Commentary Magazine


LIVE: Blogging the Republican Candidate Debate, Part Two

The debate is over. I think at the end, as I thought throughout, that it changed nothing.

Moderator Carolyn Washburn has just made the worst demand in the history of debating: Offer a New Year’s resolution for somebody else on stage. She is the editor of the Des Moines Register. It must not be a very good paper.

McCain is asked when he wished he would have compromised on his ideals. He says he can’t think of a time.

Completely pointless observation: For a very tall man, Fred Thompson still has an uncommonly huge head.

Duncan Hunter is attacking Mitt Romney for having a company that funded a Chinese corporation’s effort to buy an American defense contractor. I don’t know the case, and chances are Hunter is being unfair, but thank G-d somebody is going after somebody else at long last.

Romney says it’s incredibly important that the next president should be a conservative. We need to follow Ronald Reagan’s model: social conservatives, economic conservatives and foreign policy conservatives. I want to draw on those strengths. Very strong answer.

Huckabee’s faith means, he says, that the poor and the rich should have the same health care and education.

Quick call on the debate: Romney is very good. Huckabee is fine. Thompson is intelligent and thoughtful, but still not totally engaged. Giuliani is very fluid. McCain seems a little reduced in stature, for some reason. I don’t see much change coming out of this.

Character question for Giuliani: My government in New York City was very transparent. I’m used to it, I’m used to being analyzed, I haven’t had a perfect life and I wish I had. I’ve had an open transparent government and an open transparent life.

Giuliani: I’ve been tested by having to show leadership through a crisis — not just 9/11 but as a U.S. attorney and a mayor. We have problems we haven’t solved — terrorism, the border. We need an optimistic leader who can bring us solutions.

Romney: I know how to keep America strong. I know a lot about the economy. I know a lot about health care and the economy. And I know a lot about values. “And to the People of Iowa, I need your help, I’d like your vote.”

Alan Keyes says he would, upon assuming the presidency, instantly commit himself to an asylum. Okay, he didn’t say that.

John McCain: I can lead, I can inspire confidence and restore confidence in government.

Mike Huckabee: The first priority of the next president is to bring all the people together. We’re too polarized. The left is fighting the right — who is going to bring this country together again? We need to be the united people of a United States. This guy has a way of saying absolutely nothing and making it sound deeply meaningful.
Romney says we need to fight global jihad, reduce the size of government, and have stronger families with stronger values.

Thompson says he would go before the American people and “tell them the truth.” I’d tell them that we need to fight the enemy, that we’re bankrupting the next generation, that judges are setting the social policy in this country and that’s got to stop, and tell Congress we need to work together.

Rudy Giuliani says in the first year he would confront Islamic terrorism, end illegal immigration, and move to achieve energy independence. “You need bold leadership to accomplish that.”

Mike Huckabee says he has had the most executive experience of anyone on stage. Smart.

Thompson says the biggest obstacle to education is the National Education Association.

Alan Keyes inserts himself on education. He complains about how he is being treated unfairly. He is a deeply unpleasant buffoon.

Huckabee says we need to “personalize” learning for students who drop out because they’re bored to death. We need to build a curriculum around their interests. Unleash “weapons of mass instruction.” We need to teach the right side of the brain with the same energy as the left.

Romney gives an extraordinarily good and detailed answer on education.

Duncan Hunter cites Jaime Escalante as his model on education. This is like listen to an Oldies station. Twenty years ago, I wrote words of praise about Jaime Escalante as a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan to speak.

Rudy Giuliani says parents should choose the school their child can go to. In America, higher education is the best in the world and there’s total consumer choice.

John McCain says on education, we need more choice and more competition. We need more charter schools, we need more vouchers where it’s approved locally, need more home schooling, need to be able to pay good teachers more and fire bad teachers. Odd praise for Mike Bloomberg’s work on public education, which doesn’t deserve much praise; is that a strange shot at Giuliani?

Mike Huckabee says Americans are looking for leadership, looking for change, want politicians not to be a ruling class, but a serving class. When we are elected, we are not elected to be elevated up but to truly remember what we’re looking for. Trying to help Americans be the very best they can be.

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