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More Substance, Less Showboating in Early CNN Debate

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Yes, it took a little bit of time to get started with the first four questions dealing with Donald Trump, but the tone had already been set by Sen. Rick Santorum who started his introductory remarks with, “Hi, I’m Rick Santorum. Some of you may know me because I led the fight to end partial-birth abortion.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham was focused on foreign policy the entire time: “I’m running for president to destroy radical Islam, to win the war on terror, to protect you and your family.”

On the Syrian crisis, he had strong words for President Obama:

[H]ow does President Obama sleep at night?

Look what you let happen on your watch. Your commanders told you, don’t withdraw from Iraq because we’ll lose our gains.

Three years ago, your entire national security team, Senator McCain, and I begged you to do a no-fly zone and help the Free Syrian Army while it would matter. But you said “no.”

I’m not blaming Bobby, I’m not blaming Rick, I’m not blaming anybody; I’m blaming Barack Obama for this mess.

Governor Bobby Jindal also framed the issues America faces:

Here is the reality, the idea of America is slipping away. Eighteen trillion dollars of debt, Planned Parenthood selling baby parts across our country. Our government is creating a new entitlement program, when we can’t afford the government we’ve got today.

We’ve got a president who won’t even say the words “radical Islamic terrorism.” He has declared war on trans fats and a truce with Iran. Think about that. He’s more worried about Twinkies than he is about the ayatollahs having a nuclear weapon.

He was also asked about discrimination, and he was quick to point out the current events happening with Christians all around our nation:

The biggest discrimination is going on against Christian business owners and individuals who believe in traditional forms of marriage. They are throwing this woman in jail in Kentucky.

Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about the Christian florist, the caterer, the musician, who simply want to say, “Don’t arrest us for having — or don’t discriminate against us, don’t shut down our businesses, don’t fine us thousands of dollars for believing marriage is between a man and a woman.” Lets talk about not discriminating against Christians.

Governor George Pataki was clear that he would fire Kim Davis for her Christians beliefs on marriage, and he compared her to radical Islamists:

Imagine one minute — Jake, imagine one minute that was a Muslim who said I don’t believe in “gay marriage,” and refused to perform that wedding. We wouldn’t have had that outrage. There’s a place where religion supersedes the rule of law. It’s called Iran. It shouldn’t be the United States.

After a short break, Senator Santorum was asked about the topic:

Sixteen years ago, this country was tremendously inspired by a young woman who faced a gunman in Columbine and was challenged about her faith, and she refused to deny God. We saw her as a hero.

Today, someone who [defies] a judge’s unconstitutional verdict is ridiculed and criticized, chastised because she’s standing up and … not denying her God and her faith.

That is a huge difference in 16 years. People have a fundamental right in the First Amendment. There’s no more important right. It is the right that is the trunk that all other rights come from, and that’s the freedom of conscience.

And when we say in America that we have no room — how many bakers, how many florists, how many pastors, how many clerks are we going to throw in jail because they stand up and say, “I cannot violate what my faith says is against its teachings”? Is there not room in America? I believe there has to be room.

First, I believe we have to pass the First Amendment Defense Act, which provides that room for government officials and others who do not want to be complicit in what they believe is against their faith.

Second, we need a president who’s going to fight a court that is abusive, that has superseded their authority. Judicial supremacy is not in the Constitution, and we need a president and a Congress to stand up to a court when it exceeds its constitutional authority.

After Gov. Pataki and Sen. Graham said we must surrender to the Supreme Court, Sen. Santorum reminded them about Martin Luther King, Jr.:

Martin Luther King wrote a letter from the Birmingham jail. And he said in that letter that there are just laws and there are unjust laws. And we have no obligation to — to condone and accept unjust laws.

And he — and they — then he followed up and said what’s an unjust law? An unjust law is a job that — a law that goes against the moral code or God’s law or the natural law.

I would argue that what the Supreme Court did is against the natural law, it’s against God’s law, and we have every obligation to stand in opposition to it.

Gov. Jindal had an important interjection then:

JINDAL: I’ve got a practical question. I’d like the left to give us a list of jobs that Christians aren’t allowed to have. If we’re not allowed to be clerks, bakers, musicians, caterers, are we allowed to be pastors (INAUDIBLE)?

TAPPER: Governor Jindal…

JINDAL: We’re not allowed to be elected officials. I firmly — this is an important point. The First Amendment rights, the right to religious freedom is in the First Amendment of “The Constitution.” It isn’t breaking the law to exercise our constitutional rights. America did not create religious liberty; religious liberty created the United States of America. It is the reason we’re here today.

Gov. Jindal also had strong words on the appointment of judges:

[W]e have presidents that try to find judges with no records, no rulings, no writings. I’ll tell you, I am going to have a litmus test. For judges, I’m going to find judges that are conservative, judges that are going to be pro-life, judges that are going to follow “The Constitution,” judges, by the way, that are going to follow the American law, not international law.

They’re not appointed there to interpret international law, they’re there to apply “The United States Constitution.” Judges understand, their job is not to write law. If they want to write law, they should run for the Senate or the House.

It’s time for a Republican president as the next commander in chief, I will do as the Democrats have done. I will appoint bold judges that are actually consistent with my values that will be conservatives and enforce the Senate.

The only thing missing was a whole question on Planned Parenthood’s barbaric selling of aborted baby body parts.  But Gov. Jindal and Sen. Santorum made sure to include them on other discussions and Sen. Graham was emphatic that not one more penny of taxpayer dollars should go to fund Planned Parenthood.  Overall, it was a very substantive debate that gave the public a good idea of each of the candidates.

Let’s see what happens with the prime time debate that includes more than double the number of candidates.