Archive for the ‘Giuliani’ Category

Jonah Goldberg has a great article up talking about the various types of conservatism. Here’s a little glimpse into his article:

Many of the younger conservative policy mavens and intellectuals have become steadily less enamored of free markets and limited government. Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, formerly Bush’s chief speechwriter, has crafted a whole doctrine of “heroic conservatism” intended to beat back the right’s supposed death-embrace with small government and laissez-faire economics. He calls for moral crusade to become the animating spirit of the right. He’s hardly alone. “Crunchy conservatism,” the brainchild of Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher, is also a cri de coeur against mainstream conservatism. Both of these derive from the kind of thinking that led Bush to insist in 2000 that he was a “different kind of Republican” because he was a “compassionate conservative”, a political program that apparently measures compassion by how much money the government spends on education, marriage counseling and the like.

What these gentlemen are talking about isn’t conservatism. Gerson particularly isn’t talking about conservatism. What he’s talking about is a mix of populism and conservatism. It’s the product of his belief that government is part of the solution. Personally, I’d call it watered-down liberalism.

Bill Kristol’s editorial tries making the argument that conservatives should welcome this year’s candidates, an argument that I reject:

For example: John McCain, with a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 82.3, is allegedly in no way a conservative. And, though the most favorably viewed of all the candidates right now, both among Republicans and the electorate as a whole, he would allegedly destroy the Republican party if nominated.

Or take Mike Huckabee. He was a well-regarded and successful governor of Arkansas, reelected twice, the second time with 40 percent of the black vote. He’s come from an asterisk to second in the national GOP polls with no money and no establishment support. Yet he is supposedly a buffoon and political naïf. He’s been staunchly pro-life and pro-gun and is consistently supported by the most conservative primary voters, but he is, we’re told, no conservative either.

Or Mitt Romney. He’s a man of considerable accomplishments, respected by many who have worked with and for him in various endeavors. He took conservative positions on social issues as governor of Massachusetts, and parlayed a one-term governorship of a blue state into a first-tier position in the Republican race. But he, too, we’re told, is deserving of no respect. And though he’s embraced conservative policies and seems likely to be steadfast in pursuing them–he’s no conservative either.

Kristol’s blinders prevents him from seeing that we need a Reaganesque conservative now. His argument for John McCain, in particular, is feeble. McCain’s lifetime conservative rating isn’t the issue. Most of that rating was built his first 2 terms. The statistic that Mr. Kristol should be talking about is McCain’s conservative rating during the Bush administration. Why is Mr. Kristol ignoring McCain’s global warming legislation? Why is Mr. Kristol ignoring McCain-Feingold, the most despicable assault on the First Amendment in US history? How can Mr. Kristol ignore the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill, which abandons any pretense of abiding by the rule of law?

This morning, George Will takes a dramatically different perspective on John McCain:

In the New Hampshire debate, McCain asserted that corruption is the reason drugs currently cannot be reimported from Canada. The reason is “the power of the pharmaceutical companies.” When Mitt Romney interjected, “Don’t turn the pharmaceutical companies into the big bad guys,” McCain replied, “Well, they are.”

That’s a socialist’s attitude of pharmaceutical companies. Shouldn’t that scare every Republican in the nation?

That isn’t the only complaint Mr. Will, along with hundreds of thousands of other conservatives, has with him. Here’s another complaint:

McCain says he would nominate Supreme Court justices similar to Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Sam Alito. But how likely is he to nominate jurists who resemble those four: They consider his signature achievement constitutionally dubious.

When the Supreme Court upheld McCain-Feingold 5-4, Scalia and Thomas were in the minority. That was before Alito replaced Sandra Day O’Connor, who was in the majority. Two years later, McCain filed his own brief supporting federal suppression of a right-to-life group’s issue advertisement in Wisconsin because it mentioned a candidate for federal office during the McCain-Feingold blackout period prior to an election. The court ruled 5-4 against McCain’s position, with Alito in the majority.

Sen. McCain isn’t credible when he says that he’d nominate strict constructionist judges. That’s nothing more than pandering. They’d imperil his ‘greatest’ legislative achievement.

Simply put, John McCain opposes too much of the GOP’s best thinking to be trusted as their leader. I can’t support him. PERIOD. He’s shown a willingness to totally abandon the principles of Reagan and Goldwater. There’s no hint whatsoever that he’s got an instinct for libertarianism. Quite the opposite. He’s shown a propensity for worshiping at the altar of megaregulation. Here’s proof of that propensity:

When McCain and Joe Lieberman introduced legislation empowering Congress to comprehensively regulate U.S. industries’ emissions of greenhouse gases in order to “prevent catastrophic global warming,” they co-authored an op-ed column that radiated McCainian intolerance of disagreement. It said that a U.N. panel’s report “puts the final nail in denial’s coffin about the problem of global warming.” Concerning the question of whether human activity is causing catastrophic warming, they said, “the debate has ended.”

