»  National Review Online

May 16th, 2007

  The Second Republican Debate

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Ron Paul  was asked: "Are you running for the nomination in the wrong party?" I forget what he said, but the actual answer is "Yes." Ron should be the candidate of the Constitution Party. The Republican Party is not a reliably conservative party. It is a slightly right-of-center party that American conservatives vote for grudgingly, because they believe that only the two big parties can ever win the Presidency, and Republican administrations are very slightly more likely to very occasionally enact conservative measures than are Democratic administrations.

Duncan Hunter  wants our political leaders to "listen to the generals." Well, sure. Of course politicians should take advice from their generals. Generals can be idiots too, though; and there is a long, very well-justified, tradition in the Anglosphere of scoffing at the stupidity and pig-headedness of military men. The contradiction here appeared in its most acute form in a recent issue of The American Conservative when a book reviewer, in order to heap scorn on the Bush administration for not taking the advice of its generals, repeatedly quoted from Siegfried Sassoon's poems mocking the stupidity of generals!

"He's a cheery old card," grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

etc., etc.

Mitt Romney:  "Cut out the unnecessary and wasteful [in govt. departments] … Let's make Washington more efficient …" As Jonah would say: BWAAH HA HA HA!

John McCain:  Enough with the drunken sailor joke already, John.

Mike Huckabee:  "Spending like John Edwards at a beauty shop." I never thought I'd be tempted to use the word "mean-spirited," but I am here. This is Coulter territory, Mike — it's marked out, like a minefield. Stay away.

Jim Gilmore:  Well, at least there was one question about the coming "perfect storm" that Fed Chairman Bernanke has been warning about — the one that hits in the next administration when swelling numbers of boomer retirees meet dwindling numbers of taxpaying young workers. But Gilmore side-stepped, of course. They all do. I'm willing to bet we shall get through the entire election season without hearing any candidate, from either party, speak honestly about this. Are we going to raise taxes (a lot), or reduce benefits (a lot)? Which one, candidates? Kitchen … light switch … roaches … etc.

Tom Tancredo:  Republicans have "lost the mantle of fiscal responsibility." Yep. It will be that, not "IRAQ," that goes on the tombstone of Bush Republicanism.

Jim Gilmore:  "Rudy McRomney." Well, a little humor is welcome. Can't we have some humor that is actually FUNNY, though? Is the nation really so short of comedy writers the pols can't hire a few into their campaign staffs?

John McCain:  "I will reach across the aisle." NO-O-O-O …

Sam Brownback  spoke approvingly of the 1986 immigration amnesty. You know, the one that inspired the 12 million or so illegals we currently have to try their luck. A lot, a lot, **A LOT** of education still to do on immigration issues with these candidates. Nobody mentioned (or asked about) LEGAL immigration, which seriously needs attention, especially the issues of chain migration and birthright citizenship.

Rudy Giuliani  was hit with Mike Huckabee's argument that to say you hate abortion but would allow it anyway, is like saying you hate slavery but would allow it anyway. That's an example of the reductio ad servitum argument that I have written about somewhere — the impulse to link anything one disapproves of with race slavery. It's a nontrivial argument in this case, though. If you place embryos and fetuses on the same moral level as postnatal babies/children/persons, as of course pro-lifers do, then both abortion and slavery are gross mistreatments of human persons. Abortion exists, and abortion rights are widely supported, because a great many people don't make that moral equivalence. Can you get them to make it (or, a pro-lifer would say, to see it)? Can you effect a "reformation of manners" like the one that occurred when people's eyes were opened to the fact that black slaves were human beings like themselves? That's the issue. But of course Rudy just side-stepped it with some waffle about having reduced abortions in NYC. That just plays right in to the reductio ad servitum argument: "The number of Negro slaves declined during my administration …" etc.

Mike Huckabee  on abortion, dragged the jihadis in to support his argument that: "We celebrate life … they celebrate death." I'm guessing here, but my guess is that the jihadis are, so far as abortion is concerned, pro-life. It is perfectly possible to "celebrate death" (e.g. of one's enemies in war, of criminals via capital punishment, of oneself in an act of heroic sacrifice) while being pro-life.

Tom Tancredo's  quip about "road to Damascus, not road to Des Moines." That was borderline funny, at least. With the decline of Bible knowledge, though, how many people get the "road to Damascus" allusion? I was raised in the age of compulsory religious education & I use Bible references a lot without thinking, but I get more and more blank looks. "'Bricks without straw'? What the hell are you talking about, Derb?"

John McCain:  "I have never supported amnesty [for illegal immigrants] and never would." Thank you, John, thank you — Yours sincerely, Marie of Romania.

Rudy Giuliani:  Please, Rudy, stop saying "The reality is …" It's getting annoying. What is it with mayors of New York and reality? Mike Bloomberg starts every other sentence with: "Let's get real …"

Immigration:  Striking how utterly clueless all the candidates (except Tancredo) were about this issue until a few months ago. Now they are all desperately having to unwind their idiotic remarks of the previous Era of Immigration Ignorance. Guys, this has been talked about by thoughtful people for years. It's over a decade since Peter Brimelow published Alien Nation. Did you really not give a nanosecond's thought to this huge, momentous issue until last summer? Really? Good grief. We are governed by morons.

Ron Paul:  "Robert Taft didn't want to be in NATO …" I quietly wonder what proportion of the audience knows who Robert Taft was. Ah, well. "The party has lost its way." See above, Ron.

Ron Paul vs. Rudy Giuliani punch-up about the motivation of the 9/11 attackers.  Ron Paul put forward the "blowback" theory, which I first heard on or about Sept. 12, 2001, from Pat Buchanan, and which is perfectly plausible, though in my opinion an over-simplification. Rudy: "I don't think I've ever heard that before." For goodness sake, Rudy. Don't you read? The reality is, Rudy, that entire books have been written to promote the blowback theory. Have your staffers read some of them & write up abstracts for you. You never heard of this theory? Gimme a break. I must say, though, that from a purely presentational point of view, Rudy's unsuccessful clamoring for 30 seconds of response was Rudy-the-street-fighter at his instinctive best. That's the Rudy I like, even on a point where I'm against him.

John McCain  on torture: Army Field Manual procedures on interrogation are adequate in "990,000 cases." So what are you saying, John? Like, about the other 10,000?

Rudy Giuliani:  [Interrogators should use] "every method they can think of. Shouldn't be torture [but] every method they can think of." So what are you saying, Rudy? If interrogators can think of a method, and don't believe it is torture, should they use it? Who decides what is "torture"? Are you not aware of the breadth of opinion on this? I once cheered on the giving of a kick to a recalcitrant prisoner. I was promptly inducted into the Torturers Club by several commentators. As I pointed out, by this standard, several hundred thousand American soldiers, cops and prison guards are "torturers." None of these candidates is willing to either (a) define "torture," or (b) tell us how to go about establishing a definition of "torture." What they want to do, on the evidence of tonight's debate, is make sly appeals to the electrodes-on-nads crowd, without being caught saying so openly.

John McCain  on torture: "If we do it, what happens to our troops when they are captured?" Given recent events in Iraq, John, this may not have been the best time to bring this argument forward.

Jim Gilmore:  "Community of preparedness." I nominate this as lamest attempt so far in this campaign to float a memorable phrase.

Jim Gilmore again:  "I spoke out against [church burnings] and it stopped." I nominate this for the running-off-at-the-mouth award of the campaign so far.