After the pre-New Hampshire debates yesterday, I wasn’t left thinking Hillary Clinton looked bad — her fleeting minute of controlled anger was far less creepy than the perpetual smoldering hostility McCain exudes (as in his remark about flip-flopping Romney being “the candidate of change,” which was delivered in such a menacing tone that I didn’t get the relatively benign joke at the time — it sounded more like McCain was threatening to neuter Romney or something). Nonetheless, since, last I knew, Obama was on top in New Hampshire Dem polls and McCain on top in New Hampshire GOP polls, I may well end up rooting for McCain in the general election come November.
And he might be the only Republican — Ron Paul excepted — with enough crossover/moderate appeal to combat Obama’s own broad appeal in the general election. At the same time, for all his apostasy, McCain can convcingly appeal to the pro-life, hawk, and budget-cutting GOP factions in a way no other lone GOP candidate does (about a year ago during a discussion at a New York Young Republicans Club meeting, I picked him as the best bet to unite Republicans but had since grown to hope that Paul, Thompson, or Giuliani could get the job done, too).
If it ends up being McCain vs. Clinton — the two of them having been friendly in the past — they can commiserate about having run against primary rivals who blathered about change last night. If it ends up being McCain vs. Obama, it will be interesting to see if McCain’s personal animosity toward Obama, caused by the latter’s failure to follow through on some of their joint legislative plans, manifests itself in a counterproductive, hostile-seeming way.
In the meantime…
If all those libertarians who were supposed to move to New Hampshire under the so-called “Free State Project” a few years ago have arrived there in sufficient numbers to make Ron Paul the GOP victor there, I’ll be thrilled.
If he should fare poorly there, though, I blame myself. Or rather, I can’t help thinking that I could have given Paul some media training, or that someone should have. He says all the right things — libertarian things — but he has a tendency to say technical things that only economists, libertarians, and Paul supporters understand and to say them with as much gusto as if he just said something that the other 90% of the crowd could follow. Where a more mundane politician might say simple, concrete things like “I want a safe democracy and a prosperous economy so that families can work and thrive,” Paul says things like “You see how the prices go up if we monetize debt and that causes instability!” What? Huh? (I’m paraphrasing, just barely). Principled, passionate, yet not exactly pithy sometimes — and I just hope New Hampshire will forgive him for it and help save the republic.
I’ve seen video about traders on the floor of the stock exchange cheering for Paul when he criticizes government spending and Paul Bernanke, but different audiences demand different rhetoric.
Then there’s Thompson (who, for anyone understandably confused about who my “second choice” is, would have been #2 for me after Paul — based purely on his positions — had he not dithered about entering the race and then proven hopelessly boring and uninspiring when he did enter, elevating Giuliani to the #2 slot philosophically but perhaps Romney or McCain to the #2 slot for purely strategic reasons if Giuliani proves unable to bring the GOP coalition together). Someone tell Fred that one of the most important principles of public speaking (a principle I made up just now, but it’s crucial nonetheless) is that you have to make the causal connections between the things you mention as clear as if you’re talking about a cat who stole a biscuit and dropped it in a lake, dammit. You can’t say things like (I’m paraphrasing again, just barely), “Immigration is seen through an issue of security with regard to the American people having considered the way we ID the whole problem with the” blah blah blah.
If George W. Bush is enough to make one miss the rhetorical skill of George H.W. Bush, Thompson is enough to make one pine for the electrifying speeches of Bob Dole. It’s all very frustrating.
Then again: the Founders actually believed that great oratorical skill was a bad thing in a president, since it made him more likely to become a demagogue (that thought consoled me when W. became president and decided to avoid press conferences). We aren’t electing Henry V, we’re electing someone to run what should be a humble, unobtrusive government with few duties, and a soft-spoken gynecologist and amateur economist like Ron Paul is still the right man for the job. We’ll see how he fares Tuesday (and for the record, I never thought that Dean scream was so odd, either).