Ten Reagan Wannabes Duke It Out

This post originally appeared on DavidCorn.com

Another presidential debate--another snoozefest? Not quite. But these debates are already coming across as reruns. And we're still eight months away from the voting.

This time it was the Republicans' turn, with the GOPers gathering in South Carolina, an important early-primary state. There were a few zingers. Senator John McCain replying to a jab from ex-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, said, "I've taken and kept a consistent position on campaign finance reform. I have kept a consistent position on right to life. And I haven't changed my position on even number years and haven't changed my position based on what offices I may be running for." Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani slammed Representative Ron Paul, a libertarian Republican opposed to the Iraq war, after Paul suggested 9/11 was the result of US bombing raids in Iraq in previous years. But these candidates-crowded debates are not all that useful in sorting out the contenders. Too many wannabes are on the stage. There's little back and forth--and not much depth to the answers. It's a cavalcade of soundbites and talking points. It would be better to have a few candidates gather for separate face-offs. That would give them each the chance to explain the superficial responses that fill the short time allotted for answers.

Which brings me to some of the more superficial--or silly--remarks of the night.

* McCain noted that the United States cannot fail in Iraq because if "we fail in Iraq we will see Iraq become a center for al Qaeda, chaos, genocide in the region and they will follow us home." But what if the Iraqi parliament votes for the recently introduced bill calling for a withdrawal of US troops? A majority of the Iraqi parliament has signed on to the legislation. Should such a bill pass, would a President McCain keep US troops in Iraq to get the "terrorists" before they "follow us home"? How would that work? Iraq is more than a front in the us-versus-them battle.

* Romney depicted the global jihadist threat by noting that "they've come together"--Sunni, Shia, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood--to undermine moderate Arab governments, establish a fundamentalist caliphate throughout the Middle East, and destroy the West, especially the United States. With this observation, he made it seem as if Sunnis and Shiites are terrorist outfits.

* Former New York City Rudy Giuliani excoriated Senator Hillary Clinton for having said "we must take taxes to give them to the common good." But isn't that the whole point of taxes? Money is expropriated from citizens to pay for communal services: the police, the fire department, the military, environmental protections, parks, food and drug safety, roads, education, and so on. Does Giuliani believe local and national governments should not "take" taxes from the people?

* Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson said there are "enough [stem cells] lines now" to support a robust research effort and there is no need to lift the Bush administration's ban on federal funding of research using new lines of stem cells. Thompson was defending a policy imposed by George W. Bush in 2001 when he was Secretary of Health and Human Services. But most biotech experts say--as they did in 2001--that there's not a sufficient number of decent-quality lines available for federally funded research.

* Representative Tom Tancredo went back in time. He claimed that for every scientist who says that human-induced global warming is under way, there's another scientist who says that's not so. He must not have looked at a newspaper....since 1989.

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