Saturday, January 05, 2008

The New Hampshire Debates

The big thing that struck me: the Republicans are in some other bizarre universe. Their notions of healthcare, in particular, are astounding, and their understanding of the threat from radical Islam is so shallow and so very, very dangerous. In no particular order, here are other things I came away with:

Mitt Romney: What an asshole.

Fred Thompson: I think he's still "playing" candidate; we hear him using buzzwords, but we don't really hear him elucidating either clear understandings of the issues or workable solutions.

Ron Paul: It really is an outrage that FOX is excluding him from the upcoming debate; he received twice as many votes in Iowa as Rudy Giuliani, and he's 400 times as smart. But I guess when your foreign policy isn't being dictated by Podhoretz and Kristol, this is the price you pay. It was a relief to hear someone on that stage -- incidentally, the only one from either party -- speak honestly about the complex issues in the war on terror, and about America's need to examine its own culpability for the mess we find ourselves in. But then...the gold standard? For real?

John McCain: Of the Republicans, he really is the best option. But that's not saying very much.

Rudy Giuliani: Wow. Scary. He really has no idea what he's talking about. His answers on healthcare and foreign policy were drawn from fantasy-land. It simply is not true that the United States has the best healthcare in the industrialized world; that is not borne out by the evidence. And then he made a very bizzare assertion that yes, private health insurance is very expensive, but if we could just get 50,000,000 Americans to buy it, the cost would go down. Isn't that an argument in favor of group insurance instead of private coverage? He also just clearly does not understand what's happening in Iraq or what motivates Al Qaeda or anything else going on in the Middle East.

Mike Huckabee: Okay, you know, he may have some unenlightened theological positions and he may very well have cooked squirrels in a popcorn popper, but, I take back my claim from the last post. His Evangelical beliefs are not all he has going for him. Of all the Republican candidates, he's the only nice one. I mean, McCain and Paul have their charm and I don't think they're evil, but Huckabee's fun. And he may be a hick from Punkin' Crick or wherever, but he is far more articulate and confidence-inspiring -- and therefore, presumably smarter -- than Romney, Thompson or Giuliani. Sincerity and plain-spokenness go a long way. He absolutely shamed Romney and Giuliani tonight. He speaks to where people are. He is the only one wanting to take up the mantle of public advocate.

Bill Richardson: Well, here's the foreign policy gaffe of the year, so far: he said he'd negotiate with the Soviet Union. He also said he'd focus on "emboldering" the American people, which at first I balked at, but then I looked it up and discovered it was a perfectly cromulent word. He scored major points by admitting he was wrong to say Whizzer White was his favorite Supreme Court justice.

Hillary Clinton: She had her moments; moderator Charlie Gibson set her up for a "gotcha" when he compared her initial opposition to the Petraeus "surge" to the reduction in violence it has achieved, but she knocked that one out of the park when she said, in essence, yes, but it hasn't achieved its stated goal because the Iraqi government has not taken advantage of the reduction in violence to start governing, and in that light, the deaths of "only" 23 Americans in December is "unacceptable." Brava. But...early on there was a question about her "experience" versus Obama's "change" and she bordered on meltdown. Honestly, I thought we were about one deep breath away from a teary tantrum. I was a little scared. And over and over and over, she kept talking about her "35 years" of experience. She's been a senator since 2001. Before that...I am unclear as to what she's referring. When asked about her accomplishments that pointed to her being an agent of change, she talked about how "President Clinton" balanced the budget after the 12 year Reagan-Bush economic disaster. Hmm. Hadn't realized that was her idea. Mostly she spent the evening transparently attempting to misrepresent Senator Obama's positions. None of her punches landed.

Charlie Gibson: Okay, he's not running, but his claim that a professor at a New England liberal arts college makes a six-figure salary was laughed at by the audience.

John Edwards: I thought he did very well; I certainly agree with his populist positions, but...I don't know, I just don't see him as President. I think he is a great advocate for the people, and I hope the next President finds a useful role for him.

Barack Obama: He's in a league of his own. Panic was just below the surface of every single one of Clinton's answers, but Obama was calm and cool all night long. Articulate, concise, respectful of his colleagues, forceful but not bombastic...what's not to love? His only unsatisfactory answer of the evening was when he chose to follow Clinton's lead and refused to identify a remark he'd made from an earlier debate that he'd like to take back. Both Edwards and Richardson benefited from their candor. He was right to politely emphasize that any one of these folks would offer a major change from the Bush administration, but what was clear (and did not need to be said) was that Hillary represents politics as usual; do we really want to return to the acrimony of the Clinton years? Remember the definition of "is"? America wants to move on. Yes, I'm biased, but, wow...I really want Obama to be the face that America presents to the world next year.


Marc said...

True on most every point! But for the Dems: yes Barack is very polished, very charming, quite articulate and he had some good points. He is a very likable man. However, I find his lack of experience in international dealings to be a roadblock.

The mess that the current presidency has put us in requires that the incoming president must be able to hit the ground running on everything, not just health insurance and foreign policy. Experience is absolutely necessary.

Regardless of the length of experience she claims (hell, Al Gore claimed to invent the Internet, and that was bullshit and I knew it, and I still voted for him), Hillary has experience that Barack does not: eight years of experience being in the White House, not just as a First Lady, but as someone who was involved in leadership. She also had almost twelve years of experience in the governor's mansion in Little Rock, which, granted, isn't Washington, but it is political experience that Barack doesn't have. Even if she wasn't the boss then, she had input - even more there than in Washington.

