Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sick From It

Last night, if you were like most Americans, you may have watched Survivor, or a sporting event. You may have gone out to dinner, or attended a religious function. Hopefully, you enjoyed yourself.

The only people who probably did what we did last night were being paid to do it - and technically, one of our staff WAS being paid to do it, so we hope he enjoyed his job.

"It", sadly, was watching the umpteenth - officially, the twentieth - GOP Presidential debate. Like drinking too much, when knowing what will happen later, the night began with jokes about what the four men would say during the debate - and felt like a familiar hangover before it was done.

In a nushell, the debate wasn't much different from many that have gone before. There were a few moments where one candidate or another said something in a particular way that clued you in to the idea that their campaign staff had scripted the response for conservative radio play today - but there weren't any iconic moments.

Rick Santorum came under heavy fire from the very beginning - and he quite obviously cracked. His answer on a favorite target of Republicans over the last few years - earmarks - was far more convoluted than most Americans can understand. It made Santorum look like he's in favor of earmarks - which, by his own words and history, he is.

Santorum's position on contraception was even more convoluted, and when he was challenged by Mitt Romney, he seemed to twist himself into a pretzel. Santorum's attempt to turn the subject into one focused on Romneycare fell flat, and the audience didn't seem to be buying what Rick was selling most of the night. His defense of his record was embarrassingly bad. Santorum also remained unapologetic about his extreme right-wing views on social issues, which garnered less crowd support than we thought it would.

Mitt Romney, while occasionally looking aggressive and irritated, hit Santorum as strongly as he's hit others previously when they've challenged Romney's status as GOP frontrunner. In general, Romney appeared to be the most prepared of the group - and moderator John King seemed to go to Romney less than we thought he might, especially in the second half of the debate.

Ron Paul continued his soft glove approach on Romney, while taking some solids shots at Mr. Santorum. He even cracked a few surprisingly well-recieved jokes. Like he has in previous debates, Congressman Paul's take on Israel - and war in general - seemed to rile up the crowd a bit, both in positive and negative ways.

"Grandpa Newt", the more "cheerful" side of Mr. Gingrich, seemed to be in control during most of the debate, as he kept a positive attitude, while generally letting Romney and Santorum both seem aggressive and frustrated at times. Of course, Gingrich wasn't all hearts and flowers, as he got in his prerequisite slam against the media. Other than cheering Newt's ding at moderator John King about asking the birth control question, the crowd in Arizona didn't seem to be responding to Ginrich's comments as strongly as other crowds at previous debates have done in the past.

All four men often turned questions they were obviously uncomfortable dealing with into ways to attack President Obama, on a variety of topics. Unsurprisingly, on issues of immigration, foreign policy, Israel, Iran, and even women in combat, the candidates seemed to be very good at pulling out quotes and positions of their rivals, without directly pointing out which of the other men on the stage they were attacking. At times, they even agreed with each other.

At the end of the debate, it was clear to us, and apparently most people, that there were no winners on that stage in Arizona last night. Even noted Republican pundit George Will said that neither of the GOP's two strongest challengers - Romney and Santorum - "looks like a formidable candidate for November."

In short, President Obama won the debate last night - and he didn't even have to step on the stage.

Now please don't ask us to watch one of those so-called debates again, for a while. We've had more than enough of that kind of experience. We have a feeling many Republicans out there are sharing our sick feeling right now - though we're willing to bet we'll be feeling better by fall. Unfortunately, for our Republican friends, we have a feeling their despondence and nausea may well continue well past this November.

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