RUSH: Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican debate, I watched it last night, I made a pointed appointment to watch the debate last night and I'm gonna tell you why overall it was good. Now, the so-called big names or some of the big names were not there. Mitt Romney was not there. Mitch Daniels I don't think has announced yet; he wasn't there. Let's see, who else isn't there? The Huckster, Huckabee, wasn't there. Newt Gingrich wasn't there. The people who were? Let's see. We had Ron Paul. We had Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, Gary Johnson and Rick Santorum -- and without exception, every one of them tore into the regime.
Every one of them took it to Obama. Even without some of the so-called front-runners, I came away from this thing very pleased. I was pleased the battle has begun to take shape. It is time to find out who is best and will be best to take this battle to Obama, because it's eminently winnable. There wasn't an ounce of fear from anybody last night. In fact, let me tell you this: It was very professionally done on the Fox side. You had Bret Baier as the host (and he was bookended by Chris Wallace out there) and then Shannon Bream, who is one of their White House correspondents, and they threw Juan Williams in the mix.
They had to throw one Drive-By in there, but the people came off as intelligent, highly prepared, good-humored, professional, organized, and all that. They were tough, objective. They were likable. Juan Williams... I hate to say this 'cause you people all know I like Juan Williams. Juan Williams knows that I like Juan Williams. Juan Williams knows that I was totally supportive of Juan Williams when Juan Williams got canned by NPR and Vivian Schiller. But every Juan Williams question last night was one cliche after another, one liberal cliche after another. There's a new technique. You may have noticed it in these debates.
Some guy will hold up the Bible and ask for a show of hands among the Republican candidates. "How many of you agree with every word in this book?" That technique, show of hands (I forget, there were a couple times it was used), "Could I see a show of hands on the number of you that believe that pictures of Osama should be released?" It's a debate. You don't ask for a show of hands in a debate. When you have candidates, contenders for the presidency it's not about raising your hands as in class.
But anyway, it did happen, and of course one of the cliched questions that Juan Williams asked of Tim Pawlenty was, "Do you believe in creationism? Do you believe in evolution?" It's by rote. At every Republican debate there's going to be some cliched, predictable question from some Drive-By journalist trying to ensnare or entrap a Republican to this whole notion of intelligent design, creationism versus evolution. Because the whole point here is to illustrate Republicans as religious fanatic nutcases, and these debates are a chance for the left to try to expose that. So Juan Williams perfunctorily performed by asking the question of Pawlenty.
RUSH: Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, was asked by Juan Williams if he believes in creationism -- and, of course, we got the usual questions, "Don't you think your tax policy is gonna unfairly benefit the rich?" blah, blah, blah. It was just so predictable. I mean, the cliched questions -- and, you know, I really do like Juan Williams, but it just... I don't know. There must be a question handbook for leftist journalists at a Republican candidate debate over the questions to ask. Anyway, Pawlenty's aides said afterward they had "not anticipated the question." How could you not?
Any Republican presidential candidate has to be able to answer that question and anticipate that question is gonna be asked, along with, "How many people have you killed with your tax policies when were governor?" all the usual stuff. They have to be ready for it, because the effort is there to portray Republicans as the typical pro-life, Southern hayseed hicks driving around in pickup trucks, showing up Saturday night in a church parking lot with two rifles in the back in order to get the best parking spot, basically religious kooks and nuts.
I mean, this is the effort. I remember, as I said, that clown who held up a Bible and said, "Do you believe EVERYTHING in here?" during one of the famous, "Could I see a show of hands on X, Y, and Z." But, folks, I had mixed emotions. I really wasn't ready to watch this thing last night. To me it's still early, and of course "early" means "inconsequential" to me. But I watched it anyway, and I came away really pleasantly surprised. The Republicans on that panel last night stepped into the ring, and they began to define themselves, and every one of them explained why Obama is not just beatable but deeply flawed as a leader.
There was no pussyfooting around. There was no tiptoeing. There was no fear. Yeah, there was the obligatory, "I wanna thank President Obama for a brilliant capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden." You know, they got that out of the way at the at the top of the debate. But there wasn't any fear, and there wasn't any fear of being combative. Santorum was on fire to the point of being hyper a couple of times. He spoke eloquently of freedom. Now, there's a review, if you will, in the DC Examiner by Byron York inside the Republican debate. The headline: "Pawlenty Underwhelms, Cain Struggles, Santorum Scores."
