If nothing else, devoting an entire GOP campaign forum to national security and foreign policy — the CBS News / National Journal organizers called it the “Commander in Chief Debate — helps accentuate the preparation and seriousness the candidates have devoted to international affairs. Or the lack thereof, since some candidates appeared utterly unserious and unprepared.
First, a quick best and worst. It was no contest for best: Jon Huntsman. Gov. Huntsman’s quotient of substance to platitudes / cheap applause lines was way above everyone else. Of course, foreign policy seriousness is a pillar of his candidacy (bless him). And of course his poll numbers have been stuck in the basement. If there are any centrist Republicans among our readers, this man is trying to rescue you from the fire-breathers. (BTW, another very interesting moment was Rick Santorum’s answers on Pakistan, where he seemed to employ the same strategy as Huntsman.) Worst was also an easy call: Herman Cain. The man said almost nothing of substance tonight — and “almost” might be too generous. He keeps reaching for the same line about how presidents have plenty of advisers and don’t really have to know anything. ”Herman Cain, the candidate who will make up for his ignorance by seeking a lot of advice.” Don’t know if that’s going to work. At one point, Cain tossed in the word strategically a couple of times because, you know, that sounds commander-in-chiefish.
Hitting the issues
To the extent that issues were debated (not all that much), the most interesting were Iran and China, which my fellow Democracy Arsenal bloggers wrote about. On Iran, Kelsey Hartigan explains that every idea raised by the candidates either is already an element of President Obama’s policy of pressuring Iran over its nuclear program (particularly amusing were all the loud calls for covert action), or would have disastrous unintended consequences. When the debate moderator posed the Iran question, he specifically asked the candidates to name steps the Obama administration wasn’t already taking. The moderators (bless them) made a game effort throughout the proceedings to spur the candidates to speak in practical terms.
Pool Photo by the Associated Press
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