Friday, January 11, 2008

Spirited Republican Debate on Fox in South Carolina Tonight: Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul Come Out Best

A crisp, spirited Republican debate in South Carolina earlier tonight - one of the best so far, as good the Republican debate on ABC on Saturday - and Fox included Ron Paul, which it didn't do on Sunday.

Fred Thompson was the best he's been so far, responding with a sharp mix of passion, clarity, and humor. He took Mike Huckabee to task for being a Democrat in Republican clothing. Even though I agree with Huckabee's "Democratic" positions about education, etc., I had to admire Thompson's performance.

Huckabee, for his part, however, was also excellent. He came through again as likable and sincere, as well as vivid and saber-rattling in his response to the Iranian gunboat incident - warning Iranians and anyone that if they attack American boats, the next thing they'll be seeing are the gates of hell. (Thompson got in a good line about the Iranians being close to seeing the virgins they think await their heroes in the afterlife.) Again, I don't agree at all with this jingoism, but it was good Republican television.

As for what I do agree with, Ron Paul was incisive and right on target in his comparison of the Iranian gunboat incident with the Gulf on Tonkin incident off the coast of North Vietnam in the 1960s. Lyndon Johnson used it to push the US into an escalated (undeclared) war in Vietnam. But, as Ron Paul correctly alluded to, it turned out later that this incident had been set up and provoked by Johnson precisely for the purpose of increasing US military action in Vietnam - or, starting up a full-fledged (undeclared) war.

Ron Paul was also clear in disassociating himself and his candidacy from the 9/11 "truthers" - those who think that the U.S. brought down the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

Likely Ron Paul was so effective tonight because he was finally given some time to speak and make his points.

But the Southern weather agreed with all of the candidates. Guiliani was forceful in his defense of his immigration policy in NYC - how can you question the immigration status, he asked, of someone who is giving the police information a rape or a murder? You don't need a green card to commit those crimes, he added.

Romney sparred well, but once again came up with a science fictional, computational metaphor - making some point about three-dimensional chess (the first I ever saw of three-dimensional chess was when Spock was playing it on Star Trek). I don't know, it's a different series, but I'm still thinking Cylon...

And McCain was pretty good, too - though, in general, he seemed to assume the position as the most tired candidate, held until tonight by Fred Thompson.

After the debate: Ron Paul won the telephone poll, and of course Hannity didn't believe it. At least, this time, he knew better than to come up some story about Ron Paul's supporters voting multiple times.

A lot more debates in both parties coming up this month. It's good to see that they're getting sharper and more focused as the campaigns progress.
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