Now, these are the opinions of professionals (Republicans and otherwise) who watched it last night. "In the hours before the first Republican debate Thursday night, a number of established pols here in Greenville saw it as a showdown between former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and a bunch of other guys. 'It's Pawlenty,' said one veteran of state politics. 'He's got a chance to move up into the first tier or stay in the second tier.' The debate's other participants -- Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Gary Johnson -- weren't going to be much more than a supporting cast."
"That's what," according to Byron York, "the pol[itician]s thought. Among the non-pol[itician]s, also known as the people, there was intense interest in Cain. The former CEO of Godfather's Pizza and, "he has, like everyone else these days, a radio talk show. It is said that Herman Cain is "a Tea Party favorite, with strongly held opinions on issues he knows by heart from his business career, like job creation and economic growth. The debate, according to his fans, would be the perfect format for him to make a great first impression on the national stage," and, indeed, in Frank Luntz's post-debate focus group Herman Cain was by far and away the clear winner among the 29 or 30 people in Luntz's group.
As Byron York points out, "Nothing worked out exactly as planned. When it was over..." now, again, this is according to the politicians. "When it was over, Pawlenty had underwhelmed the audience, doing what many felt was an OK job -- passable answers, no gaffes -- but also not taking full advantage of the opportunity he had to distinguish himself from the others." Oh, I know, I've got it wrong. It was Lee Marvin. You can stop e-mailing me, please. (interruption) Are you getting inundated with phone calls? (sigh) You know, when I'm wrong it's so rare, it's so unique, people can't wait to point it out. (sigh)
It doesn't happen much, and so when I'm wrong, I mean it creates a firestorm. Snerdley hasn't been able to screen calls because he's had 300 calls so far, "You tell Rush it was not Jack Palance! It was Lee Marvin." I know that. I was confusing it with the movie Shane. Jack Palance was in Shane. I was confusing the two. (interruption) Shane? Yeah. Well, yeah, it was a movie with a little whiny boy in there, but that's not what you remember the movie for. Shane is a great movie. (Here I go again.) It was a great Jackie Cooper movie! (laughing) Just don't call and tell us it wasn't Jackie Cooper. We're just sitting here playing.
So back now to the debate. Herman Cain "thrilled participants in Frank Luntz's Fox News focus group -- but," while he might have thrilled you, he "left observers baffled by what appeared to be an astonishing lack of preparation on a key national security issue. And a third candidate -- Santorum -- who hadn't been picked as a pre-debate favorite, turned in the evening's most solid performance," according to the professionals. So once again we have a divide. The average, ordinary common people thought Herman Cain walked away with it. The policies thought that Santorum walked away with it.
Now, here we go. If I mention any name here, a lot of really unfortunate things can happen. If I mention one name -- if I pick somebody that stood out -- you can imagine what's gonna happen. "Limbaugh Criticizes Most of Republican Field." "Limbaugh Endorses This or That!" It's one of the problems of being so powerful and so famous. (interruption) Cain was strong. They were... (interruption) Yeah, Santorum was strong. They were all strong. I'm telling you, it was very satisfying to watch this. Not one of these people on that stage was afraid to criticize Obama. Not one of them appeared to be governed by being politically correct. There wasn't any fear on that stage last night. (interruption) Um, I thought, of the bunch, Pawlenty looked the most presidential.
I'm simply talking about presence, temperament, stature, but it's a close call. It doesn't mean anything negative about anybody else. This is why I'm in a very unfortunate position here. By saying that, it could easily be twisted that I'm being critical of the others, and I've gone out of my way here to make it clear I'm not being. The more experienced, the more polished. I'm not really talking about content here. I'm not talking about the substance of what he said, just the appearance -- and that, by the way, is a gut reaction, not a studied conclusion. (interruption)Who surprised me the most? Surprised me the most...hmmm.
The whole field surprised me, because what we got last night from this crowd is not what you would think you would get if you look at Republican leadership elsewhere in Washington. These guys were loaded for bear and they took it to Obama -- and they were fearless, and they didn't seem to be worried about what they would say coming back to haunt them today or next week. They weren't afraid of the media. They weren't afraid of the questions. They all wanted to speak. Herman Cain has a dynamic voice and a very, very confident presentation of what he believes, and he's fearless. They all were fearless.
So all I'm telling you is, for a first foray into this, it was filled (for me) with a lot of pleasantness when it was over with. There was no, "Oh, golly! Oh, jeez." None of that. I didn't have that reaction to the candidates. I had that reaction to some of the questions, but I didn't have that reaction to the candidates. In fact, when Kathryn and I were sitting there watching this and Juan Williams came out of the evolution-creation question, I think I shouted some profanities. Every damn debate we get this silly, stupid question! At any rate, let's take a brief timeout. (interruption) No, I'm not issuing any official fatwas here.
