Thursday, January 31, 2008

Another Missed Opportunity

I tuned in late to the GOP debate held in the Holy Temple of the Legacy of Great Communicator in California, but according to Michael Crowley at TNR’s blog The Stump, it wasn’t much worth watching unless you wanted to see Mitt Romney and John McCain bicker like children — “Did not!” “Did too!” — and have Ron Paul be the one to tell them to get back on the topic.

Oh, and Mike Huckabee was there, sitting — appropriately enough — on the far right of the panel.

Most of the commentary is noting that this was Mitt Romney’s chance to really put John McCain on the defensive and score some points going into SuperAmazing Tuesday and that he blew it.

Romney was handed one fine opportunity: A question about whether John McCain lied in Florida this week when he charged Romney with supporting a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq early last year. But Romney’s response was a stammering, largely incoherent mess. His resulting back-and-forth with McCain seemed petty, and offered little clarity on what he’d actually said. Nor did it effectively spotlight McCain’s cynical opportunism–and, say people who followed the details more closely than I did, dishonesty–in raising the charge. Romney clearly feels that McCain is lying, and that his candidacy is on the line. So why he couldn’t muster a powerful, indignant, jut-jawed, “Senator, you are lying to win votes,” is beyond me. (Or better yet, why not say that McCain “twists the truth like Clinton”?)

That pretty much proves the point that Mr. Romney is incapable of uttering anything that is unscripted, and it makes you wonder if he’s ever had a spontaneous thought in his life.

Perhaps he’s one of those people who can be spontaneous as long as they plan it out well in advance.