To me, the takeaway message of watching the Republicans debate is that Democrats need to realize that in 2008 they'll be matching up against a campaign of audacious -- almost awe-inspiringly so -- lies, and they need to be prepared to aggressively swat them down. For example, Rudy Giuliani said:
It’s unthinkable that you would leave Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq and be able to fight the war on terror. And the problem is that we see Iraq in a vacuum. Iraq should not be seen in a vacuum. Iraq is part of the overall terrorist war against the United States.
Now you might think this would count as a giant gaffe -- something much worse than Gerald Ford misspeaking about Soviet domination of Poland. It indicates that Giuliani is either totally ignorant about Iraq and al-Qaeda or else breathtakingly dishonest on the subject. My colleague Jim Fallows has that take -- "Huh???" he responds in a post entitled "What Is Rudy Giuliani Talking About???" Unfortunately for Democrats, the way political reporters in practice cover this stuff is much better exemplified by my other colleague Marc Ambinder who merely notes that "Giuliani linked Iraq to the broader war on terror and kept accusing Democrats of burying their heads in the sand."
I don't like it, but that's the way the game is played. What I'd really like to see, though, is the politician with enough confidence in his or her own command of the national security issue to just shoot back as if we live in a sane universe wherein BS like that from Giuliani demonstrates not "toughness" but his unfitness to lead the country.