None of my recounting of this should be construed as an endorsement in any way. In fact, I wrote my brother and some other people a short review note this morning after one of them asked about it. We've had a gaggle of about five of us that chitchat back and forth after events like this, and the first one gave a review of Santorum's answer on freedom and he was a little concerned about it, because Santorum made a big deal about having freedom "for," he's freedom "for," and my friend was all concerned that freedom is something that should be "from," not "for."
So we got into our own little intellectual dissection of that, and I simply wrote back, "Here's the bottom line: Pawlenty seemed the most presidential, Santorum seemed hyper and wired up, and Herman Cain made me think I was listening to me in every answer." Some of the others did, too, but this is not to be mistaken here for any kind of an endorsement, folks. I'm just telling you -- and I'm not suggesting to you that any of these people could win. This is just the first debate, and again, some of the so-called big names were not there. But it was not a bad first night. For those of you who have sort of a sickening, sinking view that the Republicans aren't up for it? It was not the case with that crowd from last night.
RUSH: The first roster of sound bites I have, this is gonna get me in trouble, the first roster I have from the debate only has Herman Cain sound bites. I don't have any others. I don't have any from Pawlenty here. I don't have any from Santorum. I don't have any. Now, you might be asking, "How does that happen?" Well, because I delegate. In the old days I'd be watching the debate and I would send a note up, "Okay, give me that, give me that, give me that, give me that." Now Cookie has been doing this element of the program for years, she's got total free rein to do it on her own. She only gave me Cain. Now, we got two hours. We'll get some Pawlenty, and we'll get some Santorum before the program's over. But here's Luntz. This is Luntz on Hannity after the Republican debate talking about his group's reaction to Herman Cain.
LUNTZ: How many of you think Herman Cain won the debate? We can stop right there. Word or phrase to describe Herman Cain.
MAN: Answers the question most direct.
MAN: A breath of fresh air.
WOMAN: Common sense.
MAN: Talking points.
WOMAN: Clear and concise.
MAN: Very impressive.
WOMAN: Godfather of business sense and he can attack Obama well.
RUSH: Yeah, all of that's true, all that's true. And he also made a big deal about being an outsider, not being politician, not being somebody of Washington. So, to give you some sample sound bites. Juan Williams: "Here in South Carolina, as you heard before, the GOP is up in arms over a decision by the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board challenging the Boeing company for moving jobs to a right-to-work state. In Wisconsin, Governor Walker has ended collective bargaining rights for some civil service workers. Mr. Cain, does the GOP risk the perception it's becoming the union-busting party?"
CAIN: One of the biggest problems we have with this country right now today is too much government intervention and trying to tell businesses how to do what they do best, which is create jobs. Government doesn't create jobs. Businesses create jobs. We need to get government out of the way, including trying to tell a company where they should build a new plant.
RUSH: Crowd went nuts, by the way, this South Carolina crowd. They went absolutely nuts. We took the applause out of this for the economy of time here. Here's another question, Juan Williams: "Mr. Cain, what will President Cain do to alleviate skyrocketing gas prices?"
CAIN: Contrary to what President Obama said when he stated there wasn't anything that he could do in the short term, that simply is not true. We have all the resources we need right here in this country to establish energy independence if we had the leadership. The dynamics that impact the price of oil and ultimately the price of gasoline, getting it out of the ground, refining and distribution and speculators. If the world market believed that we were serious about energy independence and we were gonna utilize all of our existing resources, the speculators would stop speculating up and they'd speculate down.
RUSH: And the crowd went nuts over that, that the speculators would start speculating down. And here is Hannity after the debate. "Do you think that he's been weak, Obama, as a president, timid?"
CAIN: I think he's been very weak and very timid, starting with when it took him months to decide to do the surge in Afghanistan. After getting the intelligence information and after getting the advice from his military generals and his experts, he sat on the surge decision for months. We don't know how many men and women might have been killed while he was waiting. We don't know how much it jeopardized this latest mission to get Osama Bin Laden because he waited 16 hours to make the decision. When you've got a mission that is that precise, down to every little detail, a president that procrastinates puts people's lives in jeopardy.
RUSH: Now, again, the audience was going nuts over this, because Cain -- and he wasn't the only one -- they were all taking it just straight to Obama which people don't hear Republicans do. You know it. You don't hear it happening. That's why Trump is gaining so much ground, it's 'cause he's doing it.
