Rudy flop in debate? I beg to differ
I've been reading some awfully colorful language in the last couple of hours about how Rudy "lost" the debate, and think it's mostly hogwash.
Peggy Noonan thinks Giuliani did poorly on his abortion answers. Does she think that Giuliani previously had the support of a lot of Republicans for whom abortion issues are paramount? Isn't there a chance that Rudy does better winning 100% of the pro-choice vote among Republicans than making an insincere play for a 10-way split of the pro-life vote?
Ryan Sager thinks "the Giuliani campaign is in a full meltdown." I'm baffled by that evaluation.
And Jim Geraghty thinks Giuliani's answer about the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims was "as painful as watching Joe Theismann have his leg broken by Lawrence Taylor back in the 1980s." Several other pundits also jumped on the answer.
Huh? After reading that I went back to the DVR to get the answer, which was, verbatim:
The difference is … the descendant of Muhammed. The Sunnis … the Sunnis believe that Muhammed’s … the Caliphate should be selected, and the Shiites believe that it should be by descent. And then of course there was a slaughter of Shiites in the early part of the history of Islam, and it has infected a lot of the history of Islam, which is really very unfortunate.
Isn't that answer, um, correct? Can anyone suggest a single current politician or wannabe who could've done better? In 30 seconds? Certainly not House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Democratic Representative Silvestre Reyes.
Mind you, I don't think Giuliani will get much credit for the answer because most Americans don't know enough to realize he was spot on.
In fact, that's my critique of Giuliani's performance tonight -- that he seemed to get into the thicket of wonkish facts and figures, which didn't play well in the scattered, frenetic, Hardball format of tonight's debate. (Spitballs for the genius who thought having a Carter Administration flunkie as debate moderator was a good idea.)
Tonight's format demanded Reaganesque one-liners: see how desperate McCain was to use his canned "follow Osama to the gates of hell" bon mot. I much preferred Romney's spontaneous "I wouldn’t say anything to Roman Catholic bishops. They can do whatever the heck they want."
Rather than one-liners, Giuliani offered up some Clintonesque statistics. That's not a slam -- one thing voters loved about Clinton was his incredible grasp of detail in discussing policies, whether the policies made any sense or not. But this wasn't the forum for that kind of detail.
UPDATE: OK, so I'm not crazy. NRO's Byron York and the Times of London's Gerard Baker also think that Giuliani handled the Sunni-Shiite question well. York is however critical of Giuliani's abortion answers. I think there is an intellectually honest and electorally popular position there, but I agree Giuliani's got to polish his delivery on the topic.