Sen. McCain’s attempt at stopping debate on a hotly contested issue is typical. He’s shown a pattern of total certitude on issues where major questions exist, especially if the idea has been proven in the court of popular opinion. If we think about it, it’s fair to conclude that that fits his personality. He didn’t want to debate McCain-Feingold on the basis of its assault on the First Amendment. He spoke only about ridding the system of corruption. He didn’t want McCain-Kennedy to be debated. PERIOD. They didn’t want committee hearings. They wanted to limit debate and restrict the amendment process. They knew that it couldn’t pass if it was debated on its merits.

I reject Romney’s convenient conservatism because it isn’t conservatism. It’s populism disguised as conservatism. Last week in Michigan, we saw how little regard Mitt has for the Tenth Amendment. While pandering for votes, he told Michiganders that the federal government would bail the state out after Jennifer Granholm ran that state’s economy into the toilet. That isn’t proof of holding fast to federalist principles. I won’t trust Mitt on federalist issues. While I’m certain that he’d cut some spending, I’m equally certain that he’d grow government in other places that it shouldn’t grow in.

I won’t trust Huckabee. PERIOD. After watching Common Sense Issues fill the phone lines in South Carolina with lies about Fred Thompson’s record, then watching him halfheartedly tell them to stop, I’m certain that Huckabee is one of the sleaziest politicians I’ve seen on the national stage.

Even though I’m pro life, I don’t have trust issues with Rudy. I disagree with him but that isn’t the same as not trusting someone. I’m confident that Rudy’s a federalist who’d nominate strict constructionist judges. The fact that he’s got Ted Olson, someone with impeccable strict constructionist credentials, higlights Rudy’s fidelity to the strict constructionist perspective. I’m also certain that he’d keep taxes low and that he’d try and keep government under control.

More importantly, I’m confident Rudy wouldn’t govern by moistening a finger before making a decision. I’ve watched him long enough to know that he’ll listen to all perspectives, even if he doesn’t agree with that perspective. He accumulates information first, then makes a decision. McCain starts with a conclusion, then works back from there.

Of course, Fred’s still the gold standard. Unfortunately, voters thus far haven’t asked the right questions. The discussion’s centered on process (he didn’t get in soon enough) and measurables (cash on hand) instead of qualifications and fidelity to conservatism’s proven ideals.

Hugh Hewitt avoided talking about Fred’s libertarianism, Fred’s adherence to federalist principles and his record of fiscal conservatism. Hewitt rejected his conservative principles to pad his wallet, which is troubling.

It’s time for movement conservatives to withhold support from the populist wolves in sheeps’ clothing. It’s time that We The People told Hugh Hewitt that we don’t give a damn about his boy Mitt. It’s time that We The People told Ed Rollins to slink off the national stage along with his liberal client Gov. Huckabee. It’s time that we told Sen. Sell Republicans Down the River (aka Sen. McCain) that we won’t tolerate his consistent liberalism.

It’s time that harking back to Reagan became Republicans’ motivation, not just talk.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

After congratulating Gov. Romney on winning the Michigan Primary, John McCain defiantly declared that he’d win South Carolina’s Primary. Here’s what Sen. McCain said:

“I congratulate the governor. I just talked to him on the phone and congratulate him on his victory. Starting tomorrow, we’re going to win South Carolina, and we’re going to go on and win the nomination,” said the Arizona senator after his loss to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“I congratulate him on that Michigan welcomed their native son with their support,” McCain added. “I said we would win in New Hampshire. We will win in South Carolina.

McCain’s momentum has just taken a hit following a relatively solid defeat at the hands of Mitt Romney. All day long, headlines read that he and Romney were “neck and neck.” As of 10:30 CT, McCain was gettng thrashed by a 39%-30% margin. That isn’t many people’s definition of neck and neck.

McCain’s also kidding himself if he thinks that he’s still the frontrunner in South Carolina. Alot of military personnel are also immigration enforcement hardliners. Look for that issue to hurt McCain as Fred draws a bead on him on his co-authoring the Shamnesty bill with Ted Kennedy.

Asked to respond to Romney’s comments that “It’s a victory of optimism over Washington-style pessimism,” the four-term senator passed on commenting, saying, “I would not know what he’s talking about.”

That’s a dose of doublespeak from the supposed straight-talking champion. He can’t not know what Romney meant. Sen. McCain knows that he went negative in Michigan and that that failed him. Essentially, Sen. McCain ran a campaign from this mindset:

‘You voted for me eight years ago, I’m still a great guy and I’m glad I don’t live here’.

That won’t get it done. People want to hear that their future will be brighter because the candidate believes in them. John McCain doesn’t have the ability to convey that type of message.

McCain is doing his best to show a brave face but he got stung Tuesday night. He needed to win to keep his momentum going. Now he’s got to face life in conservative states where his anti-conservative, stick my finger in their eye message simply won’t sell.

That doesn’t mean that he’s “out of it” but he’s facing a steeper uphill fight than Fred, Rudy and Mitt.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Based on the reporting in this article, it sounds like the crowds that Fred’s attracting are growing. Here’s what I’m basing this on:

It took Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson almost 15 minutes to drop the words “Law and Order” during his talk Saturday at Barbara Jean’s Restaurant, drawing a round of applause from the crowd of about 200. But the Lady’s Island gathering saved its loudest ovations for the former actor’s conservative messages during a brief Beaufort stop on an overcast afternoon. Coming off a sixth-place finish in New Hampshire’s Republican primary, the one-time Tennessee senator found a warm reception in “my neck of the woods.”

“You could see in there the level of enthusiasm people have,” Thompson said on his bus after the town hall-style meeting. “We’re going to be competitive on the airwaves in terms of radio and television…and I think we’ll do real well here.”

Fred’s message, combined with his imported GOTV operation, are leading to the increaseing crowd sizes. I’d bet that it’s intimidating to other campaigns that Fred’s got people flying or driving in to do doorknocking and phonebanking from all across the nation. That’s the type of ground game that’ll give a candidate a substantial advantage. Anyone that’s got that many passionate supporters is a force to be reckoned with.

Now check out what Fred’s saying:

In a campaign season marked by themes of change, Thompson started by citing something that doesn’t change, what he called the United States of America’s founding fathers’ understanding of “the wisdom of ages”, that too much governmental power corrupts. “That’s why they established the Constitution the way they did. The notion that a government big enough and powerful enough to give you anything was big enough and powerful enough to take anything away from you,” Thompson said.

Fred’s a true federalist. What makes it even better is that he isn’t bashful about being a federalist. It’s a safe bet that that’s a winning message in the South Carolina GOP primary. Fred’s saying that the Founding Fathers were wise is something else South Carolinians are sure to appreciate.

Check out this shot at McCain and Huckabee:

Thompson highlighted his opposition to closing the prison camp for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to using taxpayers’ money to fund programs for illegal immigrants.

“As a politician, taking money from a hard-working taxpayer who’s abiding by the law and giving it to someone who is illegal doesn’t make me a better person,” he said. “It’s not my money to begin with.”

Finally, a politician that understands that money is the wage earner’s first, who then lends it to the government. That’s a We The People perspective that’s easy to get excited about. Far too frequently, GOP politicians like John McCain and Mike Huckabee think of taxes as the government’s money. In We The People country, we view things quite differently.

That type of common sense is sadly missing in Washington. It wouldn’t improve with a President McCain or President Huckabee either. It’d continue on the same disgusting glidepath that it’s currently on.

If Fred keeps preaching that federalist, limited government gospel, his crowds will continue to swell. We’ve held 2 caucuses and 1 primary. Super Tuesday is still looming. If Fred wins South Carolina, which I think is a definite possibility, the landscape changes entirely.

That doesn’t mean Rudy won’t win some big states like California and New York. It does mean, though, that Fred will be, at minimum, competitive in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Missouri.

The Fred Express keeps rolling with Fred providing the inspiration.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Salena Zito, one of my favorite columnists, has written a magnificent column titled “The certainty of political uncertainty.” It’s possibly the best writing I’ve seen from Ms. Zito, which is saying alot. Here’s the first key portion of Salena’s column:

Not much is certain in politics. Not exit polls, forecasts or punditry. Yet one thing that is for certain, coming out of New Hampshire, is that the 2008 presidential race remains very much up in the air.

“Look at what has happened so far,” says George F. Will, the conservative columnist. “The very idea that money is all-powerful was struck down with Romney in Iowa and New Hampshire; the idea that organization is all-powerful was struck down by Huckabee. “And with the Democrats we learned that the Clintons can top momentum in just about eight hours,” he added. “So, in other words, just about anything can and will happen.”

Finally, a columnist that admits this race likely will have several more twists and turns and that “just about anything can and will happen.” I wrote here that Dick Morris’ analysis wasn’t wise analysis because he’s saying that McCain is the favorite to win the nomination.

As near as I can tell, that prediction isn’t based on the map of winner-take-all states. Many of those states are states that Rudy has a big advantage in: California, New York, New Jersey, the New England states (now that New Hampshire is out of the way).

