Crunch Time for the Future of Conservatism

John McCain, conservative standard-bearer? Ronald Reagan would have a thing or two to say about that.

Today President Reagan’s son Michael
writes about McCain’s utter contempt for conservatives, and here’s Hugh Hewitt making the case for rallying around Mitt Romney, just as such serious, responsible, and distinguished conservatives as Mark Levin, Judge Robert Bork, Dr. John Willke, Ann Coulter, Tom Tancredo, National Review, and Walid Phares have done.

And for those Fredheads still unwilling to let go,
here’s one of your own making the case for doing the right thing. I understand many of you dislike Romney. He’s not a perfect candidate. But for God’s sake, the difference between him and McCain is night and day.

GOP Debate Reaction

I caught most, but not all (missed the first ten minutes or so), of tonight’s debate. A few thoughts:

Mitt Romney: A good performance. His gay marriage answer was OK, but I’ve heard him deliver it more eloquently. The rest of his answers came off confident and conservative, and his exuberance in response to “Can Hillary be president?” will likely go over well.

Rudy Giuliani: Another strong performance overall, but there was one very interesting tidbit. Hizzonor reiterated that he doesn’t support the Federal Marriage Amendment, but then said if judges did start imposing same-sex marriage on the states, he would support it. He says this has always been his stance, but I’ve never heard it before. But Rudy would never change his positions for political expediency, would he? Of course not.

Fred Thompson: He was awake, and actually had a bit of spark tonight. I think he represented himself well, and his answer about education was especially strong. But his spin on the Planned Parenthood lobbying story was disgraceful. First, he made a distinction between “private practice & public service.” What’s your point—as long as you vote the right way, you’re entitled to make money by helping the bad guys when you’re off the clock? No acknowledgment whatever that what he did was wrong; in fact, he dismissed the whole thing as “Planned Parenthood is now attacking me over this because I’m their worst nightmare.” As some of his thugs
just helped me demonstrate, Thompson’s full of it. He should be ashamed of himself.

John McCain: Good (if futile) performance. I especially thought his line about seeing the letters “KGB” in Vladimir Putin’s eyes was phenomenal. But his claim to be a “consistent conservative”…consistently maverick (read: wrong) on a whole host of oft-cited issues. And his observation about the lack of a GOP majority in Congress; now why do you suppose that is, Amnesty John?

Sam Brownback: GONE. Good riddance.

Mike Huckabee: Very polished, and some good one-liners, as usual (especially about the aging hippies & drugs), but seemed to have a problem with answering questions directly.

Ron Paul: Still demented.

Duncan Hunter: Not as good as his early debates. He too had a bit of a problem with direct answers.

Tom Tancredo: Okay performance, and he had some good conservative reminders for the crowd. Still a waste of airtime, though, as are Hunter, Paul, Huckabee & McCain.

GOP Round 3: Full Impressions

Now that I’ve had the chance to give the full Republican debate a listen, I’ve got some impressions (I’ll start with the lower tiers just for fun):

Ron Paul: He only seemed sane because he wasn’t asked about the war as much. But I hear
Mike Gravel is looking for a running mate…

Tommy Thompson: Pi-ti-ful.

Mike Huckabee: I’ve been surprised at how well he’s carried himself, and Round 3 was no exception. Not amazing (especially when mixing up Reagan’s birthday & anniversary of death), but a good performance. Too bad it’s all for naught.

Sam Brownback: “Three-state political solution,” “comprehensive reform,” blah blah blah. No thanks.

Tom Tancredo: Blunt talk, but pretty unpolished. His biggest flaw, though, is that he doesn’t get it on Iraq. Congressman, this war is about preventing the jihadists from becoming Iraq’s dominant force, which would have disastrous ramifications beyond her borders—not merely what the Iraqis will make of our sacrifice. But he definitely had the ‘whoa’ moment of the night when he said, as President, he’d have no choice but to ask George W. Bush not to “darken the door” of his White House. No arguments here.

Jim Gilmore: I’m sorry, but who are you again?

Duncan Hunter: Another job well done. If we were to totally throw away the “who can win” factor, Hunter would be my man, hands down (if only Hunter had been the guy to trade DC for Hollywood for a few years!). But he’s gotta be in the running for VP. At 58 years old, he’d be in a pretty darn good position after 8 years of a good conservative White House. (I was disappointed that he didn’t give Scooter Libby’s plight its proper consideration, though.)

John McCain: I liked his answer about the disastrous alternatives to the troop surge, plus his line about making pork spenders “infamous.” Overall, McCain has managed to lock down the tone issue of his past performances—instead of angry & unhinged, he came across as passionate, confident & in control. Too bad this development comes on the heels of Amnestygate.

Rudy Giuliani: An interesting show. Once again his abortion answer was indefensible (I’d think long & hard about that lightning, pal), and while his immigration answer was carefully worded to sound harsh, his only beef is with identification—no concern whatsoever for the fence, for the effects of amnesty, etc. But I have to admit I was surprised at how much his answers about the war impressed me. In none of Rudy’s past speeches, TV appearances, etc., have I seen the fiery leader others are smitten with. Last night was the first time I saw a hint of man who takes this fight seriously. He also gets points for his Libby defense. So can you count me among the smitten? Not by a long shot. I still can’t respect Rudy Giuliani the man, and I still believe Rudy Giuliani the nominee will have devastating effects on the party, movement & nation. Hear me, conservatives: THIS MAN MUST BE STOPPED (by the way, did you notice my Stop Rudy sidebar?). But if worse comes to worse, what about Rudy in a general election? He’ll have to do a lot more than this to show me that his terrorism and free-market answers aren’t just a repeat of his immigration answer: all style, no substance.

