Last night, Fox News anchor Brit Hume kicked off the network’s South Carolina GOP debate by asking the candidates if “the American commander in the Strait of Hormuz the other day [made] the right decision by responding passively when approached aggressively by Iranian fast boats believed to be from the Revolutionary Guards.”
Almost all of the candidates responded with hawkish, war-mongering rhetoric.
Former governor Mike Huckabee replied that the Iranians should “be prepared that the next things you see will be the gates of Hell.” “One more step and they would have been introduced to those virgins that they’re looking forward to seeing,” said former senator Fred Thompson.
“This incident should wake a lot of people up,” said former mayor Rudy Giuliani. “Don’t think that this wasn’t a serious situation of the utmost seriousness,” added Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
The only candidate to acknowledge the Navy’s doubts over the source of the incident was Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), who struck a much more cautious tone:
Guess what, today the Navy commander of the fifth fleet was on ABC and announced that, “you know, that voice might not have come from those vessels.” So what does that mean? Was there a rush to judgment on this, ready to go to war? … And we don’t need another war, and this incident should not be thrown out of proportion to the point where we’re getting ready to attack Iran over this.
Ignoring these concerns, former governor Mitt Romney threw an insult at Paul, saying, “I think Congressman Paul should not be reading so many of Ahmadinejad’s press releases.”
Considering that Paul was merely noting the Navy’s own doubts about the incident, Romney’s barb is foolish. In fact, the Washington Post reports this morning that “the Pentagon said it does not dispute anything” in an Iranian video that “offers no indication of the tensions that supposedly sparked the encounter.”
Juan Cole has more about how the candidates’ rhetoric disregarded the known facts.