by Frank James
For anyone who wants a good recap of last night's Republican presidential debate from Durham, N.H., Fox News Channel has a very good summary on its web site with some Fred Thompson coverage thrown in.
Many were calling Sen. John McCain the debate's winner. It wasn't the first time he's been declared the winner of a debate. It hasn't helped him improve his standing in the past and it probably won't this time either.
The debate's highlight was didn't even feature McCain prominently. Instead, it was when Rep. Ron Paul and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee commenced to waling on each over the Iraq War.
The shots the men threw at each other were so hard and riveting that at one point they seemed the only two candidates on the stage, an illusion that was furthered by a camera angle that captured the both of them in the heated moment.
The fireworks were set off by Chris Wallace, who asked the isolationist Paul a question that led to Paul delivering an answer that sounded to many in the Republican audience as though he were blaming the U.S. for the 9/11 attacks, a position anathema to many Americans, even beyond the Republican base.
MR. WALLACE: Congressman Paul -- (interrupted by cheers, applause) -- Congressman Paul, your position on the war is pretty simple: Get out. What about, though, trying to minimize the bloodbath that would certainly occur if we pull out in a hurry? What about protecting the thousands of Iraqis who have staked their lives in backing the U.S.? And would you leave troops in the region to take out any al Qaeda camps that are developed after we leave?
REP. PAUL: The people who say there will be a bloodbath are the ones who said it would be a cakewalk, it would be slam dunk, and that it would be paid for by oil. Why believe them? They've been wrong on everything they've said. Why not ask the people -- (interrupted by cheers) -- why not ask the people who advise not to go into the region and into the war? The war has not gone well one bit.
Yes, I would leave, I would leave completely. Why leave the troops in the region? The fact that we had troops in Saudi Arabia was one of the three reasons given for the attack on 9/11. So why leave them in the region? They don't want our troops on the Arabian Peninsula. We have no need for our national security to have troops on the Arabian Peninsula, and going into Iraq and Afghanistan and threatening Iran is the worst thing we can do for our national security.
I am less safe, the American people are less safe for this. It's the policy that is wrong. Tactical movements and shifting troops around and taking in 30 more and reducing by five, totally irrelevant. We need a new foreign policy that said we ought to mind our own business, bring our troops home, defend this country, defend -- (bell sounds) -- our borders --
MR. WALLACE: So if --
(Interrupted by cheers, applause.)
MR. WALLACE: So, Congressman Paul, and I'd like you to take 30 seconds to answer this, you're basically saying that we should take our marching orders from al Qaeda? If they want us off the Arabian Peninsula, we should leave? (Laughter.)
REP. PAUL: No! (Cheers, applause.) I'm saying -- (laughter) -- I'm saying we should take our marching orders from our Constitution. We should not go to war -- (cheers, applause) -- we should not go to war without a declaration. We should not go to war when it's an aggressive war. This is an aggressive invasion. We've committed the invasion of this war, and it's illegal under international law. That's where I take my marching orders, not from any enemy. (Cheers, boos.)
After a couple of other candidates had a crack at the question, Wallace let Huckabee get a little action.
MR. WALLACE: Governor Huckabee, the latest National Intelligence Estimate, which is out recently, says that even if we continue the troop surge -- and we're going to put it up on the screen -- Iraq's security will continue to improve modestly during the next six to 12 months, but levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high, and the Iraqi government will continue to struggle to achieve national-level political reconciliation and improved governance.
Governor, if that's the best we can hope for, should we continue the surge?
MR. HUCKABEE: We have to continue the surge. And let me explain why, Chris. When I was a little kid, if I went into a store with my mother, she had a simple rule for me. If I picked something off the shelf of the store and I broke it, I bought it.
I learned don't pick something off the shelf I can't afford to buy.
Well, what we did in Iraq, we essentially broke it. It's our responsibility to do the best we can to try to fix it before we just turn away because something is at stake. Senator McCain made a great point, and let me make this clear. If there's anybody on this stage that understands the word honor, I've got to say Senator McCain understands that word -- (applause, cheers) -- because he has given his country a sacrifice the rest of us don't even comprehend. (Continued applause.)
Wait a minute, isn't this the famous Colin Powell Pottery Barn rule? Are we supposed to now call it the Mama Huckabee rule? Anyway, Huckabee continued...
And on this issue, when he says we can't leave until we've left with honor, I 100 percent agree with him because, Congressman, whether or not we should have gone to Iraq is a discussion that historians can have, but we're there. We bought it because we broke it. We've got a responsibility to the honor of this country and to the honor of every man and woman who has served in Iraq and ever served in our military to not leave them with anything less than the honor that they deserve. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. HUME: Go ahead. You wanted to respond? He just addressed you; you go ahead and respond. (Continued applause.)
REP. PAUL: The American people didn't go in. A few people advising this administration, a small number of people called the neoconservative hijacked our foreign policy. They're responsible, not the American people. They're not responsible. We shouldn't punish them. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. HUCKABEE: Congressman, we are one nation. We can't be divided. We have to be one nation under God. That means if we make a mistake, we make it as a single country, the United States of America, not the divided states of America. (Cheers.)
REP. PAUL: No. When we make a mistake -- (interrupted by applause) -- when we make a mistake, it is the obligation of the people through their representatives to correct the mistake, not to continue the mistake! (Cheers, applause.)
MR. HUCKABEE: And that's what we do on the floor of the --
REP. PAUL: No! We've dug a hole for ourselves and we dug a hole for our party!
We're losing elections and we're going down next year if we don't change it, and it has all to do with foreign policy, and we have to wake up to this fact.
MR. HUCKABEE: Even if we lose elections, we should not lose our honor, and that is more important to the Republican Party.
REP. PAUL: We're losing -- we've lost over -- (cheers, applause) -- we have lost -- we have lost 5,000 Americans killed in -- we've lost over 5,000 Americans over there in Afghanistan and Iraq and plus the civilians killed. How many more do you want to lose? How long are we going to be there? How long -- what do we have to pay to save face? That's all we're doing is saving face. It's time we came home!
MR. HUME: Okay, gentlemen. Gentlemen, thank you. (Cheers, applause.)
Britt Hume could have just as easily said "Gentleman, back to your corners" and it would have seemed equally as appropriate.