31 January 2008

Thoughts on the CNN Republican Debate

The debate last night, which lasted 90 minutes, focused on Senator McCain and Governor Romney. Congressman Paul and Governor Huckbee were fighting for air time, with Huckabee making the most out of his with style points and Paul attempting to focus more on issues.

Gov. Huckabee might. I think, appeal to more folks if his new-found federalist point of view were somewhat believable. The reason I don’t find it believable is the somewhat debatable view that he is a “compassionate conservative”, which equals big-government conservative. While his answers on what unfunded government mandates do to states was a good one, I don’t think that he would stick to his guns once in the White House.

Concerning Congressman Paul, I have to wonder if a libertarian candidate who wasn’t virulently isolationist wouldn’t garner a whole lot more votes. The fact is that some of Paul’s points are quite good, but the substance behind them remains fuzzy. Why is the gold standard so vitally important? It’s not an answer that can be given in a 60-second response in a debate, I realize (and therefore isn’t worth listening to, some would counter). Why should the Commander in Chief not be the CEO or CFO of the United States? These things are important, but the answers to them are uncomfortable to some and overly complicated to others. It would be a good thing for McCain and Romney to address these issues in a straightforward manner.

(Note: The preceding is not an endorsement of Congressman Paul. His foreign policy would be a joke if he weren’t so dangerously serious about it.)

The main showdown, though, was between McCain and Romney. Much will be written today about the “timetable” sparring, which in my opinion was just plain silly. It wasted time that could have been spent on something sustentative. The “timetable” didn’t leave the table, primarily because of McCain’s repeating the word, for the rest of the debate. These two should really give it a rest. It makes both of them look silly, McCain more so, and it’s needlessly tiresome.

I was left at the end of the debate wondering what the real difference between McCain and Romney would be. Is it more important to have a leader or a manager? Is it more important to have a person who can admit a grievous mistake (McCain on his immigration reform)? I’m not sure if I’ve heard Romney admit a big mistake, except perhaps some of his private business dealings. (Though Romney did speak rather favorably of the Big Dig last night, which makes one wonder.)

Maybe the two aren’t really all that different. One thing is for sure: if they keep bickering about “timetable”-like comments, we won’t find out.

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