Immigration and Torture Star in YouTube Debate

GOP candidates bashed each other over hot-button issues in Wednesday's YouTube debate. The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza gives a scorecard.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Last night, at the Republican CNN-YouTube debate, things got all frisky. The GOP hopefuls went head-to-head on issues, like immigration, abortion, torture, a question about what would Jesus do, and even some philosophy from John McCain who claimed D.C. politics is hurting the Republican Party. Ron Paul said, what are you talking about, McCain?

Congressman RON PAUL (Republican, Texas): The statement earlier made that we all went to Washington to change Washington, and Washington changed us - I don't think that applies to me. Washington did not change me.

STEWART: And that was a pleasant exchange.

Here to talk about what went down last night in FLA, Ryan Lizza covers politics for The New Yorker. Hi, Ryan.

Mr. RYAN LIZZA (Reporter, The New Yorker): Hey, guys. How are you doing?

STEWART: Doing okay.

So what did you think about the tone of this YouTube debate last night, especially, let's say the first 20 minutes.

Mr. LIZZA: Oh, it was wonderful.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LIZZA: I mean, what you have here is you have a five-way race with no clear frontrunner and it's just - you have these five - the five top candidates just scrambling for any advantage. And the more unsettled the race, the more attacks you're going to see. And the first five minutes of Giuliani and Romney going at it over immigration was just a sight, I mean, it was sort of amazing.

STEWART: Yeah, Romney called Giuliani's New York City an era of a sanctuary city. Giuliani attacked Romney on immigration and made it personal. Let's listen.

(Soundbite of Republican presidential debate)

Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Republican, Massachusetts): If you're going to take…

Mr. RUDY GIULIANI (Republican, New York): (Unintelligible).

Unidentified Man: You have to wait and let him respond and we got to move on.

Mr. ROMNEY: If you're going to take this holier-than-thou attitude that your whole approach to the immigration…

Mr. GIULIANI: Immigration is not…

Mr. ROMNEY: was so holier-than-thou, Mayor, you're going to take his holier-than-thou attitude…

Mr. GIULIANI: Oh, what?

Mr. ROMNEY: …that you were perfect on immigration.

Mr. GIULIANI: I'm not perfect. It just so happens that you have a special immigration problem that nobody else here has. You were employing illegal immigrants. You know…

STEWART: So who kind of came out ahead ultimately?

Mr. LIZZA: Well, I - you know, the danger of these - of potential murder-suicide pacts between the two tough frontrunners is that neither of them wins, but some third of fourth candidate who doesn't really engage comes out ahead. And that's kind of Huckabee and McCain's strategy - is let Giuliani and Romney just kind of destroy each other, and we'll stay a little bit out of the fray and look sort of above it all. And - so I thought actually that the winners of that exchange were McCain and Huckabee.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Also Thompson, though. He threw a good elbow in there about Giuliani referring to people that you hire. Let's take a listen.

(Soundbite of Republican presidential debate)

Mr. FRED THOMPSON (Republican, Tennessee) I am a little surprised the mayor says, you know, everybody's responsible for everybody that they hire, but we'll have to address that a little bit further later. I think we've all had people probably that we have hired, that in retrospect probably was a bad decision.

STEWART: That was a sly…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LIZZA: You know…

STEWART: …or not so sly reference to Bernard Kerik.

Mr. LIZZA: Exactly. And some of other - some of Giuliani's other friends who don't really make him look so good. You know, every once in a while, Fred Thompson sort of wakes up from his - the nap he seems to be taking in these debates and just fires a shot that kind of surprises you. The other great example was all the candidates were allowed to produce their own little clips that they played throughout the debate, and suddenly, out of nowhere, Fred Thompson's clip is just an outright attack on Huckabee and Romney which I think just sort of startled everyone including the host, Anderson Cooper, who, instead of going to commercial, went back and allowed Thompson's opponents to respond to the attack.

STEWART: And responded to the - with a, what's up with that?

