In the multi-party quest among presidential candidates for a word or phrase that will mean nothing, imply everything, and be forgotten once the ballots are counted, the word "Change" has emerged as the defining term.
The beauty of the word "Change" is that it has so many meanings, it is fluid, it is hard to pin down, it can be everything or it can be nothing. A candidate can get elected on the promise of "change" and fulfill that promise by simply employing a fashion maven and altering wardrobe selections.
But after watching the ABC debates on Saturday night, and the Fox News forum on Sunday night, it is obvious that the only candidate who will really provide change is Fred Thompson! How so, you might find yourself asking yourself?
Simple, after being declared the hands down winner of the Saturday debate by ABC commentator George Stephanopoulos, an astute observation, I also watched the GOP candidates' performance closely on Sunday. After only 10 minutes or so a pattern emerged.
Fox moderator Chris Wallace spent inordinate amounts of time monitoring a verbal menage a trois starring Mitt Romney and John McCain, with Mike Huckabee jumping in from time to time. In terms of time on camera, Rudy Giuliani was allowed a distant fourth, followed by Thompson, who was jumped over by Wallace on several occasions.
Yet, when he did have an opportunity to speak, Thompson was direct, open, honest and on the money.
When the issue of immigration and amnesty for illegal aliens arose, the rest of the panel tried all manner of contortions to redefine 'amnesty' and who was for it or against it.
But Fred Thompson jumped right to the heart of the issue - social and economic conditions in Mexico that are generating so many immigrants in the first place. Thompson chastised the president of Mexico for bad-mouthing the United States on our desire to police OUR border. Thompson also said that while both countries benefit from trade, Mexico needs to clean up its own act - which in my opinion includes astronomical unemployment, wanton pollution, criminals in and out of government, corruption and drug smuggling to name but a few issues.
This response was classical Thompson, right to the heart of the issue without all the window dressing and posturing.
Compare Thompson's response in immigration to the biggest issue of the night between the other candidates:
"Governors are smarter than Senators."
"No they aren't!"
"Yes there are!"
"Senators are smarter than Governors!"
"No they aren't!"
"Yes, they are!"
Scintillating debate I'll tell you.
At first I thought Thompson was being deliberately shortchanged by Fox, what with Wallace ignoring him in favor of the other candidates, but then a patten emerged: Giuliani, Huckabee, Romney and McCain squabbling over inconsequential nonsense, while Thompson quietly waited his turn, then KAPOW! Thompson drove straight to the heart, showed he had complete command of the issues and the ideas on how to deal with them.
How does Thompson represent the candidate of real, positive change? Simple, he isn't bombastic, he really cares about the future of America, he will do what he says he will do, he doesn't bury the voters in an avalanche of verbosity, he has ideas that will work.
That is not only a change from the onslaught we have seen from the rest of the candidates for both parties, it is a refreshing change, and one that can work.
After watching all the candidates except Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul who were banned from the weekend's festivities, I have concluded that for many candidates in both parties, "change" means "If can can't blind them with your brilliance, bury them with your b.s."
One other matter involving change should also be addressed here, and that concerns this endless series of "debates" that aren't debates, and "forums" that are really soapboxes for the networks and a few Internet sites.
On ABC's debate Saturday, when I wasn't absolutely absorbed by whether the moderators granny glasses were going to fall off the tip of his nose during a question, I noted that most of the debating was done by the questioners. One guy who accompanied "granny glasses guy," asked a question of Thompson that was so long, and so involved that I forgot what the point was before he finished his inquiry.
Thompson, to his credit, answered with a "No," but that wasn't enough for the interrogator, who kept butting in with his slant on the issue. If I remember correctly, in a debate, a moderator poses an issue, and one side argues one point, which the other side responds.
The guy asking the question is not there to participate.
On Sunday Fox could have easily left itself wide open to charges of favoritism and attempting to manipulate the voters by giving so little exposure to Thompson and Giuliani, and so much to Romney, Huckabee and McCain. Thompson saved Fox's hide by using the situation so well to his advantage and to show so convincingly how he really does represent a change from the others.
It is obvious that these interminable appearances are not debates and I bet that most voters didn't waste much time on them. But they do have an impact and I don't think that making things difficult for both parties amounts to being fair to either party or the voters.
Thus I think the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee should put aside their differences for a few weeks and hammer out a viable, approved, endorsed debate schedule and format that must be adhered to by candidates representing both parties.
I suggest a total of three debates between candidates competing for their party's nomination before the first primary - in other words three for Democrats debating Democrats and three with Republicans debating Republicans.
After the primaries and conventions are over and each party has a candidate, we could have three more between the presidential candidates. All debates should be open to all news outlets to broadcast, but the RNC and DNC should call the shots on when, where, and the format.
This has not been a season of knowledge for people who really want to get an idea of where the candidates stand. This has been a zoo, or circus, what with people dressing up in Halloween costumes and filming themselves asking questions, or campaign workers posing as "independent" questioners and focus group participants.
We can all have our laughs at the political process, but the truth is, we are in a very serious phase of human existence, both for our country and the world, and we shouldn't allow a few malcontents to make a mockery of our country or our process.
That includes moderators who think that granny glasses perched on the tip of their nose all night is a serious fashion accoutrement. For these Carl Levin wannabes, please take the following in the spirit it was intended: Michigan's Democratic senator doesn't know beans about fashion and when he wears those half glasses on the tip of his nose he looks like a three-dimensional version of a Thackeray caricature.
He doesn't look intellectual, cool, hip, or even smart. He looks ridiculous, and if he had someone giving him a good once over before he left the house in the morning he'd never appear in public that way. Mimicking Levin's fashion sense says just about everything we need to hear about the mental acuity of his followers.
If you want cool looking glasses, check out the pair that Paul Newman wore toward the end of his movie The Color of Money. Seriously, it was a good movie and it was a good look, at least for Newman.
Think of it, commentators and moderators who take their jobs seriously enough to put the news first, dress for the job, and give an ounce of concern to their listeners and viewers. Now that would be a really nice change.
Monday, January 07, 2008