I watched the Republican debate on Fox the other night and I was heartened by what I saw.
Up until then, like most of my fellow conservative Republicans, I was disturbed by what I believed was a slate of candidates who left me cold — not one seemed to be able to light the kind of fires we'll need to have burning next year if we are going to have a chance of winning.
What I saw Sunday night was a stellar lineup of candidates, every one of whom stands head and shoulders above all the Marxist pigmies clawing at each other for the Democratic nomination. The GOP hopefuls come across as adults who understand the role and nature of government and who are unwilling to pander to those who believe that government exists solely to satisfy their desires and their needs as are their Democratic Party rivals.
They were given the chance to disclose their views on a number of issues posed by the Fox panel of inquisitors, who, unlike their colleagues on the other networks concentrating either on trying to make their favorite candidate look good or the others look like idiots, used their questions to extract information and educate their viewers on the candidate's positions.
As a result, the candidates were able to demonstrate their grasp of the issues and their approach to dealing with them. They were also able to joust with one another in a generally good-natured manner even though some of the jabs had real barbs to them.
Much had been made of the idea that this debate would be make or break for Fred Thompson, who came into the debate with the media screeching that he had damaged himself by speaking for a bare five minutes when addressing Florida Republicans the day before the debate. According to the media smart alecs , Floridians were aghast that he hadn't spent a half hour haranguing them as had the other candidates.
The fact was that Thompson was the last to appear and felt that the audience had to be weary after two hours of speeches and needed relief. That's real compasionate conservatism.
If indeed it was make or break for Thompson, it turned out to be make — he acquitted himself handsomely showing himself both thoughtful and when the need arose, combative. He is an interesting study: the perfect Southern gentleman involved in the kind of street fight the primaries have become and willing to slug it out, yet without resorting to kicking his foes in the groin. He knows exactly who and what he is, and challenges the voters to take him or leave him just as he is.
The Democrats haven't got anybody of that caliber among them. I doubt they even know what a gentleman is.
John McCain, the old warrior, continues to wage an aggressive campaign, refusing to concede that his candidacy is weakened, mainly because this genuine American hero chose what conservatives see as the wrong side of the immigration issue and was a prime mover the the anti-free-speech campaign finance reform legislation.
He is a sentimental favorite, the wounded fighter heroically getting up off the canvas bloody and bruised with one eye swollen shut to fight on, but sooner or later, unlike Rocky, doomed to go down for the final count.
The Democrats have no one of his stature among their candidates. He is Horatio at the bridge to their Elmer Fudds.
Mitt Romney continues to look like a winner. He seems to have it all. That's his problem. He may jump into the lead by winning the early primaries, but I don't think he has the staying power to stay in the race to the end. He's just a little too perfect.
Yet Romney has a proven record of really giant accomplishments in government and industry that not a single Democrat can hope to match. He gets things done.
They promise to get things done — the wrong things.
Rudy Giuliani is a natural. In any debate he quickly dominates. He is quick, genuinely funny, smart as a whip and a joy to watch in combat. His advocacy of abortion rights, gun control, gay marriage and other ultra liberal causes may in the end doom his candidacy, but the prospect of matching him in presidential debates with the likes of Hillary and Obama is delicious and may be decisive. He'd wipe the floor with them and expose them for the charlatans they are. And that fact may win the nomination for him.
Mike Huckabee got few chances to display his many assets the other night and he probably won't end up winning the nomination. But he is a comer and compared to the Democrat candidates, he is far more qualified to be president than a single one of them.
Then there is Duncan Hunter, barely in the contest. Yet just about everybody I know and respect among Republicans privately insist that he is far and away the most qualified of all the GOP hopefuls. It seems that being the best isn't always the key to winning in politics.
Ron Paul? Well Ron Paul is Ron Paul.
He's right about an awful lot of things such as the death grip the privately owned Federal Reserve system has on our economy and your wallet. His problem is that he's too right and he wants to kill the federal goose that lays all those funny money financed golden eggs the public likes for breakfast. He's the Billy Mitchell of our age, and he will suffer Billy Mitchell's fate.
My point is that Democrat primary voters have a choice among a crew of demagogues who have nothing to offer but discredited taxpayer financed socialist programs while Republican primary voters can choose among a slate of candidates who offer real adult solutions to the nation's problems.
Watching the debate the other night I came away wishing all the GOP candidates could win.
Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist and World War II Marine who writes for Newsmax.com. He is editor and publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist for National Review magazine in the 1960s.
He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska.
He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a member of the Association For Intelligence Officers.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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