Last night, the eight remaining Republican presidential candidates squared off in a somewhat silly/somewhat slanted CNN/YouTube debate. For with a format based on all viewer video submissions, and moderated by a democratic anchor (Anderson Cooper) on a decidedly democratic station, you just knew the questions would be shaded to favor a shady pro-choice ex-governor like Giuliani rather than a pro-life hero like Huckabee. But in the end, even if Huck didn't get the last laugh, he got the most—which in Iowa should translate into the most votes as well.
The debate started out with a heated illegal immigrant exchange between Rudy and Mitt Romney, which, while it made for good theater, did not make them look like good men. It was the classic half-truth dialogue where Romney accused Rudy of running a "sanctuary city" and Rudy retorting that Mitt ran a "sanctuary mansion"—employing illegal aliens in his own home. While Giuliani did give illegals some privileges (allowed their children to enroll in school, or to be treated in emergency health situations) and the landscaping crews that manicured the Romney estate did have some undocumented workers, neither accusation was really accurate, and as Romney stated, the accusers both "knew it."
Fred Thompson, besides looking dead on his feet, made similar stupid accusations in a video showing Romney saying he was pro-abortion and a heavy Huckabee being a very "taxing" governor. Although Romney probably came out of this debate the worst, looking scripted on questions he knew were coming, and a stuttering fool on those he didn't, Fred was probably a close second. "Who was that young guy?" Romney quipped about a pro-abortion comment he made just out of college. "But I've already stated it a million times—I'm pro-life now, and my youthful ideas on the subject were a mistake."
Meanwhile Huckabee calmly explained how his tax quotes were both edited and taken out of context, adding, "It's like my old pastor used to say. When they're kicking you in the rear, it's just proving you're still out in front."
In the end, Huck (despite his Iowa front-running status), didn't get nearly as many chances to answer as Rudy, Mitt, John McCain, or even the extremely eccentric libertarian-socialist "Republican" Ron Paul, but Mike made the most of nearly every opportunity with his sincerity, candor and wit. Not even allowed to answer questions about his favorite issues, abortion and gun rights, Huck proved quick on his feet, engaging the audience and leaving the undecideds longing for more. When asked about the space program, whether we should pursue a rocket trip to Mars, he said he was thankful for all the technology that has come out of NASA but was not sure if Mars was the best way to spend our money. "However, if we do decide to send people there, my first choice for that mission would be Hillary."
When Rudy was asked if he believed that every word in the Bible was true, he initially hemmed and hawed. "Did you need a little help on that one?" Huck volunteered, to the roar of the crowd, while Romney just kept repeating, "It's the Word of God. It's the Word of God," like a parrot. Meanwhile, Huckabee calmly answered that the Bible was divine revelation, but some passages, such as where the Lord commands us to pluck out our eyes were not (necessarily) meant to be taken literally.
Huck's toughest question (one which the other candidates did not have to answer) was, "In the case of the death penalty—what would Jesus do?" Again Huck thoughtfully answered that he was the only man on the stage who indeed HAD to make that decision, and it was the most difficult one he ever had to deal with as governor, and he studied (and prayed) long and hard before deciding that in some cases there were some crimes so heinous that it was necessary. But when pressed by the Pharisaical Anderson Cooper about the WWJD part, Huck responded with what critics almost unanimously proclaimed the best answer of the evening, "Jesus was far too wise to run for political office."
While I do have to state that Michael Huckabee's answer goes beyond what the Catholic Church teaches (the Church allows the death penalty only in cases where the criminal still can cause great evil from his cell or where there is great danger of his escape), Huck's response reminded me of how Jesus always had a perfect answer to a seemingly no-win question that the Scribes and Pharisees cooked up to trap him with. Plus, perhaps reading their hearts and knowing Cooper and his cohorts wouldn't let him speak out about abortion, Mike included his fine pro-life answer to that question in his 30-second video, which in a pre-arranged pledge of "fairness" CNN let each candidate show. Attempting to trap or minimalize him, the enemy only made Michael Huckabee come out even better. And, though Huck might not know it yet, he can thank the defense of his saint and archangel for that.