Steve will stepping behind the bar momentarily.
4:48PM Since tonight’s debate is devoted to the deadly serious business of foreign policy, I’m hoping we get lots of questions where the candidates are asked to raise their hands if they’re sure.
4:50PM Dear CNN,
Want to know how to make your analysts appear more statesmanlike? Line them all up together on a bench like kindergartners in timeout.
4:53PM Must run upstairs for a minute. Forgot to take out my contacts on put on my glasses — and I don’t get to blink much for the next two hours.
4:57PM I love it when the CNN anchors use the phrase “balanced approach” like they didn’t crib it directly from the President’s most recent 1,103 needless press conferences.
4:59PM Speaking of all those needless press conferences, I’d like to apologize for all my complains during that year when Obama didn’t hold any press conferences.
4:59PM Playing the role of Gary Johnson in tonight’s debate, his foreign policy understudy, Ron Paul.
5:00PM Here we go…
5:00PM Wolf Blitzer sounds like he’s introing Wheel! Of! Fortune!
5:02PM What’s with the 24 introductions of tonight’s candidates?
5:03PM The following takes place between 8PM and 10PM.
5:03PM Seriously, Wolf — lay off the Wheel!
5:04PM Earlier, Jim Pethokoukis tweeted that he was getting on a helicopter for the event, on the AEI’s own helipad.
The fact that even the AEI has a helipad tells me there’s far too much money in Washington.
5:05PM Good suit, John Huntsman. And is Michele Bachmann wearing white this long after Labor Day? Somebody, please tell me that’s cream.
5:05PM Newt looks like Newt. I just wish I could pull off a yellow tie the way Cain does.
5:06PM Romney almost slouched his way up. If he wins, he might not age well as President.
5:06PM Better than Ron Paul, though, who might last a week.
5:07PM Wow — a plug for Jersey Boys from Wolf himself. Wonder what the spiff was for that.
5:07PM Only Mitt is singing along. Ron looks irritated.
But that’s not news, is it?
5:08PM Somebody needs to remind Santorum: “Never brown in town.” Black shoes in the big city, Mr. Candidate.
5:08PM Wolf: “I’ll try to guide the discussion.”
5:10PM Wolf: “I’ll be your moderator this evening.”
I’m going to seriously undertip him, just for that.
5:10PM The last couple debates spared us the candidate self-intros. I wish CNN had taken note.
5:10PM Perry is introducing his wife instead of himself.
5:11PM Mitt: “I’ve spent my life in the private sector.” Not for lack of trying, however. Also: First dig at Obama. Mitt ALWAYS gets the first dig at Obama. I respect that.
5:11PM Cain is trying desperately to forget those 53 seconds earlier this week.
5:12PM Newt: “Most important single topic — the survival of the United States.”
Dude. The US can be destroyed only from within.
5:13PM Huntsman: Also introducing his wife.
It’s a nice touch from both men, but Huntsman kept it more understated.
5:13PM Opening with a question from Ed Meese? I thought tonight was foreign policy, not anti-porn.
5:15PM Newt: I love the PATRIOT Act.
Sigh. We’re going to hear a lot of that tonight, except from Ron Paul.
5:15PM Newt wouldn’t change a thing in the PATRIOT Act.
5:16PM Paul: “The PATRIOT Act is unpatriotic because it undermines our liberty.”
5:17PM Newt: “Timothy McVeigh succeeded.” And he got applause for that.
5:17PM Romney looks on as if from above as Newt gets tangled up with Paul.
5:18PM Bachmann: “Today we deal with wireless functions.”
And I’m not even that drunk yet.
5:19PM Huntsman: Somewhere between Paul and Newt on the PATRIOT Act, and somewhere between Slim and None in the polls.
5:20PM This debate feels so very 2004.
5:21PM And I wasn’t –beleive it or not — being a smartass with that last remark. This is a 2004 debate in a 2012 election, where the greatest threat to our liberty and our lives lies in Washington, and not in some cave in Afghanistan.
5:21PM Mitt’s quoting a lot of Declaration of Independence and Constitution tonight. Going for that Tea Party vote.
5:22PM Perry: “Privatise the TSA as soon as I could and get rid of those unions.”
Now there’s an answer for 2012.
5:23PM Back to Santorum… and I appreciate CNN’s attempt to give all the candidates equal time. But first, they should start by dropping two or three candidates from the show.
5:24PM Santorum: “Abraham Lincoln ran right over civil rights.”
This isn’t the Party of Lincoln you’re looking for.
5:24PM Santorum also wants to take a closer look “at younger males.”
5:26PM Paul: They’re “suspects.”
The rest of the field is too gung-ho to make it war on our own soil. Paul goes too far the other way. And our laws our totally inadequate for either case.
5:26PM Cain: “I beleive we can do a whole lot better” on the PATRIOT Act. He’d… privatize it. Huh?
5:27PM Cain just got Wolf Blitzer’s name wrong. There’s a gay porn joke here that I’m not going to make.
5:28PM Next question: Can we wage a drone war in Pakistan to beat al Qaeda?
5:29PM Huntsman: “Term limits!” We’ll blind them with our shining lights! Which is not a line I cribbed from Reagan!
