Photo: Courtesy of CNN
Tuesday night’s Republican debate was kind of a snoozefest, as far as presidential debates go. There were no serious “oops” moments, no onstage brawls, and Herman Cain barely even mentioned the number 9. Even Rick Perry managed to hold it together for the full two hours.The debate, hosted by CNN in Washington, D.C., was the 11th (feels like the 111th) of the 2012 election cycle, and the second to focus on foreign policy issues. The matchup exposed deep divisions in the 2012 Republican field over national security policies — although in the end, it raised more questions than it answered.
Despite the lack of gaffes, not everyone brought their A-game last night, which made for some entertaining moments. By the end of the debate it was clear who knows their foreign policy stuff and who does not — an underrated criteria this cycle that is nonetheless important for a potential commander-in-chief.
Never one to disappoint, Herman Cain delivered the funniest line of the night when he accidentally invented a new, cool-guy nickname for CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
Answering a question about the TSA, Cain responded vehemently, 'No, Blitz, that's oversimplifying it!' The audience started laughing, but Cain didn't seem to notice until about halfway through his answer, when he stopped and said 'I'm sorry Blitz, I meant Wolf.' To which Blitzer responded, 'Thank you, Cain.'
It was awesome. And Ron Paul's reaction is priceless.
Astoundingly, this was not the only name mixup of the night. Blitzer later referred to Cain as 'Congressman Cain.' And Mitt Romney also got confused -- about his own name.
2012 GOP cellar-dweller Jon Huntsman finally had his breakout performance Tuesday, and showed that he is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the presumptive frontrunner. He landed a big blow to Romney on Afghanistan, mocking the former Massachusetts Governor for repeatedly saying that he would listen to 'commanders on the ground.'
'At the end of the day, the President of the United States is Commander-in-Chief,' Huntsman reminded Romney -- a thinly-veiled jab at the fact that voters don't see Romney as a CIC.
Romney, who is usually unflappable in this type of forum, was visibly rattled by the confrontation. Watch the video below:
The debate, which was sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, was the first presidential forum where the audience was mostly made up of Washington policy wonks rather than party activists -- and the difference was notable.
Instead of taking questions from local or online voters, CNN rolled out the old neocon vanguard to help out Wolf Blitzer.
Questioners included neocon scions like former Attorney General Edwin Meese, who left the Reagan administration amid the Iran-Contra affair, and Paul Wolfowitz, the architect of Bush's Iraq war policy.
Libertarian godfather Ron Paul and Gingrich kicked off the debate with a heated sparring match over the Patriot Act, which mostly centered around Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh and the likelihood that the U.S. could become a police state.
Rick Santorum also weighed in, saying he favours racial profiling to catch terrorists: 'We should be trying to find the bomber, not the bomb,' Santorum said, adding that 'obviously Muslims would be -- would be someone you'd look at, absolutely.'
Cain said he favours something called 'targeted identification' -- which sounds a lot like racial profiling -- and added that our main goal should be killing terrorists before they kill us:
'The terrorists have one objective that some people don't seem to get. They want to kill all of us. So we should use every mean possible to kill them first or identify them first -- first.'
In a field where electrified border fences and alligator moats are acceptable policy solutions for border security, Newt Gingrich could have reasonably expected to be chased offstage Tuesday for his relatively moderate stance on immigration.
Instead, Gingrich's answers were so confident -- and confusing -- that none of the other candidates could actually find a way to attack him head on. Given the opportunity, Michele Bachmann wavered for a second, said she was against amnesty, and then started talking about 'Steve Gates -- Steve Jobs.' Romney also made an attempt, but Gingrich shot him down as being against 'values' -- a much more effective diss than the 'heartless' comment that sunk Rick Perry.
Cain, whose lack of foreign policy expertise is now woefully apparent, was clearly the most uncomfortable person onstage Tuesday. The former Godfather's Pizza CEO avoided mentioning his signature 9-9-9 plan, but didn't give any indication that he has any idea what he is talking about when it comes to foreign policy.
The most puzzling part of Cain's performance was his apparent obsession with the topography of Iran. As the candidates tried to out-tough-talk one another on how to stop the Iranian nuclear threat, Cain reminded everyone -- twice -- that Iran is 'a very mountainous region,' which would make an attack very difficult.
Once again, it is unclear what exactly is twirling around in Cain's head. Mountains have never been much of a problem for the U.S. military, and anyway, a lot of Iran's nuclear sites are underground.
Asked about his role in funding U.S. development aid during the 1990s, Santorum responded:
'Africa was a country on the brink. On the brink of complete meltdown and chaos, which would have been fertile ground for the radical Islamists to be able to -- to get -- to get a foothold.'
Watch the video below, courtesy of Raw Story:
Gingrich ended the debate on a totally scary, doomsday note. Asked to name the biggest threat that no one is talking about, Gingrich darkly threw in electromagnetic pulse attacks, which he claims 'would literally destroy the country's capacity to function.'
At first, we thought Gingrich had been playing too many video games. But after looking into it, it turns out EMP attacks are actually real and pretty damn scary. You can read about it here, but basically, an EMP attack would be a huge burst of atmospheric electricity caused by a nuclear blast, and the resulting current would be strong enough to disable the entire electric grid.
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