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November 28, 2007

The Thing No Republican Candidate Mentioned
Posted by Moira Whelan

In the very sparse and weak treatment of international issues in tonight’s debate, not a single candidate mentioned Annapolis.

Not only that, these guys were allowed to skate by with only sweeping assertions about “radical Islam” and the like. Not a single candidate was asked to address in detail what they would do to address the challenges we face…except to say that we should face them. No policy proposals, no tough ideas, just rhetoric.

In contrast, every Democratic debate is full of in-depth and proactive answers by all of the candidates on global issues.

I can only draw one conclusion from this: people must trust Democrats more on security issues, and would rather hear from them, not Republicans on the issue. Otherwise, if it were so important to them, they’d talk about it, right?

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CNN picked the questions, per usual for entertainment value -- "do you believe every word of the Bible," "if abortion was illegal, what should the criminal penalty be," the requisite question about gay rights, the dopey guy catching a rifle. This is part of the entertainment industry, after all.

The environment wasn't mentioned either. Neither was energy. Trade agreements? Nothing. Subprime mortgage failures? Nothing. There may have been more probing questions submitted on the future of Iraq policy, but they didn't make it through the CNN filter. Given what CNN was going for and how questions are submitted, maybe the strangest omission wasn't so strange: I would have been interested to hear responses to a question as to how good a President George W. Bush has been, and whether his legacy helps or hurts each Republican's campaign.

Most of these guys, after all, are competing hard for the votes of people who still admire Bush while hardly ever mentioning his name on the campaign trail. Why CNN didn't try to coax some grassroots type (or even an Astroturf type like Grover Norquist) to go on YouTube and pick hard at that scab I don't know.

Republican debates are for Republicans. If there was scant attention to foreign policy in the debate, I would conclude only that Republican voters and viewers are generally quite happy with the Bush foreign policy and favor a continuation of that policy, and that the foreign policy issues that are such a source of consternation and controversy among Democratic voters really don't get Republicans very worked up these days. Republican voters are more interested in seeing their candidates duke it out over the questions about which there is some actual intra-party disagreement - the standard stresses concerning morals vs. money, and bible-bangers vs. bankers and businessmen.

I have been surprised how many Democrats in the puditocracy and blogosphere actually watch these Republican events. Why? Why would a good Democrat feel compelled to waste time watching one of these intra-Republican events where Republican candidates attempt to out-Republican each other for the purpose of attracting Republican votes? What's the point? And why feel the need to comment on the unsatisfactory nature of these intra-Republican discussions from a Democratic perspective? Democrats are the target audience, to put it mildly.

///In contrast, every Democratic debate is full of in-depth and proactive answers by all of the candidates on global issues.///

Ahem? So the point is that every time the Democratic candidates clash it's full of deep and perfectly cogent issues (never any attacking, of course), while Republican candidates have absolutely zero content?

Generalize much?

(For my own taste, I'm more than happy to recognize that some groups might spend more time on certain issues than others (shocker shocker: Republican candidates might even spend some time talking about the issues that differentiate each other amongst their Republican base... gasp!) But to entirely dismiss half the population of the US? Well, it doesn't hurt me any... just makes you look silly.)

Maybe they didn't say anything because they didn't need to: They all know that Rudy's the one who's going to pick up the gauntlet - certainly the only one of them with the will and capability. Analyst Michael Eisenstadt wrote a great piece tonight about the lessons of Annapolis and Rudy vs. Mitt in that context. Pretty provocative stuff: http://michaeleisenstadt.com/2007/11/28/a-lesson-learned/

I wrote:

And why feel the need to comment on the unsatisfactory nature of these intra-Republican discussions from a Democratic perspective? Democrats are the target audience, to put it mildly.

Which should read:

And why feel the need to comment on the unsatisfactory nature of these intra-Republican discussions from a Democratic perspective? Democrats are notthe target audience, to put it mildly.

Analyst Michael Eisenstadt wrote a great piece tonight about the lessons of Annapolis and Rudy vs. Mitt in that context. Pretty provocative stuff:

I feel oddly unprovoked by Eisenstadt's proactive provocation. You and the other neo-wingers have pretty much exhausted your capacity to provoke, Eli. You're just a skipping vinyl record replaying the same noisy but tedious passage. The country is listening to different music now.

As for those hardball-loving sheikh-barbarians at the gate, they do not appear to be at my gate. Whose gate is Eisenstadt talking about? Eisenstadt and others on his blogroll have been trying for years now to persuade the country that Israel's gate is America's gate. But the gates are actually rather far apart, and only a minority of Americans have been taken in. With any luck, the country will be able to avoid a provincial Clinton vs. Giuliani New Yawk boss-war this election season, thus minimizing the role of rags like the New York Sun on the national discussion.

One of the more idiotic things said during the debate was John McCain's statement that the American military occupation in Iraq and the continuation of the surge could actually improve America's image in the Arab world. The Republicans appear to be delusional in the belief that brute force could somehow gain friends in the Middle East.

Why should they have mentioned Annapolis?

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