A free state half-debate

Last night we had a half-debate (plus one) up in Baltimore as just six of the leading ten GOP Presidential contenders bothered to show up for the event purporting to be about “minority” issues.

With the “presumption” that the GOP is for the “majority”, in opening remarks Michael Steele noted that the GOP and blacks had been traditionally at “arm’s length” to the benefit of neither.

Steele was also joined in the crowd by former GOP head Ken Mehlman and Newt Gingrich. It would’ve been much more intriguing had Newt been onstage, but we’ll see what he does in future days. As for the debate itself, here’s how I scored the contenders, in reverse alphabetical order. (I’m standing up for those of us at the tail end of the alphabet – and ballot.)

Tom Tancredo

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I was afraid when he stated that he was the only GOP candidate to attend the NAACP convention that Tom would descend into an evening of pandering. But he recovered when he told the assembled he wanted his legacy to be one of helping “all” Americans and that the politics of race was “destructive.” He continued on with that vein, noting that he couldn’t agree with the “race-baiting” of the employment disparity question, saying it had “nothing to do with race”.

Overall, Tancredo made the case for fewer federal laws, particularly in the area of drugs. He also scored points with me on his answer to the DC statehood question, saying that if they want representation they could simply dissolve and become part of Maryland (he also incorrectly stated the same about Virginia, which long ago annexed the portion of the District south of the Potomac.) Another nice touch on the same answer was saying voter ID was “not too much to ask.” Tom also made a winning comment at the end, saying that it was “racist to assume you couldn’t teach” minorities and coming out for school choice.

The only faults I found with Tancredo were the slight pander in the opening statement and talking in favor of drug importation. Overall, I think he showed the best of any candidate including my personal choice, Duncan Hunter. He increased his standing in my view, but I’m still not totally sold on his Long War stance yet – that’s what cost him my endorsement.

Ron Paul

It was obvious by the audience reaction that the “Paulbots” were there in full force. Paul also did his best to advocate for his issues and show that they crossed racial lines. In his answer to the opening question about his absent colleagues, Ron said that he shows up wherever he’s invited to “talk about freedom.”

Much of what he said then was couched in the idea of “emphasizing rights” and building a “free society.” In particular, I enjoyed his citation of black (by popular demand) economist Walter Williams on the minimum wage. In most of his answers, his idea was getting government out of our lives, which I agree with. Unfortunately, Paul spent some of his time talking about a war we entered under “false pretenses”, a “non-declared” war. Like it or not, we are there so I think we need to finish the job with victory. He also struck a negative tone with me by his opposition to the federal death penalty.

Like Tancredo, I agree with Paul on a lot of issues but his opposition to the Long War is the millstone around his neck as far as endorsing him goes.

Alan Keyes

Keyes had a chance to introduce himself as a candidate both to the debate viewers and to me personally since I haven’t looked yet at how he compares with other aspirants on my pet issues. And to start out, if he was attempting to be humorous about him showing up at debates where the “top-tier” candidates skip but not invited to debates where they show, he came across as whining a bit. I doubt they’re really “afraid” of him.

Alan spent a lot of time speaking about a return to morals, referring to the minority community as being affected by “promiscuity” and “hedonism” and their morals being destroyed via government policy. I found his comment about restoring local justices of the peace intriguing, too.

Keyes did do a little bit of pandering though, referring to “corporate interests” and invoking the name of Katrina in his answer to illegals’ path to citizenship. He also talked about creating jobs in black areas – personally I’d like the government to get out of the way and allow job creation in all areas. On foreign policy, he was “appalled” by the “fortress America” attitude some of his cohorts exhibited on Darfur, but also chided President Bush for not choosing “security over democracy” in Iraq.

But looking at his performance overall, he didn’t do a lot to help himself in my standing. I’m thinking he’ll be a middle-of-the-pack candidate on my scale.

Duncan Hunter

Duncan did a good job of sticking to message, even getting a complaint from the moderator that he didn’t answer the question on equal justice for blacks and Latinos. He started out well by not talking about his absent opponents but instead talking about leaving Iraq “in victory” and the border being “on fire.” He refused to pander on the legacy question, correctly pointing out that the GOP led the civil rights effort in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He also made a point on the voter rights/DC voting question that it was Democrats who were allowing their votes to be diluted because illegals were also voting fraudulently. Also I found humorous that he’s in support of statehood for the District if they get the right to keep and bear arms – that was the sticking point in recent legislation to grant statehood.

