Here’s my thoughts on who won last night – and who probably needs to call it quits

Ok, the 5th GOP debate just finished and I must give Wolf Blitzer credit. He did a very good job and the debate was professionally run. It was a significant improvement over the last CNN GOP debate where Jake Tapper was the head moderator. This time we did get a chance to hear from Hugh Hewitt and Dana Bash. It was apparent that the side story to this debate was the desire to see a match between Rubio and Cruz. Another theme of the evening was stressing executive experience over that of first term U.S. Senators, or the political elite class.

The key to this debate was whether or not Ted Cruz could hold his own as an emerging frontrunner, and he did. I was a little concerned about the votes against the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Having served on the House Armed Services Committee and having spent 22 years in the Army, I can assure you that the U.S. military cannot detain American citizens. There is a little thing called posse comitatus, which precludes that from happening. And remember what happened in Little Rock Arkansas when Carlos Bledsoe shot two Soldiers, killing one? The Army did not detain him.

But I just gotta tell ya, John Kasich has really bad mannerisms and it hurts his delivery. He seems to be talking at you rather than with you. His comportment is just strange.

What was very interesting was Rand Paul’s staunch defense of his position and the manner in which he went after Marco Rubio. Rubio needs to understand he cannot win on the issue of immigration — not his strong suit. But there were times when Rubio truly came off as a very serious neo-conservative.

There’s no way you can defend the Libyan intervention — just look at the result. And on the question about supporting dictators, well, in certain parts of the world, the existence of the strong man is necessary for stability. I believe the Shah of Iran was better than the Ayatollah. Mubarak or a chosen successor is better than the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi. Foreign policy is about the long strategy, and I do not subscribe to the belief that promoting democracy is a military objective.

Jeb Bush, well… I don’t think he made the advance he so desperately needed in this debate. It just may be over for Jeb. And Ben Carson? He should have known the question about being a neurosurgeon and being a commander-in-chief was coming, but he didn’t seem really prepared for that inquisition. It was not a brilliant performance for him and he REALLY needed it.

Carly Fiorina hit a home run on her response to the question about talking with Putin and North Korea — the latter surely evidence of her grasp on Pacific rim geopolitics. And Donald Trump did not comport himself well in not knowing what the nuclear triad is — air, maritime, and ground delivery — the trifecta of nuclear weapon delivery systems. Now the Trump faithful will say it doesn’t matter and who cares? But please be honest, it does matter.

Here are some of my key points from the debate:

– Rubio is truly damaged by the Gang of Eight immigration legislation that he supported. When the theme of “border security is national security” was used, it was damning for him. And Rubio needs to back away from the support of foreign adventurism, such as Libya.

– Ben Carson threw out the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Explanatory Memorandum but couldn’t make it relevant. It’s as if he just wanted to say something that sounded important.

– Throughout the evening Chris Christie made a good point about the need for executive experience over the deliberating debate club of the U.S. Senate.

– Carly Fiorina was very good at pointing out how technology and the private sector have done well while the federal government has not been innovative. Leaning on the private tech sector in the fight against Islamic terrorism online is vital, and she has experience there. And she was the only one who mentioned it was Obama and Hillary’s policy on Iraq withdrawal that led to the reconstitution of al-Qaida in Iraq as ISIS.

– I know some would align with Rand Paul on his exchange with Gov. Christie on the no-fly zone and the “reckless” comment on starting WW III. But the thing to understand is that Putin is a savvy insightful former KGB colonel who will exploit weakness and perceived lack of resistance. If America had a leader who showed resolve and action rather than rhetoric, Putin would not be taking the actions he is – in Ukraine, Crimea and Syria.

I went into this debate looking and listening for the person who could be a capable and resolute commander-in-chief. I was looking for someone who would command respect and regard from our allies and enemies alike, as well as being able to instill fear in the bad guys. I was looking for someone with a solid working knowledge of national security and foreign policy from the perspective of Reagan’s “peace through strength” approach.

So here are my top three from this evening, in no particular order: Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, and Ted Cruz.

I do wish we had someone on that stage who’d been on the receiving end of an AK-47, RPG, or PKM. It’s one thing to stand there wanting to be commander-in-chief and speak about theory and things you’ve never had to experience. There is a real one-percent group in America that knows what it means to be tough and ruthless, yet caring and compassionate. Maybe, just maybe, America will one day find a man or woman who has served in uniform to step into the Oval Office.

Someone Americans will know, that in a debate about national security, they’ve had their boots on the ground.


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