By James White
Last night was the first of many Republican debates, and it was worth mentioning for several reasons.
Only five candidates showed for the event. Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Gary Johnson were the ones that made the trip to Greenville, South Carolina, and most of these contenders aren’t really considered to be the “heavyweights” of the Republican party. Most notable by their absences were Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Michelle Bachman (whose performance I was especially looking forward to!). Another aspect of the contest was that it was hosted by Fox News, which I’m sure is a surprise to everyone that they hosted the first Republican debate. The best feature of this debate was that it gave the opportunity for candidates to be heard that would otherwise be drowned out during other debates and news cycles.
The questions ranged from foreign affairs to the economy to how the candidates felt about the big names that weren’t there that evening. Yep, that last one was actually a round of questions. It was Fox’s way of saying, “We don’t really like you guys, so let’s talk about the people we really want to see.” The answers were largely the standard talking points and backtracking that you can see on any news interview. The only person that didn’t spend a lot of time doing either was Ron Paul. As always, Congressman Paul knew exactly where he stood on the issues and answered each question with his usual enthusiasm and zeal. Herman Cain didn’t spend a lot of time backtracking since he has not yet held public office. He did make sure to run down the Republican checklist though. Rick Santorum showed his strength by giving the standard conservative spiel. Tim Pawlenty spent his time trying to make himself distinct from Santorum, but still sound the same. He also had to backtrack a couple of times when he was nailed on previous statements. During all of this, Gary Johnson had a hard time being taken seriously, but he was the only other candidate besides Ron Paul that sounded like he had ideas of his own.
Those were my initial impressions of the event. So, who is the winner? So far, none of them. Ron Paul seemed to be the only one with conviction, but he will never carry a Republican ticket. Rick Santorum sounded presidential, but between his stance on torture and his desire to continue Bush policies, he also sounded like a truly frightening possibility. Pawlenty came across as Santorum-lite, while Gary Johnson sounded like Ron Paul-lite. Johnson also had a deer in the headlight look, his nervousness coming across in his gestures and his voice. Herman Cain was apparently, according to Fox News and talk radio, the breakthrough star, although his unwillingness to answer questions and decision to put off any decision making until he actually becomes President makes me wonder how so many people were impressed.
There were two things about this debate that really made me want to discuss this, and they both revolve around Ron Paul and the way he is treated by conservatives. The first thing was Chris Wallace’s complete disrespect toward the congressman. After Ron Paul answers the first question from Chris Wallace, the audience applauds, as was often the case during the night. Wallace rolls his eyes. Seriously, he rolls his eyes. I have viewed this clip several times, and I honestly cannot tell you if he is rolling them in response to Ron Paul, his supporters, or the fact that someone had the audacity to interrupt Chris Wallace. Once again, we see that the only people that would ever accuse Fox News of being “fair and balanced” are the people at Fox News.
The other thing that caught my attention was the after party at Fox and on talk radio. Everyone bragged on Herman Cain’s performance. They also spent time trying to pump up Rick Santorum, who appears to be their golden boy so far. But nobody mentioned Ron Paul. He wasn’t interviewed after the debate and he wasn’t mentioned on the talk stations.
Why is that? Could it be that “conservatives” don’t like someone that will actually limit the government? Remember, these are strong tea party supporters like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Or at least they say that they are. The problem comes down this. Republicans will not support anyone that will not continue their same old ideas. Look at the treatment of John McCain in the last election. He was slammed by his own party because he was a moderate. He was destroyed by the pundits who make their living from propping up Republican ideals. And then he was blamed for losing the election. The same thing is happening to Ron Paul, only this will be the second time in a row he has had to deal with this negative attention, or no attention, from the right.
The answer to this problem is simple, and I have come a long way to get to this point. Ron Paul needs to split from his party and stand with Libertarians. He needs to help form a strong third party that truly stands for the ideals of this country, not the ideology of a party. The Republicans will churn out the same sort of candidate you have seen before. They will churn out the same candidate you have voted against and have watched take us down a road that erodes our personal freedoms, increases our debts, and involves us in wars that we cannot get out of.
And before you start to think that you still have an option at the voting booth, this describes Democrats just as much. The only option at this point is a third option, one that considers the American people and the documents that forged this nation into the greatest the world has ever seen. That does not refer to might and power, as some would have you believe. It is the freedom and liberty that we recognize as undeniable, it is the respect that we give and therefore receive, and it is the understanding that only by being true to ourselves can we continue to achieve.
You can read this and more of James White’s writings and rantings at his blog, Lone Madman in a Crazy World.
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