This — the so-called "Commander-in-Chief" debate, hosted by CBS News and National Journal — was by far the most boring of the debates to date, at least if your standard for interesting is "sudden outbreak of crazy": There were no physical confrontations and few enough verbal ones, for that matter, and no obvious, deal-breaking gaffes.
In fact, everyone on stage seemed muted and colorless, with the exception of the suddenly relevant Newt Gingrich, who seemed energized by the topic, and Rick Perry, who seemed to have finally gotten the dosage right on his nerve pills. Both Gingrich and Perry broke out some experimental new hand gestures — Newt going with bold, horizontal sweeps and Perry dusting off the classic point-chop-slash combo that politicians have used in foreign policy speeches since the dawn of time.
Unfortunately, getting more attention doesn't necessarily play to either Gingrich or Perry's strengths: Gingrich appeared to practically be marinating in smugness and condescension; if his people aren't telling him that Republican voters are highly uncomfortable with people who seem too smart and educated, they should be. Perry, meanwhile, used too much of his time pointing out his massive brain-freeze from last debate — torpedoing any credit he might have gotten for being awake and peppy this time out.
With no official "It's a Free Country" liveblog tonight, here's my real-time livetweet of last night's CBS News/National Journal GOP debate on foreign policy:
Foreign policy #GOPDebate tonight! Wonder if anyone'll float Cain a question about our critical strategic interests in Ubeki-beki-stan-stan
This montage of #GOPDebate quotes ends up sounding like the rantings of a madman. Of course, so do the debates themselves.
Weird set today. The candidates look like they're all leaning on walkers. A hat tip to the senior citizen electorate? #GOPDebate
Cain looks like he's sans mojo tonight. Not a lot of places he can recite his mantra in this debate? #GOPDebate
Cain says move our nuclear capable warships in range of Iran. That'll scare the mullahs into backing off! Or cause World War 3! #GOPDebate
And Romney launches the debate with posturing vs. the Prez. If we reelect Obama, Iran will get a nuke! And Romney—not so much! #GOPDebate
Newt on Iran: Maximum covert operations. Take out their scientists. DENIABLE ASSASSINATIONS. Break the regime. #GOPDebate
And Paul? Paul calls Iraq a ten-year tragedy and says the rhetoric on Iran reminds him of that. GOOD FOR YOU RON. #GOPDebate
Perry is working on his statesmanlike gestures. And he seems to have reduced the dosage on his nerve tonic. #GOPDebate
Everyone seems sort of muted tonight. Please, someone bring the crazy, I'm dozing off. #GOPDebate
Bachmann — dressed for dinner or a funeral, and not outer space or a high school marching band performance. #GOPDebate
Huntsman: Time to come home from Afghanistan. His chances in the Democratic Primary just jumped. #GOPDebate
Romney ticked off that Obama withdrew the troops "in the middle of the fighting season." TOTALLY ruined his fantasy warfare team. #GOPDebate
Newt has to stop stretching his arms out to make points. It makes him look wider than he is tall. #GOPDebate
BUT WHAT ABOUT UBEKI-BEKI-BEKI-STAN-STAN, HERMAN? #GOPDebate
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