The ten presidential candidates of the GOP have finished their latest debate – this time in New Hampshire—and once again, as the case last time, the winner is…The Democrats.
If the DNC had enough good sense, they’d bankroll the Republican Presidential Debates as a weekly, roving, televised Chautauqua. I mean, what more could a Democratic campaign ever ask for than what was seen Tuesday night on CNN? Every major (and almost every minor) Republican contender elbowing each other aside to chide President Bush while simultaneously and unreservedly endorsing his most unpopular policies. An authentic twofer – for the other party, that is.
Here’s a taste of the Bush-bashing:
"I would certainly not send him to the United Nations" to represent America, candidate and former Bush cabinet secretary Tommy Thompson said.
Rep. Tom Tancredo, the candidate of the anti-immigration Know-nothing faction of the party suggested, if elected, ex-President Bush would “never darken the door of the White House.”
John McCain repeatedly insisted that the administration had “mismanaged” the war in Iraq.
Rudy Giuliani arguing that the immigration bill supported by Bush is a “typical Washington mess.” And so on and so on.
And yet, every candidate except the fringy libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (about as popular in the GOP establishment as Michael Moore), rushed to fully endorse not only the initial invasion of Iraq but also the continuing and continuing and continuing war. Not one suggested any serious departure from the current course. Not now or nor somewhere down the ever-bloodier road.
I’m not a Republican so I’m no position to judge which candidate came closest to appealing to the party base but none of them made any effort to speak to the some 70% of the American population that by now has had enough of the war.
Nor did any of the other issues focused on by the contenders seem to have much, if any, potential positive appeal to independents, swing voters and the sort of moderate suburban Republicans who are often the decisive constituencies in deciding a national election.
Indeed, the first hour of the debate rather obsessively centered on which candidate was more zealously in favor of tactical nuclear war against Iran (a toss-up), most in favor of the longest and highest wall on the border (Duncan Hunter), most willing to pardon Scooter Libby (Tom Tancredo) and who was the most ardent among all the creationists (Mike Huckabee who re-assured us we were, in fact, not descended from monkeys).
I know that New Hampshire voters are infamously quirky but, somehow, I doubt that any of the above are among their election promise priorities.
Bottom line: This debate was but empty prelude. The real election – starting in the fall—is going to be about the war and one or another of these guys is gonna have to change his tune to really break out.
Meanwhile, my favorite moments of the debate:
Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York no less, vigorously pandering to the xenophobic Know-nothings by inventing a series of manufactured flaws in the pending immigration bill.
Mitt Romney, in response to a barbed question from the audience, unsuccessfully struggling to explain why, on the one hand he supports an Official English law that would ban ballots printed in a foreign language while, on the other hand, he is currently running campaign ads in Spanish. Hijole!
John McCain waxing temporarily eloquent in defending not only the immigration bill but also the contribution of Latino immigrants while the entire rest of the field opposed him.
Ron Paul saying the moral question of our time was America returning to its constitutional roots and eschewing the doctrine of pre-emptive tactical nuclear war advocated earlier from the same stage he was standing on.
This was great TV. My TiVo wants to know the next time this circus is scheduled to perform.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The way this is going for the Repubs, even Kucinich would have a shot at beating them in a general election. What gets me is that the Republican candidates are bashing Bush, but only for doing a shoddy job with Iraq and so forth. They're going to do a better job. There's no debate or discussion (except for Ron Paul) about whether it was a right thing to do or the wisdom of continuing it.