And a very important point, which only Hillary answered correctly in my opinion, is when asked about what would be done if a nuclear weapon was used on the U.S. from foreign parties, whether state or non-state in nature - and she clearly and unapologetically stated that we would retaliate; if from a state or country, then on that state or country; and if a state was known to be harboring the criminals, then demanding their compliance to resolve the situation or face retaliation themselves. That is the position that must be taken if America is to regain the strength, dignity, and respect from the world that it has lost under the current regime.

But to me, Hillary's secret weapon is that she brings with her someone who has had the experience of the Presidency who will be able to serve as advisor and confidante to her; someone who ran the country more effectively and under whose leadership the country's debt mess left by the prior 50 years was cleaned up; someone who was good with foreign relations. And though she hasn't used him as a selling tool (because she is not about to let anyone see that it's anyone's campaign but her own), he is definitely a major asset to her, and one reason I think she is a better choice than any of the other candidates.

I sincerely hope that America does not vote with its emotions, but uses real sense when entering the polling booth. We (liberals) are so anxious to choose the antithesis of the current president, and are so intent on change (which some think Hillary would not bring because she has been in the White House before) that we're looking everywhere for a replacement...and Obama certainly has some of the surface characteristics to make people think he can bring it...but it's going to take a lot more than a handsome face and a calm manner...and I just don't see that much experience backing him up.

kay* said...

very articulate summary of the debates...i enjoyed reading your comments

I disagree tho, that Edwards isnt "Presidential". I feel he is the only canditate with the intelligent savvy to truly bring smart, fresh changes, as well as has the experience in various ways to know how to accomplish them. I'm personally hoping for a Edwards-Obama ticket. Obama is no doubt intelligent, inspiring and a great political orator....but i'd really like to see him have at least 4 years of "seasoning" as VP. (and this way we get 16 yrs of smart fresh Democratic rule :)(& which is what i feel it'll take to clean up the messes of Geo Jr's horrendous tenure)

I agree that Hillary went shrill --which showed her true colours. She keeps trying to portray herself as this cool & poised person, but actually has a tempermental, sarcastic essence. She is a great strategist tho, and would better serve this country by continuing in the senate and strengthing the democratic coalition (kennedy cant last forever)

I will admit that Edwards hasnt as yet been as Kinetic as he was in 2004; his wife's terminal illness has understandably taken him back abit. But i found him hitting his stride again last night, demonstrating his powers of analysis, detailed practical aspects to issues, yet with the optimistic possibities of change, and how to get there...

Edwards will carry the south, and Obama will bring along the newly inspired voters. This is the combination we need in this country. Especially against a Huckabee-McCain ticket (what i see as being the Republican nominees). I like Huckabee very much, even if i dont agree with many of his positions. He is the best at communicating complex issues, will appeal to the Republicans evangelical base, yet will be a fresh face without baggage for his party. And McCain will bring a needed gravitas & reasoned experience (but he's a little too burned out to carry the nomination himself)

Edwards-Obama is the only team that can truly heal this fractured country and our estranged relation to the rest of the world, solve the enormous problems that face the next presidency, and deal with the critical issues that have too long been ignored by the previous administration.

thankyou for listening to my imput...i look froward to reading more of your insights

Andy said...

Marc, you know I respect your opinion, and thank you for your detailed comment!

Experience can be an asset, but it's useless without judgment. And for all her experience, when it came down to it, Hillary made the wrong choice on the fundamental decision of the 21st century so far. I like Barack's foreign policy answers, and also remember when he's president, he's not going to be making decisions in a vacuum. This is someone who's going to have smart, trusted people giving him straight information.

Look at who Obama has advising him on foreign policy at the moment, and look at who Hillary has: she's surrounded herself with people who thought and still think Iraq was a good idea. Experience?? If she hasn't learned from THIS experience, then she's definitely not qualified.

Gino said...

ah, it looks like andy may be ready to join the ron paul bandwagon after all.

really, if you hear his thoughts and defense of his positions against out current monetary system, you would agree. economic freedom means your money actually has a real value, and not just the value the govt says it has.

as for the hick from punkin crick: actually,he's the dope from hope. (yeah, another one)

Jeff said...

As I've said before, I'm torn between Clinton and Obama.

But I'll repeat what I said on your last post: there's a difference between voting for a war and initiating a war in the first place. Hillary Clinton did vote to enable the Iraq war, but had she been president in 2000, we would never have gone into Iraq in the first place. And after Iraq, I don't think we'll have another president start a reckless war in a long, long time.

As for un-reckless wars, even Obama would be willing to go into Pakistan; I don't see how that would differ so much from Hillary.

DJRainDog said...

Ah, I love your summation of Romney. It's so...complete. ;-)

little-cicero said...

Your words about Romney are certainly complete insofar as that it your impression of him, but might it point to the fact that you also find him too intelligent to smear on intellect or ideas. Obviously if you walk into a party and see Romney and Huckabee (or Obama) on opposite sides of the room, most of us will want to be on the side across from Romney. Likeability is the easiest thing to fake in politics (look at Hilary's emotional growth in the past 48 hours- reminds one of Roger Clemens' physical growth over 48 hours). I will say it again- this country's government is more of a failing corporation than a waning congregation.

sexy said...