If Fred Thompson wins South Carolina, that will be another major twist on the way to the nominating convention here in Minnesota. Fred’s the truest conservative in the race, followed by Rudy. He’s got tons of gravitas, appeals to each of the major wings of the party (fiscal, judicial and social conservatism) and he has impeccable national security credentials besides.

Here’s another astute observation Salena makes:

Will’s comments speak to not just the results in New Hampshire, where the Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton race came to a stunning (mostly to pundits) conclusion, but, in a larger sense, to the entire field of presidential candidates. No clear winners have attached themselves to either party’s base.

Nobody in either party has their base falling for them. Hillary’s had her problems because of her vote to authorize the war. McCain’s dance with death on McCain-Kennedy, McCain-Feingold and the Gang of 14 are the reasons why I can’t see him getting the nomination. Rudy’s pro-choice stance won’t help him with some social conservatives, although I suspect not as much as the pundits would have you believe. Mitt Romney’s being labeled a flip-flopper was deserved, which is why there isn’t any passionate support for Mitt.

Had Thursday’s Fred shown up in Iowa in September, this might be another story. With Fred’s gravitas, personality and national security credentials, he would’ve given social conservatives reason to ignore Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney and national security hawks reason to choose him over McCain and Rudy.

Here’s the final observation Salena makes that’s worth keeping in mind the rest of the way, at least through Super Tuesday:

Being undecided walking into the voting booth was the norm in New Hampshire, not the exception. If that trend persists nationally, then there may not be any clear winner for either party at the end of primary season.

Keep one last thing in mind: anyone that says they know how this turns out is kidding you. They don’t because this is the year of fluidity.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

When I read Dick Morris’ latest column, the first thing I thought was that is that it’s foolish to predict who the GOP nominee will be. The second thing was that picking McCain was Morris’ pick. Here’s a portion of his analysis:

McCain could even beat Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. His record taps into a latent populism that attracts Republicans, Democrats and Independents. His battle against big tobacco, efforts to address global warming, opposition to torture during interrogations and fight to reform corporate governance and to protect investors and pensioners appeal to voters of all stripes.

His issues cut across party and ideological lines, for an attraction far broader than the single notes sung by the evangelical Mike Huckabee and the anti-terror Giuliani.

His heroism is apparent and his independence from special interests notable. He’s pro-life and suitably conservative on social issues, so he attracts conservatives as well as moderates. And his credentials on terrorism and other national-security issues are outstanding. He’s got two main obstacles to overcome: his support for amnesty for illegal immigrants and his age.

The first thing Morris gets wrong is that McCain attacts enough Republicans now that we’re entiring the Republican phase of the GOP primaries. McCain is a populist, just like Huckabee is. Neither will get the endorsement because they don’t attract conservatives.

Morris got it right in saying that McCain’s support for shamnesty will hurt him. That’s just one of his transgressions against the GOP. Frankly, he’s with the GOP on very little. Certainly, he’s a national security hawk. He’s also pro life enough to pacify most Republicans. But his constant yapping about manmade climate change isn’t winning him votes in the GOP. That’s subtracting votes, if anything. His role in putting the Gang of 14 together isn’t something movement conservatives appreciate, either.

Here’s another thing that Morris got wrong:

But consider his competition: Giuliani, who draws from the same well, has squandered his early lead in what can only be described as a determined passivity. Fred Thompson is also catatonic.

Morris must’ve submitted this before Thursday night’s debate. He certainly couldn’t have written it after that debate. At minimum, he couldn’t have written that with a straight face. I’m wondering what Mr. Morris would say if he read this article:

In fairness, it was Thompson who started the spat, calling Huckabee a liberal on the economy and foreign affairs in Thursday’s GOP debate in South Carolina. He ticked off Huckabee’s alleged sins against that most hallowed of Republican institutions, the church of Ronald Reagan.

“On the one hand, you have the Reagan revolution. You have the Reagan coalition of limited government and strong national security,” Thompson said. “On the other hand, you have the direction that Governor Huckabee would take us in.”

Among Huckabee’s transgressions: He called President Bush’s foreign policy “arrogant,” he supported taxpayer-funded scholarships for children of illegal immigrants and he signed a smoking ban into law.

“So much for federalism,” sniffed Thompson, who enjoys cigars. “So much for states’ rights.”

Fred absolutely torpedoed Gov. Huckabee with that critique. Meanwhile, Gov. Huckabee’s defense was limited to a bad attempt at humor, saying that “Fred needs to take some Metamucil.” As I’ve noted before, Gov. Huckabee didn’t dispute anything Fred said on a substantive level. He didn’t attempt it because he knows he couldn’t say it and get away with it.

The biggest difference betwee Sen. Thompson and Gov. Huckabee is that Fred’s the substantive guy with a sense of humor. Gov. Huckabee is just the guy with a sense of humor.

