The Republican Debate: Out of Touch Extremists Who Make Barry Goldwater Look Liberal

Last night’s Republican debate was again disappointing, as it points out the fact that we no longer have a viable two party system. The Republicans remain too far out of touch with reality to be able to govern effectively, as we’ve seen both under George Bush and the entire time the Republicans controlled Congress. As comes up during my review of the debate, we can see how far the Republicans have moved to the right when Barry Goldwater’s views are more welcome by the Democrats than current Republican candidates.

The first question of substance dealt with whether going into Iraq was a mistake:

Governor Romney, I wanted to start by asking you a question on which every American has formed an opinion. We’ve lost 3,400 troops; civilian casualties are even higher, and the Iraqi government does not appear ready to provide for the security of its own country. Knowing everything you know right now, was it a mistake for us to invade Iraq?

Romney: “Well, the question is kind of a non sequitur, if you will, and what I mean by that — or a null set. And that is that if you’re saying let’s turn back the clock, and Saddam Hussein had opened up his country to IAEA inspectors, and they’d come in and they’d found that there were no weapons of mass destruction, had Saddam Hussein, therefore, not violated United Nations resolutions, we wouldn’t be in the conflict we’re in.”

I’m not sure if Romney is weaker on math, for his misuse of “null set” or on recent history. He forgets that at the time the war began Saddam had already let the inspectors back in. Perhaps he is afraid to answer because of the way an answer to a similar question posed to another candidate from Massachusetts was distorted in the subsequent coverage. While Romney avoided answering, Giuliani at least did give a response:

MR. GIULIANI: Absolutely the right thing to do. It’s unthinkable that you would leave Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq and be able to fight the war on terror. And the problem is that we see Iraq in a vacuum. Iraq should not be seen in a vacuum. Iraq is part of the overall terrorist war against the United States.

Giuliani continues to give the Bush line on the war, falsely connecting Saddam and terrorism as I’ve previously noted. At least Ron Paul gave a more realistic answer on Iraq, but I wonder who it was at the Republican debate applauding his answer:

MR. BLITZER: Congressman Ron Paul, how much longer should the United States stay in Iraq?

MR. PAUL: The sooner we come home, the better. If they declare there’s no progress in September, we should come home. It was a mistake to go, so it’s a mistake to stay. If we made the wrong diagnosis, we should change the treatment. So we’re not making progress there and we should come home. The weapons weren’t there, and we went in under U.N. resolutions. And our national security was not threatened.

We’re more threatened now by staying. (Applause.)

Giuliani’s best moment came when discussing abortion. He both got in a good one liner, and made some sense as to allowing women to make their own choices:

Mayor Giuliani, there was some news here today. A Catholic bishop in Rhode Island said some words about your position on abortion, suggesting that it was similar to Pontius Pilate’s personal opposition to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion but allowing it to happen anyway.

How does that make you feel when you hear words like that from a Catholic bishop?

MR. GIULIANI: Well, you know — well, a Catholic bishop — (off mike) —

MR. BLITZER: That’s the lightning that’s having an affect on —

MR. GIULIANI: (Laughs.) Yeah, I know.

MR. BLITZER: — our system. (Laughter, applause.)

(Cross talk.)

MR. GIULIANI: Look, for someone who went to parochial schools all his life, this is a very frightening thing that’s happening right now. (Laughter.)

But the reality is, I respect, you know, the opinion of Catholic — (off mike) — religious leaders of all kinds. Religion is very important to me, it’s a very important part of my life. But ultimately, as a — (off mike) — I’ve been in public life most of my life and taken oaths of office to enforce the law, I’ve got to make the decisions that I think are the right ones in a country like ours.

And my view on abortion is that it’s wrong, but that ultimately government should not be enforcing that decision on a woman. That’s — that is my view that I — I consult my religion, I consult my reading of the Constitution, I consult my views of what I think are important in a pluralistic society, and the reality that we have to respect the fact that there are people that are equally as religious, equally as moral that make a different decision about this. And should government put them in jail?

Huckabee got further time to discuss his views on evolution. He clearly does not understand the science, such as when he characterizes evolution as saying man evolved from primates. Despite such gaps in his knowledge, he is at least far more articulate in discussing the issue than many other Republicans:

Governor Huckabee, at a previous debate, you and two of your colleagues indicated that you do not believe in evolution. You’re an ordained minister. What do you believe? Is it the story of creation as it is reported in the Bible or described in the Bible?

MR. HUCKABEE: It’s interesting that that question would even be asked of somebody running for president. I’m not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth-grade science book. I’m asking for the opportunity to be president of the United States.