Hunter also gave a good reply to the question on health care, refusing to make it a racial issue and talking about being able to buy insurance across state lines and tort reform – items that would help all races. I’m not as wild about the idea for tax credits for income derived from home visits, but on the whole Hunter represented himself well. Overall, I’d rank his performance second to Tancredo’s.

Mike Huckabee

Being a top-tier candidate in my ratings and moving up the scale nationally, I expected more from Huckabee. Unfortunately, like Tancredo, he slipped a bit on his opening statement and he never really got back on track as I saw it. First of all, why are you “embarassed” about the other candidates not showing up? It makes you look better. And saying we have a “long way to go” on racial issues only creates more excuses and makes the problem worse.

On too many issues, I was disappointed with Mike’s answers, which to me smacked of various levels of pandering. From talking about a legacy for blacks (as opposed to all of us), to saying there’s “not equal opportunity yet”, and supporting a “Veteran’s Bill of Rights”, Mike went on an opposite tack to those who look to government as needing to become smaller and more colorblind.

While Mike has his heart in the right place about prisons being too crowded with people who simply let their drug and/or alcohol problem get the best of them, I don’t think the three strikes and out policy is “nonsense” like he does. Huckabee’s answer on health care makes sense on the intervention vs. prevention front, but I’m not sure if he wouldn’t succumb to the allure of the single-payer system.

But Mike had company at the bottom of my rankings.

Sam Brownback

Similar to what I said about Huckabee, don’t apologize for those not there. He was correct about the GOP expanding by growing its base, but to do this we need to stick to our principles, not play to whichever specific group is in the crowd. Like Huckabee, Brownback did a lot of pandering. It gave me more questions than answers.

No, we do not to apologize for slavery. I can personally say I’ve never had a slave, since it was illegal for almost a century when I was born. So why apologize?

And if you say we don’t have a colorblind society, does that not become a self-fulfilling remark?

It’s admirable that you spent nights in jail and in a homeless shelter (by choice, not through illegal or immoral activity). Does that really qualify you to be President?

With the three-region solution for Iraq you advocate, do you honestly think that it won’t disintegrate into the civil war some claim is already going on? Wouldn’t that give al-Qaeda three bases of operation?

And finally, why is it so important that education be integrated through affirmative action? It correlates in reverse with what Tom Tancredo said about being racist to think that you can’t teach minorities unless they sit next to a white child.

The only thing Brownback said that I liked was bringing up HSA’s in his answer to the health care query. But overall, he and Mike Huckabee did the least to help themselves in selling their campaign to me.

That’s how I saw each candidate. What was actually said aside, here’s what I really thought of the event and the surrounding aura.

The Maryland GOP is already in somewhat dire straits financially, although because Maryland didn’t vote Republican in the last election we’re all going to be in more dire straits financially as the redistribution of wealth from the producers to the slackers continues apace.

*ahem* Back to my point. There was an effort to have a breakfast featuring the candidates as a fundraiser but that was cancelled when too few expressed an interest. And given the participation tonight, we can see that the so-called frontrunners a) are apparently afraid to debate issues in what’s likely a not-so-friendly setting, and b) value trying to raise money so they can do yet another 30 second commercial more than actually interacting with willing voters in the Maryland GOP. (Yes, we have a few, and we’re working on getting more.)

So here was a chance for Presidential candidates to help out the state party, and many chose to do something else. This should be remembered as you make your selection February 12, 2008.

By the way, I found (h/t to Caughtit and WorcesterRight) a website that matches you with the candidate who agrees with you most on the issues. It’s actually sort of similar to how I came up with my choice but they don’t weigh the particular issues to the extent I do nor do they cover all of them I did. So this is how I matched up with each on the site:

Tom Tancredo – 86.11%
Sam Brownback – 83.33%
Fred Thompson – 83.33%
Mitt Romney – 79.63%
Ron Paul – 77.78%
Duncan Hunter – 76.85%
John McCain – 66.67%
Rudy Giuliani – 64.81%
Mike Huckabee – 64.81%

As I said, Tancredo led my personal rankings for awhile until we got to the Long War. What I find odd is that this site almost comes out in reverse of how I ranked them, with the exception of McCain being near the bottom in both. The website qualifies in the “things that make you go hmmmmm….” category.

They also gave me the Democrats. My highest “match” was a tie between Joe Biden and Bill Richardson, both at 24.07 percent.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

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