The Skinny


So we were watching the CNN/YouTube debate the other day, and we realized something: Former House speaker Newt Gingrich was exactly right when he said that the presidential-campaign process had degenerated into "a cross between The Bachelor, American Idol and Who's Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader?"

Here's our tape-delayed liveblog of the highlights from the two-hour fustercluck. We pick up the action about 10 minutes into the debate (following some pre-game analysis, introductions, some cartoon clips, a folk ditty and yadda yadda yadda from host Anderson Cooper). Please note that times are approximate due to the fact that our TiVo erased the debate to make room for VH1's America's Most Smartest Model, so we had to estimate based on multiple YouTube clips.

10 minutes: Ernie Nardi of Brooklyn kicks it off with a loaded question for Rudy Giuliani: "If you become president of the United States, will you continue to aid and abet the flight of illegal aliens into this country?"

Giuliani denies New York City was a sanctuary city under his administration. Mitt Romney taunts: Was, too! Giuliani snaps back: Romney hired illegal immigrants to trim his hedges. "They were under your nose!" Giuliani snipes. What's the matter, Mitt? Don't you know that illegal immigrants smell differently than Hispanic U.S. citizens?

17 minutes: Fred Thompson tough-talks that he'll never grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. Instead, he'll strengthen borders and bust employers who employ undocumented workers. Is the business community being stingy with those campaign contributions, Fred?

20 minutes: John McCain suggests his fellow candidates need to be a little less hatin' on people who are in the U.S. illegally: "We need to sit down as Americans and recognize these are God's children as well. And they need some protection under the law. And they need some of our love and compassion."

22 minutes: Tom Tancredo says he's delighted with the get-tough rhetoric. "All I've heard is people trying to out-Tancredo Tancredo. It is great. I am so happy to hear it. It is a wonderful thing." A business owner asks Tancredo what he would do to help his company import seasonal foreign workers; Tancredo's mental filter reverses the question: "The gist of the question, as I understand it, is, what I'm going to do stop guest workers from coming in here?" After being corrected by Cooper, Tancredo flat-out rejects the idea of legally importing any foreign labor into the United States.

25 minutes: Duncan Hunter Tancredos that he'll build a double-walled, 854-mile fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border in six months if elected.

1 hour, 11 minutes: Eric Bentson of Phoenix asks the candidates: "Any of you all want to tell us about your gun collection, roughly how many you own, what your favorite make, model and caliber is, if any of them require a tax stamp?" Badda-boom, badda-bang! Way to reprazent, Phoenix!

Thompson has a don't ask/don't tell policy regarding his firearms; Hunter gives a heart-warming description of his 20-gauge L.C. Smith, which was "just like the gun that my dad used to carry when I would walk behind him as a 9-year-old kid and pick up the shells when he was hunting quail"; McCain reveals he doesn't own any guns these days, but he used 'em back in 'Nam; and Romney says his son Josh had two guns. You never know when you're gonna need some firepower when you're serving your country by working on your dad's presidential campaign.

1 hour, 32 minutes: Joseph Dearing of Dallas goes all David Koresh and creepily waves a Bible around as he poses this puzzler: "How you answer this question will tell us everything we need to know about you. Do you believe every word of this book? Specifically, this book that I am holding in my hand, do you believe this book?"

Giuliani responds: "The reality is, I believe it, but I don't believe it's necessarily literally true in every single respect." For example, Giuliani doesn't believe that Jonah was actually in the belly of a whale.

Romney smooth-talks: "I believe it's the word of God; the Bible is the word of God." He offers no opinion as to whether Jonah survived in the belly of a whale, although the whale experts we've consulted suggest that whales aren't likely to swallow anything as large as a man.

Mike Huckabee, an ordained minister, deftly steps in: "There are parts of it I don't fully comprehend and understand, because the Bible is a revelation of an infinite God, and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their God is too small."

1 hour, 35 minutes: Sparks fly when Romney sidesteps a question regarding whether waterboarding is torture. McCain says he's "astonished" by Romney's evasive response.

"Governor, let me tell you, if we're going to get the high ground in this world, and we're going to be the America that we have cherished and loved for more than 200 years, we're not going to torture people," McCain rebukes. "We're not going to do what Pol Pot did. We're not going to do what's being done to Burmese monks as we speak. ... How in the world anybody could think that that kind of thing could be inflicted by Americans on people who are held in our custody is absolutely beyond me. ... And again, I would hope that we would understand, my friends, that life is not 24 and Jack Bauer."

May we just say: If life were like 24, we'd want our counter-terrorism unit to set up better perimeters. Those CTU guys must have been in charge of Tora Bora.

1 hour, 41 minutes: A shotgun-wielding cartoon version of Dick Cheney asks: "Will you grant your vice president as much power and influence as I've had? And remember, before you answer, I'm watching you."

McCain says he wouldn't need a Dick Cheney-type, because he's got a lot more experience than President Bush.

1 hour, 47 minutes: Asked by an openly gay former brigadier general about gays and lesbians serving in the military, Hunter uses the phrase: "force those people to work in a small, tight unit."

1 hour, 58 minutes: Giuliani is asked about the biggest betrayal of all: How an alleged Yankees fan could root for the Red Sox in the World Series. Giuliani says his loyalty is to the American League and vows the Yankees will beat the Sox next year.

Romney replies: "I have to tell you that like most Americans, we love our sports teams, and we hate the Yankees."

And that's a wrap!


All you slackers are in luck: We're extending the deadline for Project White House, the first-ever Tucson Weekly presidential-campaign contest.

As regular readers know, two weeks ago, we launched our little exercise in Reality Journalism to help would-be candidates get on Arizona's Feb. 5 presidential-primary ballot. We'll cover campaigns we find newsworthy and even grant a Tucson Weekly endorsement to the best candidate. All you have to do is fill out a simple, two-page nomination form, and share your platform with us.

Earlier this week, Project White House met Daniel Kingery, who has just sold his Willcox Laundromat and set out across the country to launch his '08 campaign. Kingery's first stop? Weekly World Headquarters to get his nomination form notarized.

Kingery is the sort of candidate who comes up with innovative solutions to vexing problems. Here's just one example: When he had trouble with government officials who wanted to shut down a junkyard he was running in New Hampshire, he declared it a "cultural facility" and hired some topless dancers to perform there.

Anyone who can transform a junkyard into a strip club deserves serious consideration from voters.

Don't miss your chance to be part of Project White House! To make it easier on you, we're giving you an extra weekend to get your platform together. Entries are now due by noon on Monday, Dec. 10. Mail 'em to Project White House, P.O. Box 27087, Tucson, AZ 85726-7087, or e-mail us. Get your platform together now!

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