September 13, 2011

MSNBC debate vs. CNN debate

Political theater! That truly is the best way to describe what we are seeing in these two debates. In the first debate it was not about the candidates against each other, it was about the candidates presenting a unified front against the network. In last night's debate the priority seemed to shift into high drama with maximum entertainment value. They sparred, they tossed mild insults, and while they stopped short of mudslinging (except for one accusation of "treason"), they still bickered over constitutionalism and the meaning of "conservative".

Last night Romney and Perry went back and forth over healthcare, but in the end, Michelle Bachman made them both look like big government holdouts walking in the footsteps of Woodrow Wilson and FDR. Jon Huntsman was less a candidate than a petty troll slinging accusations of "tyrant" and "treason" and in my opinion coming off less savory because of it. Huntsman was a particular disappointment last night. During the MSNBC debate he came across presidential, referring over and over again to his many successes as governor of Utah. Last night he referred to his role as governor from time to time, but spent most of his short outbursts denigrating the other candidates.

Rick Perry came out poorly last night as well. While he avoided the gentle buffoonery that was both endearing and annoying and won G.W.Bush both of his elections, he still came across more misplaced cowboy than serious candidate. Every single one of the other seven candidates brought up his use of an Executive Order to force twelve year-old girls in Texas to receive the HPV vaccine, pointing out that not ony did it violate the rights of both parents and the girls, it made millions for his friends at Merck. Perry did apologize and stated that his use of an Executive Order was misguided, but his attempts to defend himself against Michelle Bachman's, "as a mother of three daughters" stance were weak and quite frankly, buffoonish in a very bad way.

Herman Cain went back to his career in business over and over again. Offering detailed examples of genuine solutions to severe problems with over-regulation and over-taxation. Until Newt Gingrich brought up GE's CEO sharing the podium with President Obama during the address to the joint session of Congress last Friday and reminding everyone that GE not only received $5 billion in federal money in 2010, they paid $0 in taxes. Newt definitely came out looking the most educated and polished of all eight candidates, but lacked the Tea Party resonance of both Bachman and Cain.

In the end, Herman Cain and Michelle Bachman ruled the night, but neither came across as perfect. Probably a good thing, actually. After Barack Obama's polished, slick, messianic campaign in 2007-2008, any candidate who looks too perfect will immediately be accused of hiding something. Every candidate on the stage came across as a flawed champion of some kind, but the flaws each exhibited were different. The only candidate who may have sunk their own ship last night was Huntsman with his "treason" remark. That definitely stank of sour grapes. Likewise, Romney and Perry pretty much sank each other with their constant bitter sparring. In the end the only thing they really achieved was to make one another both seem like big government, central-planning professional politicians having more appeal with Democrats than Republicans.

The differences between the two debates are what I found the most disturbing. Those differences left me feeling both debates were scripted, staged events rather than genuine intellectual comparisons of dissimilar platforms. I have not felt this deeply suspicious of the entire American political process since the Bush vs. Gore campaign of 2000. Even worse, before last night I had begun to feel we had finally returned to a real campaign with real people competing to prove their worth to lead our nation. This sudden sense of deja vu is profoundly disturbing for me.

I'll still vote when the primary rolls around on May 8th here in Ohio. Come November, I'll still vote against Barack Obama, even if by some bizarre, nightmarish miracle Ron Paul sweeps the primary. I'm no longer certain, however, that we can reverse the grinding, relentless trend toward a one world dictatorship. This is a very uncomfortable place for me to be. It is a place I haven't been since I shook Jim Renacci's hand at the 2008 Wayne County Fair and hit him with direct questions about upcoming votes on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Last night's debate left me feeling we have moved one step back in the direction of a Biblical armaggeddon rather than one step further away.