I caught the rerun of the republican debate in South Carolina. All the media seemed to think Rudy won it with his verbal smackdown of Ron Paul. Paul had the temerity to suggest that our interventionist foreign policy might have had a role in 9/11 and made us a target for terrorism. Rudy jumped in and said that was nonsense and demanded he withdraw the comments. Paul refused and made a pretty reasonable defense of his statement and the case for not being the world's policeman. My impression of this latest debate is that the format is making the candidates look like game show contestants. It is extremely dangerous for the so-called top tier candidates, as they are forced to compete on a more or less even basis with the second and third tier guys. Someone who wasn't up to the minute on the latest money raising statistics might be forgiven for wondering how they became the top tier. Instead of ignoring nettlesome issues like immigration, they are forced to deal with the articulate Tom Tancredo. Ron Paul, dismissed as a joke by the inside the Beltway commentators, has struck a chord with plenty of people. McCain by contrast has seemed wooden and a bit oblivious. Now there is a move by party insiders to kick Paul out of future debates. I guess articulating what was once standard Republican foreign policy is now considered too troubling to be allowed. I thought Paul and Tancredo were the winners of this debate. Romney sounded fine, but his flexible positions on "core principles" are troubling and a bit reminiscent of Kerry and Clinton. Fred Thompson's decision to stay out this scrum is beginning to look masterful. None of the top tier guys has advanced his standing by participating. Thompson is looking more presidential by the minute compared to these guys.