The Gathering Storm

That, and other news, in today’s Political Panorama.

Updated

At Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate, Rudy Giuliani tried to explain his pro-choice position until a lighting bolt outside temporarily blew out the sound system. “Look, for someone who went to parochial schools all his life, this is
a very frightening thing that’s happening right now,” he said, as the audience laughed.

But perhaps the thunder and lighting was fitting, for what the forum proved was that the GOP’s differences are greater than those of their Democratic counterparts. Giuliani sparred with John McCain over his immigration reform plan. McCain mocked Mitt Romney over an apparent flip-flop on making English the official language. Duncan Hunter chided all three of the top tier candidates for being under the “influence” of Ted Kennedy. And President Bush came under fire for the way the war has been waged, as well as the way he’s engaged in diplomacy. Asked what how he’d use a former President George W. Bush, Tommy Thompson said, “I’d certainly not send him to the United Nations.”

Commentators, in fact, were surprised that the Republicans didn’t go after each other in a more vicious way, given all of the sniping that they’ve done on the campaign trail. In fact, you had to wonder what happened to Ronald Reagan’s dictum to not speak ill of a fellow Republican. The candidates did unify on the need to be on the offense on national security and the global war on terror, but so much of their posturing was defensive. If they weren’t explaining Republican overspending or Bush’s mismanagement of the war, they were trying to reconcile past positions with current rhetoric.

When one audience member asked Romney why, if he supports making English the official language, he is running ads in Spanish, Romney dodged the question. But then McCain said to him, “First of all governor, muchas gracias.”

Toward the end of the session — less confusing than past debates but too long — candidates were asked how they would bring more moderates into the party, as Arnold Schwarzenegger has done in California.  Unburdened enough to joke about his moderate stances as others try to burnish their conservative credentials, Giuliani offered the simplest answer. “Nominate me.”

Richardson’s Return: Alan and Cindy Horn host a fund-raiser at their home on Sunday for Bill Richardson. Among those on the host committee: Sherry Lansing and William Friedkin, Lyn and Norman Lear, Barry Meyer and Lynda and Stewart Resnick. Tickets start at $1,000. Richardson addresses the L.A.-based group Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality on Monday morning.

“Soprano” Choice: Howard Mortman of The Politico wonders why Carmela Soprano has switched from Hillary supporter to Bush supporter — and whether it’s an omen of things to come on Sunday’s final episode.

Fred’s Debut: Fred Thompson shadowed the debate last night, delivering some 20 minutes of post-forum commentary on Fox News. Mike Lupica of the NY Daily News notes that Thompson’s acting career has been far more memorable than his political career.

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