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Decline Watch: America's roads are so bad you need a German car to drive on them

Here's another entry from the world of advertising. This time it's a new ad for the Audi A6, via Jalopnik:

Voiceover: The road is not exactly a place of intelligence. Across the nation, over 100,000 miles of highways and bridges are in disrepair. Add to that, countless distractions every mile, millions of ill-equipped vehicles, half-a-million cubic yards of debris, and the 38 million drivers who couldn't pass the drivers' exam today... even if road signs actually did make sense. 

This is why we engineered a car that analyzes real-time information, reads your handwriting, and makes 2,000 decisions every second. 

The new Audi A6 is here. The road is now an intelligent place.  

Decline-o-meter score: 1

Good lord. Not only is a car commercial -- traditionally the domain of brash, fist-pumping Americana or at least salt-of-the-earth populism -- built around the downbeat topic of America's crumbling infrastructure, but it's a commercial for a German car! The message seems to be, America's roads are so bad, it's no longer safe to drive American cars on them. The post-apocalyptic hell-scape we call a highway system is only navigable in a high-end European luxury sedan. (As a side-note, I'm not really sure how a car that can read your handwriting is supposed to help you avoid distraction, but this isn't really my area of expertise.)

Addendum: Continuing with the car theme, one of my coworkers nominated Heinz's new Dip & Squeeze ketchup packet, made for less messy ketchup consumption while driving, as a sign of decline. But I see it as a sign that America's boundless ingenuity is still alive. Rating: 5

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Indian F-16s, Cuban terrorists and Chilean retirement plans: Foreign-policy highlights of the Fox News-Google debate

In the last few presidential debates, the audiences seem to have provoked more controversy than the candidates. Two weeks ago we heard cheering for Rick Perry's prodigious record of executions, a week ago, cries of "Let him die!" were heard in response to a question of whether the uninsured should receive emergency medical treatment. Last night we got the odd spectacle of the audience booing an Iraq veteran with a question about Don't Ask/Don't tell. 

Audience antics aside, the Fox News/Google debate seemed to feature a bit more foreign policy. We also got our first look at Gary Johnson, a seriously incoherent answer by Perry on Pakistan, and Newt Gingrich continuing to vastly overestimate the level of trust Americans have in credit card companies.

To the highlights!

MITT ROMNEY plays the Europe card again:

Let me tell you this. What President -- what President Obama is, is a big-spending liberal. And he takes his political inspiration from Europe and from the socialist democrats in Europe. Guess what? Europe isn't working in Europe. It's not going to work here.

HERMAN CAIN wants to retire in Chile:

Now, with the rest of my time, may I offer a solution for Social Security, rather than continuing to talk about what to call it? I have proposed the Chilean model. It's been around 30 years, and it works.

It's a personal retirement account. And in the last 30 years, not only has Chile succeeded with that model, but 30 other countries have done so. I don't think we're doing a service to the American people to keep bantering about what you call it and what you don't call it. The solution is: Fix it.

MICHELE BACHMANN: Good fences might not make good neighbors, but they might keep them out of your yard:

I would build a fence on America's southern border on every mile, on every yard, on every foot, on every inch of the southern border. I think that's what we have to do, not only build it, but then also have sufficient border security and enforce the laws that are on the books with the ICE agents, with our border security.

And here's the other thing I would do. I would not allow taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal aliens or for their children.That's a madness. End the madness for illegal aliens to come into the United States of America.

NEWT GINGRICH: Border Fence? 49 billion dollars. A national ID card system? Priceless.

Well, let me say, first of all, I think we would be better off to outsource E-Verify to American Express, MasterCard or Visa, because they actually know how to run a program like that without massive fraud.

Second, the program should be as easy as swiping your credit card when you buy gasoline. And so I would ask of employers, what is it you would object to in helping the United States of America in dealing with the problem involving illegal immigration?

But, in addition, I want to reinforce what Congresswoman Bachmann said. I strongly favor 100 percent control of the border, and I strongly favor English as the official language of government.

ROMNEY: Perry is Spanish for "sucker"

It's an argument I just can't follow. I've got be honest with you, I don't see how it is that a state like Texas -- to go to the University of Texas, if you're an illegal alien, you get an in-state tuition discount. You know how much that is? That's $22,000 a year.

Four years of college, almost $100,000 discount if you are an illegal alien go to the University of Texas. If you are a United States citizen from any one of the other 49 states, you have to pay $100,000 more. That doesn't make sense to me. And that kind of magnet --

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: That kind of magnet draws people into this country to get that education, to get the $100,000 break. It makes no sense.

RICK PERRY: Have a heart:

Well, I feel pretty normal getting criticized by these folks, but the fact of the matter is this: there is nobody on this stage who has spent more time working on border security than I have. For a decade, I've been the governor of a state with a 1,200-mile border with Mexico. We put $400 million of our taxpayer money into securing that border. We've got our Texas Ranger recon teams there now.

I supported Arizona's immigration law by joining in that lawsuit to defend it. Every day I have Texans on that border that are doing their job.

But if you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children, because they will become a drag on our society.

Can't believe RICK SANTORUM is the first one to pick up on this:

And so, yes, I would say that he is soft on illegal immigration. I think the fact that he doesn't want to build a fence -- he gave a speech in 2001 where he talked about, bi-national health insurance between Mexico and Texas. I mean, I don't even think Barack Obama would be for bi-national health insurance.

So I think he's very weak on this issue of American sovereignty and protecting our borders and not being a magnet for illegal immigration, yes.

PERRY is drawn into a long back-and-forth with a candidate who has no chance of winning:

PERRY: I've got one question for him.

Have you ever even been to the border with Mexico?

SANTORUM: Yes.

PERRY: I'm surprised if you have, but you weren't paying attention, because the idea that you --

SANTORUM: Well, the answer is, yes, I have.

PERRY: -- are going to build a wall, a fence for 1,200 miles, and then go 800 miles more to Tijuana, does not make sense. You put the boots on the ground.

We know how to make this work. You put the boots on the ground.

You put the aviation assets --

SANTORUM: But it's not working, Governor.

PERRY: -- in the ground. No, it's not working because the federal government has not --

SANTORUM: But you said we know how it works. Is it working in Texas?

PERRY: The federal government has not engaged in this at all. When I'm the president of the United States, I'll promise you one thing --

SANTORUM: But you're saying you put the assets there. Has it worked in Texas?

PERRY: -- we will put the assets on the ground --

SANTORUM: You said you have.

PERRY: -- the boots on the ground --

BAIER: Senator Santorum, let him finish, please.

PERRY: -- the aviation assets on the ground, and we will stop illegal immigration, we will stop the drug cartels, and we will make America secure.

SANTORUM: Can you answer the question? Is it working?

WALLACE: Well, you know, you asked your question, he gave his answer, sir.

ROMNEY pretends we live in a world where the U.S. is not about to veto Palestinian statehood: 

QUESTION: As president, how would you approach the new reality in the Middle East, specifically with regards to our ally, Israel, and the existential threats it faces from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and now the Palestinian Authority?

ROMNEY: Very simple. You start off by saying that you don't allow an inch of space to exist between you and your friends and your allies.

The president went about this all wrong. He went around the world and apologized for America. He -- he addressed the United Nations in his inaugural address and chastised our friend, Israel, for building settlements and said nothing about Hamas launching thousands of rockets into Israel.

Just before Bibi Netanyahu came to the United States, he threw Israel under the bus, tried to negotiate for Israel.

The right course -- if you disagree with an ally, you talk about it privately. But in public, you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your allies. The right course for us...

The right course for us is not to try and negotiate for Israel. The right course is to stand behind our friends, to listen to them, and to let the entire world know that we will stay with them and that we will support them and defend them.

And with regards to Iran, which perhaps represents the greatest existential threat to Israel, we have to make it abundantly clear: It is unacceptable -- and I take those -- that word carefully -- it is unacceptable for Iran to become a nuclear nation.

Israeli government officials are meeting with HERMAN CAIN?

When I was in Israel last month, I met with the deputy prime minister. And he made it shockingly, chillingly clear that, given everything that's going on, number one, Israel will defend itself, with all of the tensions going on in the Middle East.

And he also made it real clear that he wasn't sure how this administration stood when it came to Israel. I made it clear, which -- and I would also make it clear to all of -- our -- the other people in the world, that if you mess with Israel, you're messing with the United States of America. We will stand solidly behind Israel.

If in fact it was clear to the Palestinians, where the United States stood, they might have had second thoughts about trying to pull such a move without negotiating with Israel.

PERRY would stop Pakistan from losing control of its nukes by selling F-16s to India... or something...

QUESTION: Which brings us to this, Governor Perry, if you were president, and you go a call at 3 am telling you that Pakistan had lost control of is nuclear weapons, at the hands of the Taliban, what would be your first move?

PERRY: Well obviously, before you ever get to that point you have to build a relationship in that region. That's one of the things that this administration has not done. Yesterday, we found out through Admiral Mullen that Haqqani has been involved with -- and that's the terrorist group directly associated with the Pakistani country. So to have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows that they are an ally of the United States.

For instance, when we had the opportunity to sell India the upgraded F-16's, we chose not to do that. We did the same with Taiwan. The point is, our allies need to understand clearly that we are their friends, we will be standing by there with them.

Today, we don't have those allies in that region that can assist us if that situation that you talked about were to become a reality.

Well obviously, before you ever get to that point you have to build a relationship in that region. That's one of the things that this administration has not done. Yesterday, we found out through Admiral Mullen that Haqqani has been involved with -- and that's the terrorist group directly associated with the Pakistani country. So to have a relationship with India, to make sure that India knows that they are an ally of the United States.

For instance, when we had the opportunity to sell India the upgraded F-16's, we chose not to do that. We did the same with Taiwan. The point is, our allies need to understand clearly that we are their friends, we will be standing by there with them.

Today, we don't have those allies in that region that can assist us if that situation that you talked about were to become a reality.

SANTORUM keeps the neocon flame burning:

I believe we need to listen to our generals, and our generals are being very, very clear that we need to continue to stabilize Iraq, the Iraqi government wants and needs our intelligence in particular, needs force protection.

We need to have anywhere -- I'm hearing numbers of 20,000, 30,000 troops potentially to remain in Iraq, not indefinitely, but to continue to make sure that this is a stable transition.

This is the difference between Congressman Paul, Governor Huntsman, Governor Perry and myself when it comes to this issue. I stand up and say that when we engage in Iraq and Afghanistan, we engage because we want to be successful. We want victory. We want to have accomplished a national security objective for this country to make sure that we are safer.

GINGRICH: Eliminate "virtually all" government foreign aid: 

QUESTION: When are we gonna get someone in the White House that can stand up to these other countries and say you are not getting any more of our money. This is stupid. We send billions of dollars overseas to countries that hate us.

GINGRICH: I think -- I actually there's a lot to that. And I've been a strong supporter of international assistance, but I think there are a couple of good reasons to review the whole program.

First of all, I would replace virtually all government to government aid with some kind of investment approach that encouraged American companies to create jobs that made both the United States and the other country wealthier. Our bureaucrats giving their bureaucrats money is a guaranteed step towards corruption.

Second, I think when you have countries that vote against you in the United Nations consistently you really have to ask yourself why are you giving them anything? I mean, if they are not your ally why are...

We came out of World War II with the generosity that made perfect sense when we had 50 percent of the world economy. And it was a different world. And we need to understand how different it is.

GARY JOHNSON's in this debate! And he doesn't mind flights to Cuba:

With regard to flights to Cuba? You know, I'm -- I'm in favor, I think, of the whole notion that trade promotes friendship, as opposed to not. So I would be inclined to looking at establishing or supporting those kinds of flights.

BACHMANN does mind:

I'd like to weigh on this, because according to the State Department's website, there are four nations that are state sponsors of terror. Cuba is one of those nations. We would never have flights between the United States and Cuba. It's a state sponsor of terror.

JON HUNTSMAN: I actually know what I'm talking about here.

We do have a difference of opinion here in terms of overall foreign policy. And I think, you know, as the only one on stage with any hands-on foreign policy experience, having served -- having lived overseas four different times, we're at a critical juncture in our country. We don't have a foreign policy, and we don't project the goodness of this country in terms of liberty, democracy, open markets, and human rights, with a weak core.

And right now in this country, our core, our economy, is broken.

And we don't shine that light today. We're 25 percent of the world's GDP. The world is a better place when the United States is strong. So guiding anything that we talk about from a foreign policy standpoint needs to be fixing our core.

But, second of all, I believe that, you know, after 10 years of fighting the war on terror, people are ready to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, Rick.

They're ready to bring our troops home. This country -- this country has given its all.

SANTORUM hasn't read his Clausewitz:

Just because our economy is sick does not mean our country is sick, and it doesn't mean our values are sick. And we're going to stand up for those values every opportunity... The bottom line is -- that you just mentioned is -- is -- is we should be fighting wars to win, not fighting wars for politics.

And this president is fighting a war in Afghanistan -- in Afghanistan with one hand tied behind our generals, not giving the troops they need, not giving the authority, the rules of engagement to allow us to be successful. And unless we change those rules of engagement and make sure that our folks can win, then we are going to play politics with our military.

First two debate recaps are here and here.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images