Number one: last night’s debate. What a sour, bitter bunch of candidates. For all the talk of “Reagan’s optimism”, as each of these ten angry men tried to latch onto his legacy, there was nothing but pessimism and weirdness during last night’s 90 minute Republican presidential debate.
Overall, it seemed as though the “top three” candidates, Giuliani, McCain and Romney, didn’t lose much ground. Though Romney came off as a little too slick (the Times said “Brylcreem hair, the straight white teeth and a voice so smooth and friendly it sounds as if he makes his living doing voice-overs for car commercials,”), and Giuliani sputtered and stammered through issues of abortion and Iraq, neither produced the kind of “gaffe” necessary to knock them out of contention (sidebar: I realize these things aren’t Lincoln/Douglas, but do we really measure a candidate’s success in these debates by how much they don’t screw up?).
McCain (who someone, maybe Tweety Mathews dubbed “the Popeye of the debate,“) on the other hand, was really wack. The anger was palpable, particularly in his “I’m going to follow bin Laden to the gates of hell,” line, followed quickly, as the NYT notes, with a “pasted a smile on his face, as if belatedly remembering an adviser’s instruction to look optimistic.” I’m sure if my kids had been in the room, they would have started crying.
Second tier candidates were harder to discern (or remember, frankly). Mike Huckabee and Jim Gilmore (whom I’ve never heard of) seemed to do rather well. I loathe most of their positions, but they seemed the most sincere, honest and consistently conservative candidates up there.
Former Iowa Governor and HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson probably made the most egregious error of the night when, asked if employers should have the right to fire someone because of sexual orientation, he blathered about “states rights” and something else before answering “yes, they should.” Wow. And who is doing that dye job on your hair, Tommy? *Worst Dye Job Ever*.
Other candidates included Duncan Hunter (again, someone I’ve never heard of) and Tom Tancredo (who seemingly had nothing to say other than how awful them illegals are). The comic relief of the night was provided by Dr. Ron Paul, who I believe was once a libertarian who ran for president, and is now in the Congress as a Republican. I actually agreed with more of his comments than anyone else (particularly his opposition to the war), which is why he was the comic relief in a Republican debate.
Male Chauvinist alert: Did anyone see Senator Sam Brownback’s wife appear with him later in the interviews? She looked like she had stepped out of central casting for the Stepford Wives. Honey, stop the frozen smile and nodding head routine when your husband is talking about war. It was unsightly.
Memo to MSNBC: get a new host next time. Tweety Mathews is good on Hardball, but a lousy debate moderator. And what was up with some of the stupid questions, like “Should Bill Clinton be back in the White House?” What amazing insight to be gleaned from that. I hope someone asks the Dems next time “should the 22nd amendment be scrapped and George Bush elected to a third term?”
Overall, now I know why Republicans are scared about next year. Again as Alessandra Stanley noted, “The entire evening seemed intended to diminish the presidential aspirants rather than distinguish their positions. They faced the tail of Air Force One suspended in the air — as if Reagan’s presidential airplane was leaving them behind.”
The whole country seems to be leaving them behind. All of these “pro-life candidates” seemed more concerned about unborn fetuses than killing more of our adult soldiers in Iraq. And did anyone else see who raised their hand when asked “who doesn’t believe in evolution?” I know some raised their hands, but was just walking back in the room when the question was asked.
And lastly, poor Nancy Reagan. By the end, slumped against the Governator’s shoulder, Mrs. Reagan wore an expression something along the lines of “I can’t believe one of these dopes is the heir to my husband’s legacy.”
That makes two of us, Mrs. Reagan.
Cross posted from AoF
UPDATE: A reader tipped me off to this post at Carpetbagger about who raised their hand indicating they didn’t believe in evolution: “The camera didn’t show the 10 candidates for very long, but three would-be presidents raised their hand: Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, and Tom Tancredo.“