30 November, 2007

Republican YouTube Debate

As I watched parts of the most recent Republican debate, I am struck by several things:

1) The Republican candidates are all very different from one another. If you want Franco and Pinochet rolled into one, go with Giuliani; for Reaganesque stature and confidence, take Thompson; for the neighborly Christian, you have Huckabee; crazies get Ron Paul; gun-toting border vigilantes can choose between Tancredo and Hunter. If none of these presidential archetypes appeals to you, there's Romney, the substanceless smooth-talker. And McCain's campaign is pretty much dead.

The Democrats don't appear to have these differences. I think this is because their debate is focused on policy wonkery, while the Republican debate is focused on appearances. Each Republican candidate has a very different persona, while the Democrats are very close on policy issues. So, the Democrats seem much less varied than the Republicans. Note that the Republicans are also quite heterogeneous on the issues. They never debate them, so it doesn't matter. But imagine a Democratic debate that was all about character. Obama would blow it away. The focus on policy, on the other hand, works strongly in Hillary's favor.

2) Most of the Republican candidates are repugnant and despicable. Half of them are base, calculating politicians, the other half are at least honest in expressing their xenophobic, homophobic, jingoistic views. Does anyone seriously believe a word that comes out of Romney's mouth? Or Giuliani's? No? Then why are they still the frontrunners?

3) Why is Chuck Norris there? Huckabee must be very serious about his publicity stunts.

4) This debate forced the Republicans to answer a lot of questions that cultural liberals would ask. There was a very poignant moment when a retired general who was gay asked about the candidates' views on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It was fascinating to watch the candidates awkwardly squirm when it turned out the questioner was in the audience as well as on video. Duncan Hunter explained that most men and women in our armed forces are conservative, and homosexuals make conservatives uncomfortable. Seriously?

(Oddly, in CNN's archive of clips from the debate, each video's title is the question that was asked...except for this one, which just reads "A gay Brigadier General asks a question". Apparently it doesn't matter what the question actually was.)

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