But you’ve raised the question, so let me answer it. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” To me it’s pretty simple, a person either believes that God created this process or believes that it was an accident and that it just happened all on its own.

And the basic question was an unfair question because it simply asks us in a simplistic manner whether or not we believed — in my view — whether there’s a God or not. Well let me be very clear: I believe there is a God. I believe there is a God who was active in the creation process. Now, how did he do it, and when did he do it, and how long did he take? I don’t honestly know, and I don’t think knowing that would make me a better or a worse president.

But I’ll tell you what I can tell the country. If they want a president who doesn’t believe in God, there’s probably plenty of choices. But if I’m selected as president of this country, they’ll have one who believes in those words that God did create. And as the words of Martin Luther, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” And I will not take that back.

MR. BLITZER: Governor, but — but — (applause) — I think the specific question — the specific question is do you believe literally it was done in six days and it occurred 6,000 years ago?

MR. HUCKABEE: No, I did answer that, Wolf. I said I don’t know. My point is, I don’t know; I wasn’t there. (Laughter.) But I believe whether God did it in six days or whether he did it in six days that represented periods of time, he did it, and that’s what’s important.

But, you know, if anybody wants to believe that they are the descendants of a primate, they are certainly welcome to do it. I don’t know how far they will march that back. But I believe that all of us in this room are the unique creations of a God who knows us and loves us and who created us for his own purpose.

Ron Paul was the only Republican to defend the views of the founding fathers and back the idea of separation of church and state:

Congressman Paul, you ran for president once before as a Libertarian. What do you say about this whole issue of church and state and these issues that are coming forward right now?

REP. PAUL: Well, I think we should read the First Amendment, where it says, “Congress shall write no law.” And we should write a lot less laws regarding this matter. It shouldn’t be a matter of the president or the Congress. It should be local people, local officials. The state should determine so many of these things that we just don’t need more laws determining religious things or prayer in school. We should allow people at the local level.

That’s what the Constitution tells us. We don’t need somebody in Washington telling us what we can do, because we don’t have perfect knowledge. And that’s the magnificence of our Constitution and our republic. We sort out the difficult problems at local levels and we don’t have one case fit all, because you have a Supreme Court ruling like on Roe versus Wade; it (ruined ?) it for the whole country.

Rudy Giuliani was more realistic than many Republicans on accepting the view of scientists on climate change:

MR. FAHEY: Mayor Giuliani, sea levels around the world are rising. Average temperatures are increasing. A U.N. report written by scientists from 113 countries recently said that climate change is very likely man-made and may affect us for centuries to come.

Is science wrong on global warming? And what, if any, steps would you take as president to address the issue of climate change?

MR. GIULIANI: I think we have to accept the view that scientists have that there is global warming and that human operation, human condition, contributes to that. And the fact is that there is a way to deal with it and to address it in a way that we can also accomplish energy independence, which we need as a matter of national security.

It’s frustrating and really dangerous for us to see money going to our enemies because we have to buy oil from certain countries. We should be supporting all the alternatives. We need a project similar to putting a man on the moon. That project started with Eisenhower. It was carried out by Kennedy and then Johnson and then Nixon. And that was two Democrats and two Republicans working — (audio difficulties) — working in the national interest.

There was considerable discussion of gays in the military, with far more support for “don’t ask, don’t tell” from many of the Republicans than was present when first proposed.

MR. BLITZER: Mayor Giuliani, recently we’ve learned that several talented, trained linguists — Arabic speakers, Farsi speakers, Urdu speakers trained by the U.S. government to learn those languages to help us in the war on terrorism — were dismissed from the military because they announced they were gays or lesbians. Is that, in your mind, appropriate?

MR. GIULIANI: This is not the time to deal with disruptive issues like this. Back in 1994 we went through this and it created a tremendous amount of disruption. Colin Powell, I think, was still the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before he left at the beginning of the Clinton administration. He came to the view that this was a good policy. And I think in time of war, in a time where we’re trying to deal with this transition to a new kind of warfare that we have to be fighting — and we haven’t gotten all the way there yet, we need a hybrid army, we need to look at nation-building as part of what we have to teach our military — I don’t think this would be the right time to raise these issues.

