I watched the Republican presidential debate of January 26, 2012 (once it was posted on YouTube) last night and while I have seen the same things that many of my fellow political opinion commentators, both famous and unknown, have seen, one thing stood out to me, and it was a point I think many may have missed. Rick Santorum just lost himself the Republican presidential primary race. Hands down, he lost it. Albeit he lost it in less spectacular fashion then Rick Perry did in his 53 second gaffe in a debate back on November 9, 2011, but he still lost it.
What am I talking about? Just re-watch the debate. Did Santorum deliver some strong blows against Romney and Gingrich last night? Yes he did. Did he have some spectacular lines in the debate? Yes he did. So what I am talking about? Just re-watch the debate when it came to one of the first foreign policy questions, then follow my train of thought here.
In response to a question from the audience asking what the United States’ role in assisting Latin America should be, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, whose positions on foreign policy have been regarded as controversial since he first started campaigning for President in 2007, made the first response by defining his foreign policy. He defined it as one of diplomacy, free trade and encouragement to all nations and also setting an example of freedom for other nations to freely follow rather than using force to get them to adopt our standards. Fair enough. One does not have to agree with this foreign policy if they do not want to. That is not the point of this piece. The point is Santorum’s response following Paul’s answer.
Santorum, plain and simple, lost his temper on the stage. It was shocking, and the venom of his tone, with which he tainted his answer, should have been shocking for all observing the debate. While he may have had the right to be angry, it is ALWAYS a very bad idea to lose one’s temper on the stage and yet he did. In one minute and forty-four seconds Santorum completely unraveled and launched into a long tirade against the Obama administration which, even though all of his complaints and laments were valid objections and concerns, was not a constructive answer of what he would do instead. What few bits of the tirade which sounded even close to constructive suggestions were very vague and in the end all Santorum really promised to do was visit Central and South America. In short, Santorum’s answer was just an angry unconstructive tirade and, as a result, a huge mistake.
However, instead of stopping there, Santorum exacerbated his mistake just seconds later. The debate moderator, Mr. Wolf Blitzer, allowed Congressman Paul to respond to Santorum’s tirade. Paul attempted to clarify where he stood in contrast to Santorum based on previous statements from Santorum in the past several months. As Paul finished speaking, Santorum suddenly responded with an answer which made him look like a complete fool: “I don't know what answer Congressman Paul was listening to. He obviously wasn't listening to my answer." It was an answer so ridiculous that many in the audience laughed at Santorum's obvious blunder. Here Paul had just given an answer of constructive proposals in response to Santorum's tirade, which had contained no constructive proposals, and Santorum said Paul was not listening to him. It was a ridiculous and huge blunder and from the pained look on Santorum's face as he said it, it looked as if he knew he was committing a blunder but could not admit it.
Finally, to wrap it up, Santorum put the icing on his mistake when he did seek to clarify what his foreign policy was. The whole answer was again very poor (Three-fourths of it was another tirade against the current administration with no details of what he would have done and would do instead) and the part of the answer where he sought to define his foreign policy consisted of vague references to building economic and national security relationships with no specific explanations of what he meant by these statements, how they would work and why they would succeed. Then he tried to distance himself from the stance of using military force that he had taken at previous debates and campaign stops. He then fell back into it by talking about 'supporting' nations which had not fallen under the sway of the Marxist regimes in Cuba and Venezuela which, based on previous statements Santorum had made linking 'support' to 'military force', would seem to imply that he supported military force to get these nations to do what the United States ordered them to. It was a classic example of disconcerted flip-flopping on the part of Mr. Santorum and a tragic finale to a huge mistake for his campaign.
To clarify, I am fully aware of what Mr. Santorum endorses for his foreign policy, and while I do not agree with his stances, I appreciated it in the debates earlier in 2011 when he gave clearer answers and examples of what he would do in the White House in regards to foreign policy. With this in mind, Mr. Santorum’s answers on these foreign policy questions last night added up to a tremendous blunder for him which, in my opinion, has sunk his campaign and finished his run as a serious contender in the Republican primaries. By this action, the 2012 Republican Presidential Primaries have now officially turned into a three man race between Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.
