Reagan, Islamophobia, and Slamming Hillary: The Republicans Debate (Also, More Reagan)

| Thu May 3, 2007 10:48 PM EDT

My thoughts on tonight's GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan library in Southern California:

- MSNBC.com and Politco.com, don't you dare advertise live web broadcasts again unless you make that thing work. MSNBC's video player delivered audio and video that would start and stop constantly, causing me to miss endless things and almost punch my computer. Politico's was basically the same, but with bonus out-of-focusness. Thanks, guys.

- Reagan, Reagan, Reagan. The candidates on stage couldn't stop invoking the former president. I know the event was held in a building named after him and overseen by his widow, but Jesus, it's like there was only one inspiring Republican in the last twenty five years. What, Bob Livingston doesn't cut it?

- The first half of the debate was all about foreign policy and everyone tried to out macho one another, claiming in increasingly shrill fashion that Muslim extremists want to end the American way of life. They spoke of Iran in tones that were similar to Dick Cheney's talk of Iraq six years ago. Put in the tough position of being unable to slam the president (because he's from their party) and being unable to praise the president (because he has screwed everything up and has comically low popularity), the candidates resorting to setting up Islamic extremism as a straw man and beating the crap out of it rhetorically. It was kind of scary, if you don't like the prospect of bombing/invading another country sometime soon.

- Talking about hawkish one-ups-manship: Romney said of Osama bin Laden: "He will die." McCain trumped that by saying, "I will follow him to the gates of hell." Good heavens, John.

- It has always bugged me that these guys misunderstand or understand and then deliberately misrepresent the reasons why certain factions of the Muslim world hate the United States. They don't hate our freedoms. Okay, maybe a tiny number of al Qaeda types do, but the 70 percent of the Islamic world (rough estimate) that currently tells pollsters that they can't stand the U.S. don't hate our freedoms; they hate that we have supported pro-Western dictatorships in their region, they hate that we reliably and sometimes unthinkingly support Israel, and they hate that we invaded a country that posed no threat to us and completely destroyed it. These are everyday folks, not terrorists, we're talking about. In their position, we might hate us too.

- John McCain continued the tough talk on Iraq, saying stuff like "We cannot surrender" and "Failure is not an option." And yet he also says that we've got a new strategy and a new general and we need to give them a chance to succeed. Well, what happens if six months pass and nothing gets better? Does John McCain finally advocate pulling out? Does he call that surrender? This war isn't going to get better. John McCain will eventually have to agree to what the Democrats are suggesting now: smartly and strategically redeploying the troops out of the country. Will he call that defeat? For his own sake, he better stop throwing around those words.

- Romney was asked for one thing wrong about America, and he said, completely stunned, "I love America." Then he gushed about the American people for 30 seconds. Why have we reached a point as a country where it is politically dangerous to say one damn thing we could improve about ourselves? We couldn't get health insurance for some portion of the 47 million Americans who don't have coverage, Mitt? You couldn't even say something like, "Improve inner city schools"?

- The day Roe v. Wade is overturned, according to Sam Brownback, will be a "glorious day of human liberty and freedom." According to Tancredo, it would be "the greatest day in this country's history." Really, Tom? Not the day of the Emancipation Proclamation? Or, oh I don't know, the Fourth of July?

- Why can't John McCain stop squinting?

- Ron Paul is the GOP's Mike Gravel and I love him for it.

- Towards the end, Chris Matthews asked if it was a good idea for Bill Clinton to be back in the White House again. Dumb question, clearly, because the answer for everyone (they're running for president after all) is obviously "No." But it gave each candidate a chance to rip Hillary. It was like Matthews strung her up as pinata and handed the GOP a big ol' stick. And boy, they beat the daylights out of her.

Okay, that's it. Last observation: this may be the last presidential primary debate for either party that is composed exclusively of white men. Times are changing, folks. Oh, and Reagan Reagan Reagan.

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