The first question is from Jennifer Rubin of ABC News. What does he think of the new vote in the Senate in which all the Democrats are now for cutting off money for troops? Giuliani says it's interesting, since they've taken different positions in the past. "They don't get it," he says. They don't understand "the nature of the Islamist threat." They'll never even say "Islamist terrorism threat" when they talk about terrorism: "They can't get the words out."
Blake Dvorak of Real Clear Politics asks why he's "leveling off" or falling in the polls. Giuliani immediately says "I don't look at polls." Then he adds that he did notice that the Wall Street Journal had him at 38%, only one point below where he was before. He wheel spins a moment saying he's "getting his message out," then moves on to a better spin: the states. (I note: there's way too much talk about overall percentages when the presidency is won on a state-by-state level.) He says he's got a large lead in many -- or he might have said "most" -- states, and he's the only candidate who is competitive in all states.
Next is Philip Klein of the American Spectator who asks about Palestinian violence. Giuliani gives a solid answer, but I did not take notes at this point.
Jim Garrity (sp?) of National Review asks whether Ron Paul should be included in the Republican debates. Giuliani says that what Paul said about 9/11 last night is something he'd have been surprised to hear anyone say even in the Democratic debate. Giuliani seemed to know that some people are talking about whether he characterized Paul's comment fairly last night when he lit into him, because he said he listened to it again and that there was "tremendous confusion in what [Paul] was saying." Paul said that because of our attacks on Saddam, al Qaeda wanted to kill us. That didn't make sense. Giuliani emphasized that he has been studying Islam and Islamic terrorism since the 1970s when he was in the Ford administration, and he knows that the reason they hate us is because of our freedom, notably our freedom of religion and the freedom for women.
Matt Lewis of Townhall.com asks him about what he said about torture in the debate: You seemed to say that in the worse case scenario, we should do whatever is necessary. Giuliani stressed the importance of seeing his comments within the hypothetical posed at the debate: we've captured someone who has knowledge of an impending terrorist attack that would kill thousands of Americans. He said that the question was about the definition of torture as contrasted with "enhanced techniques" or "aggressive techniques." His view is that we should figure out exactly where the line is and go right up to it. He specified that was more than McCain was willing to do.
Next was Skip Murphy of GraniteGrok, who invited Giuliani to talk about the effect of Islamic values on American culture, for example, the way Muslim cab drivers want to be able to refuse service to passengers who are carrying alcohol. Giuliani declined the invitation and used this segment to talk about how bad it is that in Palestine they're using a Mickey Mouse character to try to teach kids to kill and how the documentary "Obsession" shows what is being taught to young people.
Time for the last question -- which meant no question for me -- and it was from Bill Bradley of New West Notes. He went back to the question of defining the distinction between torture and "enhanced techniques." Giuliani repeated that it's important for the government to look at the specific techniques -- some of which are "too gory even to discuss" in the public debate -- and to categorize them. If it's torture, don't do it. He said he would not stress that the reason we avoid torture is to inspire our enemies to avoid torture. (I note: McCain states that reason.) We would avoid torture to be true to our principles and because it's the right thing to do.
That's it. I thought he was clear and substantive. He was not evasive except in not responding to Murphy's question. Good job.
ADDED: Watching the debate, I see the McCain also expressed the principled position on torture:
When I was in Vietnam, one of the things that sustained us, as we went -- underwent torture ourselves, is the knowledge that if we had our positions reversed and we were the captors, we would not impose that kind of treatment on them.
It's not about the terrorists, it's about us. It's about what kind of country we are.
I have heard him take the pragmatic position, and part of his statement last night was pragmatic. He invoked three key pragmatic arguments:
1. "[W]e could never gain as much we would gain from that torture as we lose in world opinion." [That is: It hurts our reputation.]I remembered these pragmatic arguments, but I can see McCain made the principled argument too. I want to see the principled argument, but I don't object to combining it with pragmatic arguments. Nevertheless, in this case, the pragmatic arguments -- especially #3 -- are not that believable.
2. "The more physical pain you inflict on someone, the more they're going to tell you what they think you want to know." [That is: It's not effective.]
3. "If we do it, what happens to our military people when they're captured?" [That is: It encourages the enemy to torture our people.]
MORE: This was billed as a blogger conference call, but it was heavily weighted with mainstream media. I mean: ABC News?? If you've got some mainstream reporters doing some of their writing in the blog format at an MSM site, those aren't really bloggers in the meaningful sense of the word. Looking back, I'm annoyed that I got lost in the queue behind so many MSM reporters. If the candidate really wants to open himself to the bloggers, he should do conference calls that do not include mainstream reporters.
AND: You're misreading me if you think I'm saying the MSM bloggers were given priority. It was a matter of punching in a number to indicate you want to ask a question, and I didn't try to get in quickly.