These are just a few examples why it’s foolish to be predicting who the GOP nominee will be. The only thing that’s worse is if you’re picking Huckabee or McCain. That’s sheer folly.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

I know that that headline isn’t news to bloggers but it’s the first thing that I thought of when I read this article, Here’s what I’m basing my opinion on:

Throughout his presidential campaign, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson (R) has been dogged by questions about whether he wants to win the White House. On Thursday night, he answered those critics by delivering his best debate performance when he needed it most.

However, it might be too little, too late for Thompson. He has performed poorly in the previous contests, had his commitment questioned and his campaign appears to have some money problems.

Right out of the gate, Thompson criticized former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), who could be his main competition in the fight for the votes of Christian conservatives.

Let’s first dispose with Klaus Marre’s opinion that “it may be too little, too late.” BULLETIN TO MARRE: We’re 2 states into the process. Nobody’s out of it. Except Ron Paul. (I’m still wondering if he’s from the same solar system.)

Another point that’s easily rebutted is Marre’s statement that Fred’s “performed poorly in the previous contests.” I’m wondering if Marre watched Saturday night’s ABC debate, which Fred won. I’m wondering if he watched Fred Sunday night’s FNC debate, in which Fred had another strong showing.

After tonight’s debate, in which Fred exposed Huckabee for getting the NEA’s endorsement because Huckabee’s opposed to school vouchers, Huckabee’s support amongst Christian conservatives will plummet.

Let’s compare Marre’s opinions with Captain Ed’s:

Who put the vitamins in Fred Thompson’s oatmeal? We have waited for Thompson to show up on the campaign trail, and tonight he finally did. He had energy, focus, a command of detail, and a willingness to finally engage with the other candidates on the stage. He took almost everyone else aback, and seized momentum that he only occasionally relinquished.

UPDATE: Fred ate more Wheaties between the debate and his appearance on Hannity & Colmes. He’s smacking Alan Colmes around on Iraq and Iran. He’s looking for battles and winning them. It’s pretty amazing.

Tonight might best be described as Fred’s ‘Take No Prisoners’ night. He annihilated Huckabee on Huckabee’s willingness to abandon the principles of federalism to sign a nationwide smoking ban. He chastised Huckabee for having a “Blame America first” attitude on foreign policy. Finally, Fred thrashed Huckabee for saying that the Reagan coalition is dead.

While most candidates managed to get in their talking points and one-liners, it appears as though Thompson was the winner Thursday night. A Fox News focus group overwhelmingly believed that the former senator had done the best job but also questioned whether it was enough to turn around an ailing campaign.

Frankly, it’s getting bothersome to hear the same line about whether Fred can turn things around. That was a legitimate question prior to Fred’s barnstorming tour of Iowa. It’s obvious that he’s showing more energy in these debates. More importantly, he’s showing himself to have the most solid policies of anyone in the field.

Another benchmark that’s worth thinking about is which candidates won over the most new support. If you’re using this measuring stick, it’s clear that Fred stripped alot of Christian conservatives from supporting Huckabee and giving them plenty of reasons for supporting Fred. Rudy, Romney and McCain likely treaded water, maybe losing a little, maybe gaining a little.

The other thing to remember is that Fred’s campaign wasn’t lagging because people didn’t love his policies. People weren’t flocking to Fred’s campaign because they wanted him more emotionally invested in his campaign. Now that Fred’s showing that he’s invested totally in winning the nomination, grassroots support for Fred will grow quickly.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative


Romney: We need to invest more into R & D, make the tax cuts permanent, “stop the housing crisis” & reduce our dependence on oil.
McCain: Some jobs aren’t coming back, Education is key for those who’ve lost jobs. We aren’t heading for a recession.
CWallace: What about shortterm?
McCain: Cut gov’t. spending. He’s dissing South Carolinians by talking about Michigan alot. Otherwise nondescript answer.

As expected, Ron Paul gave the wierdest answer, saying that we’re in a recession, then saying that “we don’t know when it’ll come.” Then he dug his hole deeper, saying that we’ve delayed a serious recession.

Fred had a great answer, saying that he’ll defend Rudy’s tax cut plan because “it sounds an awful lot like the plan I introduced months ago.” He then stated that revenues are always more than the so-called experts predict before saying that “we’ve got too many two-handed economists”, saying on the one hand this, on the other hand that.

McCain should get off the climate change kick. That isn’t a selling point with conservatives.

Health Care/Abortion Rights question to Mitt:

Mitt: That wasn’t my decision. The courts mandated that coverage. “My term as governor was decidedly pro life.” (WRONG!!! As I said here, Gov. Romney knew about that decision before signing the bill. He put a higher priority on the signing the health care bill than on preserving life.)