5:29PM Huntsman would wage a drone war against Pakistan.
5:30PM To Bachmann: Would you cut off Pakistan from aid?
5:30PM Bachmann: I know many specifics about Pakistan, some of them quite specifically.
5:32PM Bachmann: Pakistan is “too nuclear to fail.” That’s a great line.
5:32PM Perry: Pakistan is not too nuclear to fail. He wouldn’t send them “one penny.”
5:33PM Tonight’s beverage: E&J Brandy over ice with a splash of club soda. I fell in love with these over the summer, and I’m happy to report the love is totally requited.
5:34PM Perry: Would have a free trade zone in South Asia or something.
5:35PM Romney: “We can’t just write off a major part of the world… we can’t just say goodbye.”
5:36PM Romney is selling a sort of Afghanistanization of the Afghan war effort, much like Nixon did Vietnamization of South Vietnam. The difference is, there was such a thing as Vietnam. Afghanistan is just a place on the map.
5:37PM Huntsman: Nation-building begins at home.
5:38PM Romney: “Are you suggesting, governor, that we… ”
And now Huntsman is schooling Romney. Romney looks sullen, mostly because he just made his first big tactical error of these many debates.
5:38PM Romney is recovering nicely, but he lost stature here, and he won’t gain it back tonight without something pretty stellar.
5:41PM Newt: “Is this like a 30 second response? I’m happy to play by the rules if I know what they are.”
That last bit is always the tough part, huh, Newt?
5:41PM Newt: “You do it for real and you do it intensely.” That’s a CINC right there.
5:42PM Santorum: “I agree with Ron Paul.”
5:43PM Commercial break, just as my cocktail needs refilling. Coincidence, or sign of a higher power with a grand design?
5:47PM Wolf just asked for a question from the audience and got nothing. Now somebody somewhere is wrestling with a mic while the candidates look embarrassed.
5:48PM Q: Would you help Israel knock our Iran’s nuclear program?
5:48PM Cain: I would first make sure the Israelis had, at a bare minimum, three nines.
5:49PM Cain: Wants Israel to have an exit strategy. Or something.
5:49PM Paul: The Israelis are on their own.
5:49PM Well, Ron, usually, yeah.
5:50PM Paul: “Israel has 200, 300 nuclear missiles.”
No. They have that many warheads (we think, estimated.) They have nothing like 200 nuclear-tipped missiles.
5:52PM Q: “Iran is probably less than a year away” from nukes. Is there any sanction that would stop them?
5:52PM Perry: Would sanction the Iranian central bank. “That will shut down that economy.”
5:53PM Of course, sending somebody back to the 18th Century isn’t that big a deal when they’re barely into the 19th and are trying to get back to the 14th.
5:54PM Remarkable lack of attacks on Obama tonight, I’m guessing because his foreign policy has morphed into Bush 44 almost from the start.
5:55PM Newt: We need strategery. He also thinks we could topple Iran in a year by strangling them economically.
5:55PM Bachmann: “I agree with all of that.”
5:56PM Ahem, Mrs Bachmann. Obama didn’t cancel the XL pipeline. He punted on it. That’s arguably worse, and ought to be called on it, rather than getting the facts wrong.
Of course, the above more generally is exactly why Bachmann fell out of the front rank in short order.
5:57PM Paul Wolfowitz asks: What about all those cool things Bush 43 did with foreign aid, would you keep doing those?
5:58PM Santorum: I can’t beleive this late in the game I’m still having to listen to Rick Santorum.
Sorry — that’s what I said, not Santorum.
6:00PM Romney: “Stop the idea of ObamaCare,” to protect the military.
6:01PM Paul: “They’re not cutting anything out of anything,” and Mitt rolled his eyes at that. And that is why Mitt will never warm the hearts of the Tea Party.
6:02PM Mitt: “There’s no price that is worth an Iranian nuclear weapon… my first trip as President will be to Israel.”
6:03PM Q: Would you be willing to say that nat’l security that defense budget cuts are unacceptable?
6:03PM Newt: No! There are cuts to be made.
6:04PM Newt: “That’s what we would do if we were a serious country.”
So much to like about Newt, and then he goes on to say he’d expose government to Six Sigma or something. As if government responds to that sort of thing.
6:04PM Q: Would you bomb Iran?
6:05PM Newt: Last rest only. Pursue regime change first and foremost.
6:05PM Huntsman: “let’s face the deficit reality.”
6:07PM “Let me bring in Governor Perry to this conversation…” Well that says more than was intended.
6:08PM Perry: “I don’t think anybody is surprised that the supercommittee failed.”
6:10PM Perry: “I’d have been working day in and day out” with Congress to produce a budget.
6:10PM That should have been an applause line. He got squat.
6:11PM Santorum: It’s not just the brandy, I swear, but I have no idea what he’s saying. I’m assuming he does.
6:12PM Rick Santorum has a record of “bipartisan accomplishment.” Such as when both sides in Pennsylvania rose up to throw him out of the Senate.
6:13PM Newt is winning this debate by virtue of being the first challenger to Mitt who didn’t throw it all away in his very next debate appearance.
