Because my first daughter is taking AP Government this semester, I had to watch some of the presidential debate this evening. I have to say that it was a pleasure to hear the Romney I heard several years ago before I rather casually dismissed him for his personality ephemera. Here's what I was saying then.
What softens me on all of the negatives and nullities on the question of Rudy is that he's a moderate Republican like myself. Right in there with Arnold and Christie, he's not playing any holy roller games with American society. He's a New Yorker and he knows that you can lay down rules but you cannot enforce social conventions. That will disarm all the obsessives over the faux evangelist conservatism infecting the GOP, and it will confirm that the Republicans have turned the corner back towards Reagan.
So I'm going to be interpolating between him and Romney. Romney talks a very good game and has a youthful appeal. I haven't heard him slip yet, but I'm thinking maybe he's a little bit too smooth. We'll see. The problem is that I've only heard him field question from Matt Lauer. I've seen nothing of Romney under pressure.
When the candidates first announced, I was the first one to go to bat for Mitt Romney. I still don't think that there is anything he has said, when I pay attention to his actual words, that I disagree with. Yet I disagree with the candidate as a person. I think he looks and sounds like a JC Penney catalog model. I cannot imagine him drinking dark beer. And that is what has turned me off to him.
There have risen some more substantive criticisms of Romney with regard to the actual way he decided to defend his religion, but for me these messages have come too late. I've already written him off and decided to support Fred Thompson. And yet now, as the races and quips and pundits get various parts of my attention, Fred doen't turn me on fire either.
In some ways it doesn't matter. I will vote for whomever becomes the Republican nominee, so long as it's not Huckabee or Paul. Their negatives are real for me. But on the top four, I think emotion will play the bigger role than reason.
I do pay attention to what David Brooks says on most occasions, and I like his assertion that some conservatives would rather win control of a losing party than lose control of a winning party. The Corner today is buff with the scoop on infighting - Republicans who hate Republicans. Yeah it's true. But we absolutely despise Democrats, so we'll live with the hate - like we always do. It brings us to McCain.
The thing that strikes me most about Obama's debate performance Tuesday is how much his intentions for Afghanistan sound exactly like George W. Bush. But then when you hear the rest of his rhetoric about capturing or killing Osama Bin Ladin, you realize how little he cares for winning against the jihadi movement, and how little he has actually studied this problem.
Everything he says about pursuing Bin Ladin smacks of the old 'cut off the head and the snake will die' strategy. It's beyond wrong, it's foolish, especially given how he's just posing like a hawk on Pakistan. He is decidedly clumsy on matters of war, peace and diplomacy. The very nerve of him to call Musharraf a dictator on national TV is demonstration enough for me that his foreign policy would be a disaster.
It's about this time that I wish that Obama were debating Romney. Because even though Romney takes you right up to the limit of his knowledge, which is sometimes inadequate, at least he gets to the point quickly. Romney would have turned Obama into lawn clippings.
I listened to the debate after much hesitation. I really didn't want to. As soon as I heard Brokaw's voice and the two minute rule, I immediately thought that it's nothing more than a game show. Finally I relented.
Obama said nothing new in anything he presented. All of his responses sounded exactly like things I've heard him say before, and he never seemed to have time to give quick, direct responses to Brokaw's questions. Plus, he violated time limits. Still at least he didn't bore me to tears like Biden did, and he kept his cheeky colloquialisms to a minimum unlike Palin.
For the things that matter most to me, McCain was a clear winner, but not decidedly so. He simply didn't have the rhetorical skills to put Obama away, who was punching like Mike Tyson against Buster Douglas. If Obama is supposed to have these legendary oratorical skills, I didn't hear them, He sounded like an average politician to me. Then again, I've been listening to him say empty stuff to cheers for months now, I didn't expect any big words tonight.
Obama unabashedly puts himself in the position of saying that the past 8 years has killed the American dream. It was a strikingly stupid remark. Anyway I've decided to do a full annotation of the debate. Stay tuned.