From NBC's Lauren Appelbaum
On Morning Joe earlier today, five presidential candidates spoke out on Bhutto's assassination and answered questions on how this event may impact the upcoming primaries. Although they each spoke at different times, Richardson and Dodd took advantage of the opportunity to say where they are more qualified than the other, taking a swipe at their opponents' policies. Joe Scarborough asked both Giuliani and Romney about Huckabee's foreign policy credentials, but neither candidate attacked their opponent.
Richardson v. Dodd
Speaking on Morning Joe at 7:30 this morning, Bill Richardson once again called for Musharraf to step down. "He is deeply unpopular. Two-thirds of the Pakistani people want him out. He can't keep internal order in his country," Richardson said. "There's a provision in the Pakistani constitution that calls for an interim caretaker government of technocrats. I would urge Musharraf to set that up and then to hold elections as quickly as possible."
Asked if Musharraf stepping down would create a power vacuum leading to chaos, Richardson said that would not be the case. "Right now, Joe, with Musharraf in power, with Pakistan on the brink of internal chaos, what you have is an unattainable situation," he answered. "I would have the Pakistani military set up, with Musharraf, this caretaker technocratic government. Musharraf steps aside. This caretaker government takes over until there is free and fair elections some time in January."
An hour later, Dodd said Richardson's plan would indeed create a chaotic situation. "With all due respect to my friend Bill Richardson, I think calling for Musharraf to step down would be a huge error, a huge mistake," Dodd said. "Right now, he is the known quantity. To be talking about removing him without knowing what would follow him would potentially having Jihadists or fundamentalists take over that country and pose the immediate threat to all of us, just makes no sense to me whatsoever."
Richardson was asked about Dodd countering his position earlier and he responded saying Dodd is not as experienced in this area of foreign policy as he is. "He's in the Senate and the Senate doesn't do much about what's happening in Pakistan," Richardson had said earlier this morning. "So, I'm not surprised at his criticism. I know the region. I was UN Ambassador. I went to Pakistan. I went to Afghanistan. What you need to do as a President, is be decisive. Sitting around and saying, oh, this is not going to work, when we don't have too many other options to undertake, I think that is the unwise action."
Dodd said the number one priority for the United States is to help Pakistan regain some stability. In that regard, he also called for the elections to be postponed. "This ideal, let's rush to an election on the assumption here that you are going to end up with something that looks resembling to what we have here in this country or other western democracies is terribly naive," he said. "I'd like to see us get there but one step at a time. And you better be focused on stability right now. It's not Iraq. It's not Iran. I've been saying for months, it's Pakistan here. That's the great danger for us."
Giuliani and Romney v. Huckabee
Giuliani, who relies on his positions on anti-terrorism / national security to be his selling point to Republican primary voters, said Islamic terrorism is "the overriding issue of the day."
"Iraq has to be seen in a much larger picture and what today reminds us of is that this is a challenge in various parts of the world," Giuliani said at 6:45 this morning on Morning Joe. "It's one we can't wish away. We have to face it and we have to face it by being on offense."
Romney, on the other hand, focused on Pakistan's democratic history and, like Richardson, said elections should go on. "I think there's a recognition that the people of Pakistan are very very upset with General Musharraf and they want to see change there," Romney said a little after seven this morning. "If there is too much delay or too much stalling or the perception of that, there may well be greater instability ... The best way to get stability in Pakistan is to move towards democracy."
Romney also discussed Pakistan's foundations in Democracy. "Pakistan has made those foundations and has had historically had democratically elected leaders," Romney said. "So now you are looking at a setting where you had a military coup. General Musharraf came in. And that's something which is not going to last forever in a nation like Pakistan given its heritage."
Joe Scarborough asked both Giuliani and Romney if Huckabee has what it takes to be Commander in Chief on a days like this. Both refused to take the bait, possibly because neither of their resumes contain much foreign policy credentials either.
"The American people get to decide that. The Republican party gets to decide that," Giuliani responded. "I'm not going to talk about other Republican candidates and get into a political debate. ... This isn't the best time to making a big political point for or against a candidate."
"I think Mike Huckabee is a terrific guy and I give him a lot of credit," Romney later said. "I'm not going to attack other people in terms of their capacities."
Two hours later, Huckabee told Scarborough he is qualified to be the Commander in Chief, saying he is "somebody who can sit at the desk and make decisions and know that you have to make those decisions right now."
"You cannot call some committees and have hearings for three weeks and then come to a consensus," Huckabee continued. "You have to make command decisions. That's what governors do. I did that for 10 and a half years. Everyday I faced not just the things that were on the calendar. I faced the unexpected, whether it was school shooting or a tornado that would kill 27 people in a matter or minutes. Those were the things that really test your soul. They test your capacity for judgment. They test your capacity for marshalling the resources that are at hand."
Huckabee also responded to CNBC's Erin Burnett's statement that Republicans would be committing Huckaside with regards to Wall Street if they chose Huckabee. "There's a lot of the people who are in those organizations who are strong supporters of my opponent and there is an agenda there," Huckabee said. "If people would look at my economic policies, what they would see is I have exactly the policies what Americans want. That is a policy that balances the budget and reduces spending. ... I don't want to make rich people poor; I just want to have an economic system where poor people actually have a chance to get rich."