Fox “Stages” a GOP Debate; Giuliani and Clinton Founder
At Sunday night’s debate, Mitt Romney looked and sounded like the CEO from central casting, who could turn around any foundering company, and have it in the black in two years. From his leading man looks to his perfectly coiffed hair, which appeared to have recently gotten a little darker, to his unflappable demeanor to his hardnosed cross-examinations of opponents to his occasional, self-deprecating humor, Romney was the class of the group invited by Fox News.
“… the group invited by Fox News.” And therein lies the rub. Fox refused to invite libertarian Cong. Ron Paul (R-TX), despite Paul’s having almost tripled invitee Rudy Giuliani’s performance in the Iowa caucuses (10 percent to 3.5 percent), and bested invitee Fred Thompson (7 percent to 2 percent) in New Hampshire polls.
The invitees generally handled themselves well, though I found McCain a bit weak.
Fred Thompson was the only candidate to say anything about social security. He has a plan to reduce social security cost of living increases. I also liked his disparagement of the theme of “change.” “You don’t need change, you need leadership.”
At one point, though, when he came to a laundry list of criticisms of his opponents, Thompson did ramble a bit, as the golden-tongued actor dropped to a low monotone, and failed to make clear whom his criticisms were directed at. Fox’ New Hampshire focus group, led by pollster Frank Luntz, did not like Thompson at all, and he will probably be done by the end of business today.
Huckabee stumbled at least twice, both times in response to pressing from Romney. At the very beginning, Huckabee was clearly evasive early on, when Romney repeatedly brought up the matter of tax cuts, showing that Arkansas ultimately got a big tax hike under Huckabee, while Massachusetts, according to Romney, had nothing but cuts. Ultimately, Huckabee granted that taxes had gone up in Arkansas, while muttering something about the hike being court-ordered. He should have simply emphasized the court order from the get-go (never mind whether it covered the whole hike). His dodginess would hurt him badly with Fox’ focus group. (Or at least, that’s the reason they gave. They were so openly hostile to Huckabee’s emphasis on religion in Iowa, however, that they may just have been looking for pretexts.)
Immigration was relatively briefly discussed, considering how important Frank Luntz reported New Hampshire voters have said it is to them. Of course, that was one of the results of blackballing Paul, who has made immigration his number #1 preoccupation in the Granite State.
Huckabee pulled out the hoary cliché, “No person living in this country should be living in the shadows.”
Romney recalled the response of Huckabee’s campaign manager to Romney’s negative ads targeting his boss: “Some of the words that came back—he said he wanted to kick my teeth in. All I have to say is, don’t touch my hair!”
McCain: “Look, we all know the debate has gone on about who wants, quote, ‘amnesty’ and, of course, I have never, ever supported amnesty and never will.”
Romney recalled that when McCain spoke to the issue two years ago he said, “Amnesty has got to be part of the solution.”
McCain countered that Romney had defended him at the time as having not proposed an amnesty.
Like all of the invitees, Romney had flip-flopped on numerous issues (abortion, illegal immigration). He admitted that he had changed his mind at times, as had everyone else, and tried to make of that a sign of courage.
All of the invitees support the War on Terror. In contrast, Paul has suggested we brought 911 on ourselves through our foreign policy, and speaks of every country where we have a military base as being “occupied” by us.
McCain played up his combat experience, something that apparently he alone among the candidates had.
If America had stopped fighting wars, having political candidates that had never served their country would be understandable. When I was a kid, a politician with national aspirations who had never served his country had some explaining to do (“What did you do in the war, Daddy?”).
Rudy Giuliani was not impressive. After his terrible showing in Iowa, the formerly all-but-coronated GOP standard-bearer could be in serious trouble with a weak showing in New Hampshire. On immigration he said, “We can only stop them at the border.”
None of the other candidates said anything about the necessity for interior enforcement; perhaps Paul might have, had he been invited. Giuliani also proposed a “Borderstat” program. This would presumably use computers to track where and when the most illegals are crossing the border, so that border agents can be moved to hot spots, the way “Compstat” (computer statistics) supposedly tracked where and when there were concentrations of New York City crime, so that police officers could be deployed accordingly. In actuality, Compstat was a PR strategy.
But don’t count Giuliani out. When he lost his first election, in 1989, to black socialist David Dinkins, I figured he had had his chance, but he came back four years later, and in a rematch, beat Dinkins.
When Giuliani became mayor, a journalist discovered that his first marriage had been to a cousin. Giuliani looked the reporter who raised the issue in the eye, and without missing a beat, said “I didn’t know that.”
