DEBATE DIARISTNow just because the title of this column is “Debate Diarist,” please don’t think I actually got off the Couch to watch it.
Anyway, the debate was surprisingly enjoyable last night. Brit Hume did a fantastic job compensating for the unbelievably ridiculous format.
Clearly, Alan Keyes is the most intelligent, articulate, impressive guy to run for president in any party in years. But I just can’t shake the notion that he’d bring back the guillotine. As a friend of mine put it, if you drew a venn diagram of crackpots and great political minds, he would be one of the few people in that area where the circles overlap. Still, I find it befuddling that I can’t articulate why he isn’t getting more respect.
Of the viable candidates, McCain was the clear affirmative winner. He kept the campaign-finance drek under his hat and demonstrated that he is an intelligent well-rounded dude. Of Forbes, Bush, and McCain, (the only three that matter) McCain was the only one who seemed to be thinking on his feet. Bush seemed like he was reading cue-cards very well. Forbes seemed like he was reading them very poorly.
As a side note, I think for both the reporters and McCain the repeated references and queries about McCain’s “temper,” which is, of course, code for the notion that he’s a bell-tower Manchurian Candidate, was a non-starter. The existence of this supposed whisper campaign comes to us from only three sources: Elizabeth Drew, Maureen Dowd, and the McCain campaign. Elizabeth Drew is a pretty good reporter but she’s also one of the nastiest people I’ve ever met, so I’m going to discount her out of spite. Maureen Dowd is now, and always has been, in the tank for McCain. And as for the McCain campaign, which is bristling with honorable people and some friends of mine to boot, well, it’s only served by the idea that they are being unfairly smeared. McCain obviously has a temper, but it can’t possibly be much worse than, say, Teddy Roosevelt’s. I think TR once ate a man’s spleen on the spot because the dude had spoken harshly to Mrs. Roosevelt’s dog.
Forbes was awful. As a thinker and a person he’s a class act. As a candidate, I think he’d be better off driving nails into his septum at a New Jersey carnival freak show. I think he hurt himself badly last night by reinforcing the idea that he has reinvented himself. By attacking Bush for “considering” raising the minimum age for Social Security benefits, he opened himself up to an obvious counter-attack from Bush. It turns out Forbes wrote an article proposing — not “considering” mind you, proposing — the very same thing. A better politician would have been able to respond to the gotcha. Forbes, however, let it hang in the air for twenty minutes. Worse, one wonders how Forbes could have spent millions on opposition research over the last few years and not be prepared for that kind of attack.
Still, the worst guy by far was Sen. Orrin Hatch. First the guy has Senatoritis. Like Bob Dole and most Senators who run for president, he’s constantly throwing out committee names, fellow Senators, and obscure bills as answers. “I chaired, the Sub-Committee on Hamster Ramification … my colleague Arlen Specter kisses up to me … at the behest of my friends in Hollywood I also sponsored the Hamster Extraction Act of 1996 …” And so on.
That’s somewhat forgivable because that’s the problem with most Senators (though, to his credit, not John McCain). But unfortunately Hatch has another debilitating problem which only serves to make things worse. He has Al Gore Syndrome. Hatch is constantly taking credit for things he has absolutely no right to take credit for. He suggests all the time that he was the one who single-handedly got Stinger Missiles to the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. He did carry some water for the Reagan administration, to be sure, but the way he describes it, you’d think it was just him and Dan Rather mixing it up with Ivan in the Khyber Pass. Last night he claimed that he was one of the people who “convinced” (or “persuaded,” I can’t get confirmation about which word it is because none of the news outlets care enough about the guy to run transcripts of what he said) Ronald Reagan to lower tax rates in the U.S.
Wow! That must have been some tough work on Hatch’s part. Did he use a rubber hose on him? What about a car battery? In a perverse sense, I almost hope he gets the nomination. That way, when he debates Gore they can get into a huge fight over such things as who invented the wheel and who single-handedly stopped the infidels at the gates of Vienna. LURCH DOES IT AGAIN!
Speaking of Al Gore, did anyone notice that he recently took credit for discovering the problems at Love Canal? Here’s what he said to a bunch of students recently:
“I called for a congressional investigation and a hearing. I looked around the country … I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal. Had the first hearing on that issue,” Gore said. “That was the one that started it all.”
I for one want to know what Senator Hatch has to say about that.