Thursday, November 29, 2007

Anderson Cooper wins Republican debate

Written impressions of last night's Republican debate seem impossible to organize or turn into something coherent, so don't expect that here. That said, here are some rambling reflections:
---First, how the heck did we get to the point in U.S. presidential politics where some news entertainer and his network get to dominate the format, pace and content of a supposedly serious debate. This is not a new thought, but last night's opening of thirty minutes just on the immigration issue was the last straw here. You know, let's spend thirty minutes on an issue that brings out the worst, shows how these candidates can compete to pander to resentment, and maybe even get a fight going. These debates seem to be scripted for the glory of the network entertainer. After immigration, guns(let's choose a You Tube clip of someone talking about big guns and getting a moose killer thrown to him, or whatever it was), abortion, gays and the Bible, there of course was some time for foreign policy, the domestic economy, and government resource allocation but that was the boring stuff, it goes at the back after we've got the viewers for the first hour and enough minutes into the second so they won't understand CSI if they switch channels.
---Romney---I don't know the name of the female character on Saturday Night Live in recent months who must always one up anything that anyone else says in a way that leads to the absurd, but Romney reminds me of her(except he doesn't play with his hair). When he's not more perfect than anyone else, he can't say what he thinks because it's "just not appropriate" for him to have an opinion on torture, on gays in the military, on whatever, but we do now know that he believes what the Bible says 100%. Even Huckabee answered that more intelligently. In Romney's short campaign clip, there was a final quick shot just of him rolling up his sleeve, not even his face, just his arm with the sleeve going up. I know what they meant to get across, but for a moment I just had the thought that we were about to see him tie off and get another starch fix. Isn't this a sad state of affairs when a man of his accomplishments has reduced himself to a caricature of some Dudley Do Right ideologue because that's how he thinks he can get elected president. He's served his religion, he's seemingly a fine family man, an accomplished businessman, and a hard worker who knows how to get things done, and what we get is a promise to double the size of Guantanamo?
---McCain---The man comes across as someone with conviction and compassion. His views on Iraq are crystal clear, agree with him or not, and calls for Congressional accountability are laudable, if perhaps implausible. On torture and immigration, he came across as the most rational and humane person on the stage.
---Huckabee---When he speaks of his "Christian" values and says "We believe in some things, we live or die by some things" he expresses absolute certainty. Now riding a wave of media publicity with every publication from Rolling Stone to The Economist, The New Yorker to People rolling out more stories, he is really scary. Charming in a down home way, a quick unscripted wit, self deprecating at times, compassionate at others, he's good copy. Unfortunately he knows very little. His tax proposal is beyond ludicrous, his knowledge of policy seems to be almost non-existent(which made Anderson Cooper's debate perfect for him), and his reign as governor in Arkansas has been reported by some as paralleling the behavior an old style southern religious hustler, or is one supposed to say preacher. I say scary because this guy could put himself into the position of getting the V.P. nod, and that's just one step away for the Arkansas ayatollah.
---Guiliani---Came across as feisty as ever and, while his ego is at times not attractive, he somehow survived attacks on his gun control policies, his pragmatic handling of immigration issues, his approach to abortion and everything else he did to succeed in multi-cultural cosmopolitan New York. Of course he's waffling under attack, but he does not apologize or have any Romney style conversions. His belief in himself is in some ways alarming and he has so many skeletons in his closet(but the door is open) that his squeamish opponents hardly know where to start. Where do you find a candidate of either party who gets kicked out of the house by his second wife and goes to live in an apartment with two male friends who are partners. Maybe it's this audacity, perhaps authenticated by 9/11, that has propelled him into an unlikely lead in national GOP polls but may not be so potent in the early states.
---Thompson---Leaves little impression. He is a player but he's the default candidate. That may be a strong position.

Did this begin with a warning that it might be an incoherent ramble. That's been delivered.

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