As South Carolinians cast their votes today, we take a turn from the quotidian to idly speculate on some of the strategic aspects of the current GOP primary. Specifically, The Debates. We ask: Why are there so many of them? And did the Republicans In Charge actually think it would be a good idea to have this many of them?
Monday’s debate is a go, by the way, with all four candidates confirming their attendance, newsworthy only in that Mitt Romney’s camp had previously hinted at the possibility of their candidate’s absence.
We understand why Mr. Romney would attentively consider skipping a debate – or two. His lunch, to be frank, is being handed to him by the transparently Machiavellian Newt Gingrich. Mr Romney is out of his league in these debates; his days of looking good are in the past, when he could be favorably contrasted with such ambulatory conceptual art pieces as Michele Bachman, Herman Cain, and Rick Perry. Even Jon Huntsman made Mr. Romney look good by compare, or at least "street smart," as it were. Huntsman, who was so tone-deaf he deemed it sensible to flaunt his fluency of Mandarin Chinese at a Republican debate. (How did he ever achieve mastery of such a pitch-intensive language?)
But those days are gone, with Rick "Is He Smarter Than A 5th Grader?" Perry slinking home to consider his future in politics, nevermore to deflect attention away from Mr. Romney in the matter of who might be the worst at this whole debate thing. Hands down, now, Mr. Romney is the worst.
Ron Paul isn’t really debating. He’s staying on message, saying his piece, and trying to nab as many delegates in the proportional states as he can, in order to walk into the convention this summer and – what? We do not know. We do not know if Dr. Paul knows. We look forward to finding out.
Rick Santorum is not debating so much as interviewing for position of vice presidential running mate. He said at a recent debate that a true conservative should be "on the ticket," which is as much an intentional flash of his hole cards as we can imagine.
The real debate – the overt one, at any rate – is between the two candidates who are really serious about winning this thing. And Mr. Romney simply cannot compare with the Evil Yoda of Infighting. Newt Gingrich is as brilliant at the rough-and-tumble of politics as he is personally unattractive and morally repugnant. He might not win the nomination, but he will infect it with his unique blend of ethical jiu-jitsu, flipping such questions of personal responsibility and sleazy life-decisions back at the accuser in an attempt to make himself the aggrieved party, which works quite well with the psychologically impaired base of the Republican Party, but probably won’t play so well at large in the general election. Again, we can understand Mr. Romney’s increased aversion to these debates. Frankly, we must wonder if the Republican leadership isn’t wondering who the fool was who made the decision to have their candidates so intimately scrutinized for such a long period of time. Surely Republicans know by now that they do better in the dark...when they make their decision in "quiet rooms," to borrow one of Mr. Romney’s phrases.
Current Republican National Committee chair Reince Preibus, for one, questioned the sense of such exposure, and early on, too, in a Bloomberg interview back in October. (That really is his name, by the way. Reince Preibus. These are Republicans we’re talking about here.) The real debate that is going on, outside the GOP, is this: Will any one of these yahoos be a better president than Barack Obama? Increasingly, as President Obama’s approval ratings tick upward, we must assume that the country is deciding that, no, none of these yahoos is fit for the White House. As we watch their posturing and game-playing, as we watch the audience of the faithful cheer for death, war, and ruination, we must thank whoever it was in the RNC who decided on this level of transparency.
We have to wonder if previous RNC head Michael Steele was the one responsible for such a blunder. He made several during his tenure as Republican top-dawg, from funding sex-parties with RNC petty cash to getting on the wrong, and very public, end of a pissing match with Rush Limbaugh. We often had occasion to wonder if Mr. Steele perhaps worked secretly as a Democratic Party plant in the elephantine bowels of the GOP, the jack-ass who kicked from within. If it could be learned that he was the one actually responsible for this Gallipoli of a debate schedule, it would almost confirm the likelihood that for two years the Dems had a Kim Philby planted at the highest levels of the opposition. The timing works out: Mr. Steele was head of the RNC till early 2011.
Idle speculation, nothing more, as the votes are cast today in South Carolina. We look forward to the next debate. Thank you for the delightful and illuminating show, whoever made the decision to show the American people what Republicans are all about.