And now to the Republican debate on MSNBC last night, for which I want to give the same kind of performance analysis as I did for the Democratic debate last week - that is, how presidentially the candidates presented themselves, as distinct from whether or not I agree with their positions.
Except — I just have to say — did you see that three Republicans raised their hands to signify that they did not believe in evolution? And, once again, the camera did not move in close enough. From what I could see, it wasn't Giuliani or McCain and I'm pretty sure it wasn't Romney at the other end. But three others Republican candidates did raise their hands. (They have been identified as Sen. Sam Brownback, Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Rep. Tom Tancredo.) The mind boggles - I thought for a second I was watching The Tudors, except then it would have been more entertaining...
As for the rest of the debate: the three front-runners — Giuliani, McCain, and Romney (currently in the descending order in the polls) — did fine. There were no real upsets there. Giuliani could have been a little more dynamic, and perhaps lost a bit of ground to McCain. Mitt Romney certainly looked and sounded the best, in terms of the Democratic JFK standard. But if I had to pick a winner, I'd say McCain by a hair over Giuliani, with Romney very impressive.
I've often indicated my admiration for the constitutionality of Ron Paul, and it was a pleasure to hear him talk about the need for declarations of war tonight, and the importance he places on freedom of expression. But he's not a dynamic speaker, and I think the best we can hope for regarding Dr. Paul is that whoever is next President of the United States appoint Ron Paul to some important cabinet position where he can remind us, more effectively than as Congressman, of the need for our government to adhere to the Constitution.
And a last point about the media, and in particular its presentation of this debate: although I like Chris Matthews as an interviewer on his MSNBC Hardball show, I was annoyed with the way he cut off so many of the candidates' answers. The American people would have been better served by a debate that ran a few minutes longer, in which every candidate was allowed to have a little more say.