In that order, the winners tonight at the second GOP presidential debate. Halfway through, I thought John McCain was having a great night but was disturbed by his last answer that he wouldn't waterboard a terrorist if he knew the terrorist had direct knowledge of an imminent mass murder of Americans.
McCain is a great patriot who understands torture firsthand but he needs to do a better job explaining his position to Americans like me. Sure, we are against torturing a prisoner for no good reason, like he was tortured. But moderator Brit Hume described the situation as one where the terrorist had knowledge that could save millions of American lives if extracted quickly. McCain said it was more important to stand on principle than to save their lives. Sorry, ain't buying it. Overall, other than that answer, McCain's performance was sharp.
Rudy Giuliani's leadership qualities stood out this evening. All the candidates heard Ron Paul's absurd answer about America deserving the 9/11 attack. Rudy stepped to the plate first to rebut it. He also scored big by turning his attack on Democrats like Hillary Clinton instead of wallowing in a discussion of who truly is most conservative. More of the Republicans on the stage should be following his lead. If any of the second tier candidates want to distinguish themselves they are committing political suicide by going after a frontrunner. They ought to go after Hillary, Barack Obama or John Edwards.
Mitt Romney, again, showed he is the most articulate and knowledgeable candidate of either party. His big picture answer of how Iraq fits into our strategic interest was said perfectly.
Mike Huckabee, among the also-rans, has the best demeanor and the line of the night about Congress spending money like John Edwards in a beauty shop.
Thompson, Paul, Tancredo, Brownback and Gilmore can go home now. We've seen enough.
Fox News also was a big winner. The questions this evening were light years better than the ones posed by MSNBC and tougher, too. MSNBC was trying to poke at the Republican candidates and Fox was trying to inform us. Big difference. Brit Hume is by far the best anchorman on television and Chris Wallace may be the best questioner. They were much tougher on Republicans than MSNBC was on Democrats.
Democrats say they won't appear on a Fox debate because of the network's "partisanship." I think it's because they are not used to answering real questions from non-liberal journalists.