Mona Charen

Giuliani skillfully pivoted to ask whether we want Hillary Clinton making decisions about judges, which is his best strategy. And, of course, he got his "I'm paying for this microphone, Mr. Breen" moment when Representative Ron Paul offered an America-blaming explanation for 9/11. Any one of the candidates could have seized the moment, but it was Giuliani who did so -- and these spontaneous demonstrations of leadership are a lot of what people are seeking when they watch debates.

The discussion of torture was -- aside from Mr. Paul's historical analysis -- the least edifying part of the debate. None of the candidates seemed to grapple with just how difficult a question this is. John McCain clearly finds torture morally reprehensible (in part because he has suffered it). But his argument that it doesn't work rings false. He argued that those under torture will say anything to make it stop -- but surely that includes the truth? Those who believe we should not descend to using torture have a valid case on moral grounds, but they should be honest enough to admit that theirs is a moral and emphatically not a pragmatic argument.

On the other hand, both Romney and Giuliani seemed to want to have it both ways. Giuliani claimed that he would instruct interrogators, in the case of a ticking time bomb, to use "every method they could think of, not torture," to get information from a captured suspected terrorist. He then repeated the phrase "every method they could think of." Romney performed a little pirouette about preventing attacks and then declared himself foursquare in favor of "enhanced interrogation techniques -- not torture -- but enhanced interrogation techniques."

Rep. Tom Tancredo jumped in to declare, "You say that -- that nuclear devices have gone off in the United States, more are planned, and we're wondering about whether waterboarding would be a -- a bad thing to do? I'm looking for 'Jack Bauer' at that time, let me tell you." Brit Hume never said the attacks were nuclear. And Mr. Tancredo's answer offers insight into why we refer to second-tier candidates.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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