After nine months on the periphery of the Republican race, tonight’s debate in Mesa, Arizona, was Rick Santorum’s opportunity to show he deserved to be considered a frontrunner. But instead of using the occasion to build on the surge that led him to the top of the national polls, the former senator flopped as Mitt Romney and Ron Paul pounded him unmercifully from the start of the evening to its finish. By the end of the night, the grim look on his face betrayed the effect of having to explain his stands on issues such as earmarks, being a “team player” in the Senate and his support for Arlen Specter and “No Child Left Behind.” Whereas in previous debates, he had been on the attack pointing out Romney’s inconsistencies, in Mesa, it was his turn to be on the defensive.
Though Romney was far from brilliant and took his own lumps over his own hypocritical positions on earmarks and healthcare, there was little question he emerged the victor if only because Santorum came across as both long-winded and surly. If recent polls in Michigan showed the Pennsylvanian’s momentum was slowing, this debate may have put a period on his brief moment in the lead. A good night for Santorum might have helped put him over the top in Michigan and maybe even in Arizona next week and done irreparable harm to Romney’s hopes. But we may look back at this night and say this moment was not only when Santorum began to fade but also when Romney salted away the nomination.
The debate ends. Winners: Romney Important victory for him. Gingrich does well. Loser: Santorum. A terrible night for him that may put an end to his surge.
Paul claims its a myth he can’t win. Dream on libertarians. Romney ignores question about misconceptions and sticks to his stump speech. Santorum ends with his main points but the smile is gone.
Paul slaughters Santorum on the idea of his being a “team player” while in the Senate leadership. Santorum is right but it sounds terrible. Another bad moment for Santorum.
Question about “No Child Left Behind” another bad moment for Santorum who is forced to apologize again for his vote on it. Romney takes shot at teacher’s unions and says he is for school choice. Gingrich tearing into educational system. Another strong moment for him. Paul: no reason for the federal govt. to be involved in education. He’s right about that.
Paul blames talk about stopping Assad on “neoconservatives.” Always comfortable bringing up conspiracy theories.
Santorum blasts Obama’s timidity on Syria. Blames it on his fear of Iran. Gingrich says dependence on foreign oil is part of the problem and blames Obama for stopping drilling. Says we should have our allies covertly knock off Assad. Gingrich: under Obama, as long as you’re an enemy of the U.S., you’re safe. Romney, Gingrich and Santorum all agree on Syria and Obama’s weakness.
New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell – who’s currently locked in a brutal primary battle with Rep. Steve Rothman because of state redistricting – is in hot water after a prominent supporter accused Rothman-backers of being more loyal to Israel than the United States.
Arab-American activist Aref Assaf penned a column blasting those who support Rothman over Pascrell, claiming their choice is solely based on “blind support for Israel”:
“As total and blind support for Israel becomes the only reason for choosing Rothman, voters who do not view the elections in this prism will need to take notice. Loyalty to a foreign flag is not loyalty to America’s,” Assaf wrote in an article for the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
Join us tonight as senior online editor Jonathan S. Tobin live blogs the Republican presidential debate taking place tonight in Mesa, Arizona. So tune in to CNN at 8 pm and then log on to Commentarymagazine.com for live insights as the final four candidates have at it once again in their first gathering in nearly a month and the last debate before the crucial Arizona and Michigan primaries next week.
On today’s New York Times op-ed page, Palestinian parliamentarian Mustafa Barghouti makes the argument that what his people need to do is to eschew terrorism and to concentrate their efforts on promoting peaceful protests against Israel. Barghouti believes the limited success of a hunger strike by a Palestinian imprisoned by Israel ought to show the way for an escalation of non-violent demonstrations that will embarrass the Jewish state and pave the way for statehood for his people.
This is something supporters of the Palestinians have long wished for because the obsession with violence that has characterized the Arab national movement’s politics has been difficult to defend. Israelis would also cheer an abandonment of terrorism even if it would boost the international standing of the Palestinians. But the notion that a new round of peaceful protests against Israel has anything to do with the promotion of peace or the creation of an independent Palestinian state is pure fiction. That’s because the Palestinians need not resort to terror or to non-violent demonstrations or protests of any kind in order to achieve those goals. All they have to do is have their leaders negotiate with Israel and to be willing to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn. Unfortunately, that is the one thing no Palestinian leader or activist such as Barghouti appears willing to do.
If Iran’s goal is to convince the world its nuclear program is not aimed at creating a weapon to use against Israel, it’s going about it the wrong way. Tehran’s government-run Farsi News Agency has published an interview with the widow of one the nuclear scientists who was recently killed under mysterious circumstances that most observers believe is the work of Israel’s Mossad or some group in its employ. But rather than attempt to tug at the heartstrings of the West or to convince the world her husband was innocent of any intention of using his work to attack the Jewish state, Fatemeh Bolouri Kashani’s statement will have quite the opposite effect.
According to Kashani, her late husband, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, a chemistry professor and a deputy director of commerce at Natanz uranium enrichment facility until he was killed last month, had strong feelings about his work: “Mostafa’s ultimate goal was the annihilation of Israel.”
