Thursday, November 29, 2007

Republican YouTube Debate

In an earlier post, "Will the Republicans YouTube?," I predicted that, "Because this format lends itself too easily to politically awkward situations, and because it draws attention away from the candidates to the clever or shocking videos themselves, I do not expect that the Republicans will follow up with their own version of it." It seems, however, that either CNN learned a lesson from the absurdity of the first YouTube debate among the Democrats, or the Republicans successfully negotiated everything bizarre and disrespectful out of it before consenting.

I found the debate itself revealed a lot about the candidates. The minor candidates were self-consciously minor, except for Ron Paul who seems genuinely unaware that he is minor.

If the winner of this sort of event in the one who came across most consistently and convincingly as a president for our times, then John McCain was the clear winner. Since 2000, I have not trusted him, but last night he commanded my respect. On every question, he was tough, honest and seasoned with experience. Straight talk is what he gave us, and there was no sense at any point that he was posing, i.e. adopting a rehearsed posture. The contrast with the rest of the field was striking. Of course Ron Paul is also genuine, but McCain faced him down as well and put him in his place on the Iraq question. There no shortage of kowtowing on the stage to various video interrogators and invisible constituencies. But McCain was having none of it. Even on the question as to how many guns each candidate has and what what kind, he made it clear that boasting on this point was beneath him. On several occasions, the Arizona Senator spoke quietly and deliberately, but firmly and with "battered authority" to an opponent, and you knew who was the lion in the hall. He did not confront the only other lion, however: the prince of Gotham.

Mitt Romney gave some good conservative answers, but behind them displayed his reflexive big government approach to public affairs. In response to a question from a father and son regarding "black on black" crime, he first suggested strengthening the family (good answer) and then spoke of improving schools, which are not a federal responsibility, and then of putting more police on the streets, which again is none of the federal government's business. In another answer, he said he would sign a bill banning abortion nationwide, but again that is not a federal responsibility. Rudy and Fred got that one right.

Romney also revealed his liberal undergarments when, confronted with the words of a younger Mitt Romney that he looked forward to the day when gays could serve openly and honorably in the military, his line was that because we are at war, this is not the time for that to happen. Oh? Does he foresee a time when there will never be any more war? If we were to realize his beautiful vision during peacetime, we would have those homosexuals openly among the troops in the next war. So his point is that he doesn't want the Republican party to know how liberal he really is just yet.

Huckabee is no better, and perhaps worse. The Arkansas Baptist revealed his own statist instincts, but also a heart that may be too soft to be entrusted with the executive authority. I would feel safer placing the sword of state in the hands of an obviously unredeemed and unrepentant Rudy Giuliani than entrusting it to this jokester who, though he appears to be genuinely concerned to love his neighbor, does not exercise good judgment in how to apply that principle as defender of public peace and security.

As he made a point of mentioning a few times that he is a Baptist minister, it occurred to me that if he is going to take that calling and ordination seriously he should either take a church or comparable ministry or resign his ministerial office. There is no place for a clerical king in America (or anywhere for that matter).

Fred Thompson came a cross as a convincing president, but nothing to make you jump up and cheer. No fire. His negative ad went over like a lead balloon. It was inappropriate for the occasion.

Rudy Giuliani opened poorly by attacking Romney for his alleged "sanctuary mansion." He seemed petty and disingenuous. The mention of the Politico story on his misuse of public funds for his adulterous trysts with Judith Nathan was a nasty foretaste of what was all over the newspapers this morning, and may grow to larger proportions in the months to come. Why do they do these things?

Lastly, let me note that a very scary looking fellow confronted the candidates on whether the believed every word of the Bible to be the word of God, holding up a black leather Bible, presumably King James Version. Those who answered -- Romney, Giuliani and Huckabee -- did a pretty good job, though Romney seemed to choke on the phrase "every word" (my godly little 8 year old girl asked, "Why is that so hard to say?"). But they should have objected to the question itself, even to the manner in which it was asked. (There was similar moment in the Democrat debate. See "The Dignity Issue...and Courage.") There was a menacing tone to it. Do we require this of our nominee, not only that he support Christian moral positions, not only that he profess the Christian faith, not only still that he convince us that he is born again, but even that he believe that every word of the Bible is literally true? And if he asks what exactly that means, he clearly cannot be trusted with public authority. In a country where evangelical Christians are a minority, that is simply delusional. We should thank the Lord of mercy that we have as much influence as we do in one of the two parties, and work prudently and winsomely to secure liberty for godliness and to make the world as good as we can for ourselves and our neighbors.


Dilawar Khan said...

So how do we foster a sense of responsibility amongst individuals? It appears the biggest draw for voters is to hear government officials pledge government resources to alleviate their problems.

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David C. Innes said...

Well, if things were as bad as you state it here, we would be a socialist mess like France. There is still a manly spirit of liberty in this country. That is something to which wise leadership as we saw in Ronald Reagan can appeal. Those appeals can also come from a plethora of voluntary associations (AEI, ISI, Heritage, LibertyFund, The King's College, Hillsdale College, wise educators like YOU etc.) devoted to educating their neighbors and their neighbors' children. Eternal vigilance, Mr Khan!

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