...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...
First off, I pray that the candidates of both parties have the guts never to allow this format ever again. But I know they won't. The format is worse than a joke, it's destructive. Just look at the type of people asking the questions and ask yourself how many people you know in your everyday life who are that weird.
Somebody at CNN chose these questions and that person was not a friend of the Republican party or conservatives in general. It seemed many of the questons were specifically chosen to portray conservatives in a bad light. I certainly saw nothing like that during the Democratic YouTube debate. But not only that, there were too many irrelevant and undignified moments. There is no excuse for Yankees/Red Sox questions or confederate flag questions or questions about biblical inerrancy in a presidential debate during wartime. That said, I do have some impressions of how the candidates did.
I've been a Romney skeptic since I first began hearing about him. It's not that I'm dead set against him, I just want the guy to prove himself to me. I've listened closely to him and he fails to sell himself every time. Up until now I've had trouble putting my finger on why. But tonight I realized that the man just doesn't come across genuine. Every time he gets a hard question he dodges it by saying he'll consult the appropriate people when he's president. I know that's what presidents do, they consult advisers, but when I hear a candidate say it I have to wonder if he has any core beliefs that he can draw upon.
The most famous example of this Romney dodge was when he said he'd consult "the lawyers" before deciding if he would get congressional approval before responding militarily. Just about the worst thing he could have said. Tonight Romney did it twice. On the torture question he said he'd consult McCain, but McCain would have none of it. And looking at Romney's face, I could tell he was embarrassed. I disagree with McCain on the torture issue, but I loved the way he called Romney out on his Hillaryesque refusal to commit to anything. The third time Romney played the "I'll consult" card was on the "don't ask don't tell" question, and it drew boos.
I'm still willing to be persuaded by Romney, because I'm afraid he might be the only winning option against Hillary. But he's not convincing me to feel good about that. The one thing I like about Giuliani the most is that when he says something I can feel his conviction. And that's exactly what Romney is lacking. To my ears, Romney seems passionless and convictionless, even while he's saying the right things. I know it's a perception problem, and maybe I should listen more to what he says rather than how he says it. But a perception problem is an electability problem too. So there's your reason Romney's way behind in the national polls. I'm not the only one who has trouble believing in him.
Regarding the other candidates, I thought Thompson did really well. And I'm the biggest Thompson basher out there. I wish Anderson Cooper had granted him the amount of time his second place position deserved. I'm willing to be convinced by Thompson too, though running him against Hillary would be 1996 all over again.
Giuliani was Giuliani. I know his story, I like him, I don't think he hurt himself tonight. In contrast to Romney citing Bill Cosby, Giuliani's answer to the black on black violence question was spot on. Giuliani reduced black on black violence by reducing violent crime, drastically. Even Romney had to admit that Rudy got results.
Paul has no business being in these debates. He's not a Republican and he's only a distraction who wastes minutes that should go to the real candidates. Everybody knows that, but the media hates Republicans so much I wouldn't be surprised if they invited Paul to participate in the general election debates.
Huckabee's answer on the Bible question was excellent, but he is a preacher.* I'm still leaning Huckabee, but the guy who really rose in my opinion was Duncan Hunter. He's good on all my issues as far as I could tell. No chance to win, but he may be the most solid conservative on the stage. McCain, as always, was great on Iraq and the War on Terror. I'm glad he reminded people that he was the only one who was right on Rumsfeld and the new Petraeus strategy. Tancredo was bumbling and innefectual, as always.
Did anybody miss Brownback, Gilmore or Tommy Thompson? I didn't.
Update: Iowa and Florida Polling shows Huckabee the clear winner.
Also, some good stuff at The Scratching Post, including shoes!
* Giuliani's rambling answer came close to an approximation of liberal Catholic doctrine as I was taught by Jesuits. The actual Catholic doctrine is codified in the Catechism as follows:
The inspired books teach the truth. "Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures."
Still, the Christian faith is not a "religion of the book." Christianity is the religion of the "Word" of God, a word which is "not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living". If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, "open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures."
[emphasis added]But I prefer St. Augustine's answer :
For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it.