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
- Rick Perry starting to channel Rick Astley with those swank side-to-side arm gestures. #GOPDebate #nevergonnagiveyouup
- Bachmann: The table is set for worldwide nuclear war against Israel! And Obama is in Zuccotti Square, hanging with #OWS! #GOPDebate
- Newt and Perry: Foreign aid should be like eBay. Start with zero, and bid from there. #GOPDebate
- Newt won't attack Romney when he's in arms length. #GOPDebate
- Newt: I'd apply a lean six sigma to the Pentagon. I'll hire some smart unemployed guy from Bain to do it. (looks to right) #GOPDebate
- Santorum: I didn't hire people in congress. Which makes me qualified to lead an entire government. #GOPDebate
- Santorum HOPES we're running around killing people in the dark. Because that's an America that should make us proud—NINJA AMERICA #GOPDebate
- Perry had a few quips up his sleeve for when the first mention of the DOE came up. Saw him writing them down earlier #GOPDebate
- Cain: I don't believe in torture. But let the military decide what torture is. Torture is watching this damn debate, Herman. #GOPDebate
- Cain: Waterboarding rocks. Bachmann: Yeah, waterboarding FTW. And ACLU < CIA in the war of acronyms. #GOPDebate
- Bachmann: Obama wants us to lose the War on Terror! That's why he killed Bin Laden! To lull us into a sense of complacency! #GOPDebate
- Paul: Waterboarding is torture. Uncivilized. Doesn't work. Un-American. Damn, Paul makes sense when he isn't being crazypants #GOPDebate
- Romney: This should be American century. Obama thinks US is just another country, and not TOTALLY KICKASS. #GOPDebate #AmericaF*CKYEAH
- Romney: On day one, complain about China to WTO. I thought was an American century—why kowtow (sic) to WTO? #GOPDebate
- Huntsman: Reach out to China's Internet generation. #WORLDOFWARCRAFTDIPLOMACY #GOPDebate
- Ha, someone asked the Israel question on foreign aid. Perry says, yes, they start at zero too. Have 'em come in hat in hand #GOPDebate
- Jim DeMint gets to ask questions in this debate? This has got to be CBS trying to flush out the crazy for ratings #GOPDebate
- Kind of embarrassing that CBS can't guarantee that the debate's carried on all stations. #GOPDebate
- Bachmann: EVERYONE WILL BE PUT INTO OBAMACARE. NO ONE WANTS TO BE IN OBAMACARE. I will end ObamaCare. #GOPDebate #foreignpolicydebate?
- Shorter Cain on Arab Spring: "I have no idea what I'm talking about" #GOPDebate
- Paul: War on terror? We're at war against a tactic! STOP MAKING ME AGREE WITH YOU RON. #GOPDebate
- Bachmann: "These were very good decisions that were made to take out Bin Laden and al-Awlaki" high-fives Obama #GOPDebate
- NEH, NEA, NPR—gone under Romney. Medicaid, return it to the states. Don't the states already run Medicaid? #GOPDebate
- Huntsman hearts the Ryan Plan. And any thought that he was actually the smart and sane guy in this debate dies a lonely death. #GOPDebate
- Newt: Training req for unemployment. Obama's already proposed this, dumbass. GOP voted it down. They'd vote down oxygen if he proposed it.
- Bachmann all of a sudden wants us to model American civil society on China? WTF? #GOPDebate
- Taking up donation to ship Michelle Bachmann to China #GOPDebate #UtopiaAwaits
- Santorum: You don't cowboy Pakistan! Look at the mess we made last time we did that! #GOPDebate
- Oops. Perry starting to slur his words...fortunately, the clock strikes and everyone turns into a pumpkin #GOPDebate
And that's it for the debate. Only 14 more to go. Fourteen? Are they kidding?