Presidential Campaign

Presidential Campaign

What An Utter Bore

Tonight’s “debate” was an utter bore. I found myself longing for the good old days (approximately a week ago) when Mike Gravel took the stage and showed us what crazy can do to enliven a political event. (Stay tuned for Budowsky’s retort to my use of the word “crazy.”)

Look, I know Chris Matthews and the mainstream media and the Democratic Party are obsessed with the Iraq war. But Republican primary voters are kinda, sorta obsessed with taxes and smaller government. Maybe I missed it as I was rushing off to a TV studio this evening, but why wasn’t McCain forced to explain his opposition to Bush’s tax cuts? Republican stalwarts like Rick Santorum have stated publicly their opposition to McCain as the GOP nominee because he’s not a true fiscal conservative. So how ‘bout it, Matthews?

Saturday Night Live Will Have Fun With This

The Republican debate is over and Saturday Night Live can’t wait. Ten candidates, all of whom can be parodied, plus Chris Matthews, is just too much to ask for. They were all the 30-second wonders.

Talk about hyper, serious attention deficit disorder, not exactly grace under pressure, this is one sad start for the Republicans. But OK, you ask, who won, who lost, how much does it all matter, anyway.

But, before I answer that, what a shame that no one gets to actually explain or truly explore an answer or an issue. Lincoln-Douglas this wasn’t. Kennedy-Nixon this wasn’t. Gladiator TV is what this was, rapid fire answers that didn’t answer, superficial when superficial must prevail. After all, ten candidates, half of whom are flakes, doesn’t exactly leave much room for analysis. But let’s look at the candidates. I write this before I see the post-spin. Romney was like a weather vane in a nor’easter hurricane, spinning like crazy. On the social issues like stem cells and abortion, who knows what is going on in his head. On his health care legislation which he has been ducking for weeks, he embraced. Go figure. He reminded me of Eddie Haskel in Leave it to Beaver, slick and ingratiating, but totally phony. Maybe a televangelist from a bygone era.

More Impressive Than The Democrats

The clear winner of Thursday night's debate at Ronald Reagan library was the Republican party. Having been driven from their majorities in Congress, taken losses in state houses and governors mansions across the country, watched poll numbers for Democrats continue to rise while their own president remains as unpopular as none since Richard Nixon during Watergate, many a sane Republican is disappointed in the current field and expects the party to lose the White House in 2008.

But the Republican debate was not only far more interesting than the Democratic version last week, the collective line up was more impressive. The third and fourth tier candidates who hardly register in polls were not sideshows or distractions, but were central players throughout the debate. The atmosphere, even at its most confrontational moments -- and there were several -- was friendly and the ten opponents seemed a team. No one was mean, no one was stumped or panicked in response to many surprising and tough questions, and as a line up they came across as far more experienced than the collection of Democratic contenders in their debate. The four former governors -- James Gilmore of Virginia, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin -- all shined but Reps. Tom Tancredo (Colo.), Ron Paul (Texas), and Duncan Hunter (Calif.) and Sen. Sam Brownback (Kansas) also spoke knowledgeably about numerous issues from terrorism to the Iraq war to immigration to taxes.

Both Debates Were A Waste, Nobody Talked Seriously About Iraq

Within the boring and irrelevant format of too many candidates dishing too much spin for their party nominations, with the armada of full employment campaign analysts sounding gravely important trying to find a winner like counting the angels on the head of a pin, all the candidates did fine tonight.
None of the Democrats were JFK; none of the Republicans were Reagan; none of this was a surprise; and none of it mattered either to the quality of our national discussion, the standings of the candidates, or the verdict of history, will which remember none of this.

Our country has a really big problem, and it is Iraq. In neither debate did any of the candidates saying anything important, or memorable, or relevant to the outcome.


On the playing field, John McCain did the best in the Republican debate. He was passionate, articulate, and forceful and the populism that animated his race in 2000, heretofore absent, was shining brightly as he denounced pork and special interests. He did himself the most good.

But the bias of MSNBC and, the debate's sponsors, was evident. Democratic organs, both, they did their utmost to be sure the Rudy Giuliani was marginalized during the debate. As the only Republican who can win in November, he has been the object of Democratic attacks for a month or more now and MSNBC kept the mike well away from him as much as possible. Off in a corner of the room, seemingly by himself, at dramatic moments in the debate, the attention went to McCain, Romney, anybody -- even Brownback -- but not to Giuliani.

For his part, Rudy began strong with good answers out of the box but then degenerated into a candidate for re-election as mayor instead of a candidate for president. He was good when the topic was terrorism but weak on everything else. He needs to get his act down better before the next showdown.


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?


Does Fred Thompson Have the Fire in His Belly?

In his interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Fred Thompson did not look as good as he does as the District Attorney on Law and Order. He looked older, balder, more lined, and had bags under his eyes. His lines lacked the down home snappiness he displays when scripted on Law and Order. The key thing I saw was the difference between Fred Thompson on a TV series and Fred Thompson in reality. The contrast did him no good.

But more than stylistic points, Thompson showed no fire in the belly. His indecisiveness about running reflected an ambivalence which has no place in the GOP field of candidates. Republicans are terrified that Hillary will win and they want a tiger, a gladiator, a warrior, not a half-hearted Hamlet.

Implications of a Mormon president should not be dismissed

No matter how hard Hugh Hewitt, a conservative talk radio host and author, pushes the idea that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism isn’t of concern to evangelical voters in a Republican primary, I believe there remains a great deal of curiosity among these voters about the Mormon faith and what having “A Mormon in the White House” (to give Hewitt’s book a mention) would mean to America.

Romney supporters like Hewitt are quick to throw out the term “religious bigotry” whenever those on the left — or the right — question the meaning and implementation of the Mormon faith for a presidential candidate. I find that response entirely too impatient. Such curiosities should be engaged, not discouraged.

The Debate: Ronald Reagan versus Bush 43.5,Bush 43.6, Bush 43.7 and Bush 43.8

Ronald Reagan towered above any of these Republican candidates doing various imitations of Bush 43.5, Bush 43.6, Bush 43.7 and so forth.

Lets start with Rudy, the candidate who will implode, the only question being when.

Rudy is the guy imitating Karl Rove with the kind of attack fear politics on terror that led Bush to 35 percent popularity and led Republicans in Congress back to minority status.

Rudy, you may remember, was the genius who ignored all advice and put his emergency command center in the World Trade Center that was previously attacked. Another common denominator with Bush: not listening to advice from those who know far more about certain matters than he.

Rudy masterminded the poorly functioning system of communications that proved disastrous on 9-11.

Tonight: The 10 White Men

Tonight at the Reagan Library the GOP presidential candidates, known as the 10 White Men, all hope they will have a chance to break away from the pack. We are sure to hear much gushing about their hero, Ronald Reagan, and some awkward statements about the current Republican president, George W. Bush. But to make an impact the candidates clearly need to talk about themselves, and  to do a good job of it.

This task is hardest for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who has built his career as a politician defined by his independence — that is, until recent years, when he has become defined by his contradictions. All eyes are on him tonight as the former frontrunner fighting to regain his momentum. To win, candidate McCain must become someone beyond the guy who infuriated conservatives and opposed Bush, then the guy who embraced conservatives and Bush.