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The GOP debate at the Reagan Library; Update: Say hello to John McCain Edwards the Class Warrior

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By Michelle Malkin  •  January 30, 2008 07:22 PM

Scroll down for updates…most notable lowlights: John McCain Edwards playing Class Warrior–trashing the “greedy,” sneering about profits–in the House of Reagan…and here’s the video clip of McCain’s flip-floppery on shamnesty (take a Dramamine before watching)…and read this on McCain’s surge of dishonesty…and here’s the “greedy people” video…speaking of which

I’ll be liveblogging the GOP debate at the Reagan Library on CNN tonight. The show starts at 8pm Eastern. The campaign season has exposed aggravating deficiencies with these debate forums. Once again, Anderson Cooper will be moderating.

Anderson Cooper: Totally out of touch with conservative voters. Totally out of touch with conservative ideology and Republican politics.

Haven’t we had enough liberal journalists moderating Republican debates, wasting time recycling the same old questions, and trying to play left-wing gotcha?

I made the point last night that minority journalists and regional journalists have secured seats at the table in past debates. Why not informed conservative journalists?

Here’s some food for thought before the debate: Results of the closed poll on McCain vs. Hillary. I kept it accessible only to MichelleMalkin.com registered users, with one vote allowed per day, for cleaner, more useful results (e.g., no Ron Paul trolls). Interesting, no?

1poll.jpg

***

Commenter AlwaysRight: “Mitt better have a new series of talking points because this is probably his last chance to dent McCain’s armor plating. I don[']t wanna hear any more “Washington is broken” and “shuffling the chairs” talk, coz that ain[;]t getting it done. [H]e needs to firmly but respectfully challenge McCain’s RINOism for all conservatives to see.”

The stakes for Mitt.

***

Update 8:03pm Eastern. The candidates shake hands with Mrs. Reagan. Seating arrangement from left to right: Huckabee, Paul, McCain, Romney. Cooper’s co-panelists are an LA Times reporter and a Politico reporter.

1st question: Cooper to Romney. Cooper invokes Reagan’s “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Are Americans better off now than they were eight years ago? Romney: “I’m pleased with what I did in Mass. I’m not running on Bush’s record. Washington is broken.” Well, there’s that talking point. “Middle income families are feeling squeezed, losing their homes, having a hard time paying for home heating oil.” First “change” reference. He represents change.

McCain: “Let’s have some straight talk. Things are tough right now. People are concerned about housing prices, stock market bouncing up and down. What we’re trying to do to fix this economy is important…stumbles while talking about subprime crisis…mentions his support of Bush tax cuts…”

Cooper: “Sounds like you’re saying we’re not better off.”

McCain: “Overall, we are. But right now, people are uncertain. We’ve got to stop squandering, spending spree, sending money to China.”

Huck: I don’t think we are [better off now.] Is Bush responsible for all this? No. But are we better off? No…Hard to pay the rent. Americans are looking for someone to be honest with them…economic populism stump speech…

Ron Paul: “We’re not better off, we’re worse off…it is partially Bush’s fault…Republicans were elected to change the direction of the country…blames foreign policy, empire, etc.

Would it have been so hard for someone to just say: The problem is that we’ve abandoned fiscal responsibility and personal responsibility. As a Republican, I reject the liberal media/Hillary presumption that all borrowers are victims in this. We need to change the borrow-and-spend culture. We need consequences for poor choices and bad behavior. And if if we subsidize it, we’ll get more of it. That has to end.

Would it have been so hard for someone to criticize the economic stimulus boondoggle? Maybe mention the illegal alien tax rebate lunacy? The lard-up?

Romney digs McCain for his NYT endorsement. McCain touts his other media newspaper endorsements.

This debate is very subdued so far. It appears that Romney doesn’t have the fire in the belly to vigorously challenge McCain on anything right now.

McCain disses Romney’s economic record. McCain namedrops Phil Gramm and Jack Kemp for the 1,000th time. McCain brags about Romney’s former lt gov supporting him.

McCain: “I will allow others to judge me by the company I keep.”

Oh, yes
, indeed, Sen. McCain.

Romney wakes up. He counterattacks on McCain’s claims about his economic record, notes that his predecessor lost most of the jobs (predecessor is Jane Swift, who supports McCain). He’s on the defensive. He should be on the offensive.

Cooper asks Huck about Rush Limbaugh’s opposition to him. “I wish Rush loved me as much as I loved him.” Launches into his I’m-the-most-conservative-candidate-on-the-stage talking points. Otherwise known as his: “McCain, pick me for your VP!” speech.

Politico guy asks a reader question directed at Romney about fee hikes in Mass. Which, as I recall, has been asked a gazillion and one times before in past debates.

