Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Live-blogging tonight's Republican presidential debate on foreign policy

[Here's the transcript.]

Keep reloading this page for updates!

8:11 - Wolf Blitzer gives an example of an introduction, saying: "I'm Wolf Blitzer, and yes, that is my real name." Mitt Romney says that "Mitt" is also his real first name. Not according to Wikipedia! [UPDATE: TalkingPointsMemo, which makes a lot of money by posting attack ads against Romney, is running this headline:]

Mitt Romney Flip Flops On His Own Name
8:15 - For the first time, Newt Gingrich goes first. He says he wouldn't "change" the Patriot Act, but would "look at strengthening it."

8:17 - Ron Paul mentions Timothy McVeigh as an example of a terrorist who was dealt with in the criminal justice system. Gingrich says, as if this were a knock-down argument against Ron Paul, "But Timothy McVeigh succeeded!" Is Gingrich suggesting that McVeigh shouldn't have been criminally prosecuted?

8:20 - Jon Huntsman says that Tom Ridge was a "great Secretary of Homeland Security." I don't remember many people saying this at the time.

8:22 - Rick Perry says he would criminalize TSA pat-downs and privatize the TSA.

8:23 - Rick Santorum agrees with Perry. "We should be trying to find bombers, not bombs."

(As always, I'm writing down these quotes on the fly, not using a transcript, so they might not be verbatim.)

8:24 - The moderator asks Santorum what kind of profiling he'd support. Santorum says you should look for "Muslims," as well as "younger males." Ron Paul says: "What about Timothy McVeigh?" That sounds like an example of the kinds of people Santorum wanted to focus on! He was a young man.

8:27 - Herman Cain calls Wolf Blitzer "Blitz." A little later he makes fun of himself for the slip, saying he meant "Wolf." Wolf Blitzer says: "Thank you, Cain!"

8:31 - Michele Bachmann hones her answer from the last foreign-policy debate about why she supports continuing to give aid to Pakistan. She points out that we need to maintain our relationship with Pakistan because they give us intelligence information about terrorism. Perry disagrees, without explaining what he thinks is wrong with Bachmann's reasoning. After Perry says he wouldn't give any financial aid to Pakistan, Bachmann's says that's "highly naive."

8:36 - Romney supports spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Afghanistan for years to come. "We need to bring them into the 21st century — or the 20th century, for that matter." Huntsman "strongly disagree[s]." There's a very long back-and-forth between Romney and Huntsman, which might be a first in all the debates. Romney emphasizes listening to the generals, whereas Huntsman says you still need to make your own decision as commander-in-chief.

8:41 - Gingrich: "We were told that killing bin Laden in Pakistan brought our relations with Pakistan to a new low. Well, it should have!"

8:48 - There's a bizarrely long lull while they wait for someone in the audience to ask a question.

8:50 - Paul: "Why does Israel need our help? They need us to get out of the way."

8:51 - Paul reveals Israel's open secret, saying they have "200, 300 nuclear missiles."

8:53 - Perry says he would "sanction the Iranian central bank." Doesn't "sanction" as a verb have the opposite meaning from "sanction" as a noun?

8:56 - In response to a question by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Santorum strongly supports humanitarian assistance to Africa in fighting AIDS. He rebukes the candidates who oppose foreign aid (Perry, Gingrich, and Paul).

9:05 - Blitzer asks Gingrich if he would bomb Iran. He says only as a last resort, and only to change the regime.

9:06 - Huntsman is asked if he would support cuts to the defense budget. He says we can't have any "sacred cows" in reducing the debt. "Everything's gotta be on the table. The Defense Department has gotta be on the table." If we can't find any cuts there, "we're not looking hard enough."

9:21 - Adam Sorensen of Time Magazine points out that Cain is "still giving the 'I'll wing it' answer on every question."

9:27 - Paul: "The federal war on drugs has been a failure." Blitzer asks if this means we should legalize all drugs. Paul says he would at least legalize medical marijuana. He adds that prescription drugs are more dangerous than illegal drugs. "And believe me, the kids can still get the drugs."

9:31 - Is there some rule that every debate needs to bring up immigration, but only near the end? There seems to be some consensus that immigration is so important that it always needs to be debated, but it's unimportant enough to wait till the audience has stopped paying attention.

9:34 - Gingrich seems to be doing about half of the talking in this debate. Paul seems to be speaking more than Romney or Perry.

9:41 - Blitzer says we'll have "much more" after a commercial. The debate has been going on for over an hour and a half — I don't know if I can take "much more."

