(It's on CNN, at what I like to call 6 Central Time.)
UPDATE #1: Introductions. "My name is Thompson. Tommy. I'm the candidate, not the actor." Giuliani says he believes in the New Hampshire slogan "Live Free or Die." Huckabee says he's from Hope: "Give us one more chance."
UPDATE #2: The first question goes to Romney. Was it a mistake to invade Iraq? Romney resists the hypothetical (and twice calls it a "null set"). He won't assume a world where we know what we didn't know. Giuliani goes right for it: it would still be "absolutely right" to remove Saddam -- "it's part of the war on terror." McCain gets a different question: Did he read the National Intelligence Estimate. He clearly states that he did not (but read other documents and knew what the situation was). He goes back to the other question voluntarily and says the decision was right.
UPDATE #3: McCain is asked what he will do if General Petraeus reports in September that the surge is failing. There is no option to bring the troops home. Al Qaeda will follow us, and there will be chaos. He attacks Hillary Clinton for saying this is George Bush's war. Wars belong to the whole nation, and it is we who lose, and we cannot. Wolf Blitzer brings him back to the question asked. We'll have to examine the options then, he says, but Brownback's proposal -- to divide Iraq into three ethnic regions -- isn't physically possible. We have to go on, even if the surge hasn't worked. Tommy gets the question now. He speaks forcibly and says we should force the Iraqi government to vote whether they want us to stay or go.
UPDATE #4: The question is Iran. Is it acceptable to talk to them? This is a boring question, so Blitzer spices it up by asking if it's okay to nuke them. When the question gets to Giuliani, it's all about: Can we nuke them? Giuliani: "You can't rule out anything." The Democrats are living in the last century. Iran could hand nukes over to terrorists. "This war is not a bumper sticker," he says, referencing Edwards's remark in the last Democratic debate. "This war is a real war." Romney: He wants to "move the world of Islam... toward modernity." He says a lot of other things, speaking quickly, and it's too scattershot. He sounds nervous and a little desperate for some reason. In the background, we see Giuliani, looking rock hard.
UPDATE #5: Immigration. Giuliani says the current proposal "has no unifying purpose." We need a way to identify everyone who's here from a foreign country. Credit card companies handle more information that this. He's cut off. On to Romney, who says we should enforce the immigration laws, but the proposal would let all the illegal aliens stay here for the rest of their lives. It's not fair to put all those people at the front of the line. So what does McCain say? "Rudy, you just described our legislation." He ends by saying he'd love to hear it if anyone has a better idea, and the audience goes into an uproar and half the guys on the stage seem to want to jump in. Various proposals flow in, mainly about enforcing the law we do have.
UPDATE #6: Incredible! Giuliani is asked about the Catholic bishop's remark that his position on abortion is like Pontius Pilate's washing his hands of the crucifixion, and Giuliani's answer is buzzed out as lightening outside the hall affects the microphone. He jokes that for someone who's gone to Catholic school "it's very frightening." As he tries to restate his position, the buzzing continues to interrupt him. Yikes. Huckabee is asked about his belief in creationism, and he does an amazing job of turning it into the question of whether he believes in God and passionately affirms that he does. Blitzer follows up with the question whether he believes in the literal creation story in the Bible. He says he doesn't know, but he does know that God created us. Brownback is asked where he stands on evolution, and he makes a similar move. McCain is asked whether children should be taught creationism. He says he'd leave it up to the local government, then jumps on the Huckabee train and says there is a God who created us and loves us. Romney's asked to talk about being a Mormon. He stresses the beliefs that are shared with other Christians.
UPDATE #7: Global warming. Blah, blah... Gays in the military. "This is not a good time to deal with disruptive issues like this," says Giuliani. Romney: Don't ask, don't tell is working; don't change it during wartime. McCain: "The policy is working." Our military is the best, so don't change it.
UPDATE #8: How would you use George W. Bush in your administration? Tommy would send him out to talk to kids. Brownback would ask him what he wants to do... and thinks he'd want to bow out the way his father did (and unlike Bill Clinton).
UPDATE #9: Should the President pardon Scooter Libby? Giuliani says the sentence was "grossly excessive," and this argues in favor of pardon. He adds weight to his answer by saying he's prosecuted over 5,000 cases. Romney and Brownback stress that there was no underlying crime about which Libby committed perjury. Tommy Thompson compares what happened to Libby to what happened to Bill Clinton for committing perjury. Clinton just lost his law license. Well, he got impeached! He was tried in the Senate and he prevailed. The difference from Libby is that when Libby went to trial, he lost. Anyway, the support for pardoning Libby is so pervasive here, that I suppose we should assume that in the end, if the appeals fail, Bush will pardon Libby.
UPDATE #10: Now, after a break, the candidates are sitting in red chairs, and the questions are from the audience. The first question comes from a woman whose brother was killed in Iraq. She mainly expresses the devastation her family is feeling. McCain's response is what you would expect, but he says it well and sincerely: She should feel proud of his sacrifice. The second question is also about Iraq. How will we keep Iraq from ending up with another dictator? Ron Paul says give them "an incentive," essentially, by leaving them to do the work of securing the country themselves. Whoa! Giuliani gets out of his chair and walks forward and talks directly to various audience members. We have to "take on the responsibility of nation building." Overthrowing Saddam was a brilliant military success, and now we must accept the responsibility that this incurred. He brings up the earlier question about General Petraeus and the surge, but just to insinuate that the news media will play up the report if it's negative and bury it if it's positive.
UPDATE #11: A question about conservatism. Gilmore answers. Like Giuliani, he gets up out of his chair. I guess they all will now. No, Tancredo stays seated. Thompson leans toward him and glares. Now, a man asks about prescription drugs. Giuliani hops up to denounce the Democrats as offering "socialized medicine." He tells us all about his health insurance plan, under which you'd buy your own insurance with the help of tax benefits and not rely on government or your employer. The the free market will solve the problem of overpriced drugs. Another question about health insurance: Would you accept a single-payer plan? Thompson is roused. This is the question for him. He wants to transform the whole system into a "wellness" and "prevention" system. He's stressing educating people about smoking and obesity.
UPDATE #12: What's the most important moral challenge? Giuliani says we need to share American ideals with the world (that is, he makes this another anti-terrorism question). Ron Paul says it's our acceptance of preemptive war. For Brownback, it's the need to be pro-life. Blitzer butts in with the question whether he could support Giuliani. He says he will support his party's nominee.
UPDATE #13. A question about campaign advertisements in the Spanish language. Is it somehow inconsistent with a tough immigration position? Tancredo thinks it's absolutely wrong... and he's all passionate about it. A question about how each candidate is different from Bush. McCain: "Spending, spending, spending.... We've got to stop the earmarking." Giuliani: Accountability. Measure success, the way he did in New York. Romney says: "It's going from small bore to large bore." Everyone still tuned in now makes a wisecrack about how he's a large bore. Either that or they're all: What's with the null set and the small bore/large bore? He says weird things! Brownback is going to end deaths by cancer. (Yeah, that horrible Bush with his cancer death!) Hmmm... Duncan Hunter. This is the first time I'm noticing him. But I didn't notice what he said.
Now, we get a question of what it means to be an American. Tancredo makes it into another immigration question. He uses the phrase "enough is enough," and I'm thinking, yeah, enough with the immigration questions tonight. Another question about what Republicans need to do to win. I'm about to burn out. This 2-hour format is a pain. But my mood is lifted a bit when Giuliani says: "Ma'am, the way to do it is to nominate me."
Ah! The end at last! Am I the only one still watching?