... here's what it looks like chez Stephen Green. Deep snow. Where on earth is he? Wherever he is, he promises to drunkblog the Republican debate that's about to start. I don't know if I can stand to sit through another debate, but.... WAIT! Last time, I got the idea of blogging the hell out of the first half hour of the debate. I think I'll do that. Green has his drunkblog gimmick. My gimmick with be blogging the hell out of the first half hour.
0:02: The audience is boisterous. We don't realize this after Tom Tancredo is introduced to polite applause. But Ron Paul gets a cheer, and then Mike Huckabee gets wild applause (that causes his eyes to twinkle and his dimple to deepen mesmerizingly). Next is Rudy Giuliani, and the cheer is perhaps a little louder, possibly echoing off his gleaming domed head. Ooh, now it's Mitt Romney, and he's got his hair carefully tousled to put a little Elvis-y strand right in the middle of his forehead. The cheering seems to have hit a plateau, which holds steady for all the rest of the candidates, so that even Duncan Hunter seems popular.
0:03: Chris Wallace tells us he's going to probe into the all-important matter of who is the real conservative. He informs Rudy that Thompson has said he's soft — he says "sawft" — on abortion and gun control, and he's never claimed to be a conservative. So who's the most conservative? Chris ends with a big, silly smile. It must have been fun saying that to Rudy's face. Rudy laughs and says he can't comment on Fred. We see Fred in the split screen, and he scratches his face. Apparently, Fred's tell is the face scratch. (It's mine too, so I notice.) Rudy cites George Will, who said that Giuliani ran the most conservative government in the United States in the last 50 or 60 years. The banner at the bottom of the screen says "Thompson on Giuliani/Soft on abortion." Rudy goes through his favorite statistics on bringing down crime and taxes and balancing the budget. He "drove pornography out of Times Square." And you have to take into account that he did this in a liberal city with a very liberal City Council.
0:05: Now, Chris hits Mitt with Thompson's you're-not-a-conservative indictment. Romney seems to ignore the question and plug in a pre-written speech. "You know this is a critical time for our nation and for our party." We need to put together a coalition. The way Ronald Reagan did. That seems bad, but then it seems good when he says the name "Hillary Clinton" twice. Why bother with Fred? The person to fight off is Hillary.
0:06: Fred Thompson then gets a complete softball: Have these two convinced you they're conservative? He tells a joke about Teddy Kennedy. Essentially: he's fat. We see Romney in the split screen yukking. Thompson ticks off his record of conservatism, which goes back to his reading of "Conscience of a Conservative" in his college days. In the Senate, he had a 100% pro-life voting record, he says, scratching his philtrum. Then he quickly reels out all the non-conservative positions Giuliani has, as the time bell goes off. He deserves credit as he proves he can talk somewhat fast and is willing to attack.
0:08: Rudy gets to rebut. "Fred was the single biggest obstacle to tort reform in the United States Senate. He stood with Democrats over and over again." He chops the lectern over and over again. He brings up that $54 million lawsuit about the lost pants. The man that brought the lawsuit ought to have had to reimburse that family he sued. He cost them over $100 thousand. Fred Thompson basically cost them $100 thousand. Hmmm. Can Rudy bring down Fred with pants?
0:09: Okay, Fred, you have 1 minute. "Talk fast." He wastes 20% of that time chuckling over the fact that he only has a minute. (A minute that I am blogging the hell out of.) Fred plays the federalism card. He voted for tort reform when it was about securities or products liability where it was "interstate commerce," but the rest of it belongs at the state level. "That's our system," he says strict-construction-y. Then, he blames Giuliani for suing over the "sanctuary cities" law.
0:10: Giuliani, with only 30 seconds, says the "sanctuary cities" policy in New York was good. Otherwise, they'd have to report every illegal alien who reported a crime. The way he did it, he brought down crime. He took "the crime capital of America" and made it the safest large city in the country. "The Senator has never had executive responsibility. He's never had the weight of people's safety and security on his shoulders. I have. And I think I outperformed any expectation." Excellent use of 30 seconds.
0:11: John McCain gets the "Quien es mas macho?" question at last. How it must have irked him to wait through all of that to get his turn. Attacking Romney, he points to his long years of service, and has the great line, "I led. I didn't manage for profit. I led for patriotism."
