Update: Video highlights at HA.
Bottom line: No knock-out punches, no fireworks. None of the candidates have changed their mind on anything since the last debate. And they probably didn’t change any viewers’ minds about them tonight.
I remain totally….uninspired.
Debunking the AP spin: I see that the BDS victims at the Associated Press are trying to frame the debate as some sort of newfangled bash-Bush-fest with “startling criticsm” of the president. Newsflash: There wasn’t any substantive criticism of Bush tonight on the war and immigration that hadn’t already been aired in the past two debates–or the last six months, for that matter. Next time, just try writing the story straight.
Oh, never mind.
Pet peeves of the night. Derb:
“Rudy is way out ahead of the field. I still wish he’d stop saying “The reality is…” It’s the second most annoying speech mannerism in the campaign so far, behind McCain repeatedly enlisting me in his circle of frie[n]ds.”
The reality is, I second that, my friends.
Update: Post-debate vid of Ann Coulter spanking Fred Thompson for his split Clinton impeachment vote.
CNN’s hosting a GOP debate in New Hampshire. HA open thread here. Format: A journalist panel asks questions. Follow-up questions from Wolf Blitzer. Second half – Citizen participation. “Honor system” with no bells. No opening statements, but five-second intros allowed.
Gov. Mike Huckabee gets the biggest laugh for his intro: “I’m Mike Huckabee, from a town called Hope. You may have heard of it. All I ask you is: Give us a second chance.”
CNN is having weird audio problems again right off the bat. Either that, or they have a bug zapper in their fancy studio.
First question to Romney about the war.
7:06pm Eastern. McCain asked if he read the NIE before the invasion of Iraq. He did not. “We did the right thing. The problem was the mismanagement of the conflict.”
To Sen. Brownback. Did you read the NIE? I don’t remember that report, but I held numerous hearings. Tomorrow, he will introduce a “three-state solution” for Iraq.
To Gilmore: Was it appropriate to approve authorization for the war without reading the NIE? They should have.
Question to McCain: Soldiers are dying in Iraq. What if situation on the ground doesn’t improve? “I think this strategy needs a chance to succeed.”
So far, there’s not much new ground being covered here that wasn’t covered in the May 3
or May 15 debates.
Thompson (yeah, he’s still there on stage) wants Iraq to vote on whether we should leave.
Ron Paul: The sooner they come home the better. We’re not making progress there and we should come home. Our national security is not threatened. We’re more threatened by staying. (Applause.)
Huckabee: It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog. We shouldn’t underestimate the enemy.
Tancredo: I didn’t support the surge. I hope it works. I hope I’m wrong.
Next line of questioning…
To Brownback: Did Bush make the right call in talking to Iran? I think we need to talk to them. We need to confront them aggressively with what they are.
To Duncan Hunter: Would you authorize the use of tactical nuke weapons against Iran. If there were no other way to respond.
To Giuliani: Part of the premise of talking to Iran is making clear that use of nukes is unacceptable. I’d prefer conventional…but doesn’t rule out nukes.
7:17pm Eastern. Giuliani does something that hasn’t been done yet in this debate: Criticize the Dems for their skittishness on acting tough with Iran during Sunday’s Dem debate. This is a real war. (Applause).
Romney: You don’t take options off the table…echoes Giuliani. “There’s a war going on.”
7:22pm Eastern. Next topic…immigration
To Tancredo: What are the consequences if S1348 becomes law? Answer: We’re not just talking about jobs or those who take advantage of welfare, education, etc. Question is whether we will survive. Will go after any Republican that votes for it, because Republicans can stop it. (Applause.)
Giuliani: Problem with this plan is that it has no unifying purpose. Compromises…it’s a typical Washington mess.
***7:25pm Eastern.*** Blitzer asks Romney to respond to McCain’s “silent amnesty” attack.
Romney: He’s my friend. He campaigned for me two times. My view is that we should enforce immigration laws. Romney has a problem with the Z visa. It allows people to come here illegally and stay here the rest of their lives.Simply not fair to allow them to get in front of the line. (Applause).
McCain: He repeats his “silent amnesty” line. To do nothing is silent, de facto amnesty. It’s a serious, national security problem. We need to act. If someone else has a better idea…
7:27pm Eastern. Other candidates raise their hands and say they do have better ideas (applause/laughter)…McCain still filibustering…
Giuliani responds to McCain’s claim about valid ID.
Romney asked what he would do with 12 million illegal aliens? Answer: Enforce the law as it exists.
New question about illegals doing the jobs Americans won’t do….
Duncan Hunter: Corrects the premise by reminding the journalist that Americans were lined up to take the jobs illegal aliens had been doing before the Swift raids.
7:34pm Eastern…Blitzer – If there’s someone here who doesn’t think English should be the official language, say so.
McCain mentions treaties in Arizona negotiated in Navajo. Ooookay.
He then segues into another pitch for the shamnesty plan.
Gilmore takes a shot at Rudy McRomneySon. Not a conservative ticket. Takes a shot at Thompson: “We don’t know who he is?”
Tommy Thompson on Fred Thompson: Do we need another Thompson? Cheesy answer: Anyone with that name is welcome. Ho, ho, ho. It’s this Thompson, not the actor, that’s the conservative.
7:39pm Eastern. Lightning interrupt Giuliani’s audio while answering a question about Catholic bishops, abortion. Other candidates jokingly step away.
The audio is total crap.
Romney: I’m not going to apologize for the fact that I became pro-life.
Discussion of evolution, faith.
Next topic…global warming.
7:47pm Eastern. Giuliani accepts the Gore talking points on climate change. Giuliani’s audio goes out again. Advocates energy independence.
