10:00pm CST - The takeaway - It seems clear that, should the GOP win the White House next year, we will be going to war in Iran. There was no substantial discussion (or even any apparent understanding) of the Russia/China implications in either that equation or the deteriorating civil war in Syria. Egypt was not mentioned once. Israel is still treated by the candidates as more worthy of reverence than our own country. And, Pakistan is not even on their minds.
As I noted throughout, there was one statement only from any of the candidates that suggested they have a grasp of what it actually feels like to be an average American in this economy (Romney.) This seems not merely detached, but inhumane. I learned that Bachmann is crazier than Santorum. Huntsman is done, Paul is going to take a brand new smear any second from the AIPAC crowd and Perry may be the stupidest human being on the face of the Earth.
Grand plans? Destroy the judiciary. Economy? "Free market, blah, blah, blah." Foreign policy? "Israel first."
Regardless of the Iowa vote, the GOP is now faced with two choices;
1. Newt Gingrich, a man who believes in one great, shining ideal... the Newt Gingrich myth of Newt Gingrich.
2. Mitt Romney, a man who really doesn't seem to believe in anything at all.
9:55pm CST - Baier reminds the candidates of Reagan's 11th Commandment (thou shalt not speak ill on another Republican)
Santorum hedges and tries to butch up.
Perry makes a football metaphor and sounds like he is admitting he's getting his ass kicked.
Romney says "time and time again, it's President Obama wee need to be talking about."
Newt reminds us all that he has a website. facepalm. "Any of these people would be better than Barack Obama."
Paul says "the media has a responsibility" to do better. WTF?
Bachmann actually brings up "are we better off today" which reminds us that she is NO Reagan.
Huntsman sort of says nothing.
9:50pm CST - Santorum has a "strong, consistent track record" of being a seriously hateful man with regard to LGBT rights. He includes another dig against 'evil judges'... or something. Romney gets nervous and goes for the 'amend the Constitution' to stop gay marriage crowd. Bachmann talking pro-life now... She slams Gingrich for not defunding Planned Parenthood when he was Speaker. Newt does what he always does, as I said before, he denies the facts put forth are real. I don't know what's more dangerous; a hyper-partisan Dominionist like Bachmann or a guy who continues to say that everyone's "facts are wrong." And SHE WENT THERE. She is as sick of his tactic as I am.
9:44pm CST - Romney is actually making the first really smart (although morally vacuous) statement to explain his flip-flop on Abortion over the years to the Evangelical base. Chris Wallace is hammering Romney... for having once held positions that were not only more liberal on some issues, but were also actually in line with the beliefs of a majority of Americans.
9:41pm CST - Huntsman lowers himself to the level of the rest of the field and says that Obama "has so screwed up the economy that nobody is coming anymore." It's sad to see such a cheap shot from someone I generally admire.
9:39pm CST - Fast and Furious. UGH. Perry says Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas are using his border and that we need a new "Monroe Doctrine." Santorum joins him in saying 'fire Holder.' Santorum says there are "Jihadist training camps" all over South and Central America.
We are not making this up.
Another shark jumped. Romney says "illegals" all need a card with "bio-information" and that employers should be punished for improper hiring. Unfortunately, the QUESTION was from Kelly regarding recent statements he made suggesting that "illegals" already in country should be forced to leave and then come back and "follow the rules."
9:32pm CST - At the break. Well, still no substantial discussion of the fact that Pakistan already has the bomb, is essentially actually in bed with al-Qaeda and is on the verge of a palace coup. Iran has been, again, portrayed as an entire nation of suicide bombers. The Keystone lie has been elevated to a status generally reserved for prevarications which are far more difficult to disprove. Judges should stop doing their jobs and let party politics interpret the Constitution.
9:27pm CST - Here comes Keystone pipeline time. Gingrich outright lies about the number of jobs, who gets the oil, and blames opposition on "left wing extremists from San Francisco." Cavuto makes sure to throw out the Romney's BIG lie that it might mean as much as "100,000 jobs." Romney loves it. Bachmann says "20,000 jobs." This is like watching the Manchurian Candidate when the Senator can't decide how many fake communists to use in his propaganda.
9:20pm CST - Newt mocks diplomacy. Claims United Nations "camps are funding terrorism." Huntsman seems appalled but uses the word "policy" for the first time in a while at this hate-fest. Perry says "there needs to be no space between the United States and Israel."
9:16pm CST - Okay. Rep. Michele Bachmann is actually dangerous and a borderline Fascist. Period. She truly believes that Iran wants the bomb so that they can "use it on Israel" and on us. Think about that. She insists they will absolutely use it if they get it. They aren't people, they're 'crazy Muslims.' Paul tears her apart.
9:12pm CST - Santorum brings the full-on bat-shit Dominionist crazy. He says their intent is not survival but to create "a calamity." Israel, Israel, Israel. palpable Bloodlust greeted by war whoops from the audience. Romney calls the Obama response to the capture of our drone as "timidity" "weakness" and "pretty please." Romney is doubling down on the absolute worst imperial inclinations. Bachmann says Obama is "choosing intentionally to lose the peace" in Iraq.
