After six months of debates, it was high time that at least 90 minutes of the country’s popular political reality show be devoted to the primary responsibility of the presidency: foreign policy. The results of the aptly-named “Commander-in-Chief” debate broadcast on CBS did not revolutionize the race. Mitt Romney is still in the strongest position of any of the candidates. A good sense of humor can’t revive Rick Perry’s hopes and strong performances from Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann won’t get them into contention. But it did illustrate that Herman Cain’s weaknesses can’t be disguised forever by his unflappable temperament.
The debate illustrated again that the divide in the GOP presidential field on foreign policy is between those who know what they are talking about and those who don’t. A clear grasp of war and peace issues won’t transform Rick Santorum into a first tier candidate from an also-ran. But his lack of command of the issues does make it difficult, if not impossible, for Herman Cain to put forward a plausible argument for himself as a potential president.
The debate ends.
Some clear winners and losers. Romney, Gingirch, Santorum and Bachmann all sound strong. Perry makes a good impression considering his disastrous performance earlier in the week. Cain sounds weak and uncertain. This is his weakest performance yet. No surprise since it’s something he doesn’t know that much about. Huntsman and Paul are out of step and irrelevant.
Again, the bottom line is that Romney is still in the catbird seat for the nomination.
Interesting that the European economic crisis is just an afterthought in this debate.
Tonight’s Republican presidential debate in South Carolina may be just the latest episode in America’s favorite political reality show but it also give us a rare opportunity to hear the candidates try to articulate their positions on foreign policy. The results should be interesting even if not particularly insightful.
When it comes to foreign policy — which, despite our understandable emphasis on economics during what may turn out to be a double-dip recession, remains a president’s first and most important area of responsibility — there are two basic divides among the GOP hopefuls. In terms of policy, all but two, Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul, seek to associate themselves with the notion of American strength and the need to fight our enemies abroad though some seem more amenable at times to cutbacks in the Pentagon budget. But the even greater divide is the one between the candidates who can put forward a coherent worldview on war and peace issues and those who can’t.