My dog Tallulah and I enjoyed watching the Republican debate the other night. For us, political debates fulfill the same role that watching Survivor does for those who don’t have to do this kind of thing for a living. Tallulah’s ears, I noticed, picked up whenever Rick Perry weighed in. As I said to Mrs. Lowe-Down, it must have been a Pavlovian response to that conservative dog-whistle of his.
The way the organizers set up the debate, the candidates who ranked highest in the polls were positioned in the center, with the also-rans trailing out to the edges. I found it ironic that each of the eight (was it eight?) wannabes was falling all over him- and herself to invoke the sainted Ronald Reagan’s name. If Reagan were running in the Republican field today, he wouldn’t even be allowed on the stage. He’d be way out in left field somewhere near the restrooms.
The man knew how to compromise when compromise would achieve results. He raised the debt ceiling. He hiked taxes when he had to. He never took his eye off the ball, which was to do what he thought was best for the country. He had his own way of interpreting what was best, certainly, but he always kept an open mind regarding other people’s interpretations. Respect, that’s what Reagan was about.
So there was no place in the Reagan Presidential Library the other night for a candidate who was willing to depart from strict ideological purity in the name of pragmatism. Of the group, Jon Huntsman may come closest to appearing reasonable, but look what’s happening to him: Most primary voters don’t even know how to spell his name correctly.
Instead, Rick Perry got a roaring ovation from the bloodthirsty crowd for his accomplishment of executing more people than anybody else in the field, or maybe in history--I can’t remember. If Ronald Reagan were alive, he probably would have turned off his hearing aids.