Our campaign to force Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party to open up their May 15 presidential debate to all 10 official and declared candidates was vindicated by what happened at the May 3 debate broadcast by MSNBC. Republicans got a chance to see a real exchange of views. Candidates like Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo, who might have been excluded from the May 15 Fox News debate under the channel’s original criteria, talked about issues most of the other candidates would prefer to ignore. And despite the sometimes overbearing presence of liberal moderator Chris Matthews, several questions asked by Matthews and John Harris of Politico.com delineated real differences among the candidates.
Bill Kristol of Fox News insists that Matthews did a “terrible” job and MSNBC was a “terrible” sponsor. But the fact is that MSNBC was always prepared to air the debate with all 10 official and declared Republican candidates. That’s more than Fox News was prepared to do with its May 15 debate. Fox had wanted to exclude up to seven of the candidates, claiming they were not “serious.” Only public pressure forced Fox News to back down.
Although he was denounced for asking “silly” questions, Matthews performed a public service by pinning down Rudy Giuliani on the abortion issue. Matthews forced Giuliani to concede that he is not only pro-abortion but pro-taxpayer funding of abortion. The exchange, in which Giuliani shot himself in both feet, was quickly posted on YouTube. It turns out this is only one of many embarrassing clips of Giuliani on this issue. He comes across as a pro-abortion fanatic. To the dismay of the Fox News executives who were pulling for the former New York City mayor, Giuliani seems finished as a “serious” Republican presidential candidate.
On the important matter of Iraq, Ron Paul was given an opportunity during the MSNBC debate to note that the Republicans lost the congressional elections in 2006 because of the war and that they risk losing the presidency in 2008 for the same reason. Paul said, “I tried very hard to solve this problem before we went to war by saying, ‘Declare war if you want to go to war. Go to war, fight it and win it, but don’t get into it for political reasons or to enforce U.N. resolutions or pretend the Iraqis were a national threat to us.’”
The format of the debate mandated short answers, but Rep. Paul has noted on other occasions that President Reagan made a mistake in deploying U.S. troops to Lebanon during that country’s civil war and recognized it as such after 241 U.S. troops were killed in a suicide bombing. The implication is that Republicans should recognize they made a mistake in invading Iraq and that the best course of action at this point is to withdraw. So far, most Republicans are sticking with the Bush “surge” policy of more troops.
However, some conservatives who supported the war are beginning to question the current policy. Terence Jeffrey of Human Events notes that a military victory is not even the declared policy of the U.S. and that “Americans are dying in greater numbers” for a proposed political solution but that “Iraqi politicians are not paying us back with the political progress this American sacrifice demands.” He was referring to the Iraqi Parliament’s intention to go on a two-month vacation rather than pass necessary political reforms. Jeffrey says it’s the Iraqi politicians, not the Democrats or the terrorists, who are threatening success.
A new policy on Iraq might have to concede that, despite our best hopes for the people of Iraq and all of mankind, some people will not fight for themselves. Without having to review every rationale for the war, the Republicans should debate this openly and honestly. Is the current democratically-elected Iraqi government worth another drop of American blood?
Incredibly, House Republican Leader John Boehner told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday on May 6 that the planned Iraqi Parliament two-month “recess” was comparable to members of the U.S. Congress taking the summer off. Wallace had to remind Boehner of the difference―that American troops were fighting and dying in Iraq.
Several candidates, including Giuliani and John McCain, said during the MSNBC debate that the U.S. should stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. They didn’t explain precisely how to do this. Duncan Hunter accused Iran of sending weapons to Iraq to kill Americans but didn’t explain why the Bush Administration and the Iraqi government are not stopping this activity.
Matthews had a good question for Sam Brownback, noting that “Recent polls in the Islamic world reveal a sea of hostility toward the United States, feeding what General Petraeus calls the central front of al Qaeda in Iraq. How do we win this war if every dead terrorist is so easily replaced?”
Brownback’s feeble answer essentially was that the U.S. should “engage” with moderate Muslim regimes “and convey that to the Muslim world.” But how do we effectively convey a pro-American message when Al-Jazeera continues to incite anti-American feeling around the world and creates more foreign terrorists? Writer Joel Mowbray points out that even the U.S. taxpayer-financed Arab television network Al-Hurra has gotten into the habit of promoting radical extremist groups in the Middle East.
Rep. Hunter took on the trade issue, challenging the party orthodoxy in favor of global “free trade.” He declared that “?we won World War II, World War I and the Cold War with a major industrial base. We’re losing our industrial base through bad trade policy right now. China is cheating on trade. I would enforce trade laws. That’s something that the President is not doing.”
Hunter also accused the President of not enforcing border security. But Tancredo was the only candidate in this regard who brought up the fact that the Bush Justice Department had sent two border patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jos� Compean, to prison for “actually doing their job on the border?”
In other statements, Tancredo has gone further, accusing Bush of pushing for the complete elimination of U.S. borders as part of a “North American Union” with Mexico and Canada. This is an issue that most of the media have not even reported on. We should encourage the Fox News personalities to bring it up during the May 15 debate.