9:54 - Wolf Blitzer asks all the candidates to quickly answer a question about what national-security issue no one is talking about that they wish would be talked about. Santorum says South America. Paul says Afghanistan. Perry says China. Romney agrees with Santorum: South America. Cain: cyber-attacks. Gingrich agrees with Cain and adds: electromagnetic pulse attacks. Bachmann: Iraq. Huntsman: the United States economy.

Now that the debate is mercifully over after 2 whole hours, a couple non-live points:

Perry said that Hezbollah and Hamas have infiltrated Mexico to try to enter the United States:



Josh Marshall at TPM thinks the most important event of the night was Gingrich's comments on immigration. Marshall says:
Newt’s edging into the GOP danger zone here on immigration. He really did say he’d provide a path to legality, though not citizenship, to a substantial number of the current undocumented population. Bachmann called him on it. And he denied he said it. But Bachmann, I think, was right. He did say it.

Now, [that's] an immensely logical thing for Newt to say — that you’re not going to be uprooting and separating families who’ve been here for a quarter century.

But this is toxic in GOP primary politics. It helped sink Rick Perry.
The New York Times seems to agree that that's the big story. The NYT is currently reporting on its homepage:
Newt Gingrich suggests some illegal aliens should be allowed to stay in the United States.
Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review says on Twitter:
Someone should tell Gingrich that some of those immigrants will build mosques.
My mom, Ann Althouse, gives the transcript of the interchange between Gingrich and Bachmann on immigration, and concludes:
That one-on-one really highlighted Gingrich's superior intelligence and sophistication. Clearly, Gingrich has the ability to reach out to many Americans who feel empathy toward the people who are in the county illegally and to take a middle position that balances a large set of interests. I like that, but obviously the red-meat fans have something to complain about. He put some vegetables on their dish.

34 comments:

Jason (the commenter) said...

He rebukes the candidates who oppose foreign aid (Perry, Gingrich, and Paul).

Newt is for foreign aid, he just wants to do it cheaper. Perry wants it only if we get something out of it. Only Paul says it does more harm than good.

John Althouse Cohen said...

I stand by what I wrote. In a recent debate, Perry said he would reduce all foreign aid to zero. He emphasized that this was for all countries, even Israel. Gingrich said he completely agreed with Perry about this. Perry and Gingrich are opposed to foreign aid. Period.

Jason (the commenter) said...

I think you misunderstand. They want to reduce foreign aid to zero each year and THEN budget based on what we expect to gain in return. The goal is to not hand out money based on what was given previously, but on what foreign countries do to "earn" it.

John Althouse Cohen said...

I don't see how I'm "misunderstand[ing]." I'm listening to what Perry says he would do. He says he would reduce all foreign aid to zero. Period. That's his plan according to his extremely forceful declarations in multiple debates. OK? He also says that afterwards, he would begin to have a "conversation" about whether to give foreign aid to some people. He's made a very clear, stark promise, followed by a vague idea about possibly doing something differently later on. I take him at his word that as president, he would attempt to abolish all foreign aid given by the US to anyone. I have no way of knowing what would be the results of the "conversation" that he imagines would ensue. If Perry and Gingrich intend to say something different than what I've just described, it's their responsibility to give a clearer explanation.

Jason (the commenter) said...

If Perry and Gingrich intend to say something different than what I've just described, it's their responsibility to give a clearer explanation.

Misunderstanding isn't that big of a deal, dude!

What they're talking about is called zero-based budgeting. And they have explained it, but it doesn't sound controversial or like anything new, so it doesn't register.

And yes, their budget solution is a gimmick; but it is something large corporations use to keep their budgets in check.

Anonymous said...

Jason (the commenter) is correct.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Running for President of the United States on a platform of giving zero foreign aid to Israel isn't controversial or new? Huh?

Your Wikipedia link notes that there are many serious downsides to "zero-based budgeting."

Bachmann and Santorum (in this debate and the last foreign-policy debate) have cogently argued that the kind of radical change Perry and Gingrich are promising would disrupt some of our most sensitive alliances.

Anonymous said...

>Is Gingrich suggesting that McVeigh shouldn't have been criminally prosecuted?

No, not at all. Remember that the conversation began with terrorist nukes as the subject. Gingrich is saying a non-citizen aiming to kill millions of Americans has no 4th amendment rights and that the proper focus in that case is on stopping the attack. Paul held up McVeigh as a case where the law enforcement model worked. Gingrich pointed out the weakness in Paul's position, namely that millions may be killed or injured in an attack before a criminal investigation would even begin.

Jason (the commenter) said...

But this is toxic in GOP primary politics. It helped sink Rick Perry.The New York Times seems to agree that that's the big story. The NYT is currently reporting on its homepage:

Newt Gingrich suggests some illegal aliens should be allowed to stay in the United States

I wasn't really impressed by anyone in the debates. Newt on immigration was more liberal than most, but unlike Perry I think he was able to defend himself.

