May 7, 2007
The GOP Debate, 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,
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
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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