Watching the CNN-hosted New Hampshire debate on Monday evening, it became clear just how much different the 2012 Replican primary race is from 2008 and yet, how it is the same.
Like 2008, the field is littered with so-called conservatives who have been indelibly influenced by the rise of the neoconservatives, which peaked in 2004 and has, unbeknownst to its members, been in free-fall decline ever since.
At around the same point in the race four years ago, Ron Paul was relatively unknown except for a few hard-core followers. He made an impression back then in one of the early debates by repeating something he has said for years, that he would abolish the income tax given the chance.
His famous exchange with Rudy Guiliani at another debate propelled him even further. But because Paul didn’t have nearly the financial backing his opponents had in the early part of the campaign, his showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, two key states, seemed to doom his attempt to electoral failure. In all other ways, however, he has secured a victory that no other person with whom he’s shared a stage before or since has even remotely approached.
He’s made it possible for people to associate themselves with the Republican party and be proud to do so. As long as they can do so by defining themselves as “Ron Paul Republicans” that is. So, in this respect, the 2012 cycle is vastly different .
The June 13th, 2001 debate started off rather dully for all of the candidates, including Paul. There was very little time given to answer and Dr. Paul’s timing seemed slightly off as he tried to deliver as much information as he could in the very short time allotted for answers.
But this is of no consequence really because in any debate, it only takes one defining moment. If there’s anyone who knows how to seize the moment and own the debate it is Ron Paul. His moment came, coincidentally enough following a moment eerily similar to the debate of October 10, 2007.
In that debate, the question of whether or not the President should be required to seek Congressional approval before launching military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities was posed by Chris Matthews. Romney’s response was of a person enamored with hearing himself talk while not really understanding the words emanating over his too-perfect choppers. Romney suggested that he would consult with lawyers to discover the proper course of action.
This sort of answer is in and of itself proof of not only complete ignorance, but also of willful ignorance. More than this, it is cover for actions that may be in complete contradiction to previous statements. Any deviation later can be blamed on the advice of whomever one is consulting.
The question this time was from a military veteran who asked when it would be time to bring home the troops from Afghanistan. Romney, using an almost carbon-copied answer of his response in 2008 (at least he’s consistent about some things) suggested that he couldn’t answer properly until he had spoken with the generals.
I can’t speak for what was going through Ron Paul’s head right then, but his most viable opponent in this race had just handed him, on a silver platter, the opportunity to put a stake through the heart of his presidential aspirations.
After all, if that is how a President makes decisions, then he is no President at all but a puppet. Romney has made no bones accepting the role of puppet. He has great teeth, speaks well and in any given situation, does what he’s told. The real question is, who is he trying to convince that he’s fit for the job? Certainly not the voters.
All Ron Paul had to do was to make this perfectly clear. And he did so with six words: “I am the Commander in Chief,” he continued, “the generals take their orders from me...”
And with that, Mitt Romney’s danger as a political foe vanished, to the chagrin of a few Pentagon officials who salivate at the thought of such a weak-minded person “commanding” the military.