Saturday night CBS News and National Journal hosted the latest of the GOP primary debates. Scott Pelley of CBS and Major Garrett of National Journal were the moderators. The subject was foreign policy. It was labeled the Commander-in-Chief debate. It was perhaps the worst debate so far as far as the moderation went. Scott Pelley was smug and openly hostile to the candidates. CBS does not know how to do a debate.
The debate was only televised for the first hour and then the viewer had to switch to viewing it online. My reception of the livestream was wonky so I gave up after sitting through it a few minutes. Here are some observations from what I did see:
During the day I read many tweets online from the big conservative blogging conference in Denver this weekend. The activists were being told to thoroughly vet the candidates, which I thought was a bit insulting but they seemed to capture that as a mantra. Then, in a bit of irony not unnoticed by moi, they were complaining that yet another GOP primary debate was being held tonight. Really? Where does vetting come from? Watching candidates answer questions, thinking on their feet, interacting with each other is a great opportunity to vet a candidate.
Newt won this debate. Governor Perry gave his best performance so far, which he badly needed to do.
Lots of interesting tidbits come out of these debates, too. For instance, I learned that Jon Huntsman has two sons in the Navy. Did you know that?
The audience was apparently instructed to hold their applause but that was broken as time went on. On answer brought some booing from the crowd and Scott Pelley scolded them against doing so. He said that booing would not be tolerated and that a respectful tone would be maintained. He didn't say how that would be enforced but that was that.
Newt Gingrich was still the most knowledgeable on the subject. All of them had their moments of good clarity on the questions but it is hard to get past the fact that Gingrich leaves the others in his dust. During the token question concerning the issue of torture, Gingrich correctly schooled Pelley on what constitutes a war crime and a combatant. Pelley tried to argue but Gingrich shut him down. Funny how the press confuse themselves as the smartest people in the room.
Here are a few facts from Newt's bio online that are often overlooked, for those interested in vetting him on foreign policy:
*Speaker of the House involved with key intelligence matters
*Member of the Defense Policy Board under President George W. Bush, which provided strategic counsel to the Pentagon and Secretary of Defense on how to better address threats facing the United States
*Longest-serving teacher of the Joint War Fighting course for Major Generals at Air University
*Honorary Distinguished Visiting Scholar and Professor at the National Defense University
*Member of the United States Commission on National Security/21st Century, the Hart/Rudman Commission to examine our national security challenges as far out as 2025.
*Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute
*Member of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Terrorism Task Force
Foreign policy and national security are important to conservative voters. I think Gingrich has more working knowledge of these areas than the others in that debate. He certainly outweighs the current administration's experts.
The GOP primary debates are not to be dismissed, even if there are an abundance of them. It's all a part of the process. This debate will be used to factor in support of the slate of candidates.