South Carolina Republican Presidential Debate Recap

south carolina republican debateHosted by, sponsored by, and broadcast by Fox News, the first Republican Presidential Debate was held last evening in South Carolina. With no Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, or MittRomney; Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Gary Johnson, and Tim Pawlenty were left to fight it out for the hearts and minds of Republican voters.  Can you say B-List Coming Out Party?

I’ve admittedly been mired in a post-Osama funk.  With partisan politics seemingly turned on their head, I have struggled to find stories that sparked an interest or opinions that inspired even a token response or rebuttal.  I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that what was “Left” five days ago, now must be Right; up must be down, and blue must really be red.  Making sense of any of it has become more frustrating than insightful to the point where I’ve become numb to it all, rendering me without opinion while waiting on some semblance of truth to emerge.

Now realizing that said “truth” will not be forthcoming, it is time to come out of the funk.  Politics will always be politics – even when they’re about matters that really don’t seem that political. La-di-da; that’s life.  Osama is dead.  The “narrative’s” inconsistent.  The pictures are on lock-down. Fundamentalist nutbags still want us dead.  I think it’s time to move on.

So anyways; with a little nudging, and some inspiration sparked by the “first” Republican Presidential Debate last evening in South Carolina, I am back in the fold.  As partisan and political as ever, here we go.

Okay, so the first Republican Debate came and went…  Think anyone really cares?  Probably not so much.  The President stole the headlines for the day with his token campaign appearance at Ground Zero, the “A-list” candidates decided not to attend, and the event was hosted by, sponsored by, and broadcast by Fox News.  Sounds like a real winning formula if you ask me.  Can’t wait.

As t0 the participants… I’d “commend” them for taking part, but I think we all know they really had no choice – and no I don’t mean because no Republican has won the nomination since 1980 without winning South Carolina.  They had no choice, because they’re a group of “hopefuls.”  It’s their job; it’s their obligation; it’s their only hope – to grab the spotlight when the “major candidates” aren’t there to soak up the sunshine.

We’ll get to their respective performances in a minute, I just thought I’d make clear at the get-go here that no prizes for participation were going to be rewarded.

As to the non-participants… Frankly, I don’t really even know who falls in this category at this point.  Newt and Romney have taken the “necessary steps” toward running, Bachmann has said she plans to, and the Palin, Huckabee, Daniels crowd have flirted with the notion, but have done little else to show even a desire to run.  So, do I fault them for not attending?  Of course not.  How do you fault some folks for not doing something they have yet to commit to doing?  And if they do want to be President, isn’t it their call whether they take part in a debate at this point?  Is it not votes for their candidacy that they’re putting in jeopardy?  I’d say that’s just about the only punishment they deserve for their absence.

Thoughts on the debate, in general…  Was this a Fox News Special Report?  What’s the deal?  Hosted by, sponsored by, broadcast by… how about endorsed by?  Seemed a little shameless if you ask me.  But then again, who’s really asking me?

That aside, I thought the panel of Fox personalities did a pretty fair job of asking questions.  I would have liked to have seen how they would have handled the inclusion of a few of their buddies though – Palin, a Huckabee, or a Newt.  It was as if the network understood they were hosting an event for the “fringe” candidates, so they orchestrated a fringe sideshow to match the group of participants.  The whole thing seemed a little corny, but it was what it was – the first debate; so who really cares?

But getting back to the participants…

HERMAN CAIN:  I had predicted that Herman Cain would steal the show.  Seeing as how that emerged as the popular consensus, post-debate; feather in my cap I suppose.  That said, I was surprisingly disappointed with Herman Cain and I do believe he has now taken a step back in my calculations.  Kinda makes that whole feather thing seem a little silly.

While he appeared charismatic, entertaining, and fun to listen to; he came off rather unwilling to commit with most of his answers.  The four point, three point, two point thing grew tired and played out with me rather quickly; and I just kept waiting for an answer rather than a bulleted list of “this is how I would do its.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I want to hear the process behind political decisions.  I want to hear the rationale that leads to a position on a political issue.  If I stand for anything, I stand for that.  Frankly, it is what has drawn me to Herman Cain.  He just never arrived at that point in the explanation Thursday night.  Whether it was Libya, Syria, the economy, or jobs; he just kept going back to the steps to leadership, but never unveiled the end result.

And yes, I know some of that was a reflection of not wanting to talk above his classification as a private citizen.  I know he’s not privy to the information that a President has at his disposal, but that’s at least in part what Presidential campaigns are all about – telling the American People what you would do given the information available to you; and them.  I don’t think that puts one in jeopardy at a later date of contradicting oneself – that is unless of course one struggles to know why he’s taking such a position in the first place.  With Cain describing more than thoroughly his process, it really shouldn’t be a hurdle.  Unfortunately, it seemed to be one too high or too great for Cain to mount in the first debate.  The resulting wishy-washiness of it all left me wanting and leaves me disappointed.

And with the one matter he DID elaborate on – the Fair Tax – he gave the worst explanation seen to date from Herman Cain.  I don’t know if he was caught off guard or limited by the restraints of time, but as someone who’s given the idea more than a sniff or two, even I was turned off and left wondering if even he (Cain) could support the tax system overhaul he was laying out.

