The trouble is it's all "This or That". As Newt pointed out, most of the questions posit ridiculous choices: Are you in favor of amnesty for illegal immigrants or are you in favor of deporting 20 million people? Are you in favor of seizing private property in New Hampshire for a Hydro Québec power line or are you in favor of continued oil dependency on psychotic dictators? The remainder fall into cutesie-pie stuff that John King lacks the personality to pull off, and the last embodied in its perfect post-modern stupidity the awfulness of these "debates": "What have you learned during the past two hours?"
Hmm. What I learned is that John King makes Tim Pawlenty look like Lady Gaga. Other than that, I also got the distimct impression that this season's debates seem unlikely to be effective forums even for acknowledging the profound and existential crises facing the nation, never mind addressing them.
But I agree with Rich that Michele Bachmann was very strong. (Here's my favorite picture of her – I hope it doesn't ruin her campaign.) I also agree that the answers on Afghanistan about deferring to the commanders in the field were pathetic – for a couple of reasons:
First, as I said in NR a couple of issues back, you can't win a war unless you have war aims – and war aims are determined by a nation's civilian leadership. So, if Romney & Co mean what they say, it helps explain why America has nothing to show either for a decade in the Hindu Kush or for three months over Tripoli.
Alternatively, if they don't mean it, then they're just pandering in a bumper-stickerish "I So Totally Support Our Troops I'll Take My Orders From Them" kind of way. And this political season ought to be one not for panderers but for tellers of hard truths.