Poor Newtie (that's his mom's name for him, not mine). As the first GOP "debates" (the news channel's name for them, not mine) were winding down on MSNBC, Newtie was telling Sean Hannity on rival Fox News he thought it absurd to hold what amounted to a "joint press conference" (NOT a debate) some 20 months before the next president moves into the oval office. Newtie appeared to be turning a bit green. All of the attention was on announced candidates and there was Newtie, still with no hat in the ring, grumbling like a small child running home to blubber, "Nobody wants to play with ME!" Of course not, stupid. You're not running yet.
All the same, these introductory chit chats really do seem not only premature but calculatedly civil. Like the Dems before them, the announced GOP candidates avoided jibes at each other; unlike the Dems, none of them dared criticize the current occupant of the White House, AWOL from some village missing an idiot. To paraphrase an old Marlon Brando movie, the assembled hacks at the GOP "debate" "coulda been contenders," but they were too busy pretending that all is right with the world, that nothing in American is broken, so there's no use in talking about having anything fixed.
There was a decidedly Christer tone to the proceedings. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) said that the reason politics and religion should mix is that "religion influences all of us. We all have values...." It is a perennial complaint of agnostics and atheists from Huxley to Harris (with Madalyn Murray O'Hair thrown in) that this observation carries an inherent argument that if one is not religious, one has no values. Although a fairly obvious fallacy, it's nevertheless one most TV audiences are not likely to grasp.
But that was the least of the logical fallacies. Indeed, one of the worst was delivered by the hands-down (if unofficial) winner of the debate, Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney. Discussing his flip-flopping on abortion, Romney said that he was pro-choice until he got enmeshed in the controversy over stem cell research in his home state, Massachusetts. Stem cell research, he said, "was caused by Roe v. Wade"! I kid you not. He actually said it!
Of all the preposterous foreign policy positions of the night, one "took the cake": Rep. Tom Tancredo's insistence that sending troops into Iran was inevitable because Ahmadinejad believes in the return of the "Last Imam," who will bring about the Islamic equivalent of the Second Coming. (The 12th Imam of the Shiites, Ali ibn Muhammad Simmari, is sometimes referred to as the"Hidden Imam," and many believe he did not die but will return, Jesus-like, in the Shiite version of the Apocalypse.)
This religious-based "fear" of Iran is central to the beliefs of such ultra-fundamentalist groups as the Remnant Church, which you can google if you want to have nightmares. Many ultra-evangelical organizations are in a hurry to bring about World War III because, just as Jihadists see suicidal martyrdom as a swift trip to Paradise, so do the fundies view Armageddon as a promise of their just desserts. It's sickening to think that an Apocalyptic War to the death might be waged over differing eschatological beliefs. (Me, I kinda like living in the here and now, and I wish the Tancredos of this world would simply disappear , and take their goddamned fucking Rapture with them!)
In view of Tancredo's credo, it shouldn't be a bit surprising that when a reader of Politico.com sent in a question to Sen. John McCain asking if he believed in evolution, he hesitated noticeably before admitting that he did. But when the same inquiry was put to all the other candidates on the dais, three said no, that they did not believe in evolution. Naturally, one of them was Tancredo, but it surprised me that Fmr. Gov. Huckabee of Arkansas agreed; he's appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, hardly a seeming haven for creationists. (It did not surprise me at all that Brownback held up his hand. See my earlier blog about this lunatic.)
Until he back-tracked from social liberalism to quasi-conservatism in an obvious effort to curry the GOP right wing base, I had some hope that Rudy Giuliani (fmr. mayor, N.Y.C.) might be someone I could support, at least in the primaries. But his performance during the debates was pathetic. Not only did he join the phoney homage-payment to Ronald Reagan (I kept expecting someone to quip, "I knew Ronald Reagan, Governor, and you're no Ronald Reagan"), he delivered the most preposterous remark of the night when we finally negotiated release of hostages taken from our embassy in Tehran, their Iranian captors took one look into Reagan's eyes and released their hostages two minutes later.
Yeah, sure, but only after Lt.-Col. Oliver North's little White House basement operation put lies to Ronnie's promises to Americans that there would be "no arms for hostages." Is this the kind of president Giuliani will be? Will he conveniently forget important events and/or statements when the chips are down, as Scooter Libby learned from Reagan?
Worse, Giuliani came off as both slippery and ingnorant. He could not adequantely explain the historic differences between the Sunnis and the Shiites. After five years of Iraqi War, degenerated now into a sectarian battle of attrition, that Giuliani is so poorly versed in Islanic history shows a weakness in foreign policy issues that, increasingly, determine the course for America's future. We can't have another man who needs on-the-job training. Even Hillary would have the edge in that department.
The only candidate who emerged as someone I could cross party lines and votes for in the primary is Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a libertarian Republican whose views hark back in some ways to Goldwater. He is a fiscal conservative, which is good. But when it comes to government's involvement in quotidian, purely personal matters (e.g. abortion), he is a hand's-off individualist. It's a throw-away vote, of course, but worth it all the same.
The participants, for the record:
Fmr. Gov. James Gilmore (R.-Va.); Fmr. Mayor Rudy Giuliana (R.-N.Y.C.); Fmr. Gov. Mike Huckabee (R.-Ark.); Rep. Duncan Hunter (R.-Cal.); Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.); Rep. Ron Paul (R.-Tex.); Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney (R.-Mass.); Rep. Tom Tancredo (R.-Col.), and Fmr. Gov. Tommy Thompson (R.-Wis.).