The final (?) GOP debate: Ron Paul fakes out Santorum, big questions go unanswered

Here's his exact quote:


What we're seeing is a problem in our culture with respect to children being raised by children, children being raised out of wedlock, and the impact on society economically, the impact on society with respect to drug use and all — a host of other things when children have children.


And so, yes, I was talking about these very serious issues. And, in fact, as I mentioned before, two days ago on the front page of The New York Times, they're talking about the same thing. The bottom line is we have a problem in this country, and the family is fracturing.


Over 40 percent of children born in America are born out of wedlock. How can a country survive if children are being raised in homes where it's so much harder to succeed economically? It's five times the rate of poverty in single-parent households than it is in two-parent homes. We can have limited government, lower tax — we hear this all the time, cut spending, limit the government, everything will be fine. No, everything's not going to be fine.


Actually it was a very interesting reaction, and certainly a heartfelt one, coming from the socially conservative former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator. But does he think that with less birth control available, there would be less teenage babies?


Ron Paul, who again made the debate viewable for those who don't desperately loathe Barack Obama, made the most sense on the issue when he said, "It's the morality of society that we have to deal with. The pill is there and, you know, it contributes, maybe, but the pills can't be blamed for the immorality of our society."


Moving on, we wrote the other day that Republicans like Mitt Romney keep on attacking Obama on foreign policy, even to the contrary of some of their biggest supporters.


So how about arguably the biggest conflagration going on in the world — Syria? The debate was almost over before John King brought the issue up — an extremely tough issue since logic would dictate that if NATO were okay with stopping a slaughter in Libya a year ago, they should do so again, with absolutely more deaths happening daily in Syria.


But realpolitik can be a bitch. In the volatile Middle East, there are no calls for troops, though some legislators have been making noises lately about arming the rebels there. But what would our potential future commanders-in-chief do about Syria if they were in charge? Blame the current president for his "inaction" in neighboring Iran, apparently.


Santorum: I think it's the timidness (sic) of this president in dealing with the Iranian threat, because Syria and Iran is an axis. And the president — while he couldn't reach out deliberately to Iran but did reach out immediately to Syria and established an embassy there. And the only reason he removed that embassy was because it was threatened of being — of being overtaken, not because he was objecting to what was going on in Syria.


GINGRICH: Well, the first thing I'd do, across the board for the entire region, is create a very dramatic American energy policy of opening up federal lands and opening up offshore drilling, replacing the EPA.


(APPLAUSE)


We — the Iranians have been practicing closing the Straits of Hormuz, which has one out of every five barrels of oil in the world going through it. We have enough energy in the United States that we would be the largest producer of oil in the world by the end of this decade. We would be capable of saying to the Middle East, "We frankly don't care what you do. The Chinese have a big problem because you ain't going to have any oil."


(APPLAUSE)


But we would not have to be directly engaged. That's a very different question.


But, first of all, you've got to set the stage, I think, here to not be afraid of what might happen in the region.


Second, we clearly should have our allies — this is an old- fashioned word — we have our allies covertly helping destroy the Assad regime. There are plenty of Arab-speaking groups that would be quite happy. There are lots of weapons available in the Middle East.


And I agree with — with Senator Santorum's point. This is an administration which, as long as you're America's enemy, you're safe.


You know, the only people you've got to worry about is if you're an American ally.


ROMNEY: I agree with both these gentlemen. It's very interesting that you're seeing, on the Republican platform, a very strong commitment to say we're going to say no to Iran. It's unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.


And — and Rick is absolutely right. Syria is their key ally. It's their only ally in the Arab world. It is also their route to the sea. Syria provides a — a shadow over Lebanon. Syria is providing the armament of Hezbollah in Lebanon that, of course, threatens Israel, our friend and ally.


We have very bad news that's come from the Middle East over the past several months, a lot of it in part because of the feckless leadership of our president.


But one little piece of good news, and that is the key ally of Iran, Syria, is — has a leader that's in real trouble. And we ought to grab a hold of that like it's the best thing we've ever seen.


There's things that are — we're having a hard time getting our hands around, like, what's happening in Egypt. But in Syria, with Assad in trouble, we need to communicate to the Alawites, his friends, his ethnic group, to say, look, you have a future if you'll abandon that guy Assad.


We need to work with — with Saudi Arabia and with Turkey to say, you guys provide the kind of weaponry that's needed to help the rebels inside Syria. This is a critical time for us.


If we can turn Syria and Lebanon away from Iran, we finally have the capacity to get Iran to pull back. And we could, at that point, with crippling sanctions and a very clear statement that military action is an action that will be taken if they pursue nuclear weaponry, that could change the course of world history.

And speaking of Iran, when asked about the country's nuclear program, Newt Gingrich kept on calling out the Iranian president, saying, "This is a dictator, Ahmadinejad, who has said he doesn't believe the Holocaust existed. This is a dictator who said he wants to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth. This is a dictator who said he wants to drive the United States out of the Middle East. I'm inclined to believe dictators. Now I — I think that it's dangerous not to."


But as countless observers on Twitter noted at that moment, it is Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, who has as much if not more power that the Iranian president and is in control of what happens with the nuclear program.


One highlight was when the issue of illegal immigration came up, and Newt Gingrich said he didn't believe that a comprehensive illegal immigration bill could ever pass, but instead would have to be cut up into individual pieces.


The great failure here — I voted in 1986 for the bill which was supposed to solve all this, which Ronald Reagan solved — signed. And in Reagan's diary, he says, I signed this bill because we have to get control of the border and we have to have an employer-sanctioned program with a guest worker program.


Now, all of us who voted for that bill got shortchanged on everything we were supposed to get. President Bush couldn't get it through. President Obama can't get it through.


I believe you cannot pass a single large comprehensive bill, the 2,700-page kind of bill you described. I think you've got to go one step at a time.


Although it's popular to cheer the fact that this may have been the last of these debates, I won't be making that comment. These debates are great, if a bit depressing. If Mitt Romney ultimately ends up the nominee that everybody projected him to be at the beginning of this process, he will have earned it by having to sharpen his rhetoric under fire.


But what was with his Gingrich-like takedown of John King at the very end of the evening, when King asked the candidates to address a perception about themselves that is false?


For Mittens, who has had the term "flip-flopper" attached to him like a barnacle for five years now, that would have been the obvious subject to discuss. But since the question was about a perception that was actually false, well, that wouldn't have been that easy to address, would it? So how did he react? By telling King he wouldn't answer the question at all, saying, "You know, you get to ask the questions you want, I get to give the answers I want. Fair enough?


No, Mitt, not fair at all. A weary John King opted not to hold his ground. Too bad.

The headlines coming out of Wednesday night's CNN GOP debate from Mesa, Arizona say Rick Santorum failed in his first time in the klieg lights — and to an extent that was definitely true.

But I would argue that, in more than any other debate, Barack Obama received a boost from the two-hour proceedings.

One highlight: Ron Paul not backing down when asked about the ad he's running that calls Rick Santorum a fake:

A key moment that nobody is talking about in the aftermath this morning is when moderator John King asked about birth control — though after he heard boos from the pro-Romney crowd, he asked it in an apologetic fashion, prefacing it with "We're not going to spend a lot of time on this but…"

Did the candidates believe in birth control? Since Rick Santorum has been going around saying he doesn't really, and since Mitt Romney has been silent on the issue, it was a damned relevant question. But instead, none answered the question directly, instead bemoaning President Obama's initial decision to have Catholic-run non-church facilities pay for contraception for their employees. "Unbelievable," Romney called it.

Santorum refused to answer the question, instead pivoting to children "being raised by children."

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