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May 7, 2007

The GOP Debate, Minute By Minute


With the Republican presidential field working constantly to out-Reagan each other, I suppose it was apropos that the GOP would actually hold a major event at Reagan’s Presidential Library in California. Anything for them to get as far away as possible from more recent two-term Republican presidents.


The first presidential debate, held in the springtime of the year before the election for probably the first time ever, took place last Thursday, so I decided I’d follow the proceedings in real time. The debate, incidentally, is presented by MSNBC and the new magazine The Politico, which has been called “a pernicious new presence in our media landscape” by left-wing blogger Glenn Greenwald, and “left-leaning” by right-wing blogger Hugh Hewitt.


8:01: Chris Matthews, another guy who everyone on the left and right thinks on the other side, is the moderator, along with Politico’s John Harris.


8:04: Rudy Giuliani pulls in Reagan, health care, illegal immigration, Reagan again and terrorism, all within a 30-second answer to a question about Bush’s approval ratings.


8:08: Matthews and John Harris walk towards the candidates while asking a question, which is sort of creepy - they look like Jack McCoy badgering a witness on “Law & Order.” Foreshadowing a Fred Thompson candidacy, perhaps?


8:12: Until just now, I completely forgot that former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore was even running for president.


8:14: Ron Paul argues for a return to the Republican tradition of “non-interventionalist foreign policy,” conveniently beginning his history with Eisenhower and the Korean War, as opposed to World War II.


8:16: John McCain seems distracted.  He’s been tripping over his words, and seems almost out of breath. But at least he got through three different questions about Iran without singing about bombing them.


8:18: Giuliani invokes Reagan again, interpreting the release of the hostages in 1981 as “they looked in Reagan’s eyes and they released the hostages.” It doesn’t appear Bush has similar powers.


8:21: Romney on Bin Laden: “He will pay and he will die!”


8:21: An audience question asks whether McCain would be comfortable with Tom Tancredo as head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, a government agency that ceased to exist almost four years ago. He says no, and changes the subject so he can threaten Bin Laden too.


8:38: Tommy Thompson is asked about employment non-discrimination for gays, and reacts with a dumbfounded expression that suggests he’d never considered the question in his life. This is the sort of thing that happens when you run for president for no reason.


8:42: Duncan Hunter, trumpeting his role in the building of the border fence near San Diego, says that the Hispanic community in California “supports secure borders.” You know, I didn’t get the impression from last week’s protests that the Latino community is on the same page as Duncan Hunter when it comes to immigration policy.


8:44: When Rudy says that neither party has a monopoly on virtue or vice, at least two of his opponents are heard sighing audibly, Gore-style.


8:46: Sam Brownback answers a question about Abramoff/Foley/Cunningham Republican corruption, and immediately changes the subject to “the breakdown of the family,” Don Imus and rap lyrics. The candidates are having so little respect for answering of the actual questions that Matthews just joked about it.


8:49: McCain says the GOP lost the 2006 election because “we began to value principal over power.” Perhaps actually doing so would have actually won it for them.


9:01: Romney on his health care plan: “I love it! It’s fabulous!” Sounds like he’s praising something else that recently passed in Massachusetts.


9:07: Giuliani, in arguing against the estate tax, starts to make the joke that the sunsetting of the repeal in 2010 will cause lots of billionaires to throw themselves off buildings the night before it expires, before he thinks better of it and says “It’ll create an incentive… I’m not sure what incentive it’ll create.”


9:10: The laugh of the night: Harris asks McCain which Democrat he would put in his cabinet, “and bonus points for a name other than Joe Lieberman.”


9:21: The candidates are all asked if they would pardon Scooter Libby, even though none of them would ever be in position to do so (either Bush will do it himself, or no one will).


9:33: Three minutes late, the debate comes to an abrupt end. The Winners: Romney, Huckabee, and McCain when he talked like a normal human. The Losers: Rudy, Thompson and McCain when he growled.


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