Last night on CNN, the 4 remaining Republican candidates sat around a table in the Regan Library and “answered” reporters questions. Three of the four mostly replied to the questions choosing instead to insert some prepared remarks that said little or nothing. Only Ron Paul gave clear and unambiguous answers to the questions. Here are some observations.
1. Mitt Romney looked and acted the most presidential of the four. He strongly denied accusations from John McCain but never resorted to “child to parent” behavior and maintained a cool but sincere demeanor.
2. John McCain did not look very presidential and often when the question was being answered to another, and the camera caught McCain in its view, you could see him sneering at the answer. You could almost read his mind saying, “you silly ass fool (insert Mike, Ron, or Mitt depending upon who was talking)”. I think this is a strong clue on whether McCain has the character to listen to dissenting views and truly keep an open mind. Warning… we have one of those now and he is a disaster!
3. Mike Huckabee was all over the map. His appearance and demeanor were reasonable and fully in control. Never the less you could see he was disgusted with the allocation of questions (time on air) that highly favored Romney and McCain.
4. Ron Paul was fully in control and patient. He seemed to know and accept that he would get the least amount of air time. I guess he thought that just being there was great since Dennis Kucinich will not make the cut tonight.
5. Mitt offered a measure of hope in his answer to questions on immigration and ending the Iraq War. Of course he danced around both issues but reading between the lines he expressed logical and humanitarian views on immigration and potentially if he were to become President, he could sell the case that there is no way to return 12-14 million undocumented aliens so there better be some pathway to citizenship (or at least documentation). With respect to the war, he did not bite on the “we will be there 100 years” and rather insisted on doing things orderly and without a time line. Since Romney is a good business man, he at least knows that the value add of Iraq is a large negative number.
6. McCain used his basic stump speech lines as often as he could. He has always been a leader so he can run the Government. He has always been strong on defense so he knows what’s best in Iraq. He was a foot soldier for Regan so he clearly knows the conservative’s values. There was no explanation of a justification for the war but rather simply “I supported our President”, implying the President knew what he was doing (and we know that is not the case). There were no ideas on what to do with those without healthcare coverage nor were their any ideas on how to get the economy’s fundamentals going again. (that is the beauty of the conservative line, “get out of the way and let the people do it”. While partially true (and certainly true up to the 1990’s), we will need much more coordination of science and math education, and investment in infrastructure to fuel a rebirth of American value creation in today’s world.)
7. Ron Paul is unsuited to become President but he was the most honest and clearest speaker. To the question of whether our troops should stay in Iraq 100 Years, he said that was the wrong question. Paul said, “they should never have gone in the first place, there were no WMD and no links to 9/11 or al Qaeda, and Congress never issued a Declaration of War”. In Paul’s view, the war is illegal and unconstitutional. If the candidates had debated that subject, all of American could have learned something.
8. Huckabee is also a complex candidate. He speaks foolishly and unproductively about God, religion and morality (like apple pie and motherhood) and recommends doing away with the IRS. Then he speaks practically and realistically about how to fix education, immigration, and government in general. It sounds as if Mike is bi-polar with opposing extremes around God and common sense.
The Republicans have a real problem with respect to unifying their party. It looks like the best bet now is McCain but he clearly is not liked by all Republicans. (In this sense he is like Hillary). Romney has not kissed enough back sides (or done it well enough) to gain the broader support of the big Republican hitters. Watch to see who Karl Rove supports to learn where the consensus will settle. The even larger problem is how they will debate the Democratic candidate with the economy broken, the poor and rich more separated than ever, and the Iraq War which makes no sense at all still going.
Mike Huckabee will need a plan B after super Tuesday. He has never had much money and he will have less then. As always, the VP spot is his best hope. Ron Paul could continue as a Republican candidate and keep them honest, or he could consider running as a 3rd party candidate. Time will tell but having his clear voice on the War will be a service to the nation.