Mitt Romney: Well done, but not without a few bumps in the road. What I liked: terror remarks, Libby answer, “I’m not going to apologize for becoming pro-life,” the
perfect answer to the Mormon question, immigration sentiments, the “three-pillared stool” analogy for the Republican coalition (free markets, strong defense, & family values), and lip service to ANWR drilling. Not so hot: I bet some viewers will still be understandably-unsure how his healthcare plan differs from Hillarycare, his answer about oil company profits was unclear (I won’t contest his grasp of where they’d be best spent, but you’re not talking about government forcing them to spend their own money a certain way, are you?), and any 6-year-old could’ve told Team Romney that running Spanish ads would come back to bite ‘em before long.

BONUS CANDIDATE—Fred Thompson: He’s got an appealing demeanor, and I applaud his answer about Libby (even better than Rudy’s & Mitt’s). But did anyone else in the “conservative alternative” crowd notice how weak his abortion answer was? But Fred’s biggest flaw was that his sparring partner was Sean Hannity—not the ten men who, whatever else may be said of them, have dived into the fray and put their reputations on the line in three debates so far. Besides Fred’s other conservative deficiencies (McCain-Feingold, impeachment, etc.), doesn’t anyone else find his lateness in declaring just a bit smarmy? (
Apparently not.)

Second GOP Debate

UPDATE: Full video here. UPDATE 2: Is it just me, or was the subject of Iran conspicuously absent last night?
My random thoughts as I watch:
It seems Fox News is running a far-less scattered debate than the first one: Down-the-line questions focusing on the distinctions between each candidate.
Iraq: Tommy completely dodged the question on how he could force the democratically-elected government to adopt his proposals, instead going into his preprogrammed speech; Hunter is an impressive candidate, but his shot at the others’ lack of military experience was a low blow; Brownback’s “togetherness” angle was lame.
Good lines: McCain’s “I never met a drunken sailor with the imagination of the spenders in Congress,” and Huckabee’s “spending like John Edwards at a beauty salon.”
“Which programs would you cut?” Tommy: Incoherent.
Uncle Ron Paul: he’d get us all killed, but I can’t really fault his sweeping approach to cutting bureaucracy.
Tancredo: plenty of the Republicans we hear have themselves moved to expand government. Correct.
Rudy: “First of all, ‘Rudy McRomney’ wouldn’t be a bad ticket.” OK, not a bad line. Still doesn’t change the lameness of his (also-preprogrammed) list of talking points.
McCain: “Bipartisanship…blah blah blah…”
Romney: Good line about Massachusettes being “so blue you can’t tell if it’s black.”
I’d have to hear his answer again (got distracted by another blog), but did Tommy try to play both ends of the road on embryonic stem cells?
Huckabee: “We value one life as we value all,” as opposed to Islamofascist “culture of death.” Bravo, Governor. Props to Brownback as well, for his answer on rape abortions.
Mitt didn’t really answer the abortion question directly. Come on, you can do better. Mitt on immigration: liked the sentiment, but more specific, please.
McCain: in rebuttal to Romney, ignored the critique of his legislation & instead played the flip-flop card. Smarmy.
Giuliani on immigration: does this man even know how to speak in anything other than soundbytes?
Ron Paul talking up conservatism’s non-interventionist history we’re supposed to return to. Guess what, Ron? Something happened. It’s called world war. And now 9/11 is our fault?
Credit where credit is due: Rudy blasting Ron Paul for his 9/11 line. Bravo, Mayor. But asking for another 30 seconds seemed just a bit much.
Romney: great answer about preventing terroism, Gitmo & keeping terrorists from US lawyers, but I’d like to know what he thinks the difference between “enhanced interrogation” and “torture” is.
Duncan Hunter: Simply “get the information.” I agree.
My reaction to McCain on torture: you think terrorists are gonna be nicer to American captives if we’re nicer to jihadis prisoners? What planet are you on?
Tancredo: If a nuke goes off in America, I’m lookin’ for Jack Bauer. Indeed.
Best performances: Huckabee & Hunter. Mitt comes in third (not as strong as the first time around), and everyone else has generally been kinda “eh,” save the highlights I’ve noted. Having all these guys on together is kind of an interesting contrast, but come on: next time, just have Giuliani, McCain & Romney on. That’s the only real choice we have.
(Oh, and I’m just curious: y’think the commercials are there to give Tommy bathroom breaks?)

First Republican Primary Debate

Full video here. Best performances: Mitt Romney, Tom Tancredo, & Duncan Hunter. John McCain did well, though the almost-angry tone that soared talking about the war seemed a little odd in other places (vowing to follow Osama bin Laden “to the gates of Hell” was a great touch, but his smile afterward was just creepy). The rest of the candidates were fair…except for Tommy Thompson & Ron “Kos-wing-of-the-party” Paul. Just go home, you two. Please.

Some points of interest:

One of the things the three who impressed me most managed to do was work in issues that were otherwise on the back burner: for instance, Mitt worked a McCain-Feingold jab into a pro-life answer, Hunter’s now-famous “Yes, and let me use the rest of my time on Iran” answer to “Are you a compassionate conservative?,” and Tancredo getting in immigration repeatedly.

When asked about churches who ex-communicate pro-choicers, Romney turned the tables on the Left by noting that, thanks to the separation of church & state, churches have the freedom to do what they want. Overall he was passionate, optimistic, & confident; and
several have noticed (even Savage?!).

Tancredo had some nice moments, such as calling Roe v. Wade’s hypothetical overturn “the greatest day in American history,” calling for the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, and noting that their host, the Reagan Library, was in honor of a man who was not a centrist.

Giuliani may have know the difference between Sunni and Shia, but offered little to match the hype (especially not Michael Medved’s
ridiculous description of him as “Reaganesque”). Certainly not his “eh, whatever” reaction to Roe’s future fall. Weak.