Perry flip-flopped on his own position--saying we can't have "magnet" benefits until the borders are secure.

I was actually having negative thoughts about Newt UNTIL he started talking about his views on immigration. I think tying it to military service and mentioning churches was just the right touch.

And since we're talking stereotypes (of Republicans) wont Newt now be seen as more palatable to the valuable Hispanic vote than Romney?

Anonymous said...

>Running for President of the United States on a platform of giving zero foreign aid to Israel isn't controversial or new? Huh?

Do you not see a difference between (a) giving zero and (b) starting the budgeting process with a presumption of zero, weighing the benefits of continued aid, and proceeding based on that weighing process?

John Althouse Cohen said...

Do you not see a difference between (a) giving zero and (b) starting the budgeting process with a presumption of zero, weighing the benefits of continued aid, and proceeding based on that weighing process?

I see the difference between those two things you've just described. For all we know, that process could end up with no change to any of our foreign aid, if it turns out that the status quo is perfectly reasonable.

But that's different from what Perry said.

Perry said:

"The foreign aid budget in my administration for every country is gonna start at zero dollars. Zero dollars."

(Here's the transcript, which will open a print dialogue window.)

Again, if he would not actually reduce our foreign aid for all countries to zero, he should give a clearer explanation.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Anonymous: Paul held up McVeigh as a case where the law enforcement model worked. Gingrich pointed out the weakness in Paul's position...

I think how people interpreted that exchange depended on which person (Paul or Newt) they were more sympathetic to.

Paul could have responded better by being more abstract: "If we bring about a police state there will be no America to defend."

Anonymous said...

No Jason (the commenter) is correct.

An annual review of the expenditure and whether or not we are getting any value for that.

Perry also has differentiated entre military aid and "foreign aid"-hence the statement about American companies going in to set up infrastructure- what have you-in the place of blindly sending a check year after year.

Think of it as an allowance from Mommy and Daddy...

Are you doing your chores?

Your homework?

They might stop forking over allowance if they are getting next to nothing in return or Osama in your back yard...

Anonymous said...

"The foreign aid budget in my administration for every country is gonna start at zero dollars. Zero dollars. And then we'll have a conversation. Then we'll have a conversation in this country about whether or not a penny of our taxpayer dollar needs to go into those countries"

Start at zero . . . have a conversation. He's not saying abolish foreign aid, but instead saying look long and hard at what American interest is being furthered by that aid.

Jason (the commenter) said...

JAC: But that's different from what Perry said.

He has mentioned zero-based budgeting before.

The quote is what you would expect from someone with the mindset of that system, which points towards his being sincere.

It's not like it hasn't already been established that Perry can't remember more than two things at any one time.

caseym54 said...

Not only did Gingrich break through to a reasonable illegals policy, but he repeated it at least twice after Bachman called him on it. And wonder to behold, Mitt seemed to follow his lead, however cautiously. Not sure what Perry said, but then I'm never sure what Perry says. Much less articulate than W.

John Althouse Cohen said...

You're trying to massage Perry's statements into something eminently reasonable. If you want to do that, that's fine. But that's not my goal. I don't trust Perry enough to presume he'd act more reasonably than he promises, especially since, as Bachmann pointed out, he doesn't even seem to understand the nature of foreign aid (that it's not just handing over "blank checks"). I'm interested in looking at what he has actually said he is going to do. He has explicitly promised to eliminate all foreign aid. He also says that he would consider giving foreign aid to some countries. But a promise to do something very specific right away carries a lot more weight than a vague promise to have a "conversation" afterwards. That's why Santorum and Bachmann, who have a lot more foreign-policy experience than Perry, called him out for proposing something that would disrupt our alliances. The burden isn't on me to reinterpret his plan to sound as reasonable as possible; the burden is on him to clearly put forth a reasonable plan.

Anonymous said...

JAC

Have you held Obama to the letter of his word on anything during his debates-like-oh I don't know-

GITMO?

Anonymous said...

IOW

Do you apply your "standards" evenly?

How did Obama gain your "trust" -his record of voting in Illinois as a state Senator?

Anonymous said...

OK

JAC let's present you with the problem-you have a state Pakistan that has been playing footsie with all sides during a war, you have a state that is primarily run by its military who had our most wanted enemy -

Osama next to its military school in its military town-(it's like if we had West Point and USAFA all in one town and we were harboring-hell there really isn't a equivalent...)

Should we not make them sweat it and perhaps correct their behavior?

Remember their is a difference between "military aid" and "foreign aid" how do you encourage the Pakis to change their behavior?

What leverage do you have?