RUSH: Here's Bob in Willowbrook, Illinois, as we return to the phones. Great to have you on Open Line Friday. Hi.
CALLER: Thank you, Rush. Classic John Ford western dittos.
RUSH: Thank you very much, sir.
CALLER: Speaking of clownish debate questions, do you remember the last time a debate moderator asked for a show of hands?
RUSH: Other than last night?
RUSH: No. I just know it happens all the time. I can't remember the last time.
CALLER: It was in 2008 before the Iowa caucuses when the editrix of the Des Moines Register was moderating a debate of the Republican hopefuls and asked, "Yes or no, yes or no, do you believe in global warming?"
RUSH: And asked for a show of hands on this?
CALLER: I think either that or asked just each candidate one by one, "Yes or no, do you believe in global warming?" And one man had the guts to say, "I'm not taking that. I'm not going to submit your Gestapo tactics."
RUSH: Who was the editrix of the Des Moines Register at the time?
CALLER: I don't remember her name.
RUSH: Well, I remember one of the former editrixes of the Des Moines Register. Her name was Geneva Overholser, and she was best pals with Michael Gartner who used to run the paper, then he ran USA Today. He ran NBC when they blew up the truck on Dateline to show that the truck is "unsafe." NBC blew it up. He was running the show, and Geneva Overholser, I remember I appeared on Nightline -- there was a Nightline forum -- shortly during health care, Clinton health care where they were lying left and right. Ted Koppel asked me what I thought about policy.
I said, "Ted, I don't know. When people pitching the program never tell you the truth about it, I really don't know what to believe." She was on the panel that night, and before we went to air, Koppel's doing his... Now, in my TV studio in New York, everybody else is out in Iowa, Carville's out there and Geneva Overholser, and she's taking shots at me before we went on the air. (Friendly shots and so forth.) But I don't know if she's still there or if she's in journalistic retirement now. She had a column in the New York Times for a while. (interruption) No (chuckling), this really doesn't relate to anything. It's question of curiosity. Do you remember who it was that refused to answer the question?
CALLER: Yeah. Fred Thompson.
RUSH: Fred Thompson refused to answer the question.
CALLER: He was the one who had the guts to stand up to her.
RUSH: Not gonna fall for it, yes. It's typical. Get used to it because that same technique is gonna be employed. It's all cliched. It's right out of their handbook.
RUSH: Let's return to the Republican debate from last night. Some other sound bites from the participants other than Herman Cain. Here is Tim Pawlenty. The question that Juan Williams asked him: "When you served as governor in Minnesota, you named an education commissioner who equated the teaching of creationism with the teaching of evolution. Do you equate the teaching of creationism with the teaching of evolution, as the basis for what should be taught in our nation's schools? And I ask that in the sense do you personally equate a faith-based theory with scientific inquiry?"
PAWLENTY: Juan, the approach we took in Minnesota is to say that there should be room in the curriculum for study of intelligent design. It didn't necessarily need to be in science class, but we didn't decide that at the state level. We left that up to the local school districts and the communities and parents in that area. I think that's the reasonable and appropriate approach.
WILLIAMS: I understand, Governor, but you didn't answer my question about what you believe about teaching creationism in the schools. What do you believe, Governor?
PAWLENTY: I believe that should be left up to parents and local school districts and not to states or the federal government.
RUSH: Now, the...
RUSH: Right on, right on. The Pawlenty people said they were surprised by the question. From now on don't be. That's mild compared to what you're gonna get on this. "Do you REALLY believe in God? Do you REALLY believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Do you REALLY believe it?" You're gonna get questions like that from these people 'cause by the time we get to the real debates, they're gonna be so paranoid that Obama could lose this, they're gonna be pulling out all the stops. Don't doubt me here. But Pawlenty refused to accept the premise, so there was his appearance there.
Let's move on to Santorum. Now, remember, all day yesterday the conventional wisdom in the Drive-Bys was that the Republicans just wouldn't dare take on Obama on foreign policy now. "Oh, no, no! Not after the Bin Laden mission," and they had a story, Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana saying, "Well, I'm not even ready to take him on in foreign policy. I don't think I'm really ready yet, blah, blah, blah." So the conventional wisdom was, "The Republicans, they're not gonna take him on." Well, they did -- every one of them last night including Santorum. Bret Baier: "Senator Santorum, you said Monday that President Obama 'has made the country less safe and his policies have made America's enemies,' quote, less fearful and less respectful of us, close quote. But when it comes to going after terrorists, for example, drone attacks in Pakistan have more than tripled under President Obama. He sent 30,000 more US troops into Afghanistan last year. He just authorized, as we talked about, the this mission to kill Bin Laden. How much more aggressive could he be?"
