Empty Boots, Not Empty Suits, at Iowa GOP Presidential Debate

On one of his recent shows, Conservative Radio Talk Show Host, Hugh Hewitt, was rejoicing in observing how similar today’s political circumstances are to those of 1979, during the Carter Administration. According to Hewitt, he did so because he is certain that the present conditions will lead to a “reinvigorated … American renaissance of power and influence”, as it did under the Reagan Administration, from 1981 to 1989. I’m certainly in favor of seeing that happen so, as a member of the Twitter group that Hewitt calls “The Tribbles”, I was able to indicate my support by tweeting “Preach it, Brother @HughHewitt!” As I did, though, I was thinking, “There’s a key ingredient missing here … Ronald Reagan.”

Our nation was blessed to have had President Reagan but a great leader of his stature, typically, only comes along once in a lifetime. I would welcome seeing someone emerge as an exception to this but; so far, I don’t see anyone who could fill Reagan’s boots. While I would apply this statement to the eight participants in Thursday evening’s GOP Presidential Debate in Iowa, I would also say, as a group, they showed themselves to be anything but empty suits. Unlike we do with the current Democrat Party Leadership (as represented by Obama, Axelrod, Geithner, Kerry, Reid, Durbin, Pelosi, Rangel, Clyburn, etc.), we didn’t hear the relentless drumbeat of party talking points and attacks on voters who want to resurrect our great nation. To those Democrats, I’d say, “You’re misunderstanding the low approvals indicated by polls for the Whitehouse and for Congress. Those polls indicate that voters aren’t happy with those institutions … yet. Election by election, as we send more and more of your type home, approval ratings will be going up.” By contrast, what we did get from the announced Republican Presidential Candidates Thursday night was what Moderator, Bret Baier, asked for – i.e. for talking points to be left behind. Instead, what we heard from this group were pretty unvarnished observations about how to get our country back on a positive footing, along with how their ideas differ from the sitting Administration and their Republican rivals.

One candidate, who I thought did quite well in Thursday evening’s debate, was Newt Gingrich. It was good to see him, finally, sort of step out of the shadows in this campaign. Perhaps his strongest statement was one aimed at putting the press (in the person of Chris Wallace) in its place, when he chastised Wallace for “playing Mickey Mouse games” with “Gotcha questions.” Later, he tried the same gambit with Bret Baier. This latter attempt didn’t strike me as seeming justified and I thought it was a clear indication of why Gingrich doesn’t measure up to Reagan. He is a very intelligent man but he often shows that he doesn’t always use good sense. With that said, I thought he did an excellent job of thoroughly addressing all the questions that came his way. My personal favorite was when he called the Federal Deficit Super Committee the “dumbest idea” he’s heard of and he stated that this is a job for the entirety of Congress.

Of course, the sparring between Congresswoman Michele Bachman and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was entertaining. Frankly, I’d tune in to that if it was a TV series. However, I think they both showed more indications of how they fall short of Reagan, as a standard, rather than showing how they could follow in his footsteps. In Bachman’s case, she seemed more like another career politician with her ongoing chant about making Barack Obama “a one-term President” and with her defensiveness about taking rigid positions that have not produced results. Likewise, I thought Pawlenty came off as a career politician, with the difference being that he seemed mean.

Former Senator Rick Santorum didn’t seem to get as much exposure as some of the other candidates. I thought his complaint about that had some legitimacy. However, I didn’t think he made good use of what visibility he did get. He seemed to use most of the time he got to denigrate his opponents. I never find this breaking of what President Reagan called “The Eleventh Commandment” to be appealing.

As per usual, Congressman Ron Paul seemed to have the most vocal supporters in the audience. And, once again, he and his supporters, to quote the tweet of a fellow-Tribble, “came off as nuts.” I don’t know many Ron Paul supporters well but I do know one supporter who is a fellow Tea Party member and quite a nice lady so, for her sake, I’m very uncomfortable in saying this.

The “front-runner” going in to this debate was former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. I think he remained in that position coming out of the debate too. Mostly, I thought he did a good job of dispelling a press “gotcha comment” that, up to now, he has seemed to be in a “Mittness protection program.” He was very clear and thorough in outlining the seven steps he sees as needed for resurrecting the U.S. economy. And, I thought he did a fine job of illustrating how, both in the private sector and the public sector, he has provided the sort of leadership to get these jobs done. Furthermore, he plainly stated that, by contrast, President Obama is “out of his depth” in this regard.

I have to admit that former business CEO, Herman Cain, is a sentimental favorite with me. The positions he’s taken on the issues are well aligned with mine and I like the down-to-earth way he states his positions. However, he has regularly let his openness get him into trouble. And, his “willingness to learn” on foreign relations leaves many wondering if he would suffer from the same “What will he do when the phone rings at 3:00 in the morning?” weakness that Barack Obama has shown.

Finally, there’s former Utah Governor, Jon Huntsman. Out of the candidates participating in Thursday night’s debate, he is the most recent to enter the race. Although I found that several issues he addressed in the debate (securing the border, understanding foreign relations, locally determined education reform, etc.) line up with my views, he did seem like another career politician who is new to the race.

Beyond the GOP Presidential Debate in Iowa, there has been significant interest in the likelihood that Rick Perry will enter the race. As Governor of Texas, I’m betting he owns a pair of boots. Maybe he will prove himself to be somewhat “Reaganesque.” Or, perhaps, one or more other candidates will emerge, who seem to fill that bill. But, as I said before, “so far, I don’t see anyone who could fill Reagan’s boots.” With that said, I did feel that Thursday night’s debate demonstrated another comment I’ve made previously – i.e. There are several Republican Presidential Candidates who are head-and-shoulders above Barack Obama, in terms of being qualified for the job of President. My hope has been, in the process of selecting from this field of candidates, we won’t end up with McCain II. Based on what I saw in the Iowa GOP Presidential Debate, I’m more comfortable with either Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney, in that regard.