Best Moments From the GOP's Thanksgiving Family Forum

Republican hopefuls gathered Saturday night in Iowa for a frank roundtable about their Christian faith and positions on social issues. See the best moments. Plus, Michael Tomasky says it was their best debate yet and Jill Lawrence on the tears and fears in Iowa.

Six Republican presidential candidates sat around a mock Thanksgiving table to discuss God and social issues at an Internet-only debate held by Citizen Link (formerly Focus on the Family Action) and moderated by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. They began by discussing the influence of religion and God on their political careers and which values they’d like to reinstate in America. Thanks to the unusual format, it was more of a polite discussion, and candidates took the opportunity to tell sprawling stories of their Christian faith and personal hardships. Mitt Romney and Jon Hunstman Jr. declined to participate in the debate.

Herman Cain Gets Teary-Eyed

Who would have guessed that Herman Cain would cry at a debate? When Luntz invited the candidates to share a religious experience from their childhood or adulthood that forever changed them, Cain was the first to step forward. Recalling the moment when his doctor informed him that he had stage-IV colon cancer, Cain was suddenly choked up and had to take a deep breath before finishing his story. But what really opened the floodgates was the memory of telling his wife, “I can do this, I can beat this,” only to have her say, “We can do this.”

Rick Santorum Cries, Too

Here’s a red flag: Rick Santorum confessed that he had once viewed his disabled daughter, who was diagnosed with a chromosomal disorder at birth, “as less of a person” until she was fighting for her life at five months old. These aren’t just tears of pain but tears of shame. Remembering holding onto her finger and “praying to the Lord to commit to her,” he tells the audience that, three years later, she’s “hanging in there.” Pulling himself together, Santorum then segues into health care, siding with Michele Bachmann on the need to repeal Obamacare and build a better health care system from scratch.

Bachmann’s 'Taxpayer-Subsidized Abortion' Rant

It doesn’t take much to get Michele Bachmann speaking passionately against abortion, and hearing other candidates denounce it as immoral only riles her up further. As she sees it, “every human being is made in the image and likeness of a Holy God,” so of course human life should be protected by the federal government. This brings her to Obamacare, a subject she feels equally fervent about, particularly because it promotes taxpayer-subsidized abortion. “The new playground of the left is in Obamacare,” Bachmann says, slamming Planned Parenthood for billing the federal government for chemical abortion. On a roll now, Bachmann underscores Obamacare as “the issue” that a Republican president needs to deal with, and she’s your gal.

Gingrich’s Message to Occupy Wall Street

Newt Gingrich clearly sharpened his knowledge of colonial history in preparation for the Thanksgiving Forum, where he ties in our Founding Fathers’ values with his own. Gingrich quotes Captain John Smith telling his fellow Jamestown settlers, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” That principle is the basis for a sound value system, Gingrich says, and proof of “how much the left has collapsed in our country.” Setting the stage to make the same point he has made in previous debates, Gingrich says the protesters at Occupy Wall Street could learn a thing or two from Captain John Smith—and history in general. “Go get a job, right after you take a bath."

Cain Slips 9-9-9 into Religion Discussion

Even in the midst of a discussion about religious values and social liberties, Herman Cain finds a way to subtly promote his 9-9-9 tax plan. Michele Bachmann’s comment about church pastors being intimidated to talk openly about their faith in a non-partisan context, Cain says they’re intimidated “for one simple reason: the tax code and the I.R.S.” He somehow pulls it off, despite the fact that the connection between the two topics is entirely irrelevant.