Kiefer Sutherland portrays counter-terror agent Jack Bauer on Fox TV’s ’24.’ Bauer was invoked by Rep. Tom Tancredo in last night’s debate

One Republican candidate for president says in case of a terrorist attack, the U.S. should act like the counter-terror unit on the fictional show “24” and not fret over interrogation methods to extract information from terrorists who have knowledge of the mission.

Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado said: “You say that nuclear devices have gone off in the United States, more are planned, and we’re wondering about whether waterboarding would be a bad thing to do? I’m looking for Jack Bauer at that time! … We are the last best hope of Western Civilization. When we go under, Western Civilization goes under.”

The remark, which drew a large round of applause from the audience at the University of South Carolina, was one of a number of classic lines uttered by the ten candidates squaring off in the second nationally televised GOP debate. Bauer is the tough-guy federal agent played by Kiefer Sutherland on the Fox TV series.

Tancredo also drew attention with another one-liner, as he complained how several of his rivals were miraculously talking like staunch conservatives on abortion, gun control and illegal immigration.

“I trust those conversions when they happen on the road to Damascus, not on the road to Des Moines,” he said, comparing the biblical conversion of the apostle Paul to politically expedient flip flops.

In post-debate analysis on “Hannity & Colmes,” Tancredo also said he would crack down on illegal aliens by prosecuting mayors and city councilmembers who promote sanctuary cities.

“They are breaking the law and I would go after them,” he said. “It’s called aiding and abetting.”

The line that drew the biggest laughter of the night came from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who said, “We’ve had a Congress that’s spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop,” a slam on the Democratic presidential candidate who spent $400 on a haircut.

His joke came in the wake of a quip by Arizona Sen. John McCain who remarked earlier about speaking with sailors who take offense at being accused of being so drunk as to spend as much as Congress.

“We didn’t lose the 2006 election because of the war in Iraq. We lost it because we in the Republican Party came to Washington to change government, and government changed us,” McCain said. “We let spending go out of control. We spent money like a drunken sailor. Although I never knew a sailor – drunk or sober – with the imagination of my colleagues.”

Republicans on stage at University of South Carolina

Huckabee said the first thing he’d love to do as president is “put a ‘Going Out of Business’ sign on the Internal Revenue Service and stop the $10 billion a year that it costs just for them to operate. If we had a fair tax, it would eliminate not just the alternative minimum tax – personal income tax, corporate tax. It would eliminate all the various taxes that are hidden in our system, and Americans don’t realize what they are paying.”

The biggest applause was for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani after he objected to Rep. Ron Paul’s theory on why the U.S. was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.

“They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years. … We’ve been in the Middle East,” Paul, an opponent of the Iraq war, explained. “Right now, we’re building an embassy in Iraq that is bigger than the Vatican. We’re building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting.

“They are delighted that we’re over there because Osama bin Laden has said, ‘I’m glad you’re over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.’ They have already now since that time they’ve killed 3,400 of our men and I don’t think it was necessary,” he continued.

Giuliani interrupted: “That’s really an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of Sept. 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I have ever heard that before and I have heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sept. 11. I would ask the congressman withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that.”

Tancredo also disagreed with Paul, saying, “Whether or not we were in Iraq … they would be trying to kill us, because it is a dictate of their religion, at least a part of it. And we have to defend ourselves.”

McCain squared off with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, after Romney ripped the Arizona senator for what he felt was a weak effort to control illegal immigration with the McCain-Kennedy bill.

“My fear is that McCain-Kennedy would do to immigration what McCain-Feingold has done to campaign finance and money in politics – and that’s bad,” Romney said.

Romney also commented on the terrorist scenario proffered by Fox moderator Brit Hume, saying he agreed the militants should be housed at Guantanamo Bay: “I want them in Guantanamo where they don’t get the access to lawyers they get when they’re on our soil. I don’t want them in our prisons. I want them there. Some people have said we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo.”

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore combined the names of three rivals into “Rudy McRomney,” explaining, “Some of these people on this stage were very liberal in describing themselves as conservatives, particularly on the issues of abortion and taxes and health care.”

Regarding Iran, Gilmore said: “I think that there is no choice at this point other than to join up with people across the world in order to put on serious, mandatory sanctions against Iran and to do everything that is going to be necessary to try to bring them to the notion that it is better for them to give up this sort of plan rather than to proceed the way we are. However, I think that we have to have an honest discussion with the American people about this. We have to ask ourselves this question: Are we prepared to have Iran have a nuclear weapon?”

Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, touted his experience on military matters.

“I think the other guys ought lay out their credentials to be commander in chief,” he said.

Hunter also warned about a growing threat from Beijing.

“There is a security threat as we allow China to continue to cheat on trade,” he said. “They are arming with American trade dollars and they’re lending our money back to us; and some people say, ‘Well, they’ll treat us right if we get in a crunch.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, just like they treated that guy in front of the tank at Tiananmen Square.'”

Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas explained why he doesn’t think abortion should be allowed for the case of a rape victim who became pregnant, saying: “Will that make the woman in a better situation if that’s what takes place? I don’t think so, and I think we can explain it when we look at it for what it is, a beautiful child of a loving God that we ought to protect in all circumstances, in all places – here in the womb, somebody that is struggling in poverty, the family that’s struggling, we should work and look at all life, be pro-life and whole-life for everybody.”

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson bragged about his tax-cutting ability, noting he sliced them by $16.5 billion.

On Iraq, Thompson said: “There is no question that the al-Maliki government needs to step up and do what is right. The United States government has been there for four years. We’ve lost many individuals – 3,400 individuals as of today. And it’s time for the al-Maliki [government] to vote whether or not they want us in the fifth year to stay in their country or whether or not they want us to go home.”

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