LA Times woman asks if McCain sides with Schwarzenegger or the Bush administration on environmental standards fight. Jokes he’s in physical danger if he doesn’t agree. He agrees because he’s a federalist. Global warming talking points. Says there are no costs of global warming regulation. “It’s no secret that I disagree with Bush administration on acting on global climate change.” Suck up to Arnie time.

See: The enviro-nitwit-ization of the GOP.

Romney now has a chance to distinguish himself: “I think we all agree that America should become energy-independent…but if you put new caps unilaterally, you impose on the American people a huge new effective tax…I’ve lived in the business world, the real economy…you put a big burden on energy, energy-intensive industries move to China…”

Huck sucks up to Arnie. Sides with him.

Paul: “California should do what it wants…we should emphasize property rights…wants to talk about conservatism vs liberalism…Anderson Cooper cuts him off.” That was rude. He’s on stage. Let him finish.

LA Times lady asks Huck about tax rebates, stimulus. He wants infrastructure spending stimulus. “Who’s economy are we stimulating?”

Romney: No question that infrastructure stimulates economy. Romney makes references to “Big Dig.” Badly managed. Stimulus needs to put money in hands of consumers. Road project is not related to short-term economic stimulus.

Paul: “We have a foreign policy where we blow up bridges overseas, then send taxes to rebuild them. EMPIRE EMPIRE EMPIRE.”

Ok, go ahead and cut him off.

Yes, he actually said our troops are sent overases to blow up bridges.

Would have been a nice opportunity for someone to slap Paul upside the head on that.

McCain is asked about housing rescue.

“There are greedy people on Wall Street who need to be punished.”

Not a word about the greedy homeowners and their brokers who pitched in.

Is this the Democrat or GOP debate? I thought John Edwards dropped on. Turns out he’s on stage at the Reagan Library!

8:38pm Eastern. LA Times lady goes after McCain on his Bush tax cut opposition and shifting rationale. He said they weren’t offset, then argued lower-income people didn’t get enough. Which is it? He ignores the question. “Proud to be a Reagan foot soldier.”

Romney: McCain did not support tax cut. He said it was a tax cut for the rich. Federal spending is about 60 percent entitlements, growing like crazy. Military 20 percent. People talk about the remaining 20 percent. We need to go after the entitlement problem. Rein in excessive growth in those areas. Change the deal for younger Americans or we’ll bankrupt the country.

Changing topic to immigration…

8:41pm Eastern. Reader asks Huck about birthright citizenship. “I think the Supreme Court has already ruled on that…switches topic to a secure fence.” Huck preaches his new enforcement gospel.

See: Huckabee retreats on birthright citizenship

See my column on this topic: “What makes an American.”

Romney asked about deportation. “No amnesty” for those here today. Send recent illegal aliens back immediately. For those here five years, with kids, longer, let them stay long enough to organize their affairs, then send them home to get to back of the line.

Attacks McCain’s shamnesty “Z visa.” Stay here indefinitely. It’s a privilege to be here. “People who come here legally are a great source of strength and vitality, but illegal immigration — that’s gotta end.”

LA Times lady goes to McCain. You seem to be downplaying guest-worker program. “People want the border secured first….We’re all in agreement. We will secure the borders first. We know how to do that. I come from a border state.Walls, vehicle barriers, sensors…Then we’ll move on.”

McCain mentions his newfound support for tamper-proof documents.

Will Romney mention McCain’s opposition to the Real ID act or his lousy record on driver’s licenses for illegal aliens?

No.

That’s it for the immigration discussion.

Dittos to Mark Levin: “”I know how to secure the border first, I come from a border state.” “I have heard from the people.” This is the kind of junk that is hard for some of us to stomach.”

Cooper moves to Sandra Day O’Connor. Was she the right choice? Huck says he’s not stupid enough to diss Reagan at the Reagan Library. “History will tell.” Talks about sanctity of life, a topic on which he is more articulate than any of the other candidates. It is appreciated.

Paul: “I wouldn’t have appointed her. I would have looked at someone who was a stricter constitutionalist.”

McCain: Respected the decision, but favors justices like Roberts and Alito with proven record of strict interpretation of the law.

Romney: Same.

8:52pm Eastern. Commercial break.

This debate is illuminating not for any of the questions and answers so far, but for the opportunity to watch the demeanor of the candidates in a high-stakes setting. Romney is doing fine, but there’s no aggression, no fight in him. He seems resigned and subdued. I think he is too nice and too fundamentally decent to dethrone McCain. Accordingly, McCain has settled comfortably into The Anointed role. Huck hasn’t drooled at his feet yet, but there’s still 30 minutes left. Paul worked his EMPIRE and military-bashing talking points in. Mission accomplished.

