Tonight’s New Hampshire Republican Presidential Forum on the Fox News Channel began this way:
Those words, used by Fox News moderator Chris Wallace to open the forum at Saint Anselm College, must have riled supporters of Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter tonight. At the same time, it served as evidence that life isn’t fair — especially in the world of presidential politics. And so began the forum.
John McCain said he’ll stop spending in response to a question about his vote against the most-recent Bush tax cut.
Mike Huckabee countered accusations that he was a “tax and spend” governor by explaining how he made government work.
Mitt Romney said he cut spending, raised fees and, by the end of his first year — and every single year he was in office — his state had a surplus.
Rudy Giuliani was asked about his opposition to tax cuts. In response, he said, “The overall tax burden on New Yorkers was lowered by 17 percent by the time I left office.”
Fred Thompson was asked about his plan to extend the Bush tax cut and whether it was practical. He said his plan would not affect current retirees and would save billions of dollars — $4.7 billion to be exact.
Romney called Thompson‘s willingness to discuss Social Security as “bold” but, of course, had a different opinion about how to fix it.
Wallace switched the topics to “change” and populism, introducing it with a video clip of Governor Huckabee‘s recent description of himself as someone “more like the person you work with than the person who lays you off.”
Huckabee said, “If that’s populism, than I’m guilty.”
Romney took Huckabee‘s commentary as an insult to the folks who take risks as business owners. It didn’t fly well.
Huckabee jumped back in by explaining how he was the only candidate who wants to get rid of the corporate tax, the income tax and the death tax and replace them with the Fair Tax.
Guiliani said he’s the only candidate who’s dealt with the issue of poverty, inheriting a city with 1.1 million people on welfare and reducing that number by 670,000. He added, “As Republicans, we need to go into the neighborhoods and explain how our programs work.”
Thompson said he likes certain elements of Huckabee‘s Fair Tax, but was concerned that we might end up with both a consumption tax and an income tax at the same time. Further, he explained that a simple tax system might improve things for everyone — 10 percent tax on joint income of $100,000 or less (single-payer income of $50,000) and 25 percent for earnings over $100,000.
When the question of “Who is the best GOP candidate to shake up Washington?” was raised, McCain touted his status as an “agent of change” on numerous issues, including campaign finance reform.
Romney said “Washington is fundamentally broken” and “needs top-to-bottom change” a Washington insider (i.e., McCain) can’t deliver. He explained further that “There’s a very dramatic difference between talking about change and actually leading an organization (that’s done it).”
McCain countered by highlighting his leadership experience as commander of the Navy’s largest fighter squadron and said he knew how to get Osama bin Laden and would do it.
Thompson entered the discussion by saying we need to come together and do the right thing, and Giuliani cited the fact that “change” is what the Democrats — notably, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards — advocate and can be “for good or for bad.”
Citing Romney‘s recent contention that “We need a leader, not an expert,” Wallace asked the former Massachusetts governor to explain his belief.
“What they’re looking for is a president…who has judgment, wisdom (etc.)” instead of a person with the most expertise in a critical area that may be important right now.
McCain said, “Maybe we haven’t always gotten the best results from those governors” — an obvious jab at Romney.
McCain said he never heard Romney criticize the Donald Rumsfeld strategy. Conversely, Romney said he was busy running a state instead of criticizing officials at the federal level.
Changing the discussion, Wallace cited what he termed as errors committed by Huckabee before asking the former Arkansas governor if he believed he was truly ready to serve as president.
In response, Huckabee offered a laundry list of countries he’s visited as a state executive and explained that he had more executive experience than any of the candidates running.
Giuliani was asked to respond to a McCain jab that his only experience in dealing with terror and foreign policy was 9/11. He said, “As mayor of New York, I happened to be involved in practically every foreign policy issue” and cited the United Nation’s presence, in part, as a reason for it.
Thompson criticized Huckabee for statements made about closing Guantanamo and lifting sanctions against Cuba.
Huckabee said it’s not a matter of where we keep them that’s important.
McCain was asked by Wallace to explain a comment he made earlier — that he would get bin Laden. The answer wasn’t too awe-inspiring. His answer to the next question — about immigration — was interesting.
In explaining his 0ft-criticized stand on immigration reform, McCain said he had “never ever supported amnesty and never will” before saying “we need to move forward and fix this problem.”
Romney countered by saying there are millions of people waiting in line who want to be citizens of this country. Letting 12 million people (and its really 30+ million) who came here illegally, pay $5,000 and be able to stay here forever is wrong.
That’s it. I only had one hour to dedicate to this forum.