Winning Debate
The GOP goes for a third.


The Republican presidential field went up for a third debate on Tuesday night. Terry Jeffrey, Michael Graham, Kate O’Beirne, and John J. Pitney Jr. name winners and losers.

Terence P. Jeffrey
started off as a humanitarian mission and then changed into a nation-building mission, and that’s where the mission went wrong,” the candidate said. “The mission was changed, and as a result, our nation paid a price. And so I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation-building. I think our troops ought to be used to fight and win wars.”

So said then-Gov. George W. Bush in a 2000 in a debate with then-Vice President Al Gore.

Sometime after the September 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks, Bush did a 180-degree turn, adopting a Wilsonian foreign-policy of nation-building, thinking the best way to fight al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups was for the United States to remake the Middle East. As with his big-spending policies, Bush brought much of the Republican party with him. As a result, the foreign-policy advocated by many Republicans today traces its pedigree back through Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter to Woodrow Wilson — not to Ronald Reagan.

In her posthumously published book, Making War to Keep the Peace, Reagan’s U.N. ambassador, Jeane Kirkpatrick, clearly draws the distinction between the Reagan Doctrine — which called for a thorough prudential analysis of the costs and benefits to U.S. interests in determining when to use means other than direct U.S. military intervention to support friendly forces within unfriendly regimes — and the Bush Doctrine which used U.S. forces to directly invade Iraq without having undertaken a methodical analysis of the potential pitfalls of the invasion’s aftermath in which U.S. troops would be charged with the task of trying to rebuild a nation in a culture they know little about and that has no tradition of representative government.

Still, Rudy Giuliani said in last night’s debate he would invade Iraq even if he knew then what we know now — and that he would retrain the U.S. military to be a nation-building force. Really?

Where would Rudy send U.S. troops to nation build next? And would that really be the wisest way to combat al Qaeda?

I find Jeane Kirkpatrick more persuasive.

Terry Jeffrey is editor-at-large of Human Events.

Michael Graham
Rudy, had me at Iraq.

America’s mayor put the Republican party’s Iraq policy into a single, powerful, and nearly irrefutable statement: “It’s unthinkable that you would leave Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq and be able to fight the war on terror.”

Thank you, and good night.

But that wasn’t Rudy’s only moment. His human and humorous reaction to a lightning strike as he began to speak was exactly what voters want to see. Confident, funny, a regular guy who gets it.

Again and again, as Rudy Giuliani answered the most important questions, that was the reaction: “He’s the guy who gets it.”

I happened to watch the debate at St. Anselm’s College itself, in a room of about 100 Republicans invited by my radio station. Watching them was nearly as informative as watching the candidates. Their reaction to Rudy was strong, despite a strong pro-life contingent. Their reaction to Sen. McCain was strong, too, both good and bad.

When John McCain talked about combat and the experiences of our soldiers, the crowd went wild. But when he talked about his amnesty program, they got mad.

The mere mention of immigration was enough to get the crowd around me on the edge of their seat. They wanted to hear one thing, and one thing only: enforcement, enforcement, enforcement.

John McCain has likely done permanent damage to his candidacy with his immigration policy — despite a relatively strong performance tonight.

More importantly, McCain is the GOP’s canary in the open-borders coal mine. If the Republican party doesn’t learn this lesson fast, they’ll be in trouble no matter who they nominate.

— Michael Graham is a talk-radio host on Boston’s WTKK-FM.


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