Republicans Invoke President Reagan During Thursday’s Debate
Simi Valley, CA (AHN) – Republican contenders for the White House spent much of their first debate Thursday night trying to appeal to conservatives, touting their credentials on such issues as foreign policy, national security, and illegal immigration. As they were rushed through their answers to questions in the first nationally televised debate of the 2008 race, they found ample time to invoke the name of former President Ronald Reagan.
In all, the Gipper was mentioned 19-times during the debate moderated by Chris Matthews and broadcast live on MSNBC. Of the ten candidates gathered at the Reagan Presidential Library, only U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas did not invoke the name of the former resident. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani referenced the 40th president the most often, one five occasions during the 90-minute debate.
“What we can borrow from Ronald Reagan, since we are in his library, is that great sense of optimism that he had,” Giuliani said. “He led by building on the strengths of America, not running America down.”
While each of the candidates said they are opposed to a hasty withdrawal from Iraq, they offered thinly veiled criticism of how the war has been handled by President Bush.
“We must win in Iraq,” said Arizona Sen. John McCain. “If we withdraw there will be chaos, there will be genocide, and they will follow us home.” He added, “The war was terribly mismanaged, and we have to fix a lot of the mistakes that we made.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, speaking about the war’s execution, said: “Clearly, there was a real error in judgment,” adding that he would have fired former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld before the 2006 mid-term congressional elections. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, said he wants to get U.S. forces out of Iraq “as soon as possible,” but not so soon that troops would have to return to the war-torn country.
With such notable Republicans as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former first lady Nancy Reagan looking on, the candidates evoked the conservative principles of Ronald Reagan,
the nation’s 40th president who has become an icon for those on the political right.
On abortion, the panel was asked if the repeal of legalized abortion would “be a good day for the nation?” Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts said, “absolutely.” Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas said a repeal of Roe v. Wade would be a “glorious day.” Giuliani, the only pro-choice candidate on the panel, said while he “hates” abortion, “I would respect a woman’s right to make a different choice.”