Sunday, January 06, 2008

Degrees of separation

In reviewing the Repub debate from Saturday night it's obvious that none of them really stand out in all areas. Too bad we can't elect them all and delegate duties.

For instance, I agree with Ron Paul's fear that a tamper-proof national ID card for illegal aliens will eventually spread to the rest of the population. I also agree with his take on free market solutions to problems (rather than a nanny state) and he came across as quite sensible on the health care issue.

Mike Huckabee's notion that strengthening the family and having a strong moral underpinning based in part on the Declaration of Independence made a lot of sense. None of the front burner issues really matter a whit if America's core goes rotten.

As to terrorism, Rudy once again got Paul on his heels by explaining that Islamic extremism was around long before we moved to the "bunker" and became "arrogant". More than any other candidate, Rudy understands the meaning of the term "never surrender, never forget". We are fast closing on the same length of time between the first and second attacks on the WTC--8 1/2 years--and just like before, many have now relegated terrorism to the back burner. We can't dwell on it but at the same time we can't pretend it's not there, as have some of the Democrats.

Fred's seasoned performance showed wisdom. He didn't get flustered and showed a sense of subtle humor. We are electing a commander-in-chief/chief executive officer who's expected to be cool under stress, therefore it seems we might want to look closely at how a candidate responds to stress (such as a debate) by keying on their non-verbals and judgment. Fred was strong in that area.

John McCain made sense on holding the line in Iraq--he knows from experience what the outcome of a retreat would be, especially with an enemy not satisfied with keeping their ideology within their own house. He was right about the surge and has been pretty much right about Iraq all along despite what others have said, which shows leadership. He's also the only one who actually served in combat.

Mitt's sense of practical business sense came through loud and clear. One doesn't last long in that arena if one doesn't show results. But at the same time capital doesn't grow on trees and shouldn't be thrown away wastefully if the return isn't like to be there. His reply that energy independence was probably not achievable in ten years was practical and suggests he's not prone to demagoguing the issue for the sake of populism. That's going to be key down the road because the Democrats are using the concept of human-induced global warming as a lever to move control of energy and other industries under the thumb of Uncle Sam.

One of the highlights that didn't get much national exposure occurred right before Mitt's answer above, when Fred was asked to comment on high oil company profits, which produced a moment of clarity. Here's the exchange (which begins with Paul's take):

In case you can't watch, Huck was asked about our energy future and suggested a "dramatic billion dollar bonus" (incentive) for the first person to develop a car that gets 100 mpg, to which Fred sharply asked whether a windfall profits tax would also apply there. Moments before he had been asked about high oil company profits, so the retort was an effective smackdown of the reporter's clear intent to introduce class warfare. He didn't for one second stray from his principles to score a quick populist point, and while that might not win him the office, it's the kind of clear, quick and unwavering thinking that would certainly come in handy in the Oval Office.

So who gets the nod? I thought Huckabee didn't do well. Giuliani and Thompson came up a few notches and McCain and Romney sort of canceled each other out. In the final analysis it seems we need to determine what's more important in a president--is it promises, good hair, ability to provide good sound bites, a track record, past business and private sector success, religious and moral underpinnings, communication abilities in front of the camera, elect-ability against a Democrat, or practical common sense? Who has the most?

Well, this debate did nothing to clear up that question for me (aside from Paul, who gets the boot for not understanding foreign policy). Onward to the next debate.

No comments: