The New Hampshire Debates: Quick Thoughts

I’m not sure if you watched the debates from New Hampshire, but I watched snatches of them and came away with quick thoughts on the candidates. Due to a busy schedule, I had not seen any of the candidates in action.

On the Republican side, it was fun to see a bunch of smart, confident, able men talk for a while about important things. You don’t see that sort of thing on television much these days. Rudy Giuliani is a tour de force in a conversational sense. Whether you like him or not, he commands your attention from the moment he begins talking. Add in his record of turnaround in New York City and you can see why people are drawn to him as a candidate (or perhaps, were drawn to him). Fred Thompson is like your grandfather. He talks slowly, he’s in no hurry to do anything, but if you listen to him, he has interesting things to say. McCain is also a bit of a grandfather-type, though in a different way. He doesn’t intimidate you like Thompson does. His voice is nasal and high, and that has something to do with it. But he is a war hero, and that gives him gravitas that other candidates don’t have. Romney is slick and smooth. You can tell that he must have been an incredible dealmaker as a businessman. It’s hard to buy his line that being in business correlates with political ability. Most presidents have not been salesmen. Huckabee is also a smooth communicator, though he went pretty quiet at times. Ron Paul failed to rouse my interest on any level.

In general, Romney seemed a bit desperate, Thompson seemed half-asleep, McCain seemed prickly and testy, Huckabee seemed rather bland, and Giuliani impressed. I couldn’t vote for Giuliani, but you can tell that he was a terrific mayor in an administrative sense. None of these candidates really encourages me. Someone will push to the top, but there is no clear front-runner. At the same time, though, I was happy to see articulateness on display in this debate, if only to be reassured that public articulateness has not died in America.

On the Democratic side, I thought that Clinton seemed defensive and hurt at losing in Iowa, Richardson seemed utterly outclassed, Edwards had one shtick and kept saying it, and Obama came across as in control of the process. As with the Republicans, the Dems continually referenced themselves, reminding me of the great annoyance that is the presidential campaigning season, and indeed all of politics: self-reference. No candidate feels comfortable talking about the issues. Every candidate must continually reference themselves and their work. It’s terribly annoying that this is the way politics works, and it reminds one that politics, as with everything in this world, has clay feet. Even the best candidates sacrifice humility for self-promotion, and continually blather on about what they’ve done, even when their “accomplishments” have little to do with the subject at hand. “You know, that’s right, and this discussion on (fill in the blank) reminds me of our (better than “my”) work in (fill in the blank), in which I (“accomplished” some dubious feat).”

“Immigration is a priority for me, and that’s why I’ve ensured that all middle-schoolers in my state possess adequate instruction in entering and exiting buildings.” Or some such blather. Makes you so thankful that you don’t ultimately follow a politician, but a Man who didn’t hedge His bets, check His beliefs, or cite dubious “achievements” in His record. No, when Christ told His hearers He did something, He meant it. Here’s hoping for a new city, a city of God, in which He will be the only leader we follow.

  • tyler W.

    Excellent post Owen. I have to force myself to watch those debates because all the shenanigans that go on when a candidate should be answering a question leave me feeling insulted.

    however, getting students in and out of the doors is quite an accomplishment . . . .


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