Update 10:06pm Eastern. Okay, really, really last comment on the debate. Rudy tells FNC’s Carl Cameron that it was “unsatisfying.” That’s putting it politely.
Charles Krauthammer doesn’t mince words: “It’s the worst debate in Western history.”
And here’s the whole, insufferable transcript without snark added.
Update 8:49pm Eastern. Last comment on this debacle, I promise. You know what the forum was missing? That robot heckler. I would have loved to have seen Robot Heckler go head to head with Schoolmarm.
Scroll down for updates. The Des Moines Register’s Carolyn Washburn (a.k.a. Schoolmarm) is the moderator of the debate. She’s no plant, but she sure is a stick in the mud. Her line of the debate so far: “A little snappier, gentlemen!” An hour into the debate, there’s no pile-on on Huckabee. There’s no time for one. Schoolmarm won’t allow it! She did, however, find time to show time-wasting videos of the candidates answering questions from Register reporters–even though the candidates are standing in front of her on the stage.
Congratulations, Schoolmarm: Washburn managed to suck all the life and color out of one of the most contested, exciting, unpredictable campaign fields in recent history. She stamped out any attempts between the candidates to engage each other. Not a single question on immigration.
I think, quite frankly, I preferred the plants!
Post-debate analysis on FOX: Fred Barnes chooses the Nurse Ratched analogy. Yes, I think that one fits. How many of you agree? Show of hands! Show of hands!
Frank Luntz’s focus group raised its hands in support of Fred Thompson’s smackdown of Schoolmarm/Nurse Ratched (“It showed his strength/independence.”) Thanks to Allah for the vid:
Luntz says his group declared Romney the winner. Moderator was the loser. “Boring. Dull. Antagonistic. Hand-wringing.” Focus group members panned Huckabee. Luntz: “Not his finest moment.”
Outside Iowa, here are the latest poll numbers.
The show begins at 2pm. You’ll be able to tune in at the Des Moines Register website. I’ll liveblog anything noteworthy. Looks like it will be plant-free this time. There will, however, be several drag queens on stage.
Note: This is the last Republican debate before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.
Another note: Alan Keyes managed to squeeze himself onto the stage. (Update: He’s hijacked the debate. Here’s video.)
Over at Hot Air, Allah ponders what Mitt should do and prints some advice for Huckabee from Dean Barnett.
Liveblogging the debates…
2:04pm Eastern. Intros are out of the way. Alan Keyes has lost a lot of weight.
First question: The country’s financial situation. Is the debt a threat to our national security? 30 seconds each.
Giuliani: I believe it’s a major problem. We have to reduce government spending. Not rehire nearly half of the civilian government work force. And reduce taxes. Debt is a threat to economic security.
Hunter: Trade loss is a threat to national security. Stop China from cheating on trade.
Moderator is already chastising candidates for exceeding 30 seconds. Geez. She asked them to explain why the debt is a threat to our national security. In 30 seconds. And she’s rapping their knuckles?
Paul: It’s absolutely a threat to our national security.
Tancredo: Gives an animated yes answer.
Thompson: Thompson talks Social Security reform.
Romney: Overspending and overpromises are challenges, but this is not a time to wring our hands. Good jobs, good schools, good health care. Doesn’t really answer the question.
Huckabee: It’s most certainly a national security threat. Who feeds us, who fuels us, who helps us to fight.
McCain: Of course any nation that has no economic strength will lose military strength. We have got to achieve energy independence.
Keyes: It’s obviously a security threat. Abolish income tax.
Second question: What sacrifices would you ask Americans to make to lower the national debt?
Giuliani: Leave more money in pockets of American people. Cut non-military spending across the board.
Paul: No need to sacrifice, Just Cut the Empire!!!!!
Huckabee: No need to sacrifice, Just Do Things Differently!!!!
Question:Are there any programs worth running a deficit for?
Romney: Proposes Gore-style streamlining of government.
Tancredo: Follow the Constitution. Don’t ask the government for womb-to-tomb protection.
Thompson: Military, security of our people, our infrastructure, R&D. Obvious problem we’ve got to address: entitlements.
Question: Who in this country is paying more than their fair share of taxes? Wealthy. Middle-class. Poor. Corporations. 15 seconds.
Keyes: Goes off on elites. Upsets the schoolmarm moderator.
McCain: Reform the tax code.
Huckabee: Tax code is broken. I would adopt Fair Tax.
Romney: I don’t stay up at night worrying about taxes wealthy are paying. Worry about the middle-class.
Moderator: A little snappier, gentlemen!
Thompson gets first laugh of the day with joke about his tax burden.
Tancredo: Move away from current system.
Paul: Lambastes regressive taxes.
Hunter: IRS overhead. Fair tax or flatter tax.
Giuliani: One page tax form. Give the death penalty to the death tax.
2:24pm Eastern. We now interrupt the debate for a “free statement” segment where candidates can say whatever they want. This is weird.
