Foreign Policy Debate II: Winners and Runners-Up

Rich Galen
By Rich Galen | November 23, 2011 | 7:19 AM EST

Generally: Every debate starts with more and longer packages, more solemn announcers, and a greater sense of import. Took 13:30 to get to the first question. I was surprised - pleasantly surprised - that for the most part the candidates had a good idea what they were talking about, and had thought through their basic positions. I say "for the most part" because Rick Perry and Herman Cain were clearly out of their depth.

Newt Gingrich:

Newt was not challenged by the other candidates. He didn't outshine his opponents in this debate, not because he wasn't ready for it, but because so many of the others performed far better than they have been in previous debates.

He hit his stride when asked about sanctions against Iran that would harm Europe, Newt immediately pivoted to the need for a U.S. energy policy which would free up oil from other sources - which we are importing - to be available for Europe to replace Iranian oil.

Mitt Romney:

Romney, was marginally better than he has been in previous debates because he finally showed some passion. It came during a discussion of whether we would stand with Israel if they attacked Iran and mandated cuts in the military budget because of the failure of the Super Committee to do its job.

Throughout the rest of the debate Romney showed he was, as usual, prepared, comfortable with his material, and was able to state his positions with clarity and poise.

Herman Cain:

Cain is the master of answering every question by saying he would ask the experts and decide what would work and what wouldn't.

He had no ideas, no plans, no understanding other than being very proud that he knew Iran was a "mountainous region."

Rick Perry:

Perry wasn't as bad as Cain, but he was clearly out of his league with the other candidates. At one point he couldn't remember the name of the Arab League, but didn't stumble over it. He had a plan to create an economic zone which would include Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan.

He said we should cut of all aid to Pakistan until they prove they are a worthy ally. Michele Bachmann slapped that down.

Throughout the evening, Perry delivered lines which appeared to have been designed to generate applause, but they were greeted by silence.

He didn't embarrass himself, but a great weakness was exposed.

Ron Paul:

Paul has his positions set in concrete. You might not agree with them, but they are consistent one to the other, and he is not shy about stating them forcefully. He said the Patriot Ac is unpatriotic and said foreign assistance was effectively "taking money from poor people in America and sending it to rich people in poor countries around the world."

Paul backers loved it. Backer of other candidates would be wise to at least listen to him because he represents a pretty solid 10 percent of the GOP vote.

Michele Bachmann:

During her introduction, Bachmann scored early with a Happy Thanksgiving wish to service members and their families. It was gracious and no one else had thought of it. Better than I thought she would be. Way better. On the difference between criminals and terrorists she said, "President Obama has outsourced interrogation of suspected terrorists to the ACLU."

Later, when Perry called for cutting off aid to Pakistan, Bachmann said that position was naive after which Perry did not ask for time to respond.

Jon Huntsman:

This was by far Huntsman's best performance. He knows his stuff and wasn't afraid to show it. On dealing with terrorists he said that when he lived overseas he saw that "when America's light shines it moves people all over the world."

He and Romney got into it over drawing troops down from Afghanistan - Huntsman appeared to be in favor of doing it more quickly; Romney letting the military decide the timeline.

Rick Santorum:

Santorum was comfortable with his material given his experience on the Senate Armed Services Committee. He wandered into dangerous territory when he said the TSA (or a privatized version of it) should engage in racial profiling. "Muslims should be people who would be looked at," he said.

On civilian foreign assistance (as opposed to military aid) he said that programs like PEPFAR and Millennium Challenge Funds provide service to people who need it creating good will toward the United states. "Foreign assistance is far cheaper than military action," he said.

On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A very pretty Mullfoto showing our family house in Western Massachusetts where I am spending the week, and a dramatic Catchy Caption of the Day.