I score Newt the winner, then Huntsman, then, reluctantly, Romney (with Romney likely the real winner anyway)…

I’m writing this off the top of my head without hearing anyone else’s account or opinions on tonight’s Republican presidential candidate national security debate, the second one on that topic to date — and I was surprised that all the candidates seemed more serious and grown up this time, and even Michelle Bachman sounded knowledgeable, to some degree (but she tended to fade into wild unsubstantiated charges at times too). But I would score Newt Gingrich the winner, and then maybe put Jon Huntsman second (although maybe he should be first), and probably concede that it all really goes to Mitt Romney anyway, and he turned in a credible performance.

Ron Paul with his total isolationism — something that has not really been all that popular since just before World War II — is definitely on the outside, but there is an appeal to his call against wasting our efforts on foreign wars and giving up our liberties here at home in the name of “national security” — not because we don’t want national security, but because that term can be used by the government and police to destroy our personal liberties when there is no authentic national security interest — in other words, we don‘t need a warrant, someone said you might be a terrorist. (I’ll address that issue later.)

Gingrich had what often seemed the best answers in the two-hour program, in that they seemed to be so all-encompassing, that is looking at an issue from all sides. And I think he hit a home run when he went counter to the no-immigration-amnesty theme of most of the Republicans by saying he did not think the American people would want to kick out people or separate their families if they are well established here and have not been in trouble with the law. I don’t think he considers his approach amnesty. He suggested some means of making people legal immigrants in some cases without offering full citizenship.

Romney took issue with that, as did Bachman. Gingrich said he is willing to “take the heat” over the issue.

Huntsman seems wise, knowledgeable, and thoughtful on foreign affairs — he has extensive experience as an ambassador overseas, and is an expert on China, having lived there (he speaks Chinese).

While the other candidates, save Paul, seemed to think we have to fight on to victory in Afghanistan (whatever that may be), Huntsman thinks we have achieved what we needed to there and need to move on to other concerns, namely rebuilding America (sounds good to me).

Huntsman also said that it bothers him that we have spent so much blood and treasure in Afghanistan while the Chinese are getting mineral rights there. He said that we need to focus our military efforts (or did he say foreign policy?) to coincide with our economic interests (I thought that was what we usually did, even if it has not always been successful).

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And a strange thing: everyone knows (this is my opinion) that we went into Iraq over oil and yet we got no special right to it in return, but the Chinese, who never fired a shot or had anyone killed there, have gotten choice oil contracts there, I understand.

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Although it may be overlooked, I thought Huntsman had one of the best lines when in reaction partially to Herman Cain’s constant vow to essentially do what the generals suggest (you know, the experts), and I think Romney’s similar answers too, when he, Huntsman, said he seemed to recall what happened when the president listened to the generals in 1967 (Vietnam).

But probably the most forceful line and maybe even a game winner was when Romney said he believed America was an “exceptional nation” (American exceptionalism) while president Obama believes we are just another nation. And that he believes America must lead the way, not just collaborate with others. I think that could be a top campaign line for him in foreign policy.

I believe Huntsman said that the U.S. can’t let Iran get the nuclear bomb, which most of his colleagues agreed with, and said so before him, but he stressed that nation building at home is paramount.

The very first question was on what should be done about the Patriot Act, such as strengthening or limiting it. Gingrich had the best answer, I thought, when he said the issue has to be divided into criminal law and national security. He said that people charged with routine criminal matters should be afforded all the constitutional protections but that people charged in relation to national security or war crimes come under a different category.

But Paul warned Americans not to “sacrifice liberty for security”, and went on to claim that the tag national security can be used to deny American citizens their rights. And he made reference to the fact an American citizen was recently assassinated by our government (no trial) on the grounds he was a terrorist.

I personally think it is a tough balancing act and wonder if there really needs to be a Patriot Act. I have never understood why warrants cannot be obtained against people when there is evidence that some criminal act has occurred or is being plotted. But at any rate, even under the current Patriot Act, there must be some balance between the need to prevent terrorist acts and the need to protect citizens from over-zealous authorities or those bent on personal or political vendettas, using the tag national security as cover. It happens.

So anyway, I thought Gingrich, Huntsman, and reluctantly Romney, came out as potential credible contenders.

I do not know at this time whether I want to see Obama defeated and a Republican move into the White House — third party or independent anyone?

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UPDATE: (Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011)

I thought this column in the New York Times by Thomas Friedman about Obama was a good: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/23/opinion/friedman-go-big-mr-obama.html?src=ISMR_AP_LO_MST_FB#

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P.s.

Oh, and another good line: this one by Gingrich or “Newt” as so many refer to him as:

When it was suggested that the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistani territory outraged the Pakistanis, Newt said: “We should be (have been) furious” — in other words, we should be the ones mad because he was sheltered all that time by our supposed ally.

Gingrich also, I thought, gave an excellent description of what we do when we go after the enemy (besides Bin Laden) in Pakistani territory. He called it “hot pursuit”.

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