The debate charadeLast night's Republican Senatorial Debate on WATE-TV was one of the most entertaining electoral charades I have ever watched. The format was not friendly to discussing the issues and I felt that it lent itself to chaos, with no candidate being forced to stay on topic or on message. Instead of having a strict format of either townhall with audience questions or media panel with strict topics, the debate organizers tried to combine the two. None of the candidates stayed on message as a result. Both Van Hilleary and Ed Bryant actually tried-by the end of the debate Bob Corker did not care.
Bob Corker was never able to put to rest the notion that he is not really pro-life. I have to hand it to Corker, he actually put some effort into trying to make himself look more like a respectable conservative. He even said he'd be interested in looking at the possibility of implementing the Fair Tax Plan. I was beginning to think "man, Corker is really turning over a new leaf with all this." Then Corker blew it all to Hell when he began to refer to Hilleary and Bryant as "my Washington friends," clearly suggesting that Van and Ed are Washington "insiders" while he, Davy Corker, will bring good old fashioned Tennessee values to the U.S. Senate. Give us all a break, Bob. Jim Haslam is running your campaign, you were Don Sundquist's Director of Finance, you've been to Washington for big K Street fundraisers from Haslam's buddies there. You of all people have the unmitigated gall to try and insinuate that Van Hilleary (an Air Force veteran of Desert Storm) and Ed Bryant (an Army veteran and former West Point instructor) are somehow more "insiders" than you are is a disgusting indictment of your lack of worthiness as a candidate. It is nothing short of sick. Bob Corker ought to consider it a great honor to breathe the same air as these two Tennesseans who have given more to their country than Bob Corker has ever done. I wish to God that I could have the opportunity to serve my country in the way that either Hilleary or Bryant have done. They are "insiders" alright-in ways Mr. Corker cannot even fathom.
Van Hilleary was-I must admit-in rare form last night. I expected Ed Bryant to lead the attack on Corker, but Hilleary did that quite effectively, blasting Corker for his anti-life record and putting him on the defensive about both abortion and taxes, and causing Corker to declare "everyone around me knows that I am pro-life." In a moment of blunt honesty about the general nature of politics, Hilleary said in closing "politicians will all tell you what you want to hear, but in the end, all you have to go by is what they've done before."
Ed Bryant did as I expected he would do-he embraced the pro-life cause wholeheartedly and he said he was all in favor of the Fair Tax Plan. What most intreagued me was that Bryant is taking a stand which I support, but which is unpopular with some conservatives-the idea that we as a nation need to seriously invest in alternative fuels and means of transport. Bryant's reasoning for this is pragmatic in nature-"we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," he said. He is correct, of course, because if we as a nation are ever going to be energy independent, we will need to replace petroleum-based fuels with other means of running our automobiles-that is just the hard reality.
From a raw debate point-of-view, I'd say that this one was a draw-there was no clear winner. How it will effect the polls will likely be known today.
A personal note: Nicole and I had every intention of attending last night's debate in person. However, in recent days and weeks there have been some very hurried developments in our personal lives-things have been quite hectic. I have done little campaign work this summer (something that is not normal for me) and at the rate we are going, I may not be able to do much of substance (except write this blog) until after the Primary. There is a very good reason why, and when things begin to settle down I will explain here everything that is going on and I suspect you will understand why I have been relatively quiet during this time. I wanted you to know this because I know quite a few of you were at the debate last night and we wanted to be there to participate with you. I wanted those of you who are friends and supporters of my work to know that I haven't dropped off the face of the earth-or out of the arena-and God willing I never will.