WHERE’S FRED THOMPSON WHEN WE NEED HIM?

Welcome to the Ronald Reagan Library. And welcome to the first annual Ronald Reagan Memorial Suck-Up Ceremony.

Yes, if you tuned in to watch the first Republican presidential debate, you must have felt you tuned in to the wrong channel. It wasn’t a debate so much as it was ten men on stage, competing to see out how many times and how many ways they could wrap themselves in Ronald Reagan’s threadbare toga.

In so doing, of course, they unwittingly told the world they’d rather be seen as the next Ronald Reagan than the next George W. Bush. And who can blame them? Even Chris Matthews tried his best to ignore the current president. He didn’t even ask a question about how this band of candidates might differ with Bush until two minutes before the debate ended – too late for each of the candidates to respond.

Overall, not surprisingly with so many people on stage, there was no one clear winner. And nobody made a serious mistake.

Among the front-runners, I believe Mitt Romney gave the best performance. He looked presidential. He displayed a sense of humor. He was comfortable in his skin. Rudy Giuliani seemed confused at times, too busy trying to explain his “nuances” on the issues to score points. And John McCain came across as over-eager, reciting clearly rehearsed mini-campaign speeches, and putting on a display of fake passion for the TV cameras.

As for the remaining seven, while they did not embarrass themselves, no one of them did anything to catapult himself into the front ranks. Only Ron Paul displayed any original thought – or, for that matter, any respect for the Constitution.

If this is the best the Republican party has to offer, they’re in serious trouble for 2008. Fred Thompson, where are you?

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