John Stossel

Did we learn anything from last week's Republican presidential debate? I heard the usual platitudes like "bring people together," but there was also plenty of talk about the private sector. I liked that. So did the guests on my show.

One was Steve Forbes, himself a former candidate for the GOP nomination:

"We got first the principle: The government does not create prosperity; entrepreneurs create prosperity. The candidates emphasized that, and that was a very positive thing."

But he cautioned: "We didn't get a lot of specifics in terms of what kind of flat tax might you like, what departments you might close."

No, we didn't. I guess specific cuts don't win votes.

Nicole Neily, executive director of the Independent Women's Forum, was impressed with Herman Cain and Ron Paul:

"I thought Herman Cain was great on growth. I thought Ron Paul was great on everything, and I love that he stood up for himself."

I also was impressed at how passionate Paul got in response to Rick Santorum's smug comments about sanctions on Iran. I don't pretend to know much about foreign policy, but Paul's answer made sense to me. He cautioned against what he sees as pressure for war with Iran. Paul says that even if Iran is building a nuclear weapon -- he cited a U.S. intelligence estimate saying it is not -- that need not mean war. After all, the Soviet Union had tens of thousands of nukes. When Santorum countered that trouble with Iran goes back to 1979, Paul corrected him, noting that in 1953 the CIA helped overthrow a secular democratic government and install a brutal monarch. The anti-American Islamic revolution of 1979 was "blowback," he said. "We just plain don't mind our own business. That's our problem."

Makes sense to me.

Matt Welch, editor of Reason magazine, noticed a big change from the 2007 Iowa debate.

"We live in a different universe," he said. "Mitt Romney back then was talking about how George W. Bush was insufficiently interventionist in Lebanon. ... Newt Gingrich is talking a lot more like Ron Paul these days. So it's a different GOP now."

One debate moment that got my guests' attention was Michele Bachmann's attempt to explain what she meant a few years ago when she said, "(T)he lord says be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands." At the debate, Bachmann elaborated, "What submission means to us ... it means respect."

John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at > To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at ©Creators Syndicate