To Romney: Blitzer says there’s a perception that Republicans are close to Big Oil. Too much of an alliance?
Romney bashes oil companies. Says they’re making a lot of money, need to reinvest in refineries.
Romney sounds like Hillary.
McCain has a problem with oil companies making profits, too.
Ugh. Is this the GOP debate or the Democrat debate?
Next topic…will you allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military? Asks Giuliani about Arabic translators dismissed for announcing their sexuality.
Giuliani says it’s not the time to deal with disruptive issues. Rely on judgment of commanders.
Romney asked about “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Romney flip-flopped. Opposed, now supports. Doesn’t want to talk about it.
McCain: We have the best trained, best equipped military in history (applause). Would be mistake to re-open debate. The policy is working. This is the very best, let’s not tamper with it.
8:00pm Eastern. How would you use George W. Bush in your administration?
Thompson would send him out as a spokesperson for public service. Agh. Is he running for Miss America or president?
Blitzer: What’s happened to the GOP?
Huckabee: We’ve lost credibility. Got what we deserved. Katrina bungled. Indifference to people pouring over our borders. (Applause)
Duncan Hunter asked about pardoning of Libby. Chris Matthews already asked this during the May 3 debate.
Hunter would pardon Border Patrol agents Compean and Ramos first.
Giuliani argues Libby’s sentence was excessive.
Romney – Prosecutor went on political vendetta. I would keep my options open.
806pm Eastern. Part II coming up. Citizen questions. Selected from pool of Republicans and Independents likely to vote GOP. Candidates seated.
Here we go…
1) Erin Flanagan, sister of a soldier killed in Iraq in 2005. What would you do to bring the parties together to safely bring our troops home?
Duncan Hunter thanks her for brother’s service. Mentions his son is serving in Iraq. Advocates standing up the Iraqi Army.
Brownback. It’s not about leaving and being defeated. Repeats his three-state solution.
McCain stands up. Thanks Flanagan and prepares for straight talk. Acknowledges mismanagement, believes we can win.
2) Cynthia Kiernan, husband served in Iraq. How do you prepare Iraqi people for government after living under oppression?
Ron Paul: Just leave. Can’t enforce our goodness like the neo-cons preach. It doesn’t work and we have to admit it. (Applause)
Rudy Giuliani. Also stands up. Thanks Kiernan’s husband and Flanagan. I believe your sacrifice is one of the reasons we are safe here. Overthrowing Saddam Hussein – one of the greatest military accomplishments in our history. Now need to help put an orderly society in place.
Excellent rejoinder from Giuliani to earlier question about Petraeus and what will happen if he reports no progress in Iraq.
Suppose Petraeus reports that there has been progress in Iraq by the fall? Will media report as prominently if Petraeus reports progress than if he doesn’t?
Health care questions next. I wish Tommy Thompson would stop waving his arms around and sit down. Preferably, off the stage.
8:30mpm Eastern. Morals questions.
Huckabee speaks eloquently on the value of human life, from birth to death. “It’s the fundamental thing that makes us unique and keeps us free.”
Q from Blitzer to Giuliani. What is the most pressing moral issue of the day?
Peace. Sharing our gifts with the rest of the world.
Ron Paul: Most pressing issue – promoting preemptive war. Rants against GOP candidates who won’t take nuclear action against Iran–“a country that has done us no harm directly”–off the table. (Applause.)
8:37pm Eastern. Question from an airline agent about Romney flip-flopping on immigration and hosting Spanish-language ads on his website after endorsing English as official language. Romney has a long exhortation about enforcing the borders, supporting legal immigrants, opposing rewards for illegal aliens.
No reaction, no applause. The answer fell flat.
Tancredo: We need English language to hold us together. (applause)
McCain ribs Romney: “Governor, muchas gracias.” (some applause)
McCain argues for his shamnesty by pointing out that Hispanics died in the Vietnam War and are serving in Iraq. (applause)
Question: How do we prevent another electoral defeat?
McCain: Spending, spending, spending, spending. We’ll end spending and stop the corruption.
Giuliani: I’d establish accountability in Washington. Washington is a mess.
The question is what was biggest Bush’s mistake.
8:45pm Eastern. For some reason, Brownback is talking about ending cancer. Huh?
8:47pm Eastern. Gilmore blasts the amnesty, spending, and then turns on Hillary for supporting higher taxes. I think that’s only the second time one of the GOP candidates has mentioned the Dems.
More immigration discussion.
8:51pm Eastern. McCain pitching his shamnesty again, draped in Reagan and the Statue of Liberty.
Woman asks how to bring in more moderate Republicans.
Did the Democrats get asked how to bring in more conservative Democrats?
8:55pm Eastern. Pointing to Romney/Giuliani/McCain, Duncan Hunter says: Let’s move away from the Ted Kennedy wing of the GOP!
Giuliani answers the questioner, ignores Hunter: Elect me.
Attacks Dems for not being able to say the phrase “Islamic terrorism.”
McCain echoes Giuliani on Islamic extremist ideology. “I am prepared to lead…in this titanic struggle. But we will prevail.”
That’s the last word.
Switching over to Fox for Fred Thompson’s appearance on H&C.
FT: “I’d rather be here with you.”
Assessment of the GOP debate. Dismissively says: “They did alright.”
Thompson plugs his website: Imwithfred.com
Hannity: Are you going to announce something on the Fourth of July?
FT: We haven’t decided on a date. Blahblahblah.
(MM: I’ve already made my annoyance with the toe-dipping clear. Here.)
Video highlights here.