I watched the Fox News Republican Presidential debate from New Hampshire tonight, but I had to wait a couple hours to readjust to reality before I blogged about it. It really is a surreal experience watching these guys. I got the sense that McCain is almost embarrassed by his party, but he made his bed and has to sleep in it.
So here is my list, in no particular order, of things that suprised me, interested me, pissed me off, and made me laugh. I'll probably add to this as I remember more stuff. Click "There's more..." and follow me below the jump.
- A couple of awkward moments that I enjoyed quite a bit, including some kid in a diner calling out Rudy's "Family Values." Rudy handled it pretty well though. The other, and possibly more damaging, moment was when the father of an Iraq vet called out Mitt Romney for saying his sons were serving their country by working on his campaign. The father said that Romney didn't understand how deeply he had offended veterans and families with the comment. It was pretty harsh, and powerful I thought. Romney didn't do a good job handling it, he praised service, apologized, but was clearly rattled.
- There were some pretty heated exchanges between Ron Paul and the field over foreign policy. Romney wisely didn't accuse him of "forgetting about 9/11," but I was struck by the level of contempt and disrespect they were showing Paul. They have clearly grown tired of having him in the debates. They were laughing at him when he answered questions seriously, and the moderators asked very nasty and pointed questions (Chris Wallace to Paul: "So you would allow Al Qaeda to dictate American foreign policy?") I don't agree with Paul about much, but his voice on Iraq is welcome in these debates.
- The more I see Rudy in these things, the less I think he can't win. He's a much smoother politician than I've given him credit for. It was apparent that he intentionally stayed away from 9/11 this time, probably getting the message that he was laying it on a bit thick. He emphasized his record in NY instead, but he's quite the serial exagerator. He said that he cut taxes and raised revenues in NY, and that it demonstrates supply side economics. He neglected to mention that he was mayor during the freaking tech boom of the 90's, and so of course revenues rose! Wall Street was making money hand over fist. His claims about his cutting taxes, reducing crime, and just about everything else are similarly misleading. Perhaps this would make a few good posts in the future, as these claims are worthy of more detailed scrutiny.
- Duncan Hunter mentioned orange glazed chicken again. This guy is a buffoon. He made the same stupid "if you make it over my border fence we put you in the olympics" joke that he's made in every debate (I think, maybe just most) so far. People smiled politely. President Hunter; Not in a million years.
- Huckabee looked good, but nothing struck me as a great moment. He took some flack for the Fair Tax, but handled all the questions pretty well. My subjective sense was that he was getting more time than in the previous debates, almost as much as Rudy/Romney.
- Carl Cameron is the Fox News political corresspondent, and the guy is a huge douche. This is the man that was assigned to follow the Kerry campaign in 2004, and decided to just make shit up. He was stationed in some diner in NH to do the "man-on-the-street" thing, but it was so much weaker than a typical town forum format, or the youtube debates that I actually liked. It was pretty stupid.
- On a related note, I'm so sick of that retail politics bullshit from Iowa and New Hampshire. It's such a silly conceit that they think they can judge candidates better because they get to shake their hands. It's 2000-effing-7. Learn to read newspapers and use the intertubes. It just makes for so much silly pandering, and it's a pain in the neck listening to politicians wax poetic about the "salt-of-the-earth" types in every podunk diner in Iowa and New Hampshire.
I think that's enough for tonight. As always, thoughts, opinions, questions in the comments. Tell me why I'm wrong and/or an idiot.
A couple points I missed last night. First, I completely neglected to mention the exchange between Paul and Huckabee over Iraq. I wasn't that blown away by Huckabee's response, but some republicans were. The view that I've seen developing on the intertubes is that McCain and Huckabee were the "winners," for whatever thats worth.
Second, regarding Giuliani and supply side taxes, there is quite the discussion today about the supply side wacko's and I should note that supply side economics has some justification at a municipal level. My reaction to Rudy's claims were based on my impression that as a presidential candidate he was endorsing supply side economics. In addition, so many of his positive results in NYC were due in large part to national trends beyond his control, and its worth pointing out when he is claiming too much credit. McCain, on the other hand, explicitly said that cutting federal taxes raises revenues.
Also regarding McCain, I was perhaps too charitable saying that he was embarrassed by his party. He's just as embarrassing as the rest of them, but perhaps I've been conditioned by the media to think that somehow, deep down, he's better than that.
TPM has compiled a highlight reel of the debates for anyone interested. Oh, and I incorrectly said that Hunter was flogging Orange glazed chicken again. It was honey glazed chicken this time, and I apologize for the error.