Below is the transcript of the question and the responses of Congressman Paul and former Senator Santorum:
RAQUEL RODRIGUEZ (Hispanic Republican attorney from Miami in the audience): The U.S. has been largely away in its foreign and trade policy with Latin America. In the meantime, Iran and China have been increasing their influence over an involvement in Latin America through the leftist and left-leaning governments.
What would each of you do as president to more deeply engage in Latin America and, importantly, to support the governments and the political parties that support democracy and free markets?
CNN MODERATOR WOLF BLITZER: Congressman Paul?
CONGRESSMAN RON PAUL: Well, I think free trade is the answer. Free trade is an answer to a lot of conflicts around the world, so I'm always promoting free trade. And you might add Cuba, too. I think we would be a lot better off with Cuba, trading with Cuba.
So, I think the more you can do to promote this free trade, the better off we'll be. But as far as us having an obligation, a military or a financial obligation to go down and dictate to them what government they should have, I don't like that idea.
I would work with the people and encourage free trade, and try to set a standard here where countries in Central America or South America or any place in the world would want to emulate us and set the standards that we have. Unfortunately, sometimes we slip up on our standards and we go around the world and we try to force ourselves on others.
I don't think the nations in South America and Central America necessarily want us to come down there and dictate which government they should have. And yet, I believe with friendship and trade, you can have a lot of influence, and I strongly believe that it's time we have friendship and trade with Cuba.
BLITZER: Senator Santorum, are you with Congressman Paul?
FORMER SENATOR RICK SANTORUM: No, I'm not with Congressman Paul and I'm not with Barack Obama on this issue.
Our policy in Central and South America under this administration has been abysmal. The way we have treated, in particular, countries like Honduras, Honduras, which stood up for the rule of law, which threw out a would-be dictator who was using the Chavez playbook from Venezuela in order to try to run for re-election in Honduras, and the United States government, instead of standing behind the -- the people in the parliament, the people in the Supreme Court, who tried to enforce the constitution of Honduras -- instead of siding with them, the Democrats, President Obama sided with two other people in South America -- excuse me -- Central America and South America. Chavez and Castro and Obama sided against the people of Honduras.
This is a consistent policy of siding with the leftists, siding with the Marxists, siding with those who don't support democracy, not standing up for our friends in Colombia, not standing up for our friends who want to engage and support America, who want to be great trading partners and great allies for our country, to be able to form that kind of bond that is so essential in our own hemisphere.
The European Union understood how important it was for diverse people to be able to come together in an economic unit. We only -- not only have to come together as an economic unit, but the threat of terrorism, the threat of Iran now in Venezuela and in other places, and Cuba and in Nicaragua, the threat of radical Islam growing in that region -- is it important for -- it's absolutely important for us to have a president who understands that threat and understands the solution is closer ties. I will visit that area of the world, repeatedly, to solidify those ties when I become president.
BLITZER: Let me let Congressman Paul quickly respond.
PAUL: The -- the senator mentioned standing up for some of these nations, but he doesn't define it, but standing up for nations like this usually means that we impose ourselves, go and pick the dictators, undermine certain governments, also sending them a lot of money.
It doesn't work. Most of the time, this backfires. They resent us. We can achieve what he wants in a much different way than us using the bully attitude that ‘you will do it our way’.
This is not a benefit to us. And besides, where do you get the troops and where are you going to get the money? Because you're talking about force. And I know of a much better way than using force to get along with people.
SANTORUM: I don't know what answer Congressman Paul was listening to. He obviously wasn't listening to my answer.
What I talked about is building strong economic relationships, strong national security relationships. No one's talking about force. Nobody's talking about going into Cuba or going into Venezuela. It's talking about the other countries in the region, which are being influenced greatly by those countries, that are tending and moving toward those militant socialists, instead of the United States.
Why? Because we've ignored them. You've got a president of the United States that held a Colombian free trade agreement -- Colombia, who's out there on the front lines, working with us against the narco-terrorists, standing up to Chavez in South America. And what did we do?
For political -- domestic political purposes, the president of the United States sided with organized labor and the environmental groups and held Colombia hanging out to dry for three years. We cannot do that to our friends in South America.
(End of Transcript)
Those who wish to watch the video of this exchange, please the click the link in the last paragraph of the actual article.
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