6:15PM Bachmann: Exists on the same plane as Santorum and Huntsman, as far as I’m concerned. Each represents a different wing of the GOP — Tea Party, Social Cons, and None, respectively — and each is going nowhere fast.
6:15PM Newt smiled when Bachmann said “This isn’t Monopoly money” that we’re sending to China.
6:16PM Commercial break!
6:19PM Commerical Break: Men’s Wearhouse, for when you want to represent liberal causes, and look bad doing it.
6:22PM Here we go again…
6:22PM Wolf: “name and the town you’re from.”
6:23PM Now it’s time to talk about who wants to most militarize our southern border.
6:24PM Perry: “I think it’s time for a 21st Century Monroe Doctrine.”
Lefty history teachers everywhere — which is all of them — all just left skidmarks.
6:24PM Damn, but Perry knows how to wear a suit.
6:25PM Paul: The drug war “is another war we ought to cancel.”
Amen. Let’s just call it a draw and back away.
6:26PM Paul: “I think the federal war on drugs is a total failure.”
6:27PM Paul: “Beleive me, the kids can still get the drugs.”
6:27PM Cain: “The answer is yes.” The question was: What is the capital of Belize?
6:28PM Nick Shulz is asking a question! He still owes me $600 for stuff I wrote for TCS!
6:29PM Santorum: Bad stuff is bad, mmkay? Made in America is good. Mmm.
6:30PM Then again, Santorum’s plan only has four points. Mitt’s has 57, or one for each hair he’s had out of place this month.
6:31PM Newt: Citizenship for math majors. And… maybe history geeks?
6:32PM Newt would introduce… selective service for immigrants?
6:32PM You forget sometimes what a big government conservative Newt is, but then he wonks out.
6:32PM Bachmann: I’m against stuff.
6:33PM Michele Bachmann quoting Steve Jobs is like me quoting Bill W.
6:34PM I’m glad to see Newt — or anyone — defending even just bits of the DREAM Act. GOP obstruction on this one will come back to haunt them.
6:35PM Mitt: “Amnesty is a magnet.” And RomneyCare is a repulsor beam!
6:36PM Mitt: “This is a party that loves legal immigration.” Nice to hear that tonight.
6:38PM Perry: I’m with Mitt! Mitt’s with me! We agree!
Not the worst moment of the night, but still cringeworthy.
6:39PM Romney: Perry might stand with me, but I don’t stand with Perry.
6:40PM Break time. And I need this like you wouldn’t beleive.
6:43PM I do not need a TV ad reminding me I’m getting older. Beleive me.
6:45PM This guy from Heritage just called Iraq “a friendly country.” Where’s he been?
6:45PM Cain would not support a no-fly zone over Syria, but he would bravely consult with our allies.
That’s unilateral consultations, if you weren’t sure.
6:46PM Perry just called a no-fly zone “a sanction.”
6:47PM Huntsman: “We missed the Persian spring; the President failed on that front.”
6:49PM Huntsman: Man, but I love the Jews!
6:50PM Paul: “You have to understand who the al Qaeda really is.” Hipster.
6:51PM Wow, Paul is sounding like he belongs on the front lines of OWS right now — even if you agree with what he’s saying.
You know why Syria doesn’t impose a no-fly zone on us? Because of the muthersomething US Air Force is why, you doddering fool.
6:52PM Mitt: “I beleive we need to have an American century.”
We had one. Another would be nice.
6:53PM Perry: “If we’re going to be serious about saving Israel…”
A lot of Israelis just got a belly laugh at the governor’s expense.
6:54PM Santorum: “We need to build a solid hemisphere.” No sinkholes in the Western world!
6:56PM Mitt: “Long term security interest is China.”
6:57PM Mitt is doing a nice job of trying not to alienate Hispanic voters. But this isn’t a friendly format. Or election.
6:58PM Bachmann: “The threat has come home.”
6:58PM Huntsman: “Our biggest problem is right here at home… joblessness.”
6:59PM And that’s it. Final thoughts, assuming I have any, in just a moment.
7:06PM Was there substance? Sure. Plenty of trivialities, too. But this debate seemed to do little more than reinforce the fact that President Obama is the CINC, and none of these people on stage are even close to being CINC. As a blogger who got his start during the War on Terror, I can tell you: There isn’t much unimpressive than an armchair general.
That’s why these candidates have got to agree to fewer debates, and to zero single-issue debates. Presidents don’t deal with one issue at a time. Neither should serious candidates. All these single-issue debates accomplish is to reduce the stature of anyone running against an incumbent President.
I understand the appeal when Heritage and AEI make the offer and CNN supplies the bandwidth. But I get the feeling that CNN understands the real stakes (just described), while Heritage/AEI/Candidates don’t seem to understand anything beyond the surface level of, “Oh, a foreign policy debate! People LOVE us on foreign policy!”
No, in serious times, serious people love serious people. And there wasn’t much seriousness to be seen tonight.
We need lots of debates. But they ought to be restricted to candidates which something of a chance, and hosted by people (and broadcasted by people) with a seriousness worthy of our times.
Did you see any of that tonight? Because I didn’t.