Huckster talks about rebuilding the Reagan coalition, denying he said it was dead. Immediately following that, Fred jumps in with “a bigger point to make.” Fred then says that Huckster got the NEA endorsement because “he’d veto a bill for school vouchers. Fred then says that Huckabee has a liberal vision of foreign policy of blame America first. Fred then said that Huckabee has said that he’d sign a federal ban on smoking. “So much for federalism and states rights.” Fred also got in a great shot on Huckabee for wanting to “close down Gitm”, giving terrorists access to our courts. That’ll leave a mark in South Carolina.

Huckabee’s brightest spot was in saying that he trusted the Navy commanders in their handling of the incident in the Straits. Fred had a brilliant moment, first sayign that he agreed with “the Governor”, then saying if the Iranians “had taken one more step, I think we would’ve introduced them to those virgins they’re always talking about.” After a huge roar of applause, Fred then showed his expertise, saying that the Revolutionary Guard clearly was in charge and that “they’ll be more frisky.”

On the subject of Pakistan, Chris Wallace asked what a Thompson administration would do, especially with polls showing support for Musharraf dropping & people wanting us to cut off aid to Pakistan’s military.

Fred: Go against a poll? Nobody does that, do they? Then getting serious, Fred says that stabilizing Pakistan is our highest priority because it’s the only Muslim nation with nuclear weapons. Fred said that calling for Musharraf’s resignation was irresponsible, asking replace him with who? He also says that we need to pressure Musharraf to go after terrorists in tribal regions more.

Finally Immigration:

Huckabee gave the worst answer, saying “It isn’t our job to round up those who are here illegally and put them at the back of the line.
McCain’s answer was little better, saying that comprehensive immigration didn’t pass because We The People didn’t trust government. He’s right about that but it goes much deeper than that. We The People rose up because the bill sucked.
Fred’s answer that we “need to be a nation of high fences and wide gates and only we get to decide when to open those gates.” Fred then described his plan of enforcement through attrition. He’d eliminate sanctuary cities. If they refused to cooperate with the feds, then they’d lose fed discretionary spending money.

Overall, I thought Fred won because he was engaged, gave flawless policy answers and did a great job of drawing contrasts with Huckabee. Huckabee didn’t have a good night. Fred ridiculed his foreign policy for sounding like a Democrat (it does.) and for his wanting to close Gitmo.

I thought Mitt was ok when he got the chance to answer but he wasn’t asssertive or confident.

McCain was solid in terms of his national security answers but it’s obvious that his positions on immigration and climate change aren’t helping him with conservatives. His entire strategy is to win independents. After South Carolina, that’s a failed strategy. Even in South Carolina, every independent he picks up means another conservative he doesn’t appeal to.

UPDATE: I agree with Hugh tonight:

Fred had a great night, Mitt a good one and Rudy did fine as well.

Senator McCain struggled, especially on the question of what to do if recession arrives, when he channeled Herbert Hoover and spoke only about cutting spending. His talk of global warming was a bright red flag to conservatives, and his repeating of his “change” answer from Sunday night, that he helped change the policy in Iraq, underscored the impression that he was running through some talking points he understands to be safe. “Not for profit, but for patriotism” was another example of a recycled rhetoric from Sunday. His answer on deferring to captains-at-sea was a strong point, but that was the only one. His halting and often rambling answers and occasional grimaces and winks just don’t work on television, and his immigration answers just don’t fly. He has had three sub-par debate performances in a row.

The huge loser tonight was Mike Huckabee, thanks largely to Fred and Chris Wallace who peeled the bark off of Huck’s ideology. Huck bristled at Wallace at one point, and when pushed on why he raised taxes and spending, barked back, “I raised expectations.” That might work with Democrats, though it probably doesn’t in this day and age, but it sure doesn’t work with Republican voters. Huck’s whining about the religion question was also off-putting coming from a candidate who has so often injected religion into this campaign.

Fred, Rudy and Mitt are clearly the best thinkers on stage, though they’re both more liberal than Fred. McCain’s schtick is rehearsed. It doesn’t work on TV. As I said earlier, McCain’s strange affection to global warming isn’t winning him conservative votes.

UPDATE II: Here’s some video of Fred’s strongest moments. First, Fred on the Reagan Coalition:

Then on Iranian aggression:

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

One thing that jumps out thus far was Huckabee’s evasiveness on taxes. Utterly pathetic. Romney was on him like a pitbull, asking him if he’d increased taxes. First, the Huckster tried dodging by saying he made government work. Next, he tried playing the ‘he’s going negative card’.

Another thing that’s worth noting was Fred’s explanation about how to reform Social Security. Solid. When Chris Wallace tried interrupting, Fred persisted in explaining his plan. McCain and Romney said they appreciated Fred’s putting a plan together, though Romney thought that he’d tweak it a bit.

