Nothing that the Republicans said last night is going to change the various candidates’ chances of winning the nomination. Perhaps the headline in that sense is that Rick Perry managed to make it through 90 minutes without making a fool of himself, but that’s about it as far as nomination news.
But it certainly is important that several candidates — Perry, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann — confirmed their position in favor of torture and against normal rule of law constraints on the U.S. government and the president of the United States. For the details, see Conor Friedersdorf, Adam Serwer, and Steve Benen.
It’s also important that several candidates, including Mitt Romney, committed to war against Iran in order to prevent that nation from going nuclear. And it’s important that several candidates, as usual, committed to an endless war in Afghanistan (although not Romney, who gave conditions for ending that war that would make it endless but also called the 2014 pullout reasonable).
It’s also at least fascinating that more than one candidate took a pro-Mubarak position on the various revolutions in Africa and the Middle East.
It’s not clear how that all adds up as an electoral platform; my guess is that (alas) torture is popular, while the rest of the platform is not.
But as a foreign policy and national security program, well, it’s not very impressive (see Dan Drezner or Fred Kaplan) although at least it’s not as bonkers as the various things that Bachmann was alone on last night (such as the upcoming “worldwide nuclear war against Israel”).
Make no mistake about it: Candidates are strongly inclined to do in office what they promised on the campaign trail. Torture, war with Iran — these aren’t throwaway lines on the campaign trail but what we can reasonably expect if Republicans capture the White House, at least unless Ron Paul or Gary Johnson or Jon Huntsman shocks us all and wins the nomination.
This post has been updated.