(I changed this post around after I realized I'd mixed up the order of the debate Qs.)
Jesse's basically got it right on the Ron Paul-Rudy exchange, but I noticed something else from the debate round it led up to.
In the fourth round of the debate (defined by far, far better questions than the Chris Matthews belch-fest in early May), Brit Hume asked the field to answer a hypothetical question: What if terrorists detonated nukes in American cities, we captured some of the terrorists linked to the attack, and you were the Decider? It sounded a lot like Charles Krauthammer's defense of torture in the Weekly Standard, and unsurprisingly John McCain used the chance to stake out his stance against that. The rest of the field took the chance to brag about their theoretical terrorist-slaughtering skills: Mike Huckabee bravely (in his mind) said we should call attacks on Americans "murders."
Basically, it was a question about how the candidates would behave if they were president in an episode of 24. Tom Tancredo cleared that up with his answer: "I'd be looking for Jack Bauer at that time." Please note that this was perceived in and outside of the debate hall as an awesome answer. Stephen Green:
We all are, buddy. We all are.
Guys, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but Jack Bauer is a fictional character. He's played by Keifer Sutherland, star of such classics as The Lost Boys, Young Guns, and Brotherhood of Justice. He can't save us and neither—again, I'm sorry—can Green Lantern. Michael Brendan Dougherty tried to get at the GOP's Bauer obsession in a recent, brilliant American Conservative cover story, but here's the short version: too many conservatives fantasize about the war on terror in lieu of studying the actual war on terror and making morally uncomfortable decisions about whether we can "win it." What's it say about the GOP field that they're more comfortable answering hypothetical questions about a terrorist plot on a TV show than answering questions about the Iraq War—which, you know, actually exists? Nothing good.
But did Paul win the debate? As Mitt Romney might say: Golly oh-gosh, heavens no! If it wasn't for the reanimated corpse of Tommy Thompson or Jim Gilmore, the clown costume that walks like a man, Paul would been the obvious loser of the debate. As is, he merely tied for 8th place and will be remembered as "Rudy's pinata." He has less chance of winning the GOP nom now than ever, which is really something. If the other 9 candidates plus Fred Thompson died in a horrific baking accident, the GOP would draft Lyndon Larouche before nominating this guy.
(BTW, I didn't liveblog because I attended a debate-watching party with a small group of Rudy supporters.)