GARY JOHNSON:  I’ve been getting pushed very passionately by a few folks around here to take another look at this guy’s candidacy.  Inspired by this post (by fellow blogger Scratcher), I’ve received more than the usual share of feedback on the former governor.  Having done a fair amount of due diligence, I have come to the conclusion that he and I are just two birds that were never meant to fly together.  That doesn’t mean he is “wrong” across the board; it just means he and I come from two very different ideological camps.  He’s an ardent Libertarian, and I am not.  That fact alone is really all that needs to be said.

As to his performance, I see no need to really pile on the guy.  I think it really speaks for itself.  He’s the kind of guy that could probably write a few really good books, who’d be a great inspiration for a think-tank or political action committee, or who could really make a difference serving a cause or moving forward a dialog on specific issues.  He simply lacks even an ounce of the “good stuff” that makes a successful national politician.  Like it or not; there has to be something there.  Something to capture the audience’s attention or something to inspire others to follow, he hasn’t even a drop of that “stuff.”

If this candidacy lives to see another debate, I will be shocked.  Any candidate that uses a Republican Primary debate to appeal to the people in the general election because he knows there are many that won’t vote for him in the primary – should probably ready the third party apparatus if he really wants to continue his push to win in said general election.

TIM PAWLENTY:  As a bit of background.  I’ve told many a person privately that I believe he will eventually be our Party’s nominee.  Now that I’m saying it publicly, I suppose I should explain this prediction.  First off.  It is anything but a desired result.  I think Pawlenty is a spineless politician that stands for nothing and everything at the same time.  I more often than not agree with his positions, so I can’t say his candidacy is completely objectionable, but I can say that I haven’t the slightest clue what really rests at his core.  I am quite certain that if 51% of the nation suddenly supported selling Minnesota to the highest bidder, he’d support it just to get elected.

But the reason I think he will get elected is because he is just enough the “Right guy” to be the wrong guy to square off against Barack Obama.  He’s “conservative” enough, he’s “experienced” enough, and he’s “electable” enough – to get the nomination.  The only problem is that he’s not enough of any of that to really inspire people.

And let’s just be frank.  Doesn’t he seem like the uninspiring guy that you don’t dislike enough to oppose, but don’t like enough to actually support?  Can’t you see the fading bumper stickers with his name on them a few years down the road?  You know the kind that make you wonder - what the hell were we thinking?

As to his performance… it was precisely what I would have expected from him.  Given the free pass to weigh in on Obamacare by way of Romneycare – he abstained.  Given the opportunity to respond to his once very proud support for Cap and Trade, he withered like a kid caught with the cookie still in his mouth.  Given the chance to take command of the stage as the only non-fringe candidate, he took a back seat to the side show.

In a nutshell, I was unimpressed and continue to be unimpressed.  I’d say I was disappointed, but the expectations were never really all that high.

RON PAUL:  What can one really say about Ron Paul without coming across like a “hater”; or a “supporter?”  I being neither, struggle with how to embrace his candidacy.  I suppose it is a result of his steadfast commitment to Libertarianism and my hardened take on Conservatism, but the end result is a 50% appreciation and 50% loathing.  I’m with him; and them I’m ready to boo him off the stage.  I agree with him, and then I think he’s batshit crazy.  That’s Ron Paul.

I’d recap his performance, but you’ve seen it before.  Why waste the time and energy?  I hope he sticks around.  I’d love nothing more than to see him on the stage with the likes of Palin, Huckabee, and Romney; and I’d give my Left arm to see him up there with Trump.

RICK SANTORUM:  To say I was am less than intrigued by a Rick Santorum candidacy would probably be an understatement.  I think a more accurate description would probably be more in line with apathy bordering on frustration.  You see, Rick Santorum represents everything I believe is wrong with Republican Party platforms, talking points, and candidates.  Ignoring the fact that he’s unbelievably ”unelectable” – as he proved in his last election – hence the title Former Senator, he represents a narrow-minded view of conservatism that still thinks the “social” side is a standalone entity that can exist without the whole.  He believes conservatism can be picked through with cafeteria-style expediency as if one can call upon the Constitution when it suits his fancy, but ignore it when the result would be less desirable.

His positions on “social issues” are not derivative of a social contract spelled out in Constitutional language.  Rather they are described in terms of his own personal, beliefs, feelings, and motivations.  His approach ignores the most Fundamental Liberties spelled out in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and presupposes a list of positions that align themselves with his own views and religious beliefs.  While I am of the mindset that a Conservative who happens to be a Christian is the “model” of politician I‘d like to vote for, one who assumes that such a description is compulsory will certainly not have my vote.  Frankly, I’m not sure which assumption offends me more – the fact that he thinks one must be Christian to serve as President or that he thinks one must be a Christian to be conservative?

As to his performance… it was nothing more than a demonstration of why many had to Google his name just to figure out where he came from or what he did to find a place on the stage.  He’s a fringe candidate that knows he’s a fringe candidate.  He is in this race to paint himself as the most “socially conservative” candidate with the hope that by some divine intervention people lose sight of how absolutely unelectable he really is.  The problem with Santorum is not that he’s misguided, it’s that he doesn’t realize how his misguided views and his candidacy will scar conservatism as an ideology every step of the way through his bastardization of it with his every uttered breath.

I’d like to say that this will be his last debate, but I think we all know that we are certainly not that fortunate.

I don’t know about you but I can’t wait until the “A-Listers” arrive.

Wait.

Who were the A-listers again?

 

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