Pro-choice groups have been pushing back against a Virginia bill that would require women to undergo ultrasounds before an abortion procedure. The complaints are the ultrasounds are needlessly invasive, not medically necessary, and would be forced on women seeking abortions, even if they don’t want them.
This criticism misses one crucial point: Planned Parenthood policy already requires ultrasounds before abortion procedures.
Leave it to Chris Christie to say what all the other Republican politicians are thinking, but don’t have the guts to say about Warren Buffett:
Piers Morgan: Warren Buffett keeps screaming to be taxed more.
Chris Christie: Yeah, well, he should just write a check and shut up. Really. And just contribute. Okay? I mean, the fact of the matter is, that I’m tired of hearing about it. If he wants to give the government more money, he has the ability to write a check. Go ahead and write it.
The New York Times has a “news analysis”–usually code for “front-page, signed editorial”–lamenting the American public’s appetite for countering the Iranian regime’s attempts to build nuclear weapons. The conceit of the story is that this is a rerun of the war in Iraq, where the supposed existence of a nuclear weapons program spurred the West to form a coalition to depose Saddam Hussein.
“Echoes of the period leading up to the Iraq war in 2003 are unmistakable,” Scott Shane tells us, “igniting a familiar debate over whether journalists are overstating Iran’s progress toward a bomb.” And who is debating the veracity of reporters’ accounts? “Both the ombudsman of the Washington Post and the public editor of the New York Times in his online blog have scolded their newspapers since December for overstating the current evidence against Iran in particular headlines and stories.” So it is the New York Times accusing the New York Times of beating the drums of war. Let’s take a look at some of the other parallels.
Among conservatives today, there’s a phrase that has become an all-purpose term of derision: “the establishment.” The purpose of the charge is to call into question the bona fides of self-proclaimed conservatives and Republicans. The choice is supposed to be between “true” conservatives and “establishment” ones.
I wonder, though, how many conservatives who rail against the establishment these days realize they are appropriating language from the 1960s, when the New Left attacked the authority structures in society and presented themselves as “anti-establishment.” Back in those days, it was conservatism which saw its role to protect society from the radical tendencies of those on the left and defend the beneficial social effects of an establishment. Yet today, even so quintessential an establishment figure as Newt Gingrich explains opposition to his candidacy chiefly in terms of opposition by the “Washington establishment” rising up to block “bold change.”
Tonight’s presidential debate in Mesa, Arizona, is rightly be touted as a crucial moment in the Republican race. Much has changed in the weeks since the GOP candidates were brought together in front of the television cameras. Rick Santorum, whose strong showings in the Florida debates were not thought to signify any real hope of his being the nominee, is now leading in the national polls. Mitt Romney, who was hoping to create an aura of inevitability, is now struggling to stay ahead of Santorum in his home state of Michigan, and Newt Gingrich has sunk to last place in some surveys and must fight the belief he no longer has a ghost of a chance of victory.
But while Santorum will enjoy being in the center of the stage rather, as up until now he has been relegated to the sides, he will also have to cope with being the object of attacks from both Romney and Gingrich in a way that he has never had to deal with in the many debates that have preceded this one. While all the participants, save Ron Paul, have something to prove tonight, the outcome may turn largely on one question: which Rick Santorum shows up in Mesa? Will it be the confident, relaxed and personable Santorum who has done so well in the previous encounters and whose image is as a caring father and clean politician who is not willing to engage in mudslinging? Or will it be the angry culture warrior whose obsessions with gays, contraception and abortion have become the liberal caricature of conservatism in the last week?
Rick Santorum is trying to dodge questions about a 2008 speech, where he suggested that “Satan” was planning to infiltrate the United States. If he thought he’d be able to avoid addressing this during a general election campaign, he was kidding himself. Americans may be religious, but they’re not looking for a president who chalks up our societal problems to meddling by the devil.
The Satan comments aren’t Santorum’s only problem this week. His alleged private conversation with Sheriff Joe Arpaio about the veracity of Obama’s birth certificate is also something he needs to respond to:
Arpaio said he plans to endorse one of the four remaining GOP candidates in the coming weeks. But the sheriff added he would not make his choice known before he announces the findings of his birth certificate probe at a news conference set for March 1. This endorsement would be his second in the race; in November 2011, he endorsed then-candidate Rick Perry.
Santorum, he said, seemed to have no problem with the nature of his investigation.
“He had no problems with what I told him that I may be doing,” Arpaio told reporters.
The sheriff said he is conducting the investigation after receiving requests from “the Tea Party.”
I have previously blogged on the unfounded accusations being made by Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis, an army acquisitions officer who claims the entire high command in Afghanistan is guilty of lying because it sees progress, admittedly fragile and reversible, but progress nevertheless. He has been hailed as a great whistle-blower in the New York Times and the halls of Congress, but he is hardly that. Joe Collins, a retired army colonel who now teaches at the National War College, does a masterly job of dismantling Davis’s specious report called, “Dereliction of Duty II.” Collins writes:
I was prepared for a real critique and came away profoundly disappointed. Every veteran has an important story, but this work is a mess. It is not a successor piece to HR McMaster’s book on the Joint Chiefs during Vietnam, or Paul Yingling’s critique of U.S. generalship that appeared in Armed Forces Journal a few years back.