A thief backed his truck into a Dublin, Ireland, brewery, hooked up to a trailer parked there, and drove off with 180 kegs of Guinness stout. Also on the truck, 180 kegs of Budweiser and 90 kegs of Carlsberg lager.
My best moment: Before I started, I asked people to turn on their cell
phones, because the only hope of there being any laughs in the speech was someone's ridiculous ringtone going off when I was talking. When it
actually happened two-thirds of the way though, it got a huge
No one threw anything at me, though there was food on the tables. No one left before I was finished speaking, though there were prominently marked exits. When I was done, they gave me a $20 gift card for Border's Books. The guy who handed it to me suggested I use it to buy a book on public speaking. I think he was joking.
So between Rush and the conservative blogs, it seems Republican sentiment about last night's debate is that CNN showed its bias against Republicans by letting a Democrat ask a question. I, personally, think that any American citizen ought to be empowered to ask Presidential candidates a question, but then I'm one of those weirdos who still thinks politicians ought to be held accountable.
I'm trying to get a perspective on this outrage, so I read the transcript of the Democratic YouTube debate and -- sure enough -- there seem to have been a few Republicans who got in under the fence to ask questions. The second questioner, for example, who prefaced his question this way:
...After watching the first several debates, which seemed more like
conversations than actually debates, we're all clear out here that you
Democrats are united. We get it...
The "you Democrats" phrasing indicates to me that the questioner isn't a Democrat.
Now, I don't recall a lot of Democrats bitching about Republicans being allowed into the conversation, but then my memory is faulty. So I've spent my spare moments the last couple of hours Googling, and I'm having a hard time finding Democrats complaining the way Republicans are.
So what I want to ask is: Does anyone out there have examples of Democrats whining about the questions? Because if you don't, and if I don't, then I'm thinking this whole episode is a great example of liberal media bias being a figment of the right's imagination.
I watched some of the Republican debate last night. I've skipped most of the debates for two reasons: It's too early to care and I hate the format, which seems more designed to make stars of the questioners than to extract useful information from the candidates.
In this specific instance, I also have to point out that I'm also not on-board the Anderson Cooper train. He's no Wolf Blitzer, I'll grant, but his faux-innocent emotive style drives me up the wall.
Still, I sat through the "fiscal responsibility" part of the debate, and I found it incredibly irritating.
With the lone exception of Ron Paul, not a single candidate would answer the simple question: Name three things you'd cut out of the federal government. Naming three things shouldn't even be a challenge, but for this group, it was impossible to do. Giuliani copped to across the board cuts, which is just another way of not making a decision. The debate we need to have is not whether we can save a few percentage points in the Department of Whatever. It's whether the Department of Whatever is really something the government needs to be doing at all. Another one of the candidates -- I have a hard time telling Tancredo and Huckabee and a couple of the others apart, since they have the same hair and say the same things in only slightly different tones of voice. Anyway, one of them said he'd do away with the IRS, which was just a segue into his canned sound bite on tax reform, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the question. And Fred Thompson ignored the question completely, spending his moment in the sun talking about reforming Social Security.
So we have a stage full of adamant spending cutters who refuse to name a single thing they'd cut. It was amazing. I mean, I'm a liberal, and I can name three cabinet departments I'd close and whose office space I'd convert to condos. (Ron Paul was the only one with an answer, taking his theoretical ax to the Department of Education and the Department of Homeland Security, a sacred cow that needs to be cut about 50%. I'd throw in the Department of Agriculture -- except for food inspections -- to boot.)
If I were a Republican I'd be pissed, really pissed, at the cast of circus clowns I'm asked to choose from. There's almost no substance to them, no ability to deal with the world as it is and grasp its subtleties. Romney and Giuliani have potential, which means they're capable of flexibility and compromise. Much as we denigrate "politicians," compromise and flexibility are core competencies for anyone wanting to actual get anything accomplished in politics. Republicans need look no further than St. Reagan to see someone capable of flexibility and compromise. But the Republican Party today is more about ideological purity than it is about actually doing things, so this bunch of boneheads seems engaged primarily in a contest to prove they' haven't thought about things and don't need to and, if elected, won't ever think about anything or change my opinion.
In today's Republican campaign, anyone who shows an understanding of life's complexities is assumed to be some kind of backsliding apostate. Understanding complexity is something that Republicans openly scorn. (Remember how they mocked Kerry's attention to "nuance"?) There are no shades of gray allowed, so when complicated questions are asked the answers that belch forth are nothing but boilerplate dogma. Tax cuts. Spending cuts, but not anything specific. Seal the borders. Bigger military. Torture. Fear fear fear.
At no point did any of those on the stage seem to have a vision of what kind of country we might be if they got their way, because that's not what they're interested in. They're interested in touching the far right bases and reinforcing the idea that the Republican Fairy Land of the last decade is real, and not something that results in wars and deficits and the expansion of the government's power over every aspect of our lives.
The only thing in the part of the debate that I watched that made me think there was anything in the Republican Party worth saving was Fred Thompson's refusal to sign Grover Norquist's no-tax pledge. Thompson stood on his record of not raising taxes but dismissed Norquist as exactly what he is: the head of a single-interest interest group. Unlike the others, for one moment Thompson seemed to understand that the President of the United States is responsible for more than protecting the interests of the Republican crackpot base. It was the singular moment of "nuance" that I saw.
And then they all went back to their talking points, promising a return to simpler times and smiling for the cameras. I went out into the living room to sit in depressed solitude.