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GOP Debate: Ron Paul Gets Booed For Saying 70 Percent of Americans Oppose Iraq War

Steve Benen: Watching this Republican debate was a bit like watching a car race for the crashes.
 
 
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This post, written by Steve Benen, originally appeared on The Carpetbagger Report

It's hard to overstate how awful the Republican Party looks when watching its would-be presidential nominees discuss their ideas for 90 minutes on Fox News. At one point during last night's debate in Orlando, Rudy Giuliani literally blew kisses to the state of the Florida in order to thank the state for helping steal the 2000 election. "You saved us in 2000," Giuliani said. "That was a big one."

Around the same time, Ron Paul mentioned "70- some percent of the people in America want the war over with. They're sick and tired of it and they want our troops to come home." The audience booed, though it was unclear if the Republican crowd was angry at the country for opposing the war, or angry with Paul for having the audacity to mention it.

The debate was filled with head-shaking moments like these. Duncan Hunter said Dems aren't trustworthy on national security because of the Bay of Pigs in 1961. Fred Thompson made fun of Ted Kennedy's weight. At one point, Romney said, "All of us here are Republicans...but it's essential that the strength of the house Ronald Reagan built is going to lead us." A few minutes later, he added, "All of us on the stage are Republican, but the question is, who will be able to build the house that Ronald Reagan built" -- apparently unaware that he'd already said the exact same thing a couple of minutes earlier.

Watching the entire event, one is filled with more than just dread. One sits there thinking, "What is wrong with these people?"

Specifics aside, the striking thing about these debates is recognizing just how little seriousness there is to the entire Republican nominating process. There isn't even a hint of substance, on any policy matter. Of the entire field, Ron Paul would at least try to articulate an idea that fell slightly outside the agreed-upon GOP talking points, and he was rewarded with robust boos.

This isn't to say last night's debate wasn't newsworthy. The event may have been mind-numbing, but at least it featured a few fireworks.

Huckabee, fairly early on, seemed to be taking the 11th-commandment approach to intra-party warfare: "What I'm interested in is fighting for the American people, and I think they're looking for a presidential candidate who's not so interested in a demolition derby against the other people in his own party."

But he was the only one. Fox News' questioners wanted some antagonism, they baited the candidates, and we saw some of the most direct criticism of the campaign cycle.

Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of Salon.com's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.