Thursday, January 10, 2008

The South Carolina Debate: The Romney-Thompson Winning Strategy?/What About Defining Your Own Agenda?

At tonight’s debate in South Carolina, it appeared that Fred Thompson adopted Mitt Romney’s strategy of first misrepresenting Huckabee in Iowa, and then misrepresenting John McCain in New Hampshire. I hope Thompson has the same crashing success that Romney did with this strategy, even though it may not be as lavishly funded. He has five more days, but based on his tactics tonight, Thompson will not perform as he needs to in order to survive the South Carolina primary on Jan 19. Maybe he should hope that, just as New Hampsire was different from Iowa, South Carolina will be different from both, and lap up the phony toe-hammering tactic. We shall see, I suppose.

But, Thomson charged directly at Huckabee as I expected he would, with Huckabee leading the polls in SC. Listen, I’m not extraordinarily impressed with their records, but I don’t think Thompson or Romney for that matter, are that bad guys. Too bad they can’t sell themselves enough without misleading and misrepresenting other people.

Thompson used Romney’s same (miserably failed) approach of characterizing Huckabee as a “liberal.” Huckabee’s record speaks for itself. Huckabee was elected 3 times as Arkansas governor. And Arkansas is a typical southern rough and tumble, not just historically but still, Democrat-dominated state. And, he’s faced and survived a lot of political attacks. But, I don’t suppose he was attacked too often as “a liberal,” before he declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president: and from demonstrable infidels from the principles of America’s founding documents, the kind of American heresies that Huckabee never has or never would engage in.

Thompson was a prime advocate for McCain-Feingold so-called campaign finance reform, which in fact was First Amendment deform. Huckabee wouldn’t have had the fundraising limitations of the first half of the campaign had it not been for that. So, Thompson and McCain got a piece of Huckabee right out of the box. But, it looks like their money deprivation and Romney’s money deluge didn’t stop the message. Romney also has a heterodox history on the 2nd Amendment and the respect for human life in both The Constitution and the opening lines of The Declaration of Independence. In both cases: no problem now; “I’ve changed my mind.”

Here’s what is bothersome in both their cases, though: they both know very well that Huckabee is not a liberal. He has largely supported American foreign policy. To lump him with "blame America first is ridiculous. His fiscal record and instincts are conservative and Arkansas taxes not even relatively exhorbitant. And as for a smoking ban, he didn't introduce the idea, and the one in Arkansas exempted businesses that cater only to adults or have 3 or fewer employees. And with respect to all of this, Huckabnee knows as many appear not to, that state and federal necessities and responsibilities are different. Heck, Huckabee’s not even as liberal as Romney and Thompson are, and never has been. Let them define differences that they may have. But, bald faced lying: that I’m not very impressed with.

And, speaking of McCain(-Feingold), here’s what is notable about him. Though a strong and telling one, McCain-Feingold is just one place where I disagree with him. McCain is a good and honorable patriot, but he’s philosophically opaque. Philosophically-speaking, I disagree with McCain far more than I disagree with Romney or Thompson. But, he’s obviously a much nobler man. Consider:

Huckabee won in Iowa and McCain won in New Hampshire. So, if someone needed to attack Huckabee, wouldn’t it be McCain? Did he? No: he’s better than that. He can be lead down the wrong path (sometimes it seems like he’s been drinking Washington water for too long), but, he isn’t about dishonest disparagement.

Before Thompson dies in South Carolina, I hope McCain and/or Huckabee dispose of Romney (please, Mitt: 3 strikes and you’re out?) in Michigan. Maybe then we can have an honest competition of sincere expressions. That day can’t come soon enough for me, because I’m sick of this sleazy stuff. Huckabee has even expressed an admiration for the fact that Rudolph Giuliani (who hopes to hop the campaign train in Florida), who at least is honest about his disagreements. Yeah, that’ll work: stark but honest differences.

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