McCain Stumbles at Republican Debate

Posted on January 31, 2008

Screencap of Republican DebateThe Republicans held their last debate before Super Tuesday last night at the Reagan Library in California. Governor Schwarzenegger, Nancy Reagan and Kelsey Grammar (he's a Republican?) were in attendance. The candidates were seated in front of Reagan's old aircraft, which gave the scene a surreal air -- like they were on a movie set or something.

This was not McCain's best night. He answered a question about why he's qualified to run the economy with a rambling speech about his war service and his experiences as a POW. He reiterated that he served "for patriotism, not profit" which is fine if you're talking about a war, but to diss the concept of profits at a Republican debate is the equivalent of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announcing plans for three more, unspecified wars in the middle of the Democratic debate. The audience was not amused and McCain looked really out of touch. He seemed peevish and small tonight. He nearly drove Mitt Romney crazy by harping on some comment about "timetables" in Iraq. Every major newspaper backs Mitt Romney's version of what he said, but McCain is like a terrier with a bone, droning on and on and on about it. This prompted Ron Paul (who was having the best debate of his entire life) to cry foul, saying "Oh, for Pete's sake! You both agree that you love the war and want to stay in Iraq forever, so let's get on with some real policy debates -- like why we are in a war against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 that is going to bankrupt our country!" (I'm paraphrasing here.) That got big audience applause.

Huckabee's jokey, car salesman act is wearing really thin and he kept whining that no one was asking him any questions. The concept that Rudy Guiliani is out of the race, but that this guy is still in is an amazing thing.

The best moment of the night is when Anderson Cooper pointed to Ronald Reagan's actual diary like it was the Old Testament and read Reagan's entry from the day he nominated (pro-choice) Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court. Reagan said that the "pro-life people are really coming after me....Sandra will make a great justice." Coop then asked each candidate would he have nominated O'Connor? They all said they would nominate pro-life judges like Alito and Roberts. But the point was made -- despite what the revisionists would like us to think, Reagan appointed the swing vote that kept Roe vs. Wade the law of the land. That's all going to change if any of these candidates is elected, as they have just vehemently promised.

But the winner of the debate was Ron Paul for his answer to the question put to each of the candidates: "Would Ronald Reagan endorse you?" Paul said that he doesn't know what Reagan would do if he were alive today, but that Reagan did personally campaign for him in 1978. (Ronald Reagan helped launch Ron Paul's political career which would later come back to bedevil Republican candidates in 2008? The irony!) The thuds we all heard were the other candidates' jaws hitting the floor. Paul then followed up with the nugget that President Reagan personally told him that any country that went off the gold standard would head into economic ruin. It was a glorious day in Ron Paul City.