SANTORUM: If you look at what President Obama has done right in foreign policy, it has always been a continuation of the Bush policies. He's done right by keeping Gitmo open. He's done right by finishing the job in Iraq. The decision he'd made with Osama Bin Laden was a tactical decision. It wasn't a strategic decision. The strategic decision was made already by President Bush to go after him. What President Obama has done on his watch, the issues that have come up while he's been president, he's gotten it wrong strategically every single time. Whether it's in Central America, Colombia and Honduras; whether it's in the east with Egypt and Syria; and, most importantly, with Iran.
RUSH: Sounds like Rick Santorum took it right to him. Sounding like me. This is what Mitch Daniels said that he's not ready to do yet. Santorum did it. Here's more Santorum. Shannon Bream later: "Senator Santorum, you're often characterized as the most socially conservative in the GOP field, a man who may join you at some point in the primary, Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, says Republican candidates should, quote, 'Declare a truce, close quote on social issues in the next election.' Is he right? Are you willing to tone down your positions on abortion and homosexuality in an effort to reach more voters and to help the GOP coalesce behind a more fiscally focused platform?"
SANTORUM: Anybody that would suggest that we "call a truce on the moral issues" doesn't understand what America is all about. America...
SANTORUM: America is a country that is based on this concept and the Declaration of Independence that we are "endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights." Rights come from God and the first of which is "life," the second of which is "liberty." Those two concepts really transformed the world because it said that government was gonna be limited, allow people to be free and to pursue their own dreams to serve their God to serve their family and community -- and if we have a respect for human life, because we're all created equal... And so those founding concepts, what transformed the world in this United States of America was a belief in family, a belief in life and the belief of dignity of every person. If we abandon that, we have given up on America.
RUSH: So Santorum is not for a "truce on the social issues." Now, see, if you had watched this last night, I guarantee you at the end of it you would have been up; you would have been jazzed. It was all like this. I mean, there were a couple of... Well, it was mostly like this. It really was. More Pawlenty. This is Bret Baier. "Governor Pawlenty, some on the left now say President Obama's unbeatable in his reelection effort. Why are those pundits on the left wrong? What is his biggest vulnerability?"
PAWLENTY: This morning they announced they had $6-a-gallon gas in Hawaii. We have crushing levels of unemployment; it's almost unbearable for so many of our fellow Americans. We got a federal government that is out of control and spiraling towards financial insolvency. And if you look at those facts and say President Obama is unbeatable, I just say, respectfully, those polls are wrong. He's got a temporary bump. We can't restore America's promise unless we have a president who keeps his promises to America, and he stood before the American people and said he's gonna cut the deficit in half in his first term. He didn't keep that promise, either.
RUSH: Tim Pawlenty last night. See, even Snerdley is smiling in there. You're pleasantly surprised. (interruption) Right, I know: Pawlenty is supposed to be... some fear he's a RINO, but here he is taking it to Obama. I'm telling you, they all did that. You'd-a been jazz first down you'd taken the time to watch it. What were you watching, Dexter? What was on? (interruption) Lost reruns? (interruption) C-SPAN? This wasn't on C-SPAN. That's right, it was a Fox exclusively.
RUSH: Frank, Benson, Vermont, great to have you here, sir. Hello.
CALLER: Thank you for having me, Rush. I want to thank Mr. Snerdley, too. My question is, or statement is that -- are you there?
CALLER: Oh, good. My statement is that, one, I believe they picked Santorum as the best candidate last night out of that debate was because he's, in my estimation, is online Dem -- Republican, excuse me, and he plays the game like they -- 'cause he's been noted in another question-and-answer period that he did have earmarks all along and shared earmarks with Democrats and that they played the game so he could get his earmarks passed. He'll help them pass their earmarks, and I really think Herman Cain did a real good job there, and my estimation right now is I'm leaning toward Herman Cain rather than somebody that's been there and is old line type where they do play those games.
RUSH: Right. Right. Well, very interesting. You like people that don't play the game, is that what you're saying?
CALLER: Exactly. I'm a Tea Party member and our stand is that we want people that are gonna do it now, not later.
RUSH: Damn straight. Why in the world are we gonna wait 'til 2016?
RUSH: What's the point of waiting 'til 2016? Right, Frank?
CALLER: There is no point, do it now.
RUSH: That's right. Exactly right. All right, it's Frank in Vermont. Frank, thanks very much for the call.