1. I agree with other observers, that Fred Thompson won by not being there. While the others were jumbled together and made to vie for time in a Hardball-like format, Thompson’s stature only grew by not being reduced to that level.
2. Duncan Hunter had terrific, concise, understandable answers on the following topics: a) “standing up” the Iraq military; b) the border fence; c) eliminating manufacturing taxes. He also was the only one who did not equivocate on the Terry Schiavo case, saying the congressional action was “the right thing to do.” That was a big signal to the pro-life community that he has guts to stand against the tide of “elite” opinion.
3. John McCain did a good job when asked about which Democrat other than Lieberman he would invite into his Cabinet. Rather than go with a politician, McCain talked about going to innovators and business leaders such as ones in Silicon Valley and saying “Now, come serve your country.” He effectively took a political question and raised it above politics, into the realm of patriotism. He has a unique ability to pull that off — because it really is genuine from him, straight from his heart.
4. Romney did a great job on turning around a loaded question on religion by saying: “I don’t say ANYthing to Roman Catholic bishops.” They have the absolute right, he said, to take stances within their faith. (This short summation does not do justice to the effectiveness, and appropriateness, of his answer.)
5. Rudy Giuliani had the worst answer of the night. It was part of his answer on abortion. Conservative blogs are blasting him for his overall answer, but I haven’t seen anybody blast him for the most egregious specific aspect of his answer, which has less to do with his exact position on abortion than it does on his position on the overall role of the judiciary. Here’s the transcript:
MR. MATTHEWS: [On Roe v Wade] Okay to repeal? MR. GIULIANI: It would be okay to repeal. Or it would be okay also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent, and I think a judge has to make that decision.
MR. MATTHEWS: Would it be okay if they didn’t repeal it?
MR. GIULIANI: I think that — I think the court has to make that decision, and then the country can deal with it. We’re a federalist system of government, and states could make their own decisions.
Here’s what is wrong with that answer: It makes the judge, or the court, into the arbiter, rather than the Constitution itself as the arbiter. It also is a mess of logic. If “the court has to make that decision, and then the country can deal with it,” then it is an absolute non sequitur to say that “states could make their own decisions.” He is saying that it is “okay” for the courts to repeal or NOT to repeal Roe, meaning the judges are all-knowing, rather than that the judges are bound by the Constitution, but in the next breath he says the states should decide, which could happen ONLY if the courts DO repeal Roe.
In short, the mayor’s answer shows either that he doesn’t know what he is talking about, or else that he believes the fundamentally unconservative notion that judges are supposed to act as Solomonic or perhaps Platonic tribunes of ultimate wisdom rather than as constitutional officers. Either way, the answer was horrendous.
MORE COMMENTARY ON THE DEBATE LATER…