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November, 28th 2007

Final round

– Liz Mair

Rudy starts it off with a tabloid-tastic ad that feels like something the Monster Raving Loony Party would endorse. He took on King Kong and made it snow less. How can anyone object to that?

Rudy gives a great answer, seriously, about repairing America's image abroad and in the Muslim world, most specifically-- and underlines very well that we are not at war with Islam, and Muslims like the questioner. Count me impressed.

McCain gets onto winning in Iraq, and the heat he took over his criticism of the manner in which the war was being fought under Rumsfeld's tenure.

Hunter wants to fix America's reputation by reminding everyone about all the good stuff America has done.

***

Romney takes a tough question on torture and interrogation techniques. He seems to me to bunt by saying that it's not wise for presidential candidates to discuss what methods they would and would not use to combat terrorism. And he brings up Guantanamo and wanting to keep it open. I think McCain's going to go ballistic about this.

McCain is "astonished" that Romney doesn't know what waterboarding is. Romney says he does. But he refused to discuss it. I'm on McCain's side here-- Romney's answer was crap. He brings in references to Pol Pot. Smart move. And he also alludes to th fact that the military doesn't believe that techniques like waterboarding work-- a point on which he's correct, of course.

Romney appreciates McCain's strong response. I doubt it, however. Romney's on about keeping techniques secret again. He's just said he's gotten advice on this from generals. I can't imagine McCain will let that pass.

McCain says in that case, Romney had better withdraw us from the Geneva Convention. He says waterboarding is clearly torture. And life is not 24. McCain underlines that a key general in Iraq doesn't think we need to use techniques like waterboarding, and that the techniques allowed by the Army Field Manual work just fine.

***

Thompson doesn't want to be in Iraq longer than necessary. But he doesn't know how long that means we stay. Fair enough. Thompson is vested in a scenario of victory.

Paul says the best commitment we can make to the Iraqis is to give them their country back. He's talking about what he thinks has happened in the South, and raising Vietnam again. I predict another McCain hammering.

***

Yup. McCain looks pissed. He says we didn't lose in Vietnam. Public opinion forced the loss there. He's pointing out some differences between Vietnam and Iraq, also, namely that the Vietnamese communists wanted a worker's paradise, not a base for launching future terrorist attacks.

Paul is back onto why Al Qaeda wanted to come here. At least this time he's got right that one of the things Al Qaeda was pissed off about, back in the day, was US presence in Saudi Arabia. Last time he went down this road, it was US bombing of Iraq (a totally farcical notion).

Tancredo gets a word in, too.

***

Sam Garcia from Colorado asks Rudy is he's running on 9/11. Rudy says he wants people to look at his entire record. I think that's increasingly true, but there's still some veracity to the jokes about most of Rudy's sentences involving noun+verb+9/11. Rudy's talking about going after the mob. This is new stuff for the debates, anyway, and I think he should talk about it more. He's talking about reducing welfare, taxes, abortions and everything else. Rudy specifically says he is not qualified because of 9/11, but rather because he's been tested, all round.

***

Thompson thinks the cartoon of Cheney looks like him. Thompson says he'll pick a VP on his basis to serve, if required. He thinks a VP should be given quite a bit of authority in foreign policy and security areas. He doesn't really answer the question.

McCain's giving some Straight Talk. Bush didn't have as much national security/defense experience as McCain has, so his VP would probably take a lesser role in those areas than Cheney.

***

A question about Don't Ask, Don't Tell. This should be interesting-- and tough for a few of them, especially since the guy who asked the question is in the audience.

Hunter references Colin Powell, and talks about the link between the military and conservative values. He thinks overturning DADT would be bad for unit cohesion.

Huckabee talks about conduct. Interestingly, though, in my view DADT could be overturned and still have problematic conduct on the part of gays and lesbians dealt with, perfectly sufficiently. DADT is not, I don't think, necessary to deal with the kind of individual action that members of the military (in my experience) usually raise as an issue.

Romney just got called out on a big change of position on DADT, and basically bunted on the issue. "We're in a war, now is not the time," etc.

McCain is also giving the "what the military guys say" answer-- but I'm impressed that he does it so much more respectfully than the others.

***

Huckabee will take support from the Log Cabin Republicans, even given differences over gay marriage and civil unions and the like. I don't think he'll ever be in a position to take that support, mind you.

***

And now we're back to the national debt question, and the depletion of the Social Security trust fund, too.

Thompson says he'd protect younger Americans from older Americans. Thompson sees Social Security as a fiscal and moral issue.

Romney seems to be ripping a page from his stump speech. This actually sounds like a good answer, though following Thompson, it's obvious just how lacking in substance much of what Romney has to say is.

***

Space exploration? This is a favorite topic of one of my family members. Personally, it's not tremendously exciting to me.

Huckabee would expand the space program. He lost me for a minute saying we all benefited from having a space program, but now I get it-- he's talking technology that we use everyday, that came from the space program. OK. He also gets in a good Hillary-on-the-first-rocket-to-Mars line.

Tancredo makes the point that when we're trying to focus on reducing the debt, we don't need to spend more on the space program and that we can't be all things to all people. It's a rare day when I find myself agreeing with Tom Tancredo. But I did on that one.

***

A very good question: why don't more African-Americans vote Republican?

Rudy says it's because the GOP isn't very good at conveying its message to members of that community in relevant terms, but he starts talking about school choice. He also ties in welfare, and his success in moving people off welfare, and into work.

Huckabee says that he doesn't have a problem getting African-Americans to vote for him, because he asked them for their votes in Arkansas and not just before the election. He's quite right about the GOP needing to reach out, generally.

Romney can't figure out what to say about the Stars and Bars. He seems pretty opposed to the flag, and seems to think the question is a waste of time. He says the flag is divisive and shouldn't be shown. I wonder whether this is going to be an issue for him in South Carolina. Sure, it's off the public buildings there now, but McCain taking a similar line caused an uproar in 2000.

Thompson gets the answer about right, I think. The flag has a lot of connotations, good and bad, etc.

***

We're onto bridges now. Rudy has to answer. You get the impression he's trying to avoid mentioning New York City, but he can't avoid it. He gets into what sounds like accountancy rules. Now, I'm rather lost.

Ron Paul talks about all the bridges we're doing things with overseas and how we're doing nothing at home. He says America is going bankrupt, but throws in his "get the government off our backs and out of our wallets" thing.

McCain just references the Bridge to Nowhere. And brings up the line-item veto and says Rudy loves his pork! Wow!

Rudy calls what McCain just pulled a side shot. He keeps pointing out that the line-item veto is unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court has said so, no matter what McCain says. He does the "not bad to have a Republican beat Bill Clinton" line as well.

And, we seem to have a Paultard who wants Paul to run as an independent. Paul says he has no intention of running as an independent. He even had a rally in Philly with flags and Hispanics, too! And he doesn't know how to spend the money he's raised.

And Giuliani gets a baseball question! It's all about the American League fan thing. He says the Yankees are going to beat the Red Sox next year. Rudy says when he was mayor, the Yankees won four world championships. Since he's left, they've won none. Pretty funny stuff!

Romney says like most Americans, the Romneys love their sports teams and hate the Yankees. Actually pretty funny.

UPDATE: Phil Klein spots some possible evidence that Romney's a faux Red Sox fan.

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