, you’ve misunderstood Mike Huckabee’s comments on racism and illegal immigration. He clearly stated in the debate and after the debate in an interview with Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes that SOME people are racist, and MOST people are just facing facts and issues regarding illegal immigration. He said he knows this because he has met some of the racist people. I am speaking as both a person who was raised in the south where there are still plenty of racist people, and as a half caucasion, half hispanic female. I abhor racism, yet I know exactly what Huckabee is referring too. I’ve had people make racist remarks around me all my life (not knowing I was half hispanic) and also specifically about illegal immigration, but not because of the issue, but because of the chance to act in a racist fashion with a “free pass” (by cover of illegal immagration ISSUE). These folks are not in the majority, but present enough to be mentioned, and I believe it was those types Huckabee had been asked about. Huckabee made it clear there was no doubt that there is an issue that needs to be addressed when it comes to illegal immigration.
Treva

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Kurt September 6, 2007 at 12:36 am

Wow Ryan….you must be a card carrying member of AIPAC! lol

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Spud September 6, 2007 at 12:42 am

Wow. Ron Paul did not insinuate passengers carrying guns – just the airline pilots. And yeah, the Federal Reserve has a purpose and it doesn’t have anything to do with freedom or the middle class of this country. And finally, the Congress has no right to transfer or abdicate its constitutional authority and responsibility to declare war. If you’d been awake since 1945 you’d know that undeclared wars fail and don’t seem to ever end.

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Brian September 6, 2007 at 2:59 am

* RP made it pretty clear that if the airlines were in charge of their own security, their employees could have had weapons on the plane. That might have made a difference. No airline is going to let passengers have weapons… but politics is about bad faith, so go ahead and misquote RP.

* If the US can talk tough and point thousands of nukes and win the Cold War, and that is good enough for you, and you applaud how well it works, why don’t you think Israel can do the same with its nukes against a country with none? If you think it’s more complicated than that, then why do you praise the candidates who say such simplistic things? You’re inconsistent and so were those 7 would-be emperors up there on stage tonight.

* You’re silly.

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Ryan September 6, 2007 at 9:29 am

Criminy:

You might be right! These debates are not exciting and I agree with Newt that these formats belittle the candidates and shrink real ideas into quick sound bites.

Treva:

Thanks for the clarification and your input! I wasn’t sure what he meant and it sounded pretty strong. I agree that there is a negatively racial element to the illegals debate.

Brian:

The fundamental difference between Iran and the old Soviet Union is that the Iranian mullahs would be perfectly happy with a nuclear exchange with Israel, believing that they would go straight to heaven while the Israelis would not. It’s like sudden-death insurance. The Soviet’s had no heaven up above, just a hellish and misguided attempt at one on earth.

Libertarian Ron Paul is an old joke harkening back to the good ol’ 1930s when America felt happy ignoring the gathering storm around them– didn’t work so well though. Also, his 9/11 gun comment was pretty much what I said it was from the debate last night. I paraphrased his point into the passage above and I was correct in noting that he really believes what he says, which your point doesn’t contradict either. Whether it’s possible or not, the moderators threw it back at him to get a rise out of others. He’s a libertarian at heart and relishes the debate spotlight where he can make obnoxious statements which serve to embolden his followers and force his opponents to talk to him, when they wouldn’t bother otherwise.

Plus, I disagree that I was inconsistent with my praise of nuance and detail. 60 second responses will not produce a truly detailed proposal on everything. While some tried, like Hunter, Huckabee, and Romney, others were succinct enough spouting their polished sound bites that they made their point. The conservative position on taxes is not complicated and doesn’t have to be. Hypotheticals don’t have to be either since they beg to be dodged. Yet, Ron Paul has about the most simplistic position anyone can have on Iraq: surrender, retreat, and dismantled our military unilaterally. I love rooting against that guy!

But as for Giuliani’s statement on the missiles, I was merely repeating it as a highlight. I think an aggresive foreign policy guided by American principles and interests is good. Just having nukes is not enough, and I think that Giuliani was probably just name dropping Reagan as close to the end of the debate as possible. It worked because McCain jumped in right after and invoked Reagan’s name right affter.

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Ryan September 6, 2007 at 9:59 am

Spud:

You’re right. I’ve really only been awake since 1977.

The Constitution says that Congress shall have the power to declare war. Yet, it does not in any way specify how that is to take place. A use of force resolution carries the same kind of weight as a formal declaration, especially in the post 1973 War Powers Act era. The Judicial Branch is not supposed to be the final arbiter of the law, because in a system of check and balances and co-equal branches, no one has the final say. Yet, we treat it that way– imagine if Bush used is true Consitutional check on the Supreme Court and openly refused to enforce a ruling? The place would go nuts, even though it’s his right as the chief executive! Congress has every right to treat its duties how they see fit.

Also, the undeclared Quasi-War with France ended in months, our interference with Panamanian independence ended, our quelling of the Filipino Rebellion ended, Operation Just Cause ended, just to name of few undeclared America wars that were pretty quick. Fighting in the Korea War was undeclared and that lasted about 3 years costing an estimated 36,000 US lives (those are updated numbers from our high school textbooks which kept the old number at around 54,000 which included thousands of repeat forms), and the undeclared Gulf War lasted a few months all in all. The 2002 Iraq War resolution has the same exact weight as Congress’ last declaration of war on December 8, 1941. The Constitution sees absolutely no difference between them. Read the clause in the actual Constitution (Article I, Section 8). It says nothing about HOW Congress is supposed to declare war, just that Congress needs to approve it.

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Mike September 6, 2007 at 8:56 pm

Brian,

The question presumed that Iran was on the verge of acquiring a weapon. Not answering the question as posed is what’s silly.

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