Right Wing News Analysis Of The CNN Republican National Security Debate

All in all, Wolf Blitzer did a reasonably good job of running the debate, although it was a bit annoying when the questions veered towards the deficit. Sure, it’s justifiable in a broad sense, but it turned out to be a waste of time given the number of serious foreign policy issues that weren’t discussed.

On the upside, other than Ron Paul, all the candidates had a reasonably good night. Here’s the breakdown, which changed just a bit for me after I paged through my notes.

8) Ron Paul: This was Paul at his absolute worst. He came across like a scary crank, complete with lots of weird gestures and facial expressions — who wants to shut down all security procedures, let Al-Qaeda run wild, and hope for the best. He also advocated legalizing all drugs and came across like a press agent for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. In other words, on national security, Paul sounds like the sort of lunatic you’d see on a street corner wearing a sandwich board and screaming about the end of the world — and really, that’s NOT TOO HARSH. The idea of this guy being in charge of anything having to do with national security is terrifying.

7) Herman Cain: He’s obviously been studying up and he didn’t sound bad or out of his depth. It was just a very competitive, knowledgable group of people up there and although Cain sounded fine, everyone else was so good it was hard for him to compete with the rest of the field in an area that’s not his strong point.

6) Michele Bachmann: Early on, Bachmann sounded fantastic. She was knowledgable, measured, and her line about Pakistan,”too nuclear to fail,” was genius. I had her in the two slot halfway through the debate.

Unfortunately, she went off the rails and pulled a “Gardasil” on Newt Gingrich. She clearly misinterpreted what he was saying about illegal immigration. She then went on to do it again when there was no question that she was 100%, absolutely, unquestionably wrong about her interpretation of his comments. She was even doing it after the debate in interviews on CNN. I’m sorry to say this because I really like and respect Michele Bachmann a lot, but it made her sound absolutely horrible. It’s the Gardasil fixation that helped wreck her campaign before, all over again.

5) Rick Santorum: Santorum sounded knowledgeable, but he’s just not a particularly likable guy. Also, I’m just going to tell you something: The American people will never, ever vote a President into office who wants to profile people in airports based solely on their religion. Could you profile? Sure. But, religion-based profiling alone would run afoul of the way Americans view themselves. Is there a middle ground that could be found? I think so, but Santorum is not going to be the guy to find it.

4) Rick Perry: He was up-to-speed. He sounded solid. He got off a couple of good lines: “I don’t think anyone is surprised the supercommittee failed. It was a superfailure” and “If Leon Panetta is an honorable man, he would resign in protest.” Still having a long discussion about his idea of potentially putting a no-fly zone over Syria didn’t come across well because it’s not a great idea. Also, again, competition was extremely fierce. This could still help Perry because if you’re looking for evidence that he can go into a debate and hold his own, well, he certainly did it tonight.

3) Jon Huntsman: Yes, he’s grating and it’s impossible to imagine his ever being the nominee, but Huntsman sounded extremely competent and knowledgable on foreign policy. He just knows his stuff and he deserves third place.

2) Newt Gingrich: Newt was, as per usual, better than everybody else on every single question — except one. Even on that one, he didn’t so much say something as wrong, as say something that will needlessly alarm conservatives and give the other campaigns’ supporters an opportunity to deliberately misinterpret what he said.

Today, you will hear people saying Newt gave the thumbs up to the DREAM Act and giving amnesty to 11 million illegal aliens.

He absolutely, unconditionally did not do that.

So, what did he do?

He said that he agrees with the DREAM ACT in one area: that illegals who served in the military should be able to acquire citizenship. Honesty, I don’t think that’s something that even most diehard anti-illegal immigration advocates would disagree with. I’m certainly okay with it.

The other issue was that Newt said that after the border is secured, he didn’t think the American people would be okay with kicking people out of the country who’ve been here for 25 years and have ties in the community. So, Newt said that he thought people like that should be allowed to stay, but not given citizenship.

Newt’s definitely right about how the American people will react. Also, in and of itself, what he’s suggesting wouldn’t necessarily be a horrible thing. In fact, in the real world, he’s probably suggesting the starting point of what a negotiation would look like down the road after the borders are secure and illegals can’t get jobs here anymore.

HOWEVER — and this is a big HOWEVER….he should have punted that question to begin with because it will scare people — and there are reasons it should scare people.

For one, there’s absolutely no reliable way to determine who has been in this country for 25 years when you’re dealing with people who use phony names and fake Social Security numbers. Also, the number of people who fall into the category Newt is suggesting is tiny. That’s the theoretical. In practice, there would be a lot of people in Congress pushing to give full citizenship to anyone who mails in a power bill to whatever understaffed federal agency we’d have rubber-stamping every application.

In any case, this is part of the sausage-making process that probably isn’t going to occur for a long, long time. The potential added benefit for Newt in discussing it is that it could make it a little easier for him to appeal to Hispanics in the general. The downside is that it reminds me a little of Rand Paul’s discussion of the “Civil Rights Act” during the 2010 campaign. It’s not a good idea to have a discussion about a largely non-relevant subject that’s easy to demagogue during the middle of a competitive primary.

So, despite the fact that Newt was extraordinary in the debate and many people may legitimately think he won, he takes just enough of a hit for delving into that topic that he allowed Mitt to take first.

1) Mitt Romney: Seemed competent. Knowledgable. Made no significant mistakes. Pounded on Ron Paul at every opportunity. Raised his voice at times, which is sort of his approximation for passion. All in all, it was another consistently good performance for him, but this time, Newt made a small mistake that allowed him to eke out a win.

Summary: Although this debate SHOULDN’T hurt Gingrich, it’s possible that it will if it gets people worried about his illegal immigration stance (I think his stance is fine and this may turn out to be a needless worry).

Also, ironically, if I were picking the people most likely to be helped by this debate, it would probably be Huntsman (who overperformed) along with Cain and Perry (who exceeded what were probably very low expectations most people had of them).

Update #1: I’d estimate that at least 3/4 of the conservative blog/MSM accounts of Newt’s immigration comments so far are misleading or just plain wrong.

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