The second Republican primary debate took place in Columbia, SC Tuesday night and overall it was a much improved performance over the first debate at the Reagan Presidential Library in California. The theme of this second debate was the lower tier candidates jumping on Giuliani, McCain, and Romney for their lack of conservative credentials. Giuliani was labeled soft on abortion, McCain soft on immigration, and Romney a flip-flopper who was soft on everything.

Rudy Giuliani, once again, was called on to defend his pro-choice position, and once again, his answer was less than convincing. In fact, it was the same answer that he gave at the last debate. “I think we can agree, all of us, on this stage, that we should seek reductions in abortion. I ultimately do believe in a woman’s right of choice, but I think that there are ways in which we can reduce abortions. Abortions went down 16 percent when I was the mayor. Adoptions went up 133 percent during the eight years that I was mayor, compared to the prior eight years.”

Fox News was not only the broadcaster, but the cosponsor of this debate and it was clear that they decided to slant the air time given to the candidates towards Rudy, McCain, Romney, and Huckabee. Brownback, Hunter, and Tancredo got the occasional bones thrown there way. Gilmore was used to create some conflict on the stage. Thompson was rarely heard from, and Ron Paul got even less screen time then Tommy Thompson. The Fox producers appear to have wanted to create a more lively debate than the first one, which MSNBC put together, and they succeeded.

The highlight of the debate was Ron Paul making the mistake of trying to point out that that one of the reasons why Islamic fundamentalists hate the U.S. might have something to do with our foreign policy in the Middle East.  “They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years. … We’ve been in the Middle East. Right now, we’re building an embassy in Iraq that is bigger than the Vatican. We’re building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting,” Paul said.

Of course this led to Rudy Giuliani defending America’s honor, “That’s really an extraordinary statement. That’s really an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of Sept. 11 that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I have ever heard that before and I have heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sept. 11. I would ask the congressman withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that.” Did anyone else notice that Giuliani completely distorted Paul’s original point? By the way, there is nothing absurd about the idea that the U.S. is hated because of our foreign policy. What was absurd was Giuliani’s shameless mentions of 9/11 and terrorism throughout this debate.

Tom Tancredo took it a step further than Giuliani when he said, “My dear friend Ron here, I dearly love and really respect, but I’ll tell you: I just have to disagree with you, Ron, about the issue of whether … Israel existed or didn’t, whether or not we were in Iraq or not, they would be trying to kill us, because it is a dictate of their religion, at least a part of it. And we have to defend ourselves.” That’s right. Muslims will try to kill Americans no matter what we do, because they just plain don’t like us.

Overall, I could have done without the commercial breaks that Fox inserted into the debate, and the questions were sub par, especially the final hypothetical terrorist situation, which John McCain said was a highly unlikely scenario. In my eyes, the debate winners were McCain, Paul, Huckabee, and Gilmore. Losers included Brownback, Hunter, Tancredo, and Thompson. Giuliani and Romney were in the middle.


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