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Giuliani Scores Big in GOP Debate
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Giuliani Scores Big in GOP Debate

Election 2008

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. In a few minutes, the American journalist who is not allowed to leave Iran. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick.

First, the American journalist who can't leave New Hampshire. It's Slate.com's John Dickerson, chief political correspondent who covered the Republican debate there last night in the same college hockey rink where the Democrats gathered on Sunday.

John, welcome back, and your lead about the debate in the piece that's up on Slate now, you found a sign from God for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Mr. JOHN DICKERSON (Slate): Yes. The mayor was trying to explain his pro-choice position on abortion and was interrupted by a - by a crack of lightning, which caused a crack, lighting doesn't make sound, of course, but it put out the PA system for a minute. So nobody could hear what he was saying. When things got going again, and he tried again with his answer, along came another shot of lightning. So the mayor may want to rethink his position on the issue.

Mr. RUDY GIULIANI (Former New York Mayor): For someone who went to parochial schools all his life, this is a very frightening thing that's happening.

CHADWICK: That's a pretty big issue for Republicans and Democrats as well, but for a kind of pro-choice Republican to be speaking and have that happen, did anyone laugh?

Mr. DICKERSON: There was laughter, and in fact it had ended up helping Giuliani, who has the wrong position as far as a lot of people in the Republican Party are concerned. He is pro-choice. And the humor and the various references to God acting against Giuliani allowed him to kind of push through the question and kind of duck it a little bit.

CHADWICK: Well, despite that, you conclude that the mayor did very well last night. I think you would say that he was first among equals.

Mr. DICKERSON: Yeah, I think that's right. He answered all the different questions in a kind of commanding way. He had a command of the details. In fact, when he got into a back and forth with John McCain about the comprehensive immigration bill that McCain is backing, Giuliani said, well, you know, I read the 400-page bill, which is a little act of intellectual macho there on the stage. But it showed that, you know, he was engaged with the issues. And he also was asked to define an American in the context of this immigration debate. He gave a rather complete quote that included a long quote from Abraham Lincoln, and he just seemed on his game.

CHADWICK: Here he is speaking just on that issue.

Mr. GIULIANI: The problem with this immigration plan is that it has no real unifying purpose. It's a typical Washington mess.

CHADWICK: That comment from the mayor directed especially at Senator John McCain of Arizona, a principal co-sponsor of the immigration reform legislation that's before the Senate now. We'll go on to that, but first, let me set the stage with who else is there. There's Senator Sam Brownback, former Governors Mitt Romney, Tommy Thompson, Mike Huckabee, and Jim Gilmore. And Congressman Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul. But among all of these, you write, Senator McCain really stood out, really seemed to be alone in the crowd.

Mr. DICKERSON: He was alone out there on the stage and all of the other men were attacking his immigration bill and he was battling back. And you know, he held his own, but it's a very tough position. McCain is basically running against the activists in this party who hate this bill. But in the end, McCain made a plea by talking about the Hispanic names on the wall at the Vietnam Memorial. And it was a moment of drama for him that a lot of people found very moving.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona): My friends, I want you, the next time you're down in Washington D.C., to go to the Vietnam War Memorial and look at the names engraved in black granite. You'll find a whole lot of Hispanic names. So let's, from time to time, remember that these are God's children. They must come into our country legally, but they have enriched our culture and our nation as every generation of immigrants before them.

CHADWICK: That's Senator McCain on the issue of immigration and on war as well. There was also a question, John, to the candidates about how might you use President George W. Bush if you succeed him in the White House? What role do you think he might play? And here's former Governor Tommy Thompson answering that question.

Mr. TOMMY THOMPSON (Former Wisconsin Governor): I certainly would not send him to the United Nations.

Mr. DICKERSON: It was not a good night for President Bush on two fronts. One, many of the candidates said that the war had been mismanaged. And then there was this specific question about how the president would be used. Tom Tancredo said, basically, he would be persona non grata in his administration. Tommy Thompson was the best the president could get, and Thompson, of course, said he wouldn't send him to the U.N. He would send him on a kind of countrywide tour to help inspire students, which is kind of a low-level job, you would think, for a former president.

(Soundbite of P.A. system)

Unidentified Woman: Passenger Dickerson, John Dickerson (unintelligible) ready for departure (unintelligible)...

CHADWICK: You know, that's John Dickerson reporting from New Hampshire. We just heard him paged at the airport. So in fact, John will be leaving New Hampshire if we end this interview now when he gets on the plane. John, thank you so much.

Mr. DICKERSON: Thanks, Alex.

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