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Friday, May 6, 2011

Initial Debate Thoughts

These are just some early reactions. There’s still more than six months until the first ballot is cast for any candidate and there are at least three thousand of these candidates’ debates left, so there’s probably no pressing need to comment on Thursday night’s debate. However, this show is probably as good as it’s going to get.

I didn’t read up beforehand on who was going to do this debate, other than Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, but the debates are only going to go downhill once Romney, Gingrich, and Huckabee start participating. 40% of the candidates speaking were of a libertarian bent while the remaining 60% were competing to see who could be the most reckless potential commander-in-chief. Never again in this process will there be as little as 60% of the candidates challenging the others to bomb as many countries as they will. Mull that one over for awhile.

My first reaction to this debate is that only Republicans could ridicule President Obama for taking so long in killing Osama bin Laden when the president reportedly used Bush’s methods and it was their party that failed to catch him in the first place.

Next, it appears Fox is trying to make sure Herman Cain will be seen as the winner of this debate. He says stuff that enthuses the base but other than that he just recites talking points. Maybe he’s the Republican Obama.

But what really caught my attention about Cain was how he didn’t back away from his comment that he would not waver from what the generals had to say concerning war. Perhaps he thinks ignorance is a presidential virtue. In other words, if he had been president when Stanley McChrystal asked for 50,000 troops, the still-employed general would have gotten every last one of them for the Afghan bloodbath. Imagine what neocon advisors could do with a blank slate like Cain.

It’s hard to decide what was the worst part of Rick Santorum’s performance: complaining that Obama didn’t oust the mullahs in 2009, implying that succession struggles in Honduras and Colombia are vital American national interests, that he supported the Bush Medicare expansion because it was “market-based,” or how he wouldn’t answer whether Pakistan should continue to receive foreign aid.

Santorum lost his reelection bid in 2006 because the situation in Iraq had deteriorated so much and he was (correctly) seen as a water-carrier for an increasingly unpopular Republican president. His time out of office doesn’t seem to have changed him. If Santorum was an honest man, his campaign slogan would be: “If you liked Bush’s Compassionate Conservatism of endless wars, torture, big government, and unfunded liabilities, then you’ll love Rick Santorum!”

And even though Tim Pawlenty himself admitted at the end of the debate that nobody knows who he is, that didn’t stop Sean Hannity from calling him a “front-runner” with a straight face. This should tell us all we need to know about what we’re about to be endlessly told about Pawlenty over the next several months. If we’re told enough times that Pawlenty is a front-runner, maybe a few voters will believe it.

Pawlenty himself had no memorable moments during the debate, no signature rebuttal and no Ron Paul-Rudy Giuliani battle. Chris Wallace confronted him about being for cap-and-trade before he was against it and Pawlenty looked floored that anyone remembered it. If people didn’t know Tim Pawlenty’s name before Thursday, they still don’t.

Ron Paul, though not a natural debater, held his own. The Fox puppets asked Paul leading questions about letting states decide on matters like prostitution and drugs to imply that because he doesn’t want the feds involved in these decisions that means he actually supports such repugnant activities. The dance begins.

Gary Johnson had a very respectable performance until the question about what his reality show would be. We can excuse his fumbling because nobody in their right mind would ever study for such a mindless question. He did get a little booing for his abortion stance but he seems to be have been relatively well accepted by the South Carolina crowd. There was a little attention given to his position on marijuana and his use of it as governor. It's just hard not to see the drug issue becoming the focus of Johnson's campaign.

Carl Wicklander,
Regular Columnist, THL
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