Last Iowa debate helps Huckabee

No tough questions mean the front-runner is likely to keep his lead.

By Joan Walsh

Published December 12, 2007 9:43PM (EST)

Gee, I like a high-minded, issues-oriented debate as much as anybody, but the Des Moines Register-sponsored Republican debate was a waste of 90 minutes. No questions about Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee's stealth debate over the meaning of Romney's Mormonism, which is the real reason Romney has cratered in Iowa. Almost no discussion of foreign policy. Crazy Alan Keyes bullying the moderator, editor Carolyn Washburn. Blech.

Given Huckabee's sudden surge in the polls, the Register missed an opportunity for a little scrutiny of all the things we don't know about the new GOP front-runner. Nothing about his role in freeing rapist Wayne DuMond to rape (and kill) again; nothing about his failure to know about the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran 30 hours after it became the nation's top story last week; nothing about his Middle East policy (let alone whether he agrees with the end-times global views of his most prominent evangelical supporter, Tim LaHaye.) There was only one tough question, and it went to Rudy Giuliani, about Shtup-gate. Brazenly, Giuliani claimed the bizarre method of accounting for expenses incurred because of his affair with Judi Nathan actually increased transparency, because if they'd been simply charged to the police department budget, they'd never have been recovered by reporters using the Freedom of Information Act. Washburn deserves credit for asking but should have tried to follow up on that bizarre reply.

Winner: Huckabee, because he didn't scare anybody.

I'll be discussing all of this on MSNBC's "Hardball With Chris Matthews" at 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST.

Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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