After watching the GOP debate last night, I admittedly was nonplussed. I expected the candidates to all make a reach for the mantle of Reagan. I expected Ron Paul to be the libertarian he is. I expected some of the second tier candidates to look and sound like "grumpy old men."
Here is what I did not expect. McCain spoke with an excited, fiery passion when it came to matters of our national security. As he went as far as the "follow [bin Laden] to the Gates of Hell", we got a sense of the urgency that faces our nation. It is one thing, to make platitudes on some of the issues, and it is another to be "presidential" when it comes to defending America. This debate was not about "winners and losers", it was a chance to make a pitch to the base, as to why one of these candidates should be our nominee. Without exception, McCain made that case where the other candidates ranged from well-intentioned t0 simply out of touch.
One of the surprisingly out of touch candidates was Rudy Giuliani. "Being Okay" with Roe v. Wade will not win you the nomination of this party. He knows this, as he referenced his ability to govern liberal New York. Well, Rudy, New York City is not the U.S. of A. Most of your party is "not okay" with Roe v. Wade. Rudy's only saving grace was Senator Brownback's comment that we are a big "coalition party" and that Reagan himself would have said that "someone who agrees with you 80% of the time in not your enemy". However, being ambivalent toward the unborn and voiceless in our society is a tough sell.
Another surprise is what I will just have to call "Massachusetts Syndrome". Seems Romney and Kerry both caught the disease while living in Boston. The symptoms are pretty clear...you support one issue up until you decide to run for President, then, you all of a sudden change your mind. Romney paints a broad stroke portrait of how he became pro-life by policy, in a mere two years before running for office. He even reaches for the mantle of Reagan, saying "Shucks, Ronny and GHWB also liked abortion once". Yet, Reagan saw the light in 1968, some 12 years before becoming elected as president, and did the unthinkable...he wrote a book against abortion from the oval office in 1983. That is way more than an op-ed in the Boston Globe, and way more than a nuanced ephiphany about cloning. Abortion is wrong well before you get to the ehtics of cloning, Mitt, there is no threshold. Yet, to win in liberal Massachusetts, Mitt HAD to be pro-choice. This is some slimy politicking, and I cannot be for it (and I will not flop, and later be against it).
Of the top three, McCain's vigor, and nervousness at first, were sincere. Here we have a candidate who's love of America comes from every pore, who has suffered for us, and who has fought for us. How fortunate we are that the choice is so very clear.
Of the other candidates, Mike Huckabee gets a nod from me as being very comfortable in his skin, poised, and well-spoken. There must be something in the water in Hope, Arkansas, as another Hope favorite son, Bill Clinton, had that same communicative appeal. Huckabee might be the first social conservative I have heard in some time that comes off as sincere about his faith. For that, I give him a kudos, and a young southern governor might be the balance our party ticket needs in 2008 to succeed.
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