Anonymous said...

remember ^there^ is a difference between military and foreign aid.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Have you held Obama to the letter of his word on anything during his debates-like-oh I don't know-

The 2007-2008 debates are old news so I'm not that interested in analyzing them now, but yes, I hold Obama to his promises. For instance, I posted on Twitter @BarackObama that he never implemented the spending freeze he promised in a State of the Union address, and I questioned whether he would implement the spending freeze he promised the year after that.

You have access to all my blog archives, so feel free to look for any instances when I excused Obama for not following through on something he said. I doubt you'll find any examples.

I'm focusing on the Republican primary race, not on Obama, because I think the Republican primaries are more interesting than Obama's attempt to get reelected. That doesn't mean I'm uninterested in criticizing Obama. I'm more likely to post something critical of Obama on my Facebook wall. If you look through my blogging about Obama over the years, I don't think you'll find a gushing fan. And just wait till I do a post about who I'm going to vote for in 2012...

Anonymous said...

I've got to run but making the Pakistani government restate the reason they deserve foreign aid and making them in effect promise performance might be one of the most benign methods we have to "correct" their behavior.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Do you apply your "standards" evenly?

I aspire to. But being human, I'm sure I don't succeed in being perfectly objective.

How did Obama gain your "trust" -his record of voting in Illinois as a state Senator?

I did this blog post about why I voted for Obama in 2008. Emphasis on: in 2008.

Anonymous said...

And just wait till I do a post about who I'm going to vote for in 2012...

OK pretty damn intriguing- I'll be on the look out for that.

Anonymous said...

But being human, I'm sure I don't succeed in being perfectly objective.

Holy hell... now if only half the media could be this honest.

John Althouse Cohen said...

OK pretty damn intriguing- I'll be on the look out for that.

Heh, thanks. I'm going to try to post it shortly before the Iowa caucuses, which are scheduled for January 3, but I can't make any promises (I do have an actual job).

Jason (the commenter) said...

You're trying to massage Perry's statements into something eminently reasonable.

I said it was a gimmick, and I'm skeptical of it. I think you are coming off as partisan and are just trying to smear people. At first it seemed like an honest mistake, now it doesn't.

And it's not just Perry, it's also Newt.

I wish you came up with real criticisms, because they exist. Perry, for instance, called for American imperialism over the entire Western Hemisphere and flipped-flopped over his policies in Texas. Newt wants some sort of a police state and claims he can easily fix our budget problems with minimal pain, but without giving details.

John Althouse Cohen said...

I should add: you're right about Gitmo, of course, and I feel strongly that everyone should question whether they're applying the same standards in criticizing their own side as they do in criticizing the other side. I'm not saying I personally even have a "side," but you're right on principle. For instance, I have little interest in hearing Democrats excuse Obama over the bad economy based on the fact that so many other factors have contributed to it, when I know that so many of the same Democrats didn't hold back from attacking George W. Bush over the recession he inherited, or praising Bill Clinton for the booming economy that he himself didn't create.

Anonymous said...

JAC

The divide-it's pretty depressing isn't it?

David said...

Hooray for Newt to actually point out--at least by implication--that throwing out all illegal immigrants is impossible and that the effort would be damaging to the country. He did not say so in so many words, but that's got to be the underpinning for his position. A solid foundation, because it's correct.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Having read more of Jason's Wikipedia link, I notice it says zero-based budgeting has proven "unworkable" for all state governments and the federal government, since there's so much bureaucracy involved in making everyone justify every little detail. (The "unworkable" language is from this report.) So, based on your own source, it doesn't work. But what Perry could do is sunset all our foreign policy, then excuse the fact that it all reached zero by saying that no one justified any of it and that this is exactly what he promised to do in his campaign. You're free to believe Perry wouldn't do this because it's too unreasonable or unrealistic, but zero-based budgeting itself is arguably more unrealistic. And remember, this is the same person who says he would abolish the Departments of Commerce, Education, and Energy — as well as, presumably, all the government programs he has called unconstitutional, including Social Security. His modus operandi seems to be abolishing programs altogether, not making decision-making processes more byzantine than they already are.

John Althouse Cohen said...

I wish you came up with real criticisms, because they exist. Perry, for instance, called for American imperialism over the entire Western Hemisphere and flipped-flopped over his policies in Texas.

I'm flattered that you'd be interested in seeing my analysis, but I actually have little interest in poring over the candidates' official proposals. Those don't reflect what the president will actually do when in office. The flip-flops may be interesting, but I assume there are already webpages listing every major candidates' flip-flops. Even when I write my "who I'm voting for" post, I won't focus much on official positions or flip-flops. I'm more interested in watching the debates to get a sense of how the candidates present themselves and how they speak about the issues on a live stage.

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