McCain makes security statement.
Hunter talks about the border fence.
Back to the lightning round format. Question: What’s your plan for keeping foreign markets open while protecting good-paying American jobs. Another reminder from Schoolmarm to keep it quick.
Paul: Look at the monetary system.
Romney: Renegotiate trade deals.
Question: Should we alter trade policies with countries that violate human rights?
McCain: We should reexamine. I am the biggest free marketer you will see. I would eliminate ethanol subsidies (good for McCain!). They distort markets and destroy our ability to compete.
Giuliani: NAFTA is a good thing.
Question: What changes would you make to NAFTA.
Thompson: I have nothing in particular to point out.
Tancredo: NAFTA has been a disaster, especially in Mexico. Problems with NAFTA? Our lack of sovereignty. Borders unchecked. Trucks coming across unchecked.
2:32pm Eastern. More “Free Statements.”
Paul: Constitution was supposed to restrain government, now it restrains the people.
Thompson: The important issue facing our country is national security. I know the world we live in and I know what we need to do.
Question: How many of you believe global climate change is a serious threat and caused by human activity?
Thompson objects to hand shows. (Applause).
The format blows up. Everyone’s talking. Anarchy! Yes! The schoolmarm’s feathers are ruffled.
McCain: I’ve been involved in this issue since 2000. I know that climate change is real.
Giuliani: I agree with John. It’s real and it’s because of humans. I think our party should embrace this.
Romney: Get off of foreign oil. You can help environment and economy. Is it an issue for the world? Absolutely. Let’s not have the rest of the world skate by, though. It’s global warming, not America warming.
Keyes: Who represents overlooked voices? Betrayal of sovereignty. Bashes elites. He’s maaaad. The schoolmarm is madder.
My position on global warming? Control the hot air of the politicians in Washington!
2:41pm Eastern. More “Free Statements.”
Tancredo talks immigration.
Huckabee talks about the Founding Fathers, man from Hope-style mini-speech.
Question: What educational standards do we need?
McCain talks choice, homeschooling and then he commends NYC.
Obviously he hasn’t heard of Fuzzy Math.
Giuliani: Parents should make choices and standards, not Washington. Competition.
Hunter cites Jaime Escalante’s success story and inspiration.
Rep. Hunter, meet the tyranny of Fuzzy Math.
Hunter lashes unions for running Escalante out of the public schools.
Romney supports No Child Left Behind.
Agh. Gov. Romney, meet the failures of NCLB.
Huckabee: Music and arts for all.
Keyes inserts himself into the debate. “I would like to address the education issue.” Schoolmarm gives Keyes 30 seconds. He wants a minute like everyone else. He talks about the removal of God from the public square. “We have a national creed. We need a moral education.” Keyes looks and sounds like he’s going to tear someone’s head off.
Question: What is the biggest obstacle to education?
Paul: The federal government is the biggest obstacle. Parents have to get control of education.
Thompson: Biggest obstacle is the National Education Association.
2:54pm Eastern. Tancredo takes on Huckabee on education…He points out that Huckabee says he wants no government intervention and at the same time crusades for music and arts in the schools. Tancredo: “That’s not the president’s role. If you want to do that, run for governor.” (Applause.)
Romney takes on Huckabee’s education record. Cites Massachusetts test scores.
2:57pm Eastern. Another dumb question. Schoolmarm asks what the candidates would accomplish in their first term. In 30 seconds. Candidates reiterate much of what they’ve already been saying.
3:01pm Eastern. Huckabee gives a mini-I’m a uniter, not a divider speech.
3:04pm Eastern. More “Free Statements.”
Romney gives a generic, student body president speech. Alan Keyes gets 30 seconds to growl and plug his website. Giuliani gives 9/11 leadership speech.
3:06pm Eastern. Question – Character and leadership.
Inexplicably, Schoolmarm is now showing video of the candidates answering questions from Register reporters.
Pssst: The candidates are on the stage. What a waste of time, precious time.
Question: How would you guarantee an open White House?
3:13pm Eastern. More time-wasting videos.
3:22pm Eastern. Question – Please suggest a New Year’s resolution for one of your opponents. 15 seconds.
McCain: Let’s raise the level of discourse and debate in the campaign. Let’s all be respectful.
Huckabee: I’ll be a lot more careful of everything I say. And them, too.
Romney. We’ll come together when this is resolved.
Thompson: Be strong. Be a better man and husband.
Tancredo: Tancredo confronts Huckabee. How are you going to convince Americans that you have in fact changed your mind about immigration?
Hunter: Buy American goods.
Giuliani: Realize how lucky we are.
3:25pm Eastern. Schoolmarm: “We are out of time!”
She’s been saying that since the beginning of the debate.
Extra-curricular activities: Huckabee apologizes to Romney after the debate. Wouldn’t an apology during the debate–maybe during his “Free Statement”–have demonstrated better character?