A time when we have a shortage of people with the needed skills is exactly the time to raise these issues and make a change. At the Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton quoted Barry Goldwater in saying, “You don’t have to be straight to shoot straight.” It shows how far the modern Republican party has deviated from the views of Barry Goldwater that he was quoted at the Democratic Debate, but not a single one of the current Republican candidates shares his view.
The Democrats were asked what they would do with Bill Clinton. The Republicans were asked about George Bush, and Tancredo had the most interesting answer:

REP. TANCREDO: Thank you. Some time ago, 2003 I think it was, I got a call from Karl Rove who told me that because of my criticism of the president, I should never darken the doorstep of the White House. I have been so disappointed in the president in so many ways since his — actually for the last several years, not just the immigration issue, but several other things, including the No Child Left Behind and the massive increase in government that we call prescription drug — Medicare prescription drug, that I’m afraid I would have to tell the president of the United States — I mean as president, I would have to tell George Bush exactly the same thing Karl Rove told me.

MR. BLITZER: Thank you, Congressman. (Applause.)

The lack of respect for the rule of law was seen in the discussion of Scooter Libby’s sentence, as none saw the acts committed as a crime.

Giuliani spoke more on health care, again showing that he concentrates far more on demagoguery than on rational though. He concluded his remarks by saying, “Socialized medicine will ruin medicine in the United States.” As I previously noted, while Giuliani brings out the scare stories of “socialized medicine” there is not a single Democrat running who wants to eliminate our system of privately run medical practices and hospitals. There’s not even a serious candidate advocating moving to a single payer plan, unless you believe that Dennis Kucinich has a chance of winning.

What Giuliani and the Republicans won’t admit is that it is the Republicans, not the Democrats, who have instituted a greater degree of government control over health care. It is the Republicans who wish to intervene in a woman’s right to an abortion as well as restrict access to Plan B and to birth control. It is the Republicans who harass physicians who prescribe narcotics to treat chronic pain, and who fight to prevent the use of medicinal marijuana. It was the Republicans who got the government involved in end of life decisions in the Terri Schiavo case. It was a Republican President who devised the current Medicare D plan which is primarily a monetary reward to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries for their huge contributions.

The candidates were asked about moral issues. Huckabee made a good point that many opponents of choice on abortion should pay more attention to people after they are born:

MS. VAUGHN: Governor Huckabee, you are an ordained minister. What is the most pressing moral issue in this country?

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, it looks like I’m getting all the moral questions tonight, and I guess that’s a good thing. (Laughter.) That’s better than getting the immoral questions. (Laughter.) So I’m happy to get those.

I really believe that if you define in — a moral issue, it is our respect, our sanctity and our understanding of the value of every single human life, because that is what makes America a unique place on this planet. We value every life of an individual as if it represents the life of us all.

Many of us who are pro-life, quite frankly, I think, have made the mistake of giving people the impression that pro-life means we care intensely about people as long as that child is in the womb, but beyond the gestation period, we’ve not demonstrated as demonstrably as we should that we respect life at all levels, not just during pregnancy.

We shouldn’t allow a child to live under a bridge or in the back seat of a car.

We shouldn’t be satisfied that elderly people are being abused and neglected in nursing homes. It should never be acceptable to us that people are treated as expendable — any people. But the unique part of our country is that we elevate and we celebrate human life.

Ron Paul raised another important issue:

Congressman Paul, what’s the most pressing moral issue in the United States right now?

REP. PAUL: I think it is the acceptance just recently that we now promote preemptive war. I do not believe that’s part of the American tradition. We in the past have always declared war in the defense of our liberties or go to aid somebody, but now we have accepted the principle of preemptive war. We have rejected the just- war theory of Christianity. And now, tonight, we hear that we’re not even willing to remove from the table a preemptive nuclear strike against a country that has done no harm to us directly and is no threat to our national security!

I mean, we have to come to our senses about this issue of war and preemption and go back to traditions and our Constitution and defend our liberties and defend our rights, but not to think that we can change the world by force of arms and to start wars. (Applause.)

Immigration was probably the topic discussed the most, and it would be best for those interested to review the full debate rather than to try to break that into a handful of quotes.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    Larry Perrault says:

    I understand the science very well. I have read the best that both sides have to offer from a scientific perspective. If you are more familiar with the data than I am, then both of our knowledge of the data is far beyond the familiarity of the average.

    Irrespective of how prepared he was or wasn’t, Huckabee didn’t think it was important to discuss minutia so much as to be clear that he believes that God was ultimately responsible. I have time. How familiar with the science are you, and do you want to post a discussion on the blog?

    Larry Perrault

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    There are already many posts here dealing with evolution, as well as links to sites which go more into the basic science.

    Evolution is a fundamental part of modern biology. Regardless of what conservatives may believe, science isn’t something which is decided by debates in the media and blogs. Citing a bunch of bogus ideas from the Discovery Institute and similar groups does not alter reality.

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