Wake me up in May of 2012. The first Republican presidential candidates debate ended up being the colossal waste of time that everyone predicted it would be. Fortunately for you, we watched it just so you didn’t have to throw rotten vegetables at the smirk analysis of Ed Schultz on MSNBC or the bobbleheads on FOX News.
There was already ambivalence amongst top GOP contenders on showing up – and who else was going to come. The whole event had this Glee-like “Well-I’m-only-going-if-the-cool-kids-are- coming” feeling to it. And that was before President Obama pulled off political kung-fu with the birth certificate, slamming Donald Trump, killing Osama bin Laden and bringing Biggie’s killer to justice. Okay, so the last part was made up, but given the week he’s had he could’ve pulled that off too.
So in the end, Trump, the Huckster, The Queen Bee (Palin), Guy Smiley, ChewBachman and the Newt that stole Gingrich didn’t bother showing up. Instead we got a group of six ‘contenders’ for the GOP nomination who are a COMBINED 12% in national polls.
So who did we finally end up with?
Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty who’s advertisements have been great to watch even though his polling is in the basement. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who I honestly didn’t know was running and whose name has become connected to an unspeakable sexual experience. Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson who probably got his ticket at the will-call booth. And, finally, former federal reserve member and Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain next to Uber libertarian Ron Paul.
Here’s a running diary of the Fully-Fox-Funded first Republican Nobody debate. Please hold your applause because it really wasn’t needed.
It’s almost impossible to take Fox News seriously when you have shows like this. Moderator Chris Wallacekeeps referring to Healthcare reform as “Obamacare”. That’s perfectly fine for any of the candidates on stage but it just makes it all the more difficult to think of this ‘debate’ as anything other than an extended Fox commercial.
Gary Johnson finally gets pissed and says “Pay Attention to MEEEEE!!!!” They really hadn’t asked him any questions, but then again … they really weren’t asking questions.
In a discussion of Obama’s foreign policy decisions Tim Pawlenty refers to the United Nations as a “pathetic organization”. Way to erase that ‘Ugly American’ image should you become president next year Timmy.
There’s a commercial break and a promise from Juan Williams that when they return there will be a discussion of something totally off the wall. You know…JOBS. Imagine that.
We get back with a slew of questions about social issues that get reactions from the crowd and seem to make the candidates on stage increasingly uncomfortable.
I imagine some of them actually came to the debate to lay out policy as opposed to fight the culture wars. Highlights?
On Gay Marriage: Ron Paul basically says “I DON’T CARE AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU!” His exasperation with social conservatives screwing up his libertarian game is palpable. Then, Herman Cain says that by failing to support current marriage laws Obama has committed an act of treason.
Please, PLEASE tell me these guys are gonna come to blows by the end of the night.
Juan Williams is eager to show his former bosses at National Public Radio that he really is a good reporter by managing to ask some real questions and spark a real debate. He hits Pawlenty with a tough question about how a Republican candidate can manage to run in 2012 without looking overtly anti-union given the actions of many Republican governors in the Midwest since the 2010 elections. Pawlenty actually gives an effective impassioned answer to the question … then screws up.
When asked whether or not he “personally” believes that creationism should be taught as an equal concept with evolution in public schools, he side steps, dives, roles and shucks. In the end he’s saved by the bell, as he warbles something about being taught in a ‘comparative theory’ class. Next!
We have about 20 minutes left and the inevitable “And why are you here again?” questions have started. Long time debate watchers know that at some point the moderator picks on the weakest gazelle in the bunch and starts asking snarky questions about why they even bothered to show up in the first place if they have no chance of winning.
Chris Wallace smarmily reminds the public that Ron Paul supports legalizing gay marriage, prostitution and drug legalization including marijuana and heroin, (without mentioning the libertarian theory behind these beliefs.) and why would any social conservative really vote for him. Ron Ron goes off, joking with the audience by saying how many of you would start using heroin just because it was legalized? Sonic BOOM! – Round 1 to Ron Paul.
Wallace then tells Herman Cain that his lack of experience in public office gives him little or no chance to beat Obama if he was the nominee. Cain snaps back by making some clichéd joke about how experienced politicians in Washington have screwed up America yadda yadda. Cain is doing terrible, and his voice reminds you of Magic during his talk show.
In the set of rapid fire questions we saw them make a comment/critique about one of the GOP candidates who wasn’t there. It was like an old episode of the Super Friends where everybody had to pair off and fight the villain with powers closest to theirs.
CEO Herman Cain was asked about businessman Mitt Romney, Aw Shucks Tim Pawlenty was asked about Mayberry nice Mike Huckabee, OG libertarian Tea-Paul was asked about Tea Party pin-up girl Michelle Bachmann. No one was asked about Palin (ouch).
And Gary Johnson so desperate to get tough questions early in the debate was asked: if he had a reality show like Trump what would it focus on? He completely flubbed the question.
Debate ends with a wimper. FOX quickly moved to a special episode of Hannity where he stretches to explain why some of the big dogs (clearly the people he supports) were not at the debate. But the panel of regular South Carolina Republican voters was not moved. In fact, Frank Luntz asked them who they felt won the debate and all but one of them said Herman Cain. I’m shocked – I actually think Cain did a terrible job. Then again, we haven’t seen the full cadre of folks yet and it’s perfectly possible that this is the beginning of a Cain Renaissance. Still, he’s got no experience, a terrible voice and his policies are so right wing that he’s not even pro-choice for pizza toppings. But I guess for today’s GOP, stopping Obama is the only thing that matters.
This article originally appeared in TheLoop21.com under the headline “First GOP Debate Brings the Cain.”