It was immediately clear to me that the man is a liar of presidential proportions.
Giuliani took on the leftwing New York media and Al Sharpton, and whipped both, even if he did take a beating from his then-second wife, Donna Hanover (but compared to her, the media and Sharpton are pussycats). (His current wife, Judi Nathan, is number three.)
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On Monday, McCain still had a slim lead over Romney, and one Chicago Tribune story has Romney “bracing for defeat,” but I think Romney will eke out a narrow win in the primary, which just began. Of course, all seven polls say I’m wrong, and I’m gambling with house money.
I’m going with my gut, and with the incredible positives Romney got from Frank Luntz’ focus group, with moderates and conservatives alike giving him ratings in the high eighties, which Luntz said was unheard of, including on his (newfound) opposition to any form of amnesty.
One of the “Fox All-Stars” (the Boston Globe’s Nina Easton?) remarked that on Saturday, moderator Chris Wallace had given McCain multiple openings to attack Romney as McCain had done on Friday at the ABC debate, but that the Senator had foregone all of the opportunities. The pundits concluded that either McCain’s people had told him to pull back from “the edge” of meanness, or that he decided that he didn’t want to risk his three-point lead in the polls. If McCain loses to Romney, those same pundits will recall how Bob Dole went to bed early in New Hampshire in 1988, instead of fighting ‘til the end, thereby letting George H.W. Bush beat him. If McCain loses New Hampshire to Romney, he may well lose South Carolina, too, to Huckabee.
Of course, if McCain loses in New Hampshire today, and goes down in flames in South Carolina on January 19, by January 21 the same socialist MSM that created the McMonster in 2000 will be saying, “John who?” Conversely, if McCain wins either race, the real winners will be the socialist MSM, which were the real winners in Iowa, as well, for able being to con the Republican base—whose primary voters are to the right of general party voters—into voting for men who oppose their interests.
If Ron Paul finishes worse than third in New Hampshire, that will be a sweet victory for Fox News, whose critics among Paul supporters derisively refer to it variously as “Faux News” and as the “False News Network.” But beyond New Hampshire, the once maverick network’s misconduct could haunt it for years. As Ethan Wilensky-Lanford reported minutes past midnight Sunday, in New Hampshire’s Concord Monitor,
The New Hampshire Republican Party canceled its partnership with Fox News for tonight's GOP presidential debate. The network invited only five candidates, based on their position in national polls. That criteria leaves out Rep. Ron Paul, who has developed a fervent following in New Hampshire.
"The first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary serves a national purpose by giving all candidates an equal opportunity on a level playing field," said the state GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen. "Only in New Hampshire do lesser-known, lesser-funded underdogs have a fighting chance to establish themselves as national figures."…
In New Hampshire, Paul is outpolling Thompson and is nearly tied with Giuliani, ahead of whom he finished in the Iowa caucuses last week. Yesterday, he brought up his exclusion in his stump speech, saying that Fox's decision kept him in the second tier.
"The greatest obstacle really is the resistance of the status quo," he told a house party in Milford. "We do well in the polls, and we have credibility within all the debates. So Fox comes along and says: 'He's not a credible candidate. We're not even going to allow him in the forum on Sunday.'"
But Paul, who raised more than $19.5 million in the fourth quarter, put a positive spin on the snub.
"In a way, it just really rallies the troops," he said. "It just makes our people work harder, and more determined, and it's sort of like a battle cry."
Paul responded to one participant who asked why he should chose the libertarian-leaning Texan over more mainstream GOP contenders such as Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee, saying he had been more consistent in his views than his rivals.
"They are seen as flip-floppers," Paul said. "People look at my record and say he's a stick-to-his guns guy."
One voter noted that Paul was running hard-hitting ads that pledged a crackdown on illegal immigration. He suggested that the campaign promise would entail a beefed up federal bureaucracy and would be inconsistent with Paul's philosophy of reduced government.
Paul said his plan would not mean more federal employees, but rather would bring home border guards now serving in Iraq.
Asked about his views on the Arab Israeli conflict, Paul suggested that he had been unfairly portrayed as anti-Semitic because he opposed U.S. aid to Israel. The congressman said he would also block foreign aid to Arab countries, which would be to Israel's benefit.
Wilensky-Lanford reported that Fox gave two “explanations” for not inviting Paul or Cong. Duncan Hunter. One “explanation” was empty and irrelevant, while the other was transparently dishonest. Empty and irrelevant: Said Fox VP for News David Rhodes, "We look forward to presenting a substantive forum which will serve as the first program of its kind this election season." [Actually, ABC had it beat by one day—or was Rhodes saying that ABC’s debate lacked substance?] Transparently dishonest: The network required that a candidate receive at least at least 10 percent support in national polls, but as Wilensky-Lanford notes, “The most recent nationwide poll from the Pew Research Center ranked Fred Thompson at 9 percent, and Ron Paul at only 4. and the Monitor has Paul at 7 percent to Thompson’s 3 percent, as of Saturday.
Fox is a media company, and media companies exist not just to make billions of dollars, but to gain power and to construct reality, or at least public opinion about reality. They construct public opinion through emphasizing certain facts, lying about others, and censoring the rest. While doing that, they either repeat the leftwing mantra that, for better or worse, they are in the “objectivity” business, or Fox’ version, “We report, you decide.” Fox’ crude rigging of the debate, and attempt to thereby rig the primary, broke the illusion. Thus, the public has lost all reason to suspend disbelief. Such practices may work with a glib, postmodern play, but do less well when the “play” is supposed to be real.
The New Hampshire GOP’s Fergus Cullen said, “Our argument is that all candidates should be included. It is not the media's role to determine who is a viable candidate and who is not, prior to any votes being cast.”
Fox has now succeeded in alienating not only establishment Democrats, but establishment Republicans, as well. The network, once itself an insurgent, had better hope that Ron Paul disappears in a hurry. Otherwise, he can not only run for president, but against Fox News.
Rupert Murdoch’s leftwing son, James, will be taking over Fox sooner, rather than later, at which point it will become just like the old network news operations, only with lower ratings.
Meanwhile, on the left side of the ledger, Barack Obama is poised to give a pasting to Hillary Clinton. Clinton has already tried, without success, through various front men and leaks, to cast Obama as a dangerous Moslem and as a former drug abuser and/or drug dealer. Although blacks had diplomatically told reporters weeks before Hillary’s dirty tricks that they were undecided as between her and Obama, Clinton knows that’s nonsense. Obama will take over 90 percent of the black vote. In states like South Carolina, where half of all Democratic primary voters are black, she will take some ugly beatings.
Yesterday morning, CBS’ Early Show presented the shopworn pro-Obama routine promoted by the socialist MSM since 2004. In the only honest statement in the entire segment, entitled, “Are Voters Color-Blind?” host Harry Smith said, “In my world, this is all everyone is talking about.” Smith asked, rhetorically (for this group, and Obama’s media supporters), “are voters looking past race?” Smith, his black talking head, Joe Watson, and his white talking head, Newsweek’s Jon Meacham, all gushed about Obama and his movement.
Hillary Clinton’s mounting desperation is such a … delight to behold. But I do fear for Barack Obama. He might find himself enjoying an expensive bottle of spring water in his hotel room with a trusted advisor one moment, and the next, groggily wake up naked in bed, covered in blood, with a dead prostitute lying next to him, the murder weapon on the floor with his fingerprints on it, and frenzied paparazzi in front of him, shooting incriminating photographs.
As anyone familiar with Hillary Clinton’s first term in office will recall, she enjoys destroying not only rivals, but people – such as White House Travel Office manager, Billy Dale (Travelgate) – who are no threat to her at all.
At this early point in the race, I find two really striking things going on. First, as resilient, ruthless, and dishonest as Giuliani and Clinton are, the duel of the titans that was supposed to take place in New York’s 2000 U.S. senate race but was pre-empted by Giuliani’s bout with prostate cancer, and which political junkies have looked forward to ever since, looks less likely by the day. The odds have to be anywhere from 20-1 to 50-1 against a Clinton-Giuliani race, and if at least one of them doesn’t turn things around soon, neither will be a presidential nominee, come November.
The other thing? That would be the independent candidacy of New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg.
Award-winning, New York-based freelancer Nicholas Stix founded A Different Drummer magazine (1989-93). Stix has written for Die Suedwest Presse, New York Daily News, New York Post, Newsday, Middle American News, Toogood Reports, Insight, Chronicles, the American Enterprise, Campus Reports, VDARE, the Weekly Standard, Front Page Magazine, Ideas on Liberty, National Review Online and the Illinois Leader. His column also appears at Men's News Daily, MichNews, Intellectual Conservative, Enter Stage Right and OpinioNet. Stix has studied at colleges and universities on two continents, and earned a couple of sheepskins, but he asks that the reader not hold that against him. His day jobs have included washing pots, building Daimler-Benzes on the assembly-line, tackling shoplifters and teaching college, but his favorite job was changing his son's diapers.