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GOP YouTube Debate: Who Loves Torture and Hate Immigrants the Most?

Steve Benen: For over two hours, the GOP hopefuls made it abundantly clear that none of them should be the president.
 
 
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This post, written by Steve Benen, originally appeared on The Carpetbagger Report

It’s almost impossible to pick a winner from last night Republican presidential candidate debate in St. Petersburg, Fla., except maybe the entire Democratic field — for more than two hours, the GOP hopefuls made it abundantly clear that none of them should be the president.

With the campaign clearly in “crunch time,” and the Iowa caucuses about a month away, the candidates were bound to start picking some fights. Overall, there were fewer elbows thrown than I expected, but there were still plenty of noteworthy exchanges. The Romney-Giuliani fight over immigration kicked things off. After Romney noted Giuliani’s lax immigration policies, Giuliani hit Romney for having illegal immigrants work at his house. It led to this:

“Are you suggesting, Mr. Mayor — because I — I think it’s really kind of offensive, actually, to suggest — to say look, you know what, if — if you’re a homeowner and you hire a company to come provide a service at your home — paint the home, put on the roof — if you hear someone that’s working out there — not that you’ve employed, but that the company has — if you hear someone with a funny accent, you as a homeowner are supposed to go out there and say, I want to see your papers? Is that what you’re suggesting?”

Giuliani didn’t have a compelling response. Point to Romney. (Fred Thompson got in a related dig: “I am a little surprised the mayor says, you know, everybody’s responsible for everybody that they hire…. I think we’ve all had people, probably, that we have hired that in retrospect probably it was a bad decision.” He was obviously referring to Kerik, but it may have been a little too subtle.)

The even more striking exchange came between McCain and Paul. McCain argued:

“I just want to also say that Congressman Paul, I’ve heard him now in many debates talking about bringing our troops home and about the war in Iraq and how it’s failed.

“And I want to tell you that that kind of isolationism, sir, is what caused World War II. We allowed … Hitler to come to power with that kind of attitude of isolationism and appeasement.”

Generally, McCain tries to come across in these debates as the grown-up, elder statesman of the crowd. This rant about Hitler made him sound like a crazy person.

And perhaps the most substantive exchange came between Huckabee and Romney on education benefits for the children of illegal immigrants. After Huckabee defended his relatively progressive approach in Arkansas, Romney responded:

“Well, you know, I like Mike, and I heard what he just said. But he basically said that he fought for giving scholarships to illegal aliens. And he had a great reason for doing so. It reminds me of what it’s like talking to liberals in Massachusetts. All right? They have great reasons for taking taxpayer money and using it for things they think are the right thing to do.

“Mike, that’s not your money. That’s the taxpayers’ money. (Cheers, applause.) And the right thing here is to say to people that are here legally as citizens or legal aliens, we’re going to help you. But if you’re here illegally, you ought to be able to return home or get in line with everybody else, but illegals are — are not going to get taxpayer-funded breaks that are better than our own citizens’.”

It sounded like the kind of thing that might resonate with a conservative Republican audience.

I’m going to do separate posts on a couple of the questions, most notably the part about gays in the military, but here are some other items from my notes:

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.

 
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