First, tonight’s biggest losers by far were CBS corporately and Scott Pelley individually. Pelley thought he was the enforcer of the clock. He thought the debate was about him. He should never be allowed to moderate another debate the rest of his life.
Likewise, the first 10 minutes of CBS’s livestream was utterly worthless. I was one of thousands of Twitter users who criticized them mercilessly. Ari Fleischer had it exactly right. If the debate is 90 minutes, air it on the network.
It’s sad to say but Pelley isn’t even qualified to be timekeeper. He insisted on cutting people off in mid-sentence. His liberalism shined through once. Fortunately, Newt gave him his comeuppance in this clip:
NEWT: Well, he isn’t a terrorist suspect. He was a person found guilty under review of actively seeking the death of Americans.
PELLEY: Not found guilt in a court, sir.
NEWT: He was found guilty by a panel who reported it to the president.
PELLEY: It’s not…
NEWT: Let me tell you a story…
PELLEY: the rule of law…
NEWT: It is the rule of law. That is explicitly false. It is the rule of law.
NEWT: If you engage in war against the United States, you are an enemy combatant. You have none of the civil liberties of the United States. You cannnot go to court. (LOUD APPLAUSE) Let me be very clear about this. There’s a huge gape here, frankly, that far too many people get confused over. Civil defense…criminal defense is a function of being within the American law. Waging war on the United States is outside the criminal law. It is an act of war and it should be dealt with as an act of war. And the correct thing in an act of war is to kill people who are actively trying to kill you. (LOUDER APPLAUSE)
The depth of Gingrich’s knowledge was on full display here. He utterly schooled Pelley on the difference between criminal law and acts of war. The two issues are galaxies apart.
While Newt probably won the debate, Gov. Perry had his strongest performance yet. He showed a thorough understanding of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. He was strong in talking about what he’d do with regards to Iran. Gov. Perry’s answers were thorough enough to picture him as commander-in-chief.
Mitt Romney had a solid performance until his answer to Jim DeMint’s question on the national debt as a national security issue. That’s when he talked about cutting the budgets to a bunch of tiny agencies. Cutting tiny budgets won’t balance the budget.
Newt gave a strong, detailed answer to how his administration would deal with Iran. Newt said that he’d employ the most aggressive covert operations possible to support the Iranian people in their attempt to topple the mullahs.
Newt talked about the roles Reagan, Thatcher and Pope John Paul II played in toppling the Soviet empire without firing a shot. Newt then said that their model would translate well with Iran.
At the end of the night, it’s easy picturing Newt, Mitt and Rick Perry as commander-in-chief. That said, if I had to pick from that bunch, I’d pick Newt because his answers on Iran just made total sense.