Q: Is Rudy best candidate for national security?
McCain: Mayor Giuliani did a great job as mayor of New York City, inspired us after 9/11. But I have spent my life on national security issues. In 2003, I spoke against the Rumsfeld strategy – so much needless sacrifice. This strategy is winning. I know war. I have seen war. I understand national security.
Q: To Rudy, will you go to Iraq by end of the year?
Rudy: I hope to go to Iraq, we want to make sure we don’t create too much publicity. I have tremendous respect for Senator McCain. If I wasn’t running, I’d probably be supporting him. But I think there’s a better candidate. Me. I have a great deal of experience. Third-ranking official in Justice Department.
Romney, asked about his Iraq candidate, says he doesn’t have a timeframe. Comments that we’re going to hear more. If the surge is working, we’re going to be able to bring back our troop levels, slowly, but surely. We’ll be in a standby role in other nations. (It’s a better answer than my transcribing skills can give you.)
Goler tries to pin him on a date, and Romney says if we see the surge working, we hope for the timetable to be as soon as possible.
McCain jabs, “It’s working. Not apparently. It’s working. We’ve got a great general. The Maliki governemnt is not working the way we want, the police are not working the way we want. The great debate will occur on the floor of the Senate, whether we set a date for surrender and withdrawal. We have to rally the American people… I want our troops home to. But I want them home the right way. I want them home with honor. ” It’s McCain at his best.
Paul: Says war supporters have been wrong on everything they said. The war has not gone well one bit. The fact that we had troops in Saudi Arabia is one of the three reasons for 9/11. Going into Iraq, Afghanistan and threatening Iran is the worst thing we can do for our national security.
Wallace hits him for suggesting we should take our marching orders from al-Qaeda. Wow, that confrontational for a moderator.
Paul: No! We should take our marching orders from our Constitution! His supporters, loud, love it.
Brownback totally whiffs on chance to whack at anything Paul has said, and cites Thomas Friedman’s call for a political surge. Urrrrrgh. Seriously disappointing. We had some serious drama going there. Okay, who’s gonna swing away at Ron Paul, since Brownback won’t?
Huckabee: “We have to continue the surge.” Tells a story about going to the store with his mother, a variation of you break it, you buy it. “We can’t just turn away.” If there’s anybody on this stage who understands honor, it’s Senator McCain. A nice moment.
“Congressman, whether or not we should have gone to Iraq is a discussion that the historians can have.” Mike Huckabee, aiming for the role of Rudy tonight.
Paul: The American people didn’t go in. Neoconservatives hijacked our foreign policy.
Huckabee says we’re one country.
Paul: It’s our responsability to correct the mistake, not continue the mistake.
It’s a great back-and-forth.
Huckabee: Even if we lose elections, we should not lose our honor. This gets applause.
Paul: How many more lives? How much more do we have to pay to save face? It’s time to come home!
And then, after two of the most fiery candidates go at it hammer and tong, Duncan Hunter comes along to take away the punchbowl, just as the party’s getting good. Offers a sober, respectable, and comparably boring comment about training the Iraqis and rotating them in. “It’s called victory, that’s how we leave Iraq.”
“If you think we’re going to be there a long time, you don’t understand the determination of the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Army.”
This is a good debate.
Tancredo opposes the surge? What, with the extra troops over there, we have too many Spanish-language books slipping into the Denver library?
Campaign Carl says the diner folks think they’re skirting the issues. The guy in the diner asks about the endgame. The guy in the diner says he was offended by the comparison of his sons working on his campaign to military service. “I know you apologized but it was wrong, sir, and you never should have said it.” A needless jab, I think.
Romney’s answer is a bit of a flub. Kinda meanders around, “war on jihad,” “we need a global strategy,” “threat to entire civilized world.” Never quite gets to the endgame in Iraq point.
Brit notes he said that “it appears successful”, and Romney says he wants to hear from Petraeus.
Goler asks Romney about wiretapping mosques. Even without a judge’s approval?
Romney: Of course not. Kind of a dumb question from Goler. Might be better just to ask Romney to elaborate on why he would want to wiretap certain mosques.
McCain reiterates his opposition to torture. Says the damage it does to America’s reputation outweighs any information you might get. It’s a solid answer, until he says our enemies will use that as an excuse. Thanks Huckabee.
Rudy compares closing Guantanamo to New York judges letting criminals back on the streets. Says the problem is, “Nobody will take the people there!” Hits liberal media.
Hunter: We have conducted tribunals. Sent back some of the people we thought weren’t a threat. Then they ended up back on the battlefield again. “They’ve all gained weight… They have honey-glazed chicken and rice pilaf on Fridays.”
Brownback says he wouldn’t give his veep the power of Cheney.
They’re asked about taxes.