0:12: Wallace tells Romney — whose Elvis-lock has disappeared — that McCain just accused him of "conning people." Romney chatters out a list of accomplishments and gets back to the subject of Ronald Reagan. "Who will be able to build the house that Ronald Reagan built?" He seems to realize that's not a good phrase. (If Reagan already built the house....) "Who will be able to strengthen that house? Because that's the house... gonna build the house... that Clinton, Hillary wants to build." And Romney, Mitt garbled that pretty badly. His lines are preplanned and he's too nervous. But, again, he's the only one taking shots at Hillary.
0:12: McCain gets a chance to take a shot at Romney for saying he'd ask his lawyers whether he needed congressional authorization to attack Iran. McCain doesn't think much of lawyers: "Those are the last people on earth I'd call in." He feels great about saying that. There's a big cheer from the audience. And he's got a big smile on his face. He'd "call in" his own ability and experience. In other words, he's got a huge repository of knowledge and judgment, so he only needs to think for himself. That's leadership! Is that the kind you want? That's what he's offering. He turns to Romney and scolds him for "fooling" people about McCain. McCain starts chopping at the lectern as he says words like "believe" and "steadfast." He's got the qualifications and he's proud of it, he says, very earnestly, and then, after he says them, he remembers to smile.
0:15: Romney assures us that if U.S. security were at stake, he'd act immediately. But the decision to take the country to war shouldn't be done on a "half-cocked basis." And he's back to Hillary Clinton: she's trying to say that Bush went to Iraq without Congress, but he went to Congress.
0:16: Carl Cameron asks Ron Paul about his support for gay marriage. Paul can't hear the question, and he's got a ridiculous look on his face as he strains to hear. That doesn't seem fair. Paul talks about how all marriage should just be a private, religious matter. Well, that's so far from the current law, so it doesn't make much sense that he proceeds to talk about how a constitutional amendment is unnecessary. You have to face the fact that the state is involved in marriage. Then he garbles in a federalism point. The states can handle it. Then it's not a private, religious matter. I don't support the amendment, but I hate this kind of mixing of the issues. He is incoherent.
0:18: Romney argues for the gay marriage amendment. We need a national standard. If one state allows same-sex marriage, "it's going to spread to the entire nation." (I'm sure some people will hear that as making gay marriage sound like a disease.) He says we need to strengthen "the institution of marriage in this country by insisting that all states have the right to have marriage defined as between a man and a woman and we don't have unelected judges — liberals — standing up and saying we're going to impose same-sex marriage where it was clearly not in their state constitution." Look that quote over. It's very strange. He seems to be saying that federal law should protect states from their own judges. Why?
0:19: Giuliani is brought in on this question, and he seems to agree with Romney, though he says we "don't need a constitutional amendment at this point." But if 3 or 6 states' courts required gay marriage, we'd need the amendment. That would be a "real problem." When he was mayor he did 210 weddings and "they were all men and women." He pauses and lets the audience perceive a reason to laugh. They laugh. He smiles. He adds, "I hope." Carl Cameron is acting like he's having a hard time not bursting out in hysterics. I'm disgusted with everyone I see on screen right now. Oppose legal recognition of same-sex marriage if you must, but don't laugh at the people who feel this nontraditional love. "You've got to give me a little slack here. It was New York City." He's pandering to the "values voters."
0:21: Finally, Huckabee is brought in. He acts like he's happy that he wasn't caught up in the Romney-Giuliani-Thompson tiff. Let them "shed each other's blood" and then he'll be there to run for President. Giuliani acts like that's simply hilarious. He claps with glee. Huckabee tells us he doesn't want to fight those guys. He wants to fight for us. Good face saving. One issue he wants to fight for is "the sanctity of human life." He says that with fervor. He talks about the Declaration of Independence and "inalienable rights." Most of the signers were clergymen. (Oh?)
0:23: Cameron confronts Thompson with his lobbying for Planned Parenthood. "Frankly, I'd forgotten about," he says, noting that he just made "a few calls."
0:24: McCain says something mature.
0:26: Tancredo yammers.
0:27: Hunter's allowed to speak. No one cares.
0:28: Well, my half hour's almost up. All the candidates have spoken, and they've just handed off the questioning to Wendell Somebody or Somebody Wendell. This is the real half-hour mark, even if there are 2 minutes to go. The subject is education or health or education and health or something. And I see this as the signal that I've done my job. What the hell! This isn't a job. My friends, you're on your own!