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11.12.11

Daily Beast Contributors Weigh In on CBS News/National Journal Foreign-Policy Debate

From China to Europe, the Republican candidates sparred over foreign policy at Saturday night’s debate. Michelle Goldberg, Jacob Heilbrunn, and more Daily Beast contributors weigh in.

The GOP’s Foreign Aid Fallacy
By Michael Tomasky

Rick Perry remembered what he wanted to say about foreign aid, at least, so that was a plus, but his idea of starting every country at zero is silly and demagogic, and not just because of Israel.

Nativist politicians have always bashed foreign aid, of course: Why in a-hell should we be a-spendin’ good money over there...et cetera. Politicians who have more sense than that typically don’t have the courage to stand up and say things like: Foreign aid serves a grand and important purpose, and if anything we should triple it!

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The GOP’s China Meltdown
By Michelle Goldberg
 
At 9:30 last night, when the CBS/National Journal debate about foreign policy came to an end, Rick Perry must have been deeply relieved. After his disastrous performance on Wednesday, he pulled off his best debate performance by far on Saturday, completely avoiding newsmaking gaffes.

Of course, that’s not saying much, and it certainly doesn’t mean that Perry sounded smart. “The communist Chinese government will end up on the ash heap of history if they do not change their virtues,” he said, arguing, senselessly, that China, with its thriving economy and vibrant manufacturing sector, is about to go to the way of the USSR at the close of the Cold War. 

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Chris Keane / Reuters-landov

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Saturday Night Snoozefest
By Jacob Heilbrunn
 
None of the candidates in the ballyhooed “commander-in-chief debate” in South Carolina offered a very commanding performance. With the conservative ideological light brigade intent on charging forward, the contempt heaped upon Pakistan and China was unmistakable. Any Pakistani or Chinese citizen might be outraged—if they were able to stay awake during what turned into a prolonged snoozefest. Even Jon Huntsman’s fluorescent tie couldn’t really light up the somnolent proceedings.

Herman Cain regurgitated far-right talking points. Huntsman wore a glazed smile. Mitt Romney spoke as though he were introducing a PowerPoint presentation. As usual, it was a struggle for Rick Perry to speak at all, but he managed to avoid any flubs except for announcing that he would not exempt Israel foreign aid from scrutiny—a big no-no in a GOP that, according to Eric Cantor, should ensure that any assistance to Israel be included directly in the Pentagon budget. 

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Perry's Dangerous Israel Gaffe
By Bruce Riedel

Gov. Rick Perry's proposal to start each year with zero dollars in foreign aid allocated for Israel and all other countries would have a very disruptive impact on Israeli military planning and Israeli security. Perry's idea is bad news for Israel and shows how little he understands its needs.

For the last three decades, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) planners have relied on roughly $3 billion in U.S. aid annually to build a modern military with a qualitative advantage over all of Israel's enemies. The IDF knows it can plan multiyear purchases of jet aircraft like F15s and other weapons because U.S. aid will be certain for years ahead. Planners love certainty about everything, but especially budgets.

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Perry’s Respectable Rebound
By Eleanor Clift
 
When it comes to an easy and demonstrable grasp of the complexity in foreign policy, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman were most at home in Saturday night’s debate, but it was Rick Perry whose answers defined the evening with his assertions that the Chinese government will end up on “the ash heap of history,” and that if he’s elected foreign aid would start at zero, even for Israel.

Perry had the most riding on his performance, and he skillfully bantered with the moderator when asked where he would house the nuclear-weapons program if he disbanded the Energy Department. “Glad you remembered it,” he quipped. “I had some time to think about it,” deadpanned CBS anchor Scott Pelley. “Me too,” Perry said. 

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