Debate highlights some differences between candidates

In what is almost universally being seen as the worst moderated debate so far, GOP candidates for president outlined their foreign policy positions and revealed some divergence that will give voters a clear choice.

But the antics of CBS's Scot Pelley is what is drawing the ire of many observers. Marc Thiessen:

If there was a loser on the debate stage tonight, it was CBS. First, they scheduled their debate on a Saturday night between two major football games. Then they decide to only broadcast the first hour of their 90-minute debate. Then their Internet feed failed for the final 30 minutes. This was CBS's first and only debate - and it showed.

Scott Pelley was a terrible moderator. He treated the men who might be the next commander in chief like schoolchildren, cutting them off in mid-sentence, lecturing them to answer his questions. He even lectured Newt Gingrich on policy, telling him that killing "terrorist suspects" is "not the rule of law." Big mistake. Newt smacked him down, explaining that we are at war and in war we are allowed to kill the enemy without a court order.

As for the debate itself, Rick Perry had by far his strongest performance to date. His idea to reform foreign aid by "starting at zero" with every country in the world and then deciding levels of aid based on a nation's importance to US interests got an excellent response. Newt Gingrich had several good moments, receiving applause when he said that al-Awlaki forfeited his civil rights when he joined al-Qaeda and was therefore a legitimate target for assassination.

Romney avoided any major gaffes but did not connect well with the audience. He appeared a little flat and couldn't muster much passion. But if there is a candidate who failed to impress it was Herman Cain. Too often for comfort, Cain said he would rely on his advisors and commanders on the ground to determine his response to specific questions. And he was slightly out of step with the rest of the group (except Ron Paul) when he said he didn't see the necessity of bombing Iran's nuclear facilities at this time.

Unfortunately, Pelley failed to engage Bachmann, Santorum, Ron Paul, or Jon Huntsman beyond a couple of questions each. They became "non-candidates" as far as CBS was concerned, confirmed in an email mistakenly sent by CBS to the Bachmann camp that indicated the Minnesota congresswoman would not get much attention during the debate.

While there was widespread agreement among the candidates in some areas, more often there were subtle shadings of difference in the candidate's positions that highlighted different visions for America's role in the world.

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