Welcome back to Quabbin Qountry. Before we begin, I would like to thank the Toshiba Corporation. They sent me an AC adapter, still under warranty, to replace my broken one in under 24 hours. Literally, I placed the call Wednesday at 3pm and had a box on my porch, even way the hell out at the qabin, when I arrived home from track practice on Thursday. My joy was immeasurable. I missed the internet, and I missed the blog. Without further ado, back to the show.
Paul Krugman made a good point in yesterday's Times that maybe Bush isn't so bad relative to the rest of his party-goers. The scene from last week's debate where almost all of the gang of ten would-be nominees were falling all over themselves to be the one to say that they would inflict the most torture on terrorist bad guys was chilling, indeed. It wasn't just what the candidates had to say that was disturbing, it was the audience's reaction. It was the kind of feeding frenzy where the more blood the speaker could invoke, the hungrier the audience grew as they loudly growled with lusty approval over lines like the following
Giuliani: "And I would -- well, I'd say every method they could think of"
Romney: "Some people have said, we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo."
Hunter: "One sentence: Get the information. Have it back within an hour, and let's act on it."
At least Duncan had the respect to close his statement by saying "and I will take full responsibility" for the backlash of any torturous activity. Does that mean he would do a retaliatory self-waterboarding? Probably not, but if we take him at his word he would at least admit to it and say that he believed in it, and let history judge him as such.
There was one bright spot to the whole torture exchange, when Brit Hume gave John McCain the last word, having been the only one to go against the hard party line. He responded with this: "Yes, and the interesting thing about that aspect is that during the debate, when we had the detainee treatment act, there was a sharp division between those who had served in the military and those who hadn't." Virtually every senior officer, retired or active- duty, starting with Colin Powell, General Vessey and everyone else, agreed with my position that we should not torture people. . .So yes, literally every retired military person and active duty military person who has actually been in battle and served for extended times in the military supported my position, and I'm glad of it." I am glad, too.
Here are a few thoughts on some of the candidates. The Fix gave it's grades, but here we go from the 3Q perspective.
Tommy Thompson: Let's start with the former Wisconsin governor by treating like a cube of sharp, yellow cheddar - Stick a fork in him. This man was frightening to watch, purely from a physical standpoint. He has no discernible neck. It didn't help that he sounded vague and desperate every time he opened his mouth.
Sam Brownback: The highlight of his day for me was watching him pretend to be compassionate when asked about a rape victim being forced to carry the child of the ruthless criminal who violated her. He gives a half grimace and a reassuring nod as he begins by saying, "hat would be a very difficult situation, and it is a very difficult situation," before proceeding to completely ignore the situation and saying "will that (abortion) make the woman in a better situation if that's what takes place? And I don't think so." Of course not. Of course this woman's life will be better if she gives birth to God's rape child. I'm sorry, Sam, but your so-called "pro-life, whole-life" motto is thoroughly de-bunked every time you say "I will do it. I'll move aggressively forward on it" in reference to "deliberately and methodically" attacking other countries. Aren't confused, poor Africans God's children just as much as the rapist's bastard child? What a crock.
Mike Huckabee: Huckabee scored the most points of any of the middle-tier candidates, if only because he appears articulate and can handle the conservative banner better than any of the front-runners. There have been numerous articles saying the same thing and wondering why he hasn't taken off, and why he has raised so little money. So it seems likely that he will be the candidate that could have been, but at least he got off the most memorable zinger of the night when he said, "We've had Congress that's spent money like Edwards at a beauty shop." Hey-o! Even better, he mentioned it in reference to incurring a "fair tax" that would potentially get a lot of the IRS BS out of the way. He also seemed very even-keeled when he stood up for his tax increases to build roads and protect schools. Let's hope for the Red-State-blooded Americans out there that he will pick up some momentum. Plus, he lost a hundred pounds and ran a marathon. Props to that.
Tom Tancredo, Jim Gilmore: Meh. Not really worth a recap.
Ron Paul: Paul certainly did himself a disservice to goal of achieving the Republican nomination down at USC, but at least he went down guns blazin'. Even though he is a Libertarian, he didn't flout the notion that tax cuts alone will save our economy. He continually referred to fiscal discipline being a two-way street of reducing spending before we reduce our income. Certainly not cutting taxes while starting a war. He called out 9/11 a few times, initially saying, "we were spending $40 billion on security prior to 9/11, and they had all the information they needed there to deal with the threat." Damn. He proceeded to get himself into some trouble when he took the path of honesty and humility, admitting that American foreign policy necessarily impacts the views of hostile forces in the Middle East, a bad idea in the face of 9/11 bulldog/opportunist Rudy Giuliani, who then called him out by saying "I don't think I've heard that before." Really, Rudy? You've never heard that explanation before? What a sham. Don't bring that false exasperation to Quabbin Qountry any time soon. It belongs in one place and one place only - the Vlad Squad bench. Keep it real. I digress.
At any rate, Mr. Paul stood up to Rudy, but the damage was done. The crusty old Southerners in the audience were eating up Giuli's rabid terrorist-bating, and Ronnie was done. But not for me, as his best line was yet to come. After the debate's torture debacle (Paul was not questioned) he went out of his way to say, "but you know, I think it's interesting talking about torture here in that it's become enhanced interrogation technique. It sounds like Newspeak." Word. Second only to my horror at the crowd's reaction was my incredulous wonder at why the candidates were pussyfooting around the word torture in their defenses of it, calling it enhanced techniques and never readily admit to the direct question about waterboarding. Paul knew, though, and he dropped it like it was hot.
After that I couldn't really go on, and I ended up flipping more and more frequently to AMC where they were showing The Karate Kid. In other words, I got tired of watching the real Cobra Kai, and opted instead for the fictionalized version, where at the end even Johnny shows some mercy. Much the same today, I lack the strength to summarize the Big 3 other than to say that they were seemingly the strongest candidates. McCain kicked Romney's ass in the tete-a-tete and was honorable on torture, but was far from a sure winner. Giuli creeped me out with the red meat routine, and Romney is articulate but too easily damaged with the flip-flop attack. But hey, only EIGHT MORE MONTHS 'til New Hampshire!!! Time is a-wastin'!
. . .
The Sunshine Boy, unfazed by Huckabee's zinger, wrote a pre-emptive op-ed in the Huffington Post today, calling on Americans to take seriously their task on Memorial Day to remember the great sacrifices of American soldiers not by slapping a "Support Our Troops" magnet on their car, but by making a real effort to get the troops sent home from the current debacle in Iraq. I applaud him for the gesture. It is my belief that too often these days, in a world of instant leisure and long work days for so many, we have forgotten the purpose of national holidays. We see them as a free day to go to the beach or to be able to drink three nights in a row instead of actually pondering the meaning of the event. I think it is important for politicians to sincerely advocate their true celebration, and better yet to lead by example. Full disclosure: I will probably use it as an opportunity to drink three days in a row, but will accept any and all thoughts of good will to do the right thing. We're in this together, after all.
Sipping a Smuttynose from the banks of the Sawmill River,