Liveblogging the GOP Debate

I’m live-blogging the Republican debate.

5:12 PM PST — It’s almost 15 minutes into the Republican “debate,” and not one question has been directed at Ron Paul by the two moderators. What’s up with that?

On Iraq: We must “stand up,” say them all (but Ron).

Finally, Ron — looking nervous — is picked on: Why are all the other candidates wrong on Iraq? Ron comes back with the traditionalist position: nonintervention is the historical position of the GOP: “Don’t police the world, that’s the Republican view and the view of the founding fathers.”

Next question is a blockbuster: why not invade Iran? McCain is in favor of it. What is the tripwire, asks Chris Matthews. Iran will give nukes to a terrorist organization, says McCain. If this is a real threat to the state of Israel, he says, we must “ultimately” attack. But there are a lot of intermediary steps.

 Tancredo asked: What if Olmert calls up and says: “We’re going to attack Iran. Will you help us?” Tancredo says: Yes, but there are (undefined) conditions. If Israel is threatened, then we must. Giuliani: nuclear weapons in the hands of an irrational man are “not an option.” What worries me is nukes in the hands of some hot-headed paisano.

Question to Gilmore: Romney says it is not worth moving heaven and earth to get Osama bin Laden. Gilmore ducks….

Romney: It’s not about OBL, it’s about all Muslims. 

Now come candidates voted on The Politico:

McCain is asked: would you be happy with Tancredo as head of the INS? In a word: No. Then rants about how he’ll follow OBL to the gates of hell.

Should we change our constitution to let the foreign-born run for President:

Romney: Probably not

Five no’s so far: two yes.

McCain: Depends on whether he endorses me or not.

Paul: No, a strong supporter of the original intent

Giuliani: Yes.

Giuliani: dealing with African American community, any regrets? Ducks the question.

Romney: what do you dislike the most about America? Is at a loss for words….

Huckabee: what about global warming? Old Boy Scout aphorism: Leave the campsite in better shape than you found it.  

Tancredo: Organ transplant plan? The President should not be in the forefront of such an effort. Clonging people is ridiculous.

Hunter: Are you a compassionate conservative? Rest of my time on Iran: right now Iran is killing Americans in Iran. Iran has crossed the line. We have a “license” take whatever actions are necessary to stop it.

Paul: would you work to phase out the IRS? Immediately. If you think govt’ should take us from cradle to grave and police the world, then you won’t agree with that. But not if you want to get rid of the cycle of mounting debt and perpetual war.

Roe vs Wade: repeal? Most say repeal, but Giulinani waffles and Gilmore says the first few weeks are an exception. Thompson : leave it up to the states.

McCain looks very nervous: and he is unusually demagogic, attacking “Islamic” this and “Islamic” that, and glowering at the camera. “Faith in government” — “I want to defeat our enemies” — “I want to be president of a proud and strong nation.” Hail to The Leader!

Huckabee, on the other hand, is relaxed, and relatively benevolent. Romney seems like the John Edwards of the GOP: is that a $300 haircut? 

Paul: If goal of govt’ is to police the world, you lose your liberty. Wehn you overdo your aggressiveness, you become weaker. Why are we agonizing over third world countries that don’t have an army or an air force?

Prediction: Ron Paul is going to soar in the polls. Of course, since he’s at 1 percent, that may not amount to a major surge …

Sheesh, Tommy Thompson sure is funny lookin’! He looks like an out-of-work comedian.

A question about Jack Abramoff provokes a response from somebody (who is that guy?) who waffles on about “family values” and winds up in a peroration about “dirty” songs on the radio.

McCain: Spending is out of “control,” and that’s why the GOP lost the last election. (Not the war).  What specific programs would he cut? Cost overruns in purchase of weapons systems. He is the candidate of “honest” militarism. Good luck with that one.

Huckabee: how would you rate the Bush administration on Iraq? Ducks the question….

I note that the moderators keep trying to get the candidates to attack each other, to no avail.

Tommy Thompson: what can a president do about racism? We all have to be like Ronald Reagan…. ok?

Tancredo: besides yourself, who should be the GOP nominee? In other words: admit it, you can’t win. So whom will you be endorsing? Tries to duck it, but then says, basically, anyone who agrees with his immigration position.

McCain: the status quo is not acceptable. We need temporary workers, and the 12 million illegals have to be dealt with. Endorses Bush position.

Paul: President makes decisions in crisis situations, have you ever made such a decision. I’m a doctor, and I’ve made plenty of life and death decisions, but none that affected a lot of other people. Five years ago, however, I made the decision to vote against the war.

There’s a lot of talk about cloning — as if this is the biggest issue around. What kind of “debate” is it that focuses on such marginal issues? The Republicans hate cloning and stem cell research. McCain, however, wants to fund stem cell research. Paul: We either subsidize it, in Washington, or prohibit it. Answer: No. Giuliani: yes, with limitations. Tancredo: no.

A tax you would cut: many endorse a flat tax, or the “fair tax,” except the majors — Romney, McCain, Giuliani: get rid of the death tax, and regularize rates with marginal reductions.  Paul: get rid of the inflation tax, with a foreign policy we can’t afford and an entitlements we can’t afford either. We need sound money.

McCain: a Democrat you’d appoint to your cabinet. Joe Lieberman: and someone named John Chambers (I think) in Silicon Valley. I know how to reach across the aisle.

McCain: do you believe in evolution? Yes. Several candidates don’t, however (turns out the number is three, and I think one of them is Tancredo. Figures…)… and I can see why.

Giiuliani: what is the difference between a shia and sunni Muslim. Giuliani gets it partly right, but says something about how one believes in the importance of “descent” while the other doesn’t. Hmmmmmm….. have to check on that one. (Uh, not quite right).

Paul: do you trust the mainstream media. I trust the internet a lot more. Goes into a riff about freedom of expression, and not regulating the internet.

Brownback: do your personal religious beliefs influence your foreign policy views? In other words: you’re a nutball Christian dispensationalist, so how doe that go down in the foreign policy realm? Brownback confirms this by saying that, yes, he’s in favor of an “aggressive” foreign policy. (Nuke Tehran!)

Huckabee: in light of the corruption and cronyism scandals, what lessons have you learned. Rants on about how we’re shipping jobs overseas. Attacks capitalists who “rob” workers of their rightful due. (Is this guy a commie?)

How many have been injured and killed in Iraq, is the question asked of Tommy Thompson. He doesn’t really know, says over 3,000 killed (correct) but then fumbles it with “several thousand” wounded (it’s over 30,000).

Romney and Giuliani come out with a “tamper-proof” national ID card. Holy moley! Brownback dissents. We have social security. McCain is for it: absolutely! (of course). Paul: I am absolutely opposed to a national ID card. This absolutely contradicts the real purpose of governmentl, which is to protect people not invade their privacy.

Should Scooter Libby be pardoned? Romney attacks Fitzgerald, but tries to duck anyway. The rest duck — except for Tancredo, who says yes, pardon him. Paul: Scooter was instrumental in getting us into a war that we didn’t need to be in.

Terry Schiavo: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz……….

Would it be good to have Bill Clinton back in the White House? The big joke question, naturally asked by Chris Matthews. Giuliani repeats the phrase “Islamic fundamentalist terrorism” no less than three times in his answer.

How will you be different from President Bush: Romney ducks. Says we need 100,000 more troops (in Iraq?) McCain: I would not have mismanaged the war. Ouch! Gilmore: Homeland security is the key. Huckabee: More states rights. (Wow! Good answer!) Honor the tenth amendment (Double-wow!) Hunter: China is cheating on trade laws. What’s his name: divide Iraq, and a political solution as well as a military solution for Iraq. Tancredo: huh? Thompson: bromides. Giuliani: we should remind ourselves that we thought we were going to be hit many times and we weren’t. The decision to go to war was correct. Paul: invokes Robert A. Taft, he would change our foreign policy to non-interventionism, and he would protect the privacy of Americans from the prying eyes of government. Lastly, he would never abuse the right of habeas corpus.

And Ron has the last word!

Whew! My fingers hurt!

Summing up: What a bunch! Ron Paul shines, the others seem as predictable and boring as …. well, as your average “modern” Republican.

Now comes the “spin”:

No mention of the only antiwar Republican candidate, namely Ron Paul, about half an hour into the “spin” on MSNBC. Come on, guys — yeah, I mean you, Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, and Senor Scarborough — let’s get real. It’s all about how McCain is going to “follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of Hell.” Which means, I guess, that Mad John knows where he‘s going to wind up ….

National Review has this to say about Ron Paul: “Sigh, yes, thank you for telling us how a libertarian idealist would do it.” Not that anyone at NR is interested in liberty.

I have to say that, as much as I admire Ron, his presentation was not as good as it might have been. The clear “winner” of the debate was (is?) Romney, at least in beauty-contest terms. And that’s what this was: there were no real ideas here, no contrasting approaches to government, only variations on a theme of militarism and economic nostrums that don’t amount to a coherent phiosophy or even a general approach to government. Ron Paul stood out because he deviated so radically from the rest in that respect.

The three candidates besides Dr.Paul who may have generated the most intellectual excitement — Chuck Hagel, Newt Gingrich, and Fred Thompson — weren’t present. Although then it would’ve been quite a crowd scene, underscoring the complete political and ideological vacuum at the hollow heart of the GOP.