9:07pm CST - Going after Ron Paul on foreign policy. Paul is bravely calling bullshit on the Iran-bomb "propaganda" and gets mild applause. "If we could live through the cold war"... Awesome. Baier isn't having it. Welcome to the litmus test. Bret says, for the second time, "you'd be running to the left of Obama." Paul - "we don't need another war." Baier presses again. Paul is righteously pissed. This is ugly. It's easy to see why Paul gets cross party support.
9:02pm CST - At the break, we have still only heard one remark about what average Americans are experiencing in this economy (Romney). That's it. The sad fact is that Romney clearly had it prepared for the purpose of mitigating his wager-gaffe. The venom directed at the established structure of our checks and balances was truly frightening. Megyn Kelly, to her credit, really pressed (she is a lawyer) and even riffed that she "tried" to get answers.
8:58pm CST - Bachmann actually just said that the "courts aren't the final arbiter of law." I am not making this up. She says we need to "take the Constitution back." From whom? Where did it go? How did she get into government in the first place? Favorite current Supreme Court Justice? Santorum says THOMAS. Perry says "no more lifetime terms" and Roberts, Thomas, Scalia. No one said Sotomayor or Kagan? Shocker...
8:51pm CST - Huntsman brings the issue of human rights into the China/U.S. trade discussion. Cavuto is dumbfounded. Santorum says repeal Obamacare, blah, blah, blah... Romney says "free market." There is no free market. There is a nearly universal price destabilization caused by unregulated futures trading. Newt calls the American courts "dictatorial." A big angry spiel about altering the role of the judiciary and then he beats up on Megyn Kelly. Classy
8:44pm CST - PERRY. WOW. We need a "part time congress" that he can "send home" so they can "get a job like everybody else." This guy is several dogs short of a full sled.
8:43pm CST - Cavuto tries to stir the pot over Newt's slam against Rep. Paul Ryan's "right wing social engineering." Newt is increasingly explaining how what he says isn't what he means. Now we have a big lie from Romney about where our debt comes from (not one question on foreign policy or defense so far, btw). Paul is actually defending earmarks in spite of "never" having voted for them. He says they prevent the executive from having a "slush fund." He makes the first cogent constitutional argument of the evening. Simply hearing one these folks hold up more limited Presidential power is a breath of fresh air. Wow. Rick Perry jus responded to a legitimate question by saying "don't believe" what is reported in his state's most prominent newspaper.
8:36pm CST - Bachmann says Gingrich simply cashing checks from Fannie/Freddie is "influence peddling." Goes in for the kill and says Newt had "his hand out" and she is "shocked." Ahh. Newt does as he always does; he says "that's not true" she doesn't "have facts" and it's a "wild accusation." This is a nasty exchange. He says his "policy is to break up" Fannie/Freddie... and why not? He already got his money.
8:33pm CST - "DC culture" Chris Wallace trys to gin up the Gingrich/Romney feud over Romney's years at Bain. Romney for the epic fail. The layoffs Gingrich (sounding a little lefty last week) went after were about profit taking not about saving or restructing troubled concerns. Wallace asks Gingrich how he justifies his 1.6 million from Fannie/Freddie. His answer? He says he was in the "private sector" as if that cleans up the money. Gingrich is now in the odd position of defending government programs.
8:26pm CST - At the break. Two observations; I think Paul's declaration that anyone can beat Obama, not mention the fact that it was an applause line, exposes a serious misperception about the broader independent electorate. Next, only Romney has addressed middle class pain in any meaningful way.
8:21pm CST - Gingrich goes full-on nasty; "Campaigner-in-Chief" "Saul Alinsky Radical" blah blah blah. Bachmann says "no new taxes." Stop the presses. Huntsman touts his state level flat-tax and say as a governor he delivered "the finest climate for business" in America.
8:17pm CST - Cavuto actually questions Huntsman for his unwillingness to sign anti tax pledges like that's a negative. To his credit, Huntsman treats the line of thought with appropriate scornGets a great dig into Gingrich about ending the congress/lobbyist revolving door.
8:15pm CST - Romney comes right out of the gate doing damage control for the $10,000 bet. He feels our pain, apparently. This opens him up on his actual record at Bain which was, frankly, a slaughterhouse for workers. Bachmann says she has spent "50 years as a real person." WTF does that even mean?
Perry calls for a "part-time congress" and compares himself to Tim Tebow. Twice. Wow.
8:09pm CST - Paul riffs on his own electability (anybody up here can beat Obama) and deftly avoids a question from Kelly as to whether he will endorse whomever the GOP nominee is. Here comes the promise to cut "$1 trillion in the first year." Which is nuts. Santorum says he was the 'go-to guy' when he was in the Senate. I am not sure he or Gingrich should read so many of their own press releases.
8:05pm CST - Did Bret Baier just admonish the crowd to behave? Newt dodges electability question to say "Merry Christmas". Twice. Newt then compares himself to Reagan. Stop the presses. HE balanced the budget in the 90s? Interesting.
CST - Here we go again. Will Gingrich continue to ignore the growing Pakistan in favor of saber rattling on Iran? Will Romney look as stiff-necked as he did this past weekend? Will Perry forget what he is talking about... again? Will anyone notice that Huntsman is far brighter than the other candidates? Will Ron Paul be marginalized by the Fox moderators? Will Santorum or Bachmann bring brand new flavors of Dominionist crazy? Considering the steady devolution we've witnessed over the course of these gatherings, the bar is low enough for almost anything to happen.