National Security

Romney is asked about his statement about not needing an expert on foreign policy. He’s sticking with his leadership line. Now he’s talking about the Clintons endorsing McCain’s immigration plan. He’s particularly avoiding talking about the expertise side of the equation.

McCain– It’s important to know the players. I know Musharraf.

Romney– Intelligence failed us badly. No kidding!!! “I was running a state.” “I’ve made tough calls.”

Wallace to Huckabee– You didn’t know that marshal law had been lifted. You didn’t know anything about the NIE. How do you defend yourself?

Huckabee– I’ve been to lots of countries. Yada, yada, yada.

Wallace– Again, back to the question. There’s been a pattern that you didn’t know what’s been going on.

Huckabee’s response is awful, defensive.

Now Rudy’s turnMy national security qualifications aren’t just from 9/11. I’ve worked on a terrorism task force for the Ford administration. I’ve travelled to 35 countries. “When a Saudi prince gave me a $10 million check, then asked me to argue against US foreign policy. I gave the check back.” Good response.

Fred“It’s interesting that Mitt thinks experience is important for everything except foreign policy.” That’ll leave a mark. Touts his being floor manager on Homeland Security bill. Talked about things he worked on as chair of Sen. Govt. Affairs Committee. Finishes by asking Mitt if Ted Kennedy had attended the bill signing of MittCare into law.

Mitt- “You bet he was.” OUCH!!! Too much enthusiasm. Conservatives are cringing all across America.

McCain wrap-up — I’ve been endorsed by 4 secretaries of state: Kissinger, Eagleburger, Schultz & Haig. Blah, blah, blah.

Mitt had a stronger showing tonight. He was particularly effective in going after Huckabee, exposing Gov. Huckabee as evasive on tax increases. That’s understandable with his tax record. I still think his enthusiastic reply that Teddy was at MittCare signing isn’t a high point.

When Huckabee tried using lines like “I made government work”, you knew that he was defenseless. Pathetic. Wallace just asking the questions about his foreign policy

Fred was solid, though not as robust as last night. Still, his continual laying out his plans show off his gravitas. That’s gotta help in SC. Fred doesn’t suffer from Washingtonspeak. He talks like regular people. It’s just that he knows alot more than most regular people. That’ll play well with voters this year. They want plainspeak, not Washingtonspeak.

I thought McCain was somewhat effective tonight. The only bright spots for him was talking about pushing for the Surge, which was a solid bright spot, and talking about saving money on defense appropriations. Immigration wasn’t the Achilles Heel that it was last night but too many replies were “I’ve been endorsed by”. Another thing that hurts McCain is his constant talking in Washingtonese.

One refreshing bright spot was not having Ron Paul there. We didn’t have to listen to his whiny “We shouldn’t be in Iraq” diatribes.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Last night was a picture in contrasts. Mitt Romney was last night’s pinata. Everyone painted a bullseye on Mitt’s chest before they emptied both barrels at him. McCain and Rudy got criticized for their immigration policies. Huckabee for his foreign policy. (It goes without saying that Ron Paul got hit hard for being from another solar system.)

At the other end of the spectrum, Fred Thompson didn’t have a glove laid on him. There’s a good reason for that: His policies and beliefs are rock solid and unassailable.

No GOP presidential candidate will argue that the federal government’s role shouldn’t be limited to the things that the Constitution explicitly assigns to the federal government. People aren’t going to pick holes in Fred’s foreign policies, either, because he wants to stay on offense against the jihadists while bringing all of our tools to bear on the sitution. Also, his credibility skyrockets when he talks about serving on the Intelligence Committee and having met with world leaders, including Gen. Musharraf.

Implicit in his talking about what principles he’d govern by is the fact that he’ll appoint strict constructionist judges. Anyone that thinks that the federal government shouldn’t worry about oil company profits isn’t someone that’ll pick judges in the mold of Sandra Day O’Connor or David Souter.

Nobody doubts that a President Thompson would nominate judges like Samuel Alito, John Roberts and Antonin Scalia. That’s music to movement conservatives’ ears. That’s like getting marching orders into the sanity wars, sometimes referred to as the culture wars.

Implicit in his reply to the oil companies’ profits was that he believes in the free market system. That also shined through when he talked about the health care industry. His answer that free markets were the only way to hold costs down while maintaining quality had economists everywhere cheering.

I wrote here that Fred owned the stage last night. The reason he owned it is because (a) nobody laid a glove on him and (b) he pointed out the flaws in the other candidates’ positions.

That’s what happens when you’re the most intelligent, most conservative candidate on stage.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Tonight’s New Hampshire debate had some interesting moments. Fred seemed to be at the center of most of those moments.

When Mike Huckabee was asked what he meant when he said that President Bush’s foreign policy was too arrogant, Gov. Huckabee explained that he meant that we should’ve sent in more troops into Iraq.

Fred immediately pounced on that, saying that “I think the Governor has rethought what he said because now he seems to be saying that we were arrogant because we didn’t go in with enough troops.” It isn’t the type of thing that changes the course of the rest of the debate but it’s something that Fred will use when the campaign moves to South Carolina. It’s something that Huckabee will have to ‘rethink’ again.

Another great Fred moment was one of Mitt’s low moments. Charlie Gibson asked, in the context of talking about Mitt’s health care plan, if Mitt liked mandates, to which Mitt said “Oh no, I like mandates.” Fred jumped in, saying “I didn’t think you’d admit that tonight.”

When Ron Paul talked about health care, he said that Charlie Gibson had provided the answer why we don’t have universal health care. Paul said that we don’t have health care because we’re waging a “trillion dollar war” and that we need to “stop printing new money.” Fred’s response was direct. “So you’re saying if we stopped printing more money, we could get out of Iraq and give everybody health care”?

Frankly, Ron Paul is giving libertarianism a bad name with some of his answers. When he talked about the terrorists’ war against civilization, Rep. Paul asked why the terrorists haven’t hit Canada. He said that terrorists aren’t hitting other nations. Rudy jumped all over that, saying that terrorists had hid Bali and London, then asking why the terrorists had hit the 1972 Munich Olympics or killed Leon Klinghoffer. Mitt Romney cited the Madrid train bombings.

Here’s Fred’s best exchange with Rudy:

Frankly, I didn’t think that Mike, Mitt, McCain or Rudy distinguished themselves tonight. Of that bunch, I thought Rudy helped himself the most because he cited his 12 commitments and for citing specific plans for increasing the size of our military.

Still, the night belonged to Fred. Tonight’s performance is what I envisioned when I first started talking about Fred 23 months ago. I told my fring King Banaian that Fred’s depth of knowledge on all the issues would make him a great debater. Tonight, Fred showcased his debating skills.

I don’t think that tonight’s performance will give him a big uptick in New Hampshire because he isn’t really competing there. I do think that tonight’s performance will (a) strengthen him greatly in South Carolina and (b) dispel the myth that he’s planning on dropping out soon.

Speaking of which, Robert Novak is reporting where the Thompson dropping out stories originated:

Published reports that Fred Thompson soon will withdraw from the Republican presidential contest and endorse Sen. John McCain have been traced in part to Mitt Romney’s campaign, trying to stir up strife between McCain and Thompson.

Back to the debate, here’s what Marc Ambinder says:

On points, Fred Thompson won the debate.

Every answer was thoughtful and well-crafted; his tone matched the tone of the question; he wisely refrained from interjecting in the back and forth squabbling. He very deftly reminded viewers that he served on key Senate national security panels and is bringing his experience to bear. Even his insults were subtly and gently constructed In some ways, Thompson did McCain’s bidding. You skeptical readers can tell me that if Thompson had finished a solid fourth in Iowa, I might not be writing about Thompson at all, that said, he’s still a candidate, and his performance tonight tells me his mind is not elsewhere.

McCain will likely win New Hampshire but Fred’s got his sights set on winning South Carolina. At this point, I won’t bet against that.

UPDATE: Peter Robinson makes this great observation:

If (as I expect) Romney fares badly in New Hampshire, Thompson will be the obvious choice for conservatives. He’s going to prove an easy man to rally around.

Here’s the rest of Robinson’s post on tonight’s debate:

With respect to Brother Jonathan, in my judgment Fred Thompson turned in a very fine performance, the more effective for proving underplayed. The others fought, bickered, attempted to demonstrate their brains. Naturally enough, they commanded the viewer’s immediate attention. But did they look like chief executives of a great nation? Or like candidates for a student council? Thompson stood, in effect, to one side, quiet and dignified, speaking less often, perhaps, but with cogency and principle. Thompson alone conveyed a sense of gravitas. He looked, spoke, and comported himself like a president.

Here’s what Andy McCarthy said:

Rich and Mark Steyn are right, and I was wrong. I always think it’s strange when the great athletes talk about letting the game come to them. But that’s how this format worked for Fred, and when called on he did great. I thought his explanation of healthcare economics was staggeringly good; I don’t see how you could do it better in this format. And when he went into trial lawyer mode, cross-examining the other candidates, he did in the effective way, no screaming, but pressing (patiently but insistently) for an answer. Very nicely done.

Both gentlemen are right on the mark. Fred’s always had the gravitas factor nailed. Fred knows as much about national security as McCain and Giuliani. Fred also knows as much about health care and immigration as Mitt. Nobody has the full package like Fred.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative