Report from the New Hampshire debates

Last night, I had, for the second time in my life, the opportunity to attend a presidential primary debate.  Back in 1992 I was in attendance with several thousand others during a Democratic debate in Buffalo that included Bill Clinton, Jerry Brown, Eugene J. McCarthy (no relation to Joe, but did try to challenge LBJ in ’68), and Larry Agran.

What primarily (no pun intended) sticks out in comparing that event to the one I attended last night is the fact that I don’t recall any security of any sort back then.  I suppose if you were going to try to keep out the loonies Clinton would have been onstage by himself.

Anyway, my experience last evening was quite different.  First off, I attended the Republican debate this time (note: I’m a rabid Independent and was most interested in the earlier debate of the evening which by a coin flip or something ended up being Republican).  Second, there was a load of security.The debates were the second set hosted by my venerable employer since this (seemingly endless) campaign began last year.  As a member of the faculty, I was given the opportunity each time to enter my name into a lottery for a ticket to the debates.  This time I actually won.  While we were warned about possible traffic congestion around campus, I had no more trouble getting into the parking lot than I do on any normal day (perhaps less – maybe the cops can direct traffic every day).  Police were at every intersection in droves and a printed invitation was required to simply enter campus.  One was then required to stand in line (outdoors, though it was at least a tad warmer than it has been) before entering Davisson Hall, one of our dining facilities.  Immediately upon entering Davisson, all outer coats had to be removed and we then passed through airport-style metal detectors.  Seats were assigned and so they lined everyone up in Davisson before parading them (us) to the neighboring Dana Center in very orderly single-file when it was all set to go (not sure why since this was not shown on TV).  It seemed a little autocratic to me, but it was certainly efficient.

You can read about what each candidate said specifically all over the Internet so I won’t recap it all here except to say that the differences between at least five of the six leading Republicans are so minute as to be nearly undetectable (and yet you’d think from the way they went at it that they were polar opposites).  I say five of six because Ron Paul is far and away the most maverick of any candidate left in either party and differs from all of them in some respect.

While my wife is not enamored with Congressman Paul, I was struck by the fact that he seems to be the only candidate who really sees all the issues as intrinsically linked.  At the root of many of them, he astutely points out, is the economy.  While terrorism may have ultimately driven us into Afghanistan and was used (rightly or wrongly) as motivation for going into Iraq, there is an undeniable economic incentive (at least for some people) for us to stay there.  Paul similarly sees the economy (or economic issues) being at the root of illegal immigration as well as health care.  While I don’t necessarily agree with his proposed solutions to these problems, he is the first candidate I can remember that didn’t necessarily see all the issues as individual and unrelated.

Like Paul, I do tend to lean libertarian, but in a more pragmatic way.  I think we could drastically cut government spending while still providing the funds for improved health care, scientific research, education, and our drastically underfunded and crumbling infrastructure.  While some of the other candidates talk about fiscal responsibility, the reality is they would likely achieve that at the expense of these most important areas while funneling even more into defense spending.  While I favor a strong military, I am wholly opposed to the draconian Homeland Security department and the USA Patriot Act, hailed last night by Rudy as a crowning achievement of the current administration.  And yet, somehow, those of us who actually value individual liberty and who have actually read the Constitution, are now viewed as crackpots.  How is it that even the Republicans have completely lost all sense of history while simultaneously quoting it? At least the Democrats as a whole come off as more sincere.  But would any of them actually make changes that would resonate down to me?  Paul is the only one whose record gives me any indication that he’d stick to his principles.  The Democrats have been in control for a year and seemingly have done nothing.  

In any case, in a morning recap of last night’s debate MSNBC referred to Paul’s campaign as a “quixotic quest,” conveniently ignoring the facts that a) he beat Rudy in Iowa and b) he polled well enough to get invited to this debate.  In addition to that, George Stefanopolos reportedly said Fred Thompson did very well last night.  Perhaps this was true on TV, but certainly not in person.  Most of the time he looked utterly disinterested in even being there (on the other hand, Ron Paul feverishly took notes all evening).

Well, that’s that, anyway.  I didn’t see the Dems since I was in the middle of driving back home (for those who are new here, my office and my home are separated by 81 miles).  But, like most of the Republicans, none of them have yet instilled in me any sense of hope.  Perhaps it’s time to revive the Whig party… 

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One Response to “Report from the New Hampshire debates”

  1. quantummoxie Says:

    One additional note, while there was a long waiting list for tickets to see the Dems, apparently they had to talk some of these people into attending the Republican debate since they initially had trouble filling the seats. And this is New Hampshire.

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