This wasn't beanbag
I was prepared to dislike the CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate Wednesday night from St. Petersburg, Florida. Reading about the format, I thought Vanna White should moderate, not Anderson Cooper. But it was a hoot. Entertaining and revealing. Here is CNN's transcript.
Not the League of (Liberal) Women Voters' civic version of castor oil but a little World Wrestling Federation smack-down meets Question Time in the British House of Commons.
As with both, booing and cheering was encouraged! Here, here!
Big winner of the night
Mike Huckabee. The guy is never at a loss for words but makes each word count. On sending a manned mission to Mars, he volunteered Hillary! People like someone who can think on their feet.
When asked what Jesus would do about the death penalty, this ordained minister who, as governor of Arkansas, signed many execution warrants, said Jesus was too smart to run for public office.
Huckabee clearly has the best bonafides for the Christian right but has been described as a big government fundamentalist. Still, his answers about giving college tuition credits to the children of illegal aliens was smart: I'm not going to punish the children for the crimes of their parents.
He seems self-assured, grounded, well spoken without being glib. Likeable and plausible. Everyone's short list for veep, I am presuming.
Second biggest winner: Fred Thompson. Good lines, too. Taller than anyone else on stage. Ike-like in looks. Deep voice.
Rudy Giuliani. He was under attack all night long from the other candidates and, at one point, from Anderson Cooper, the moderator, who asked the only question not raised by a YouTube submission about some supposed scandal. Giuliani was booed early and often. Maybe it was Florida.
Second big loser: Mitt Romney. Too starched and pressed, too much pander, too much flip-flop to be believable -- this year's fashion. Too pretty, too programmed, too convenient -- the John Edwards of the Republican party. Also booed. So was McCain at one point by the Ron Paul partisans. Yes, Ron Paul has partisans.
Disqualified: Ron Paul has fought hard for his hold on the tinfoil hat crowd that used to crowd Republican venues when we were in the minority and now inhabits the conspiracist Left universe. He did nothing to lose them Wednesday night. "The Trilateral Commission is real." Now there's a sound bite. Bill Moyers and John Nichols can have him.
CNN chose representative YouTube video-recorded questions.
The two-plus hour show strong started off strong with Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, the two front-runners, going mano a mano on illegal immigration. Mitt criticized Rudy for running a Sanctuary City. Rudy sprang a surprise, accusing Mitt of employing illegal aliens at his private home. They were contractors' employees, Mitt argued. "Am I supposed to ask questions because they look different?"
Fred Thompson served Rudy his dinner cold by asking whether Rudy Giuliani really wants to hold officials accountable for people they hire. He never spoke the name Bernard Kerik and he did not need to. Or did he?
Best YouTube video question
The Illinois fellow whose video face was superimposed on a dollar bill with the serial number spinning like a light meter on Christmas, supposedly representing the Social Security obligation.
Second best: the Arizona NRA member who, before he gets to his question, is thrown a rifle from an off-screen ally, then asks whether the candidates own firearms. Duncan Hunter scored by saying a rifle should never be tossed like that. But Fred Thompson had the best line: "I've got two guns. I'm not going to tell you what they are or where they are." A good red meat answer.
Ringer: Grover Norquist on raising taxes.
Profile in Courage
John McCain, for breaking with the President and unequivocally labeling waterboarding as torture and making Mitt Romney, who had straddled the issue by saying he would ask for advice, look very small, indeed. Now, I disagree with McCain myself but, as they say, McCain has the bonafides. (As when Hillary tried to use taxpayer dollars for some sort of shrine for the Woodstock concert, McCain averred, "I was tied up at the time.")
Showing 30-second campaign spots for each of the candidates. With Fred Thompson's, it was announced that the cablecast would go to commercial break immediately afterwards. But the video so savaged Romney and Huckabee (on abortion and taxes, respectively) that Anderson Cooper had to hold off the sponsor's plug to throw it back to those two. Kudos to CNN for thinking on their feet.
What were they thinking?
Allowing the gay retired general to debate, in person from the audience, the candidates after his YouTube question about "don't ask, don't tell."
"It's a target-rich environment." -- Fred Thompson when asked about government cuts he would make.
"I've been an OB (physician) for 30 years and I never saw a medically necessary abortion. It should be a crime at least in the third trimester." -- Ron Paul.
See Huckabee. (By the way, he looks like movie actor Kevin Spacey)
Ron Paul: Get rid of the Departments of Education, Energy, and Homeland Security.
Fred Thompson: Simplify the tax system.
Ron Paul: Bring our troops home now.
Huckabee: Get rid of the IRS.
Many of the questions were by young people. Guns are very important to Republicans as a symbol of overweening government control. Credit to John McCain for saying he does not own a gun. After all, the man used one professionally until his capture by the North Vietnamese Communists. There was more substance on this stage in Florida than at any Democratic debate, lending credence to pundits who say the Democrats are in trouble plenty.
Is there anything more useless than a Democrat in Congress?
Take the test
Here's an interesting web site to help you find out which presidential candidate you most agree with: Select a Candidate 2008.