It'd be so easy right now to turn into a full-time political blog. What a great time it is for American politics! I love an election year.
Four years ago, I missed much of the primary broo-ha when I went to work on the Galapagos. Sometimes I heard a snippet or two on the shortwave radio, when I could pick up the BBC or the Royal Canadian Broadcasting Network, and then later in the fall, just when things were getting interesting, I went up to work in Alaska. This time I was even more cut off, since most of the local news had to do with the salmon run, but I did manage to catch one of the Kerry-Bush debates in the house of a bunch of Forest Service lackeys over in the big city of Ketchikan.
In both situations I was surrounded by coworkers less than impressed by the political process, with a why-should-I-care? mentality. But then, biologists tend to be a cynical lot all around, since our line of work often deals with documenting the destruction of our line of work. That cynicism often includes politics.
For me, this is all like a visit to the circus. If you haven't been paying attention to politics lately, you've been missing out. The debates last year were hilarious, with their hundreds of people crammed on one stage (or thereabouts), classy moments like Guiliani getting interrupted by an apparent attempt by God to smite him (and the other candidates taking cover), watching Gravel foam at the mouth, listening to Kuchinich talk about his UFO experience, and the entertaining inability of nearly everyone to answer a question with a "yes" or "no."
I've been watching tonight's New Hampshire debates, when the weather hasn't been blacking out the station, and here are some of my shallower thoughts:
Guiliani - Good gravy, he actually sounds somewhat likable and is making sense. Did I enter a parallel universe? I think he is playing casual until Rommey self-destructs.
Romney- Squirming under the pressure, fun to watch! Everyone but everyone on the stage is taking pot shots at him, since he is currently the most vulnerable and the least likable. I remember back in the early debates when the was the most composed, but now he's lost his cool.
Huckabee- Whoops, he's gotten completely overshadowed. I don't think anyone sees him as a real threat, so they're ignoring him unless he proves them otherwise. He's not coming across as a heavyweight here, but more as a farmer who wandered into a corporate business meeting by mistake.
McCain- Oh, he's good. Despite Romney's attacks, he maintains his cool and gives a solid message. He's not being swayed, which certainly makes him look like the most mature of the bunch. His campaign later reported that he was "the only adult in the room," and I'd tend to agree.
Thompson- If McCain is the adult, Thompson is the crotchety old grandpa who leans into the conversation and speaks his mind whenever he feels like it. "Crazy old grandpa!" the kids used to say! Nah, really, he's making a lot of good points, but I think he'd need a lot more caffeine to make it four years as President.
Ron Paul- (Not to be confused with "RuPaul.") Well, he says a lot of my own thoughts, asks a lot of challenging questions that I think the entire nation is asking, but it is so off of the mainstream Republican theme (and therefore "disloyal") that most of the rest of the candidates A)snicker at him, or B)quickly interrupt him. For example, he made the point that terrorists attack us not because we are wealthy and comfortable, but because we have a military presence in their countries, which I thought was excellent, but everyone else quickly told him what an simpleton he was. Again, he posed the question, "What if China came and did to the USA what we did to Iraq?" and again was quickly thrashed as being a loony. Which is a shame, because I think the GOP needs to come to terms with the Ron Paul viewpoint if they want to win in the general election.
Republicans in general- Yikes. Very heated, many cheap shots, covered much of the same ground as previous debates, but with a rearranged political field. Hooray! Isn't this fun?
After the Republicans had their say, the Democrats joined them briefly on stage and shook hands. It was a wonderful moment, first, to know that one of those people will be president, and second, to see genuine civility in some of the hugs and brief conversations between otherwise hated rivals. Yes, I do think some of it was genuine, and although their mikes were turned off, I had fun making up the dialogue:
Edwards to Huckabee: "Want advice on being a running mate?"
Ron Paul to Richardson: "Hey! Are you a nut with no chance of winning? Me too!!"
Hillary to McCain: "Since we see each other in Washington all the time, will you hug me? Everyone else up here is getting a hug..." (He did.)
Okay, now the entire time I've been writing, the Democrats have been debating, and their debate has been so quiet and civilized compared to the Republicans that I've been spacing out. I've picked up a few lines, but I feel like I've heard it all before. It's too bad Biden's not here to throw out a few of his humorous barbs. Alas, with what I have to work with:
Richardson- Yes, he still seems competent, but not presidential. His typical attitude has always been, "I can't believe everyone doesn't agree with everything I say!"
Obama- He is very on top of everything here. I'll be really surprised if he doesn't just plow through all of this to the presidency, just because he seems so unflappable. Actually, I don't know if that's really true; this is where paying attention right now would be a good thing.
Edwards- When he's not talking, he seems fidgety. When he is talking, he seems exhausted. Actually, all of these candidates look exhausted. I wonder if this is how the famous Howard Dean scream happened, breaking under sheer primary exhaustion?
Hillary- Oh Hillary. How much I want a woman president. I just don't want that woman president to be you.
Right. Now I'm going to go back to the project that I was supposed to be working on!