The Fox News hosts asked interesting, tough questions during the first Republican presidential primary debate Thursday night, but they couldn't make up for the fact that those answering the questions aren't the GOP's brightest stars. That showed near the end of the debate, when the candidates who showed up--Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, and Gary Johnson--were asked about the candidates who didn't. "I love the Huck," Pawlenty, a former governor of Minnesota, awkwardly said about absentee maybe-candidate Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas.
With the strongest candidates MIA, the lesser-known guys were able to shine or, like Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, be weird. He explained that if he had a reality show, it would "spread this whole notion of physical activity ... this notion that we should all live in the present." His show would not be like Palin's, in which she was on her "hands and knees" climbing an ice wall, he said. Post-debate, Johnson confessed, "I didn't mean to say that."
The candidates spent the first 15 minutes of the debate talking about foreign policy in the wake of Osama bin Laden's killing. Echoing a line from Sarah Palin, Santorum, a former Senator from Pennsylvania, attacked Obama for being wimpy, saying, "We need a president out front saying you either cooperate with us, or there will be consequences, and one of the consequences will be aid." Everything Obama did right on national security, he said, was a continuation of policies started by George W. Bush. But Paul, the Libertarian darling, and Johnson both called for an immediate end to the war in Afghanistan--with Paul getting cheers when asked if we'd have caught bin Laden if we'd pulled out of Afghanistan. Of course, Paul said. Bin Laden wasn't even in Afghanistan.