Thursday night’s GOP presidential debate hosted by Fox News was, in many ways, the same old, same old. Since it’s early in the process, there are too many candidates vying for podium time, and the candidates have the same canned responses. You can’t really blame them… it’s just the nature of the business. But last night’s debate was turned on its head when Newt Gingrich said “enough is enough” to the ridiculous questions being asked by Fox News host Chris Wallace.
Everything was proceeding as scheduled. The debate was moderated by Fox News host Bret Baier, and he asked a series of questions. Then, he turned the debate over to Chris Wallace who asked negative question after negative question. It was really quite ridiculous. All of his questions basically had the same structure: “Candidate so-and-so… based on x, y, and z, everyone on the entire planet thinks you’re lame. Why aren’t you?” When, it came time for Newt Gingrich’s question, he had reached the boiling point.
Whether you like Gingrich or not, I think he was right on. There are ways to ask questions, and ways to get to the substance of an issue. Wallace fails to do either. By the time someone is done listening to a Wallace question, the person is probably already forming an opinion about the candidate even before the candidate has a chance to answer. That is NOT how things should be done.
There are not too many overall highlights to share from the debate, as the questions and answers were largely the same as before. However, a few points did stand out.
Bachmann vs. Pawlenty — This was the entertainment of the evening. Instead of giving us a second helping of the previous debate in which all the candidates played nice with each other, Rep. Michele Bachmann and Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty took the gloves off. Their sparring was intense, and it carried added weight given the fact that they were standing right next to each other. The winner of the confrontation was Bachmann. Pawlenty tried to tie leadership with results, and the argument makes sense in many settings. However, to try to paint Bachmann as a failed leader when Democrats controlled everything during Obama’s first two years just doesn’t make sense. Someone can fight for a cause and lose, and it doesn’t make that person a bad leader.
Santorum Silence — Former Sen. Rick Santorum must have drawn the short straw for the evening… you know… the straw that read, “You will not be able to speak during this debate.” It seemed he was passed up at every opportunity and clearly he didn’t get the time that Romney, Bachmann, Gingrich, or Paul received.
Jon Huntsman — [enough said]
Romney — The runner-up in the GOP field in 2008 is looking better with each opportunity. My biggest gripe with him as a “conveyor of a message” is that he often appears too stiff or too academic. He seemed more relaxed during this debate and was better able to discuss an issue in a way that Americans could wrap their arms around.
Gingrich — What can I say? The man is hard to work with; he has a sky-high ego; he had people try to form a coup when he was speaker of the House; and his campaign is a mess. But, he can answer any and every question thrown at him in a way that conveys knowledge, understanding, and leadership. To me, this was all summed up in one series of questions. Candidates were asked how they could advance their agendas in Washington given that the government was divided with Republicans controlling the House, and Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House. There is an obvious answer here, folks. Do you know what it is? Rep. Ron Paul tried to answer. He went on and on about some issue. Then he was reminded that he’d have to pass it under divided government. His face puckered up, and he looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Romney made his attempt as well, but didn’t fare much better. However, when it was Gingrich’s turn, he nailed it. He reminded Americans that Ronald Reagan passed major legislature with divided government. Gingrich also got major legislation passed with divided government. The answer to the question is simple: leadership.
Here are the closing arguments by the candidates, so you can get a feel for what they had to say.
So there you have it. What did you think of the debate? Who’s your pick so far? Texas Gov. Rick Perry will be joining the fray, and Sarah Palin is lurking out there too. It’s a crowded field, and one of these candidates will emerge to take on Barack Obama. Until then, we’ll have to endure a few more debates. I just hope Chris Wallace is not involved.