The Last Debate - Iowa Republican Edition

Drunkblogging -- I'm pretty sure I invented it. But I had good reasons.

Nearly six years ago, President George W. Bush gave his first post-9/11 State of the Union Address. It was the 21st such address I'd watched. Despite the uncertainty of the time, I knew one thing for certain: I was not going to make it through another d*** SOTU speech without being heavily intoxicated. And so, yes, I drank my way through it. Not much later, I discovered that strong drink was the only way to get through presidential speeches, election nights, or -- worst of all -- any of these so-called presidential "debates."

Tonight's Republican debate in Iowa was no exception. But it managed to prove the rule, regardless. Proven to such an extent, in fact, that my liver may never forgive me for having watched. Really, if it weren't for TiVo and the ability to fast-forward through the really bad parts, you might be reading my postmortem right now instead of my post-debate wrap-up. Yes, it was that bad.

Maybe I've seen to many of these debates by now, and know each of the candidate's talking points by heart. Maybe I follow the news too closely. Maybe I read too many blogs -- mine included. But I don't think any of those items, even combined, are the real problem.

We're in a very fluid race. The frontrunner, Rudy Giulliani, is down almost everywhere. A scary populist preacher is taking the lead, almost everywhere. The war hero and the TV star are getting no respect, almost anywhere. These should be exciting times. Instead we have... well, we have what we had at today's debate -- candidates who don't seem to want to win, performing for audiences who don't much care which one wins, either.

What, you think it's just me? Here's what others had to say.

Over at the Below the Beltway Blog, Dave Mataconis said:

To say that this debate was anti-climactic is an understatement. The moderator, Carolyn Washburn, is the editor of the Des Moines Register and, quite honestly, it's quite easy to see why she's made her career in the print media rather than on television; I don't think I've seen a person with less passion in quite some time. That, combined with a set of rules that made it virtually impossible for any of the candidates to give a substantive answer to any question made for an incredibly boring affair that doesn't seem likely to have any substantive impact on the race.

And, to make it worse, I actually watched this thing without the aid of a fine glass of wine. I've got to remember that politics and sobriety are a really bad mix.

Amen to that last point, Dave!

When I admitted online that I was unable to watch the "event" live, blogger No Runny Eggs wrote, "You definitely didn't miss a thing... Besides, I don't think a couple of Bloody Marys would've been nearly enough, and because it was a PBS production, there was no commercial opportunity to do the very-necessary reloads."

Forced sobriety while watching anything on PBS should be a crime, with the possible exception of kindergartners and Sesame Street.

Blogger Wyoming Cowboy wrote in the comments on my site, "It was a four martini affair. If Alan Keyes hadn't shown up everyone would have fallen asleep." What he left unsaid was, "What the hell was Keyes doing anywhere near real candidates? Did PBS feel the need to bring someone new in to make Ron Paul look sane? And did anyone let the Secret Service know that Keyes was going to be near the real candidates?"

At this point in your typical post-debate wrap, the writer would be well into the who-said-what-to-whom section of his column. You'd be reading about the exciting give-and-take between the testy candidates and the moderators, the boos and applause, and the biases of the moderators... but... no. I have none of that for you. Instead, all I can report is the same thing I've seen in every other Republican "debate" so far this year.

Mitt Romney tried to please everybody. John McCain looked small and tired. Fred Thompson looked like he'd rather be with his hot wife (who wouldn't?). Rudy Giulliani was feisty-yet-defensive. Mike Huckabee covered up his hostile weirdness with his preacherly geniality. Ron Paul and Alan Keyes were interchangeable in their weirdness to such and extent that you could only tell them apart by their colors. And what the heck are Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo doing still hanging around?

Did I leave anybody out? And if so, is there anybody left who cares? The candidates sure didn't seem to. You'd have better luck setting off the Space Shuttle with an empty Bic lighter than getting any fireworks out of today's debate.

In three weeks, the caucus-goers of Iowa will have their say. And if there's any good news to report, it's this: Iowans suck at picking winners. The last one they got right was Jimmy Carter back in 1976, and even Iowans are smart enough (I think) that they'd happily take a do-over on that one. So -- can we move on to New Hampshire already? And can someone refill my drink?

Please?