Fred Thompson went on the attack against Mike Huckabee at Thursday’s Republican presidential debate, sharply criticizing the candidate he clearly sees as a rival for the evangelical vote in South Carolina.
In the debate sponsored by Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party, the heated exchange went like this:
THOMPSON: “This is a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party and its future. On the one hand, you have the Reagan revolution. You have the Reagan coalition of limited government and strong national security.
“On the other hand, you have the direction that Governor Huckabee would take us in. He would be a Christian leader, but he would also bring about liberal economic policies, liberal foreign policies.
“He believes we have an arrogant foreign policy and the tradition of, blame America first.
“He believes that Guantanamo should be closed down and those enemy combatants brought here to the United States to find their way into the court system eventually.
“He believes in taxpayer-funded programs for illegals, as he did in Arkansas.
“He has the endorsement of the National Education Association, and the NEA said it was because of his opposition to vouchers.
“He said he would sign a bill that would ban smoking nationwide. So much for federalism. So much for states' rights. So much for individual rights.
“That's not the model of the Reagan coalition, that's the model of the Democratic Party.”
HUCKABEE: “The Air Force has a saying that says that if you're not catching flak, you're not over the target. I'm catching the flak, I must be over the target.
“Fred, I want to say, I appreciate the analysis of my record, but let me try to give you some of the facts of my record.
“I came into Arkansas as a governor. Put in that position as a lieutenant governor when my predecessor, a Democrat, was forced out of office on a felony conviction.
“I did something that had not been done in my state in 160 years. I cut taxes, with the legislature working with me, and we continued to do that 94 times.
“We cut spending. I'll tell you, the most painful time of my being a governor in 10 1/2 years was looking at a budget 91 percent of which was pretty well fixed on education, Medicaid, and prisons -- and cutting 11 percent out of that budget…
“Everywhere I went, I had people protesting me and screaming and yelling and doing demonstrations because I cut government. But I stayed faithful to the things that Ronald Reagan stayed faithful to.
“You know, if Ronald Reagan were running tonight, there would be ads by the Club for Growth running against him because he raised taxes a billion dollars in his first year as governor of California. It would be $10 billion today.”
Thompson and Huckabee did agree later in the debate that the commander of a U.S. Navy ship did the right thing by choosing not to fire on Iranian boats that were harassing American vessels in the Strait of Hormuz earlier in the week.
Thompson quipped about the Iranians: “I think one more step and they would have been introduced to those virgins that they’re looking forward to seeing.”
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