Mr. LIZZA: Yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LIZZA: That was a great line from Anderson Cooper.

STEWART: You mentioned that Mike Huckabee; people seemed to pay a lot more attention to him this time around than ever before. He's obviously starting to nip at the heels of some of the frontrunners.

Mr. LIZZA: Yeah.

STEWART: How did he do last night?

Mr. LIZZA: I thought he did quite well. I mean, the - what's great about Huckabee, as he says, he's a conservative but he doesn't seem like he's mad at anyone. You know, he really has a way of putting a sort of smile and friendly face on his philosophy. And I thought the breakthrough moment for him was in discussing immigration. He's the one person - he and McCain actually - the one person who, instead of just having a straight sort of anti-immigration message, actually went out of his way to say we need to show some humanity towards folks who are here. And I thought he made Romney look pretty bad when he had his line about showing some compassion for kids who shouldn't suffer for the sins of their parents.

STEWART: He also really stood up to the plate when he was asked a question about what would Jesus do in a certain situation. We're going to play the question and his response.

(Soundbite of Republican presidential debate)

Mr. TYLER OVERMAN: Hi. This is Tyler Overman from Memphis, Tennessee. And I have a quick question for those of you who would call yourselves Christian conservatives. The death penalty: what would Jesus do?

Mr. MIKE HUCKABEE (Republican, Arkansas): I believe there is a place for a death penalty. Some crimes are so heinous, so horrible, that the only response that we, as a civilized nation, have for a most uncivil action is not only to try to deter that person from ever committing that crime again, but also as a warning to others that some crimes truly are beyond any other capacity.

STEWART: He really presented his conservative credentials last night.

Mr. LIZZA: Yeah. You know, he knows how to talk about these issues in a way that Giuliani and Romney don't. And I think the reason is he's a Southern conservative; he's used to talking to the base of this party. Romney and Giuliani governed in Massachusetts and New York City and when they're trying to - they sort of have to fake it when they have to talk to conservative audiences a little bit. They're used to - I mean, let's be honest they were liberal Republicans from the Northeast so they don't quite have the same credibility on some of these issues. They don't quite have the sort of language and tone down in the way that Huckabee does.

STEWART: John McCain and Ron Paul also got into it over Iraq policies - McCain using the specter of World War II in his answer.

(Soundbite of Republican presidential debate)

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona): Congressman Paul - I've heard him now in many debates talking about bringing our troops home and about the war in Iraq and how it's failed. And I want to tell you that that kind of isolationism, sir, is what caused World War II.

STEWART: And then this is the way that Ron Paul responded.

(Soundbite of Republican presidential debate)

Representative RON PAUL (Republican, Texas): The real question you have to ask is why do I get the most money from active duty officers - military personnel?

(Soundbite of cheering)

STEWART: Go ahead, Ryan.

Mr. LIZZA: Yeah, you know, I thought this, you know, Ron Paul sometimes serves as the punching bag for these other guys. You know, he's the guy you can sort of go to and just, you know, Giuliani did it in one debate, just sort of make him look really bad and get on your high horse and attack Paul for one of his positions.

And I thought McCain did a very poor job here. I think the, you know, the analogy about World War II and Iraq is just totally off. And I thought Ron Paul came back with a good response. And it's never good for the candidate when Ron Paul gets the best of you in one of these exchanges.

STEWART: So much more we could talk about. I think we'll have to move this conversation over to the NPR BRYANT PARK PROJECT blog.

But, Ryan Lizza, hey, thanks for walking us through the debate from last night.

Mr. LIZZA: Hey, thanks for having me, guys.

STEWART: At least it was fun, right?

Mr. LIZZA: It was - oh, it was a great debate.

STEWART: It was a good one.

Mr. LIZZA: Yeah, absolutely.

STEWART: Bye, Ryan.

Mr. LIZZA: Bye, take care.

BURBANK: Coming up on the BPP, we're going to get an update on these riots that have been happening in the Paris suburbs; that's just around the corner on THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: