Commentary Magazine


LIVE: Blogging the Republican Candidate Debate, Part One

Mike Huckabee is doing very well in this debate so far, which means he is winning it in a walk.

The worst question so far: “Mr. Keyes, what do you think?”

Rudy Giuliani and John McCain say climate change is real and Giuliani says we need energy independence to deal with it. Note he doesn’t use the term “nuclear.” Nor does Mitt Romney, who uses the term “new technologies.” “Nuclear” must poll really, really, really badly.

Fred Thompson refuses to be bullied by the debate moderator, who wanted candidates to raise their hands in answer to whether they believed climate change was the result of human action.

Tom Tancredo says we’re losing our sovereignty because Mexican trucks can cross our border without being checked.

Fred Thompson makes a commitment to free and fair trade.

Rudy Giuliani praises NAFTA. America should think about “free trade, global economy as things we want to embrace.”

John McCain, the world’s least pandering politician, attacks agricultural subsidies in Iowa.

Mitt Romney wants to create a “level playing field” on trade. In this way, as in so many others, you can see how a brilliant businessman has become a compulsively pandering pseudo-populist.

Ron Paul wants to open Cuba to the American market, which would, according to experts, contribute roughly 11 cents to the U.S. economy.

Duncan Hunter says he would finish the border fence with Mexico in six months when he is president, which is impressive, and in every respect, science-fictional.

John McCain says he has devoted his life to making our country safe. Claims responsibility for the surge. Has one “ambition: To keep America safe and maintain our greatness.”

Rudy Giuliani says he wants a flatter, fairer tax, reducing corporate taxes, and eliminate the inheritance tax (death tax).

Fred Thompson just said Mitt Romney was really rich. Romney essentially said, “Aw shucks.” Thompson said he’s becoming a good actor.

Mike Huckabee just said that his lunatic “fair tax” plan for a national sales tax might help “make poor people rich.”

Alan Keyes is literally ranting and raving.

Thompson “takes a risk”: He says we can’t afford entitlements at the level they are offered now. He’s going for the “I’m the truth teller” spot.

Quick first impression: Everybody is talking very softly, in measured terms. It’s said Iowans don’t like negative campaigning. The problem is that unless the candidates engage each other in debate, there will be no change in the dynamic of the race.

Ten minutes in. How to lower our debt? Giuliani says we need to restrain government spending, an important message for him to deliver in order to convince conservative voters that he is not a liberal. Giuliani uses the term “nanny government.” Ron Paul says we can cut government spending by looking to foreign policy: Isolationism as budgetary policy. Huckabee wants to reduce health care costs by moving to disease prevention rather than curing ills. Romney says he worked in the private sector, and wants to bring efficient methods of management to government — he’s trying to show his command of data about government waste. That’s good, but as usual, Romney is packing his answer with too much.

Five minutes in. So far, the debate indicates the degree to which the American economic debate has shifted toward protectionism. A question about the national debt has become the occasion for candidates to complain about foreign investment. Mike Huckabee claims the United States is no longer feeding itself, which is an astonishing thing to say about the world’s leading exporter of agricultural goods. John McCain says he will bring America to energy independence in five years, which suggests he will bring a magic wand to the White House. Alan Keyes is saying…what a minute, what on earth is ALAN KEYES doing here?