WASHINGTON, August 11, 2011 – One thing you could say about the debate; this one was definitely more exciting than the last one. Once again, Ron Paul came away looking smarter than the rest.
The biggest loser was the increasingly irrelevant Rick Santorum. The former Senator from Pennsylvania was irritated with the lack of attention he was getting, and when he got that attention during the second half of the debate, he proceeded to make a fool of himself.
While trying to score points with the few establishment Republicans left, Santorum’s attacks on Congressman Paul backfired when the Representative from Texas taught him a lesson in history. When Dr. Paul informed Santorum that the United States helped overthrow the government of Iran in 1953, the former Senator seemed unaware or uninterested in this fact. This confrontation was similar to the one that Giuliani and Paul had last election cycle over 9/11, which eventually gave a boost to Paul’s campaign.
One of the most memorable events of the evening was the confrontation between Michelle Bachman and Tim Pawlenty, the two candidates from Minnesota. In a clear fight for domination over the Iowa voters, Pawlenty and Bachman were at each other’s throats. It would not have been surprising if a knife fight had broken out with any more intensity.
Pawlenty was the clear loser in the exchange after he made it clear that he would sacrifice principle in favor of pragmatism. Those in attendance did not take too well to this approach; all the more reason to believe that the former Governor of Minnesota might be finished after the Iowa Caucus.
While Bachman may have won that exchange, she once again dug herself a hole with the very first answer she gave. Although she answered the question, she added some red meat by declaring that Barack Obama was a one-term President. This will do little to silence her critics who claim she has no substance.
The debate did have one newcomer, and that was Jon Huntsman Jr. To say that his performance was lack luster would be an understatement. The only real message that the former Governor of Utah was able to convey was that he was proud of his record. What that record is remains a mystery to those who watched the debate.
Perhaps the candidate with the biggest night was former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. This was not because he won the debate, it’s because he was all but finished before last night, and somehow kept his campaign alive with a solid performance.
Some of the credit for Gingrich’s big night should have gone to Congressman Paul, however. Speaker Gingrich drew great applause for his support of auditing the Federal Reserve, something Dr. Paul has supported since his first term back in the mid 70s. Gingrich spoke of the poor monetary policy of the Fed going back to the 90’s. This was quite amusing because there isn’t any evidence that Newt Gingrich has even had a position on the Fed at all before this election cycle. The Speaker’s comments on the Fed were taken almost word for word from other speeches given by Dr. Paul.
Governor Romney might have had his weakest performance yet. He constantly dodged questions, and did not have a satisfactory answer to the fact that while he was Governor, Massachusetts was ranked 47th in job creation.
Governor Romney also missed the point entirely when discussing the difference between Romneycare and Obamacare. While Romneycare was technically Constitutional, the former Governor avoided the fact that it was still a bad policy. It is no wonder that he has decided not to compete in the Iowa Ames Straw Poll.
Herman Cain may have escaped the debate with the fewest bumps and bruises, but this was only due to a surplus of bland and non-committal statements and a refusal to take many difficult positions on the issues.
Cain has still failed to convince most voters that an owner of a pizza company is qualified to be commander in chief.
Congressman Ron Paul, once again, was the only candidate to provide useful and rational insight into our nation’s problems. He explained how the Federal Reserve creates bubbles and is the cause of the business cycle; a concept probably lost on most of the other candidates.
Dr. Paul did have some trouble with the follow-up to his first answer when he was asked about getting an immigration bill through a divided Congress. He recovered nicely, however, with his explanation of government-run healthcare and the wedge it creates between doctors and patients.
Congressman Paul’s finest moments came when he had to teach his fellow candidates about the Constitution. When Michelle Bachman challenged Paul on his view of the rights of enemy combatants, Dr. Paul rightly stated that the courts exist for a reason. He reminded Bachman that automatically declaring an individual as an enemy combatant without a trial was against the rule of law.
Rick Santorum later challenged Dr. Paul on his views of state’s rights. He quoted Abraham Lincoln by saying that “The States do not have a right to do wrong.” If Santorum truly believes this then he denies the intent of the 10th amendment.
It was these reasons and more that Chris Wallace gave Ron Paul the title of “Constitutional expert” during the debate. While it is still yet to be seen how well Dr. Paul will do in the Iowa Straw Poll, it is likely that he will surprise many people.
Conor Murphy is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in political science. As a former radio talk show host on WVCW, Conor hosted two popular shows, Murphy’s Law and Son of the Revolution. You can read more of his columns in The Political Pro-Con at The Washington Times Communities
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