Work prevented me from watching the debate tonight but judging from the reactions across the blogosphere, Fred appears to have won the thing:
On points, Fred Thompson won the debate.
Every answer was thoughtful and well-crafted; his tone matched the
tone of the question; he wisely refrained from interjecting in the back
and forth squabbling. He very deftly reminded viewers that he served on
key Senate national security panels and is bringing his experience to
bear. Even his insults were subtly and gently constructed In some ways,
Thompson did McCain’s bidding. You skeptical readers can tell me that
if Thompson had finished a solid fourth in Iowa, I might not be writing
about Thompson at all, that said, he’s still a candidate, and his
performance tonight tells me his mind is not elsewhere.
…he came to play tonight.
…Fred Thompson talking some serious substance too — man, maybe I underestimated him.
Let me join the bandwagon: he was good tonight.
Rich and Mark Steyn are right, and I was wrong. I always think it’s
strange when the great athletes talk about letting the game come to
them. But that’s how this format worked for Fred, and when called on he
did great. I thought his explanation of healthcare economics was
staggeringly good — I don’t see how you could do it better in this
format. And when he went into trial lawyer mode, cross-examining the
other candidates, he did in the effective way — no screaming, but
pressing (patiently but insistently) for an answer. Very nicely done.
A man of few words, Fred Thompson, but the few words he does uses, he[…]Fred wins. He said the least but what he said was most worth listening
to. He managed to come across as the sage in the race, too wise to get
into the fray but not above smacking the kids around when he has to.
Fred was at home in this format and showed it. He was
sharp as a tack and actually quite eloquent at times. He skewered
Romney on health care, flustering the former governor to the point that
he actually said he liked health insurance mandates. And his dismissive
answer about oil company profits was vintage Fred.
I wish Fred had engaged the other candidates more in the sidebars
and back and forths. Nevertheless, many, including Marc Ambinder,
thought Fred won. Perhaps, but it won’t do him any good in New
Hampshire. Elsewhere — like South Carolina or even Michigan — we’ll
have to see.
With respect to Brother Jonathan, in my judgment Fred Thompson turned
in a very fine performance, the more effective for proving underplayed.
The others fought, bickered, attempted to demonstrate their brains.
Naturally enough, they commanded the viewer’s immediate attention. But
did they look like chief executives of a great nation? Or like
candidates for a student council? Thompson stood, in effect, to one
side, quiet and dignified, speaking less often, perhaps, but with
cogency and principle. Thompson alone conveyed a sense of gravitas. He
looked, spoke, and comported himself like a president.
Still, the night belonged to Fred. Tonight’s performance is what I envisioned when I first started talking about Fred 23 months ago. I told my fring King Banaian that Fred’s depth of knowledge on all the issues would make him a great debater. Tonight, Fred showcased his debating skills.
I will be reading as much as I can about the debate tonight but Gary’s rundown of a few questions were interesting:
When Mike Huckabee was asked what he meant when he said that President Bush’s foreign policy was too arrogant, Gov. Huckabee explained that he meant that we should’ve sent in more troops into Iraq.
Fred immediately pounced on that, saying that “I think the Governor has rethought what he said because now he seems to be saying that we were arrogant because we didn’t go in with enough troops.” It isn’t the type of thing that changes the course of the rest of the debate but it’s something that Fred will use when the campaign moves to South Carolina. It’s something that Huckabee will have to ‘rethink’ again.
Another great Fred moment was one of Mitt’s low moments. Charlie Gibson asked, in the context of talking about Mitt’s health care plan, if Mitt liked mandates, to which Mitt said “Oh no, I like mandates.” Fred jumped in, saying “I didn’t think you’d admit that tonight.”
When Ron Paul talked about health care, he said that Charlie Gibson had provided the answer why we don’t have universal health care. Paul said that we don’t have health care because we’re waging a “trillion dollar war” and that we need to “stop printing new money.” Fred’s response was direct. “So you’re saying if we stopped printing more money, we could get out of Iraq and give everybody health care”?
Frankly, Ron Paul is giving libertarianism a bad name with some of his answers. When he talked about the terrorists’ war against civilization, Rep. Paul asked why the terrorists haven’t hit Canada. He said that terrorists aren’t hitting other nations. Rudy jumped all over that, saying that terrorists had hid Bali and London, then asking why the terrorists had hit the 1972 Munich Olympics or killed Leon Klinghoffer. Mitt Romney cited the Madrid train bombings.
Sounds like it was an interesting debate and even better, Fred did well. On the Democrat side it appears this best illustrates it: