I don’t have a lot to say about this debate. Perry is showing some improvement. He is more comfortable than he used to be, though that isn’t saying a lot. His demeanor could use some work. Perry comes across as outspoken rather than deliberative, menacing rather than relaxed. Substantively, he has embraced the neocons who led America into a misguided war in Iraq based on the premise that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be false. In the second segment of the debate, Perry got into a discussion of how to deal with Iran. From the transcript: QUESTION [from the audience]: Good evening. I’m Danielle Pletka (ph); I’m the Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Yesterday the United States and the U.K. slapped new sanctions on Iran. But we haven’t bought oil directly from Iran in over 30 years. We’ve had targeted sanctions on Iran for more than half that time. Nonetheless, Iran is probably less than a year away from getting a nuclear weapon. Do you believe that there is any set of sanctions that could be put in place that would stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon? BLITZER: Let’s go to Governor Perry. What do you think? PERRY: Absolutely. We need to sanction the Iranian Central Bank. That would be one of the most powerful ways to impact that. As a matter of fact, Congressman Paul, that is what we need to do before we ever start having any conversations about a military strike, is to use every sanction that we have. And when you sanction the Iranian Central Bank, that will shut down that economy. At that particular point in time, they truly have to deal with the United States . And it’s one of the reasons that I call for the — there is an area over there, of all of them working together — and I’m talking about Syria — and bringing them into the mix as well. As I called for, one of the options is to have a no-fly zone over Syria at the same time you’re putting those types of sanctions against Iran. And in that moment, they will understand that America is serious. This President refuses to do that, and it’s another show of lack of leadership from the President of the United States. Perry didn’t know, or didn’t understand that sanctions against the central bank could have dire results. This became evident when moderator Wolf Blitzer directed the next question to Gingrich: BLITZER: The argument, Speaker Gingrich — and I know you’ve studied this, and I want you to weigh in — on the sanctioning of the Iranian Central Bank, because if you do that, for all practical purposes, it cuts off Iranian oil exports, 4 million barrels a day. The Europeans get a lot of that oil. They think [the effect on] their economy, if the price of gasoline skyrocketed, which it would, would be disastrous. That’s why the pressure is on the U.S. to not impose those sanctions. What say you? GINGRICH: Well, I say you — the question you just asked is perfect, because the fact is we ought to have a massive all-sources energy program in the United States designed to, once again, create a surplus of energy here, so we could say to the Europeans pretty cheerfully, that all the various sources of oil we have in the United States, we could literally replace the Iranian oil. Neither Perry nor Gingrich covered themselves with glory in answering the original question. Perry didn’t have a clue that sanctions against the Iranian central bank could plunge Europe into an economic crisis. And Gingrich’s suggestion that America could create a “surplus of energy here” is utter nonsense. If America had the wherewithal to be self sufficient in energy, much less replace the Iranian oil bound for Europe, it would have done so long ago. I thought this was the most interesting exchange of the entire debate, although Ron Paul is always worth listening to because he comes at problems from a libertarian perspective that sometimes makes a lot of sense. My scoring of the debate is that it will produce very little, if any, movement in the polls. Perry gave a solid performance but it wasn’t enough to move the needle. In fact, I suspect none of the candidates, Gingrich included, moved the needle.
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