8:59pm Eastern. Back from break. Romney asked about Peggy Noonan’s Bush-bashing column. Romney defends Bush for war on terrorism. I watch with horror as Dems assert that getting out of Iraq is more important than winning. Romney assails spending, entitlements. Praises NCLB…Cooper cuts off answer…

9:01pm Eastern. LA Times lady asks Romney about McCain timetable charge. “Absolutely, unequivocally not…I do not support that. Never have.” Romney is tentative and nervous.

He should be outraged. He should look directly at McCain and make him apologize, and make him admit it was a lie.

McCain is smirking, blinking, smirking. He smells weakness.

Romney ends stronger by saying the smear falls in the kind of dirty tricks that Reagan wouldn’t have stood for. (Large applause.)

McCain stands by his smear. He has one of Romney’s quote in front of him.

Romney wakes up! He challenges McCain. “How is it that you’re the expert on my position when my position is very clear?’ (Large applause).

McCain tries to weasel out of his smear.

Even Cooper jumps on McCain for misinterpreting him.

Here’s the quote they’re talking about:

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate who sits atop the GOP pack in fundraising, appears to have grown comfortable with talk of “timetables,” in addition to talk of “milestones,” when discussing U.S. involvement in Iraq.

The former Massachusetts governor is quick to note, however, that these timetables should be private and not published.

Romney Supports Private Timetable in Iraq

When asked by ABC News’ Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America” if he believes there should be a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, Romney replied, “Well, there’s no question that the president and Prime Minister al Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about, but those shouldn’t be for public pronouncement.”

The former governor went on to explain, “You don’t want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you’re going to be gone. You want to have a series of things you want to see accomplished in terms of the strength of the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police and the leadership of the Iraqi government.”

When asked a similar question on CBS’s “Early Show,” Romney responded, “Well, I wouldn’t publish [a timetable] for my adversaries to see,” advocating instead “a series of milestones, timetables as well, to measure how well they’re doing.”

“But,” Romney said, “that’s not something you publish for the enemy to understand, because of course they could just lay in the weeds until the time that you’re gone. So these are the kinds of things you do privately, not necessarily publicly.”

McCain challenges Romney’s capability of leading. (Audience boos)

Cooper turns on Romney for not taking position on surge while governor.

Repeats he does not support timetable withdrawal. McCain never raised this in any past debates before Florida. Romney is strong on challenging McCain. “The Washington Post gave you three Pinnochios on it.” (Laughter.)

McCain has the audacity to attack Romney as the negative influence in the campaign. Assails his money.

Paul gets in another anti-war rant. Gets some applause.

Huck complains about not getting questions that don’t involve McCain or Romney.

Waaaah.

9:15pm Eastern. McCain filibusters on surge. LA Times lady to Huck: “When you look at Vladimir Putin, what do you see?”

“Look at what they’re doing, not just what they’re saying….invokes Reagan – Peace Through Strength.”

Romney: “Putin is heading down authoritarian road and it’s very troubling.”

McCain is asked how he is more qualified to lead than Romney on the economy.

He served for “patriotism not for profit.”

More class warfare talking points.

Gag.

He repeats the timetable smear again. What does this have to do with the economy?

Gag.

Romney shakes his head.

He talks about his time in captivity.

What does this have to do with the economy?

Romney ignores the smears. Recites his executive leadership talking points.

At this point, he should have ditched his talking points and talked about integrity.

He should have said:

I won’t lie to you. I won’t smear my enemies. I won’t insult my friends. I won’t trumpet my “Straight Talk.” I’ll just live it.

Politico asks Romney how he is more qualified to run the military than McCain.

Romney: You don’t have to have served to run the military. Regrets he didn’t serve. Talks about lifetime of experience. Abe Lincoln wasn’t military expert, but turned out to be one of the best of the country.

Paul talks about freedom. Government not about managing people’s affairs. All good, but of course he comes back to EMPIRE!

Cooper asks McCain about Romney’s qualifications. “He’s a fine man. He bought and sold and sometimes people lost their jobs.”

John McCain Edwards strikes again.

Disgusting.

Romney laughs. He has so much more class.

9:32pm Eastern. Cooper asks if Reagan would endorse Romney. “Absolutely.” Talks about positions on life, the war, outsider independent status. And Reagan would have said no to McCain Feingold. (Applause)

McCain: “Ronald Reagan would not have approved of someone who changed his positions based on what the year is.”

McCain is saying this? Chutzpah.

Paul: Reagan campaigned for me in 1978.

Huck: Would have been presumptuous for me to say he would have endorsed me. But I endorse him.

Much as I dislike Huck, that’s a good line.

9:36pm Eastern. Debate’s done. McCain shakes hands with Romney.

Hope Romney brought hand sanitizer.

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