Strong Field, Good Debate

by Cal Thomas

The question probably everyone was ready to have asked — and answered — was the one posed on marital fidelity. Mitt Romney’s latest campaign commercial not so subtly raised the issue as he again promoted his “wife of 46 years” and children. Since all the other candidates remain married to their original spouses, this question might have been a trap for Newt Gingrich, who has been divorced twice and married three times. Each of the other candidates answered before Newt, possibly giving him extra time to think, though it is difficult to imagine he wasn’t prepared for it. Only Gov. Rick Perry made a direct connection between living up to one’s marriage vows and the possibility that one might “cheat his business partner” if he didn’t. The others seemed more forgiving. Rick Santorum said it was a factor in determining one’s character, but not the deciding factor. That sounds about right. By the time it was Newt’s turn, he gave the answer we have heard before about asking God for forgiveness for his mistakes of the past. That ended it and the questioners moved on.

On the Middle East, Gingrich refused to back down from his recent contention that the Palestinians are a modern invention who didn’t have that name until 1977. He is right and it was instructive to many to hear him speak of Palestinian textbooks that contain hatred for Jews. Michele Bachmann added her own evidence to support what Newt said. The others were not as direct and seemed squeamish about stating the obvious.

On the health-care mandate, Bachmann tried to coin a new phrase, repeatedly referring to “Newt Romney” to tie both of them to the Massachusetts health-insurance plan and Gingrich’s former support for a federal insurance mandate, which he said he came to realize was the wrong approach.

All the candidates got in digs at President Obama, but Romney had the best line, saying the president believes in “an entitlement society.”

Gingrich took on Romney’s contention that he has mostly been a businessman, saying that Romney would have been a career politician had he defeated Sen. Ted Kennedy in his 1994 senate race. The comment prompted a few boos, but Romney’s comeback was priceless. He said it was probably true, but it was also equally true that he might have been a professional football player had his desire to play football translated into sufficient skill to have a career in the National Football League.

Some Republicans have called this a “weak field” of candidates. In fact, they are sharp and experienced, and each one brings to the table strong beliefs, at least some of which are good and right. Now if we could just have one candidate who combined the best of each of them. But we can’t. We have to choose. That choosing begins January 3. The Iowa debate should go a long way in helping us choose the right and the best one to become the eventual nominee.

— Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist, a USA Today columnist, and a Fox News contributor.

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