COMMENTS: The Quiet Man

The Republican Presidential candidates met in Columbia SC for a debate organized by cable TV's FOX News Channel. CBS and NBC narrated the highlight reel. NBC's Andrea Mitchell noted "the missing man from the crowded stage" as President George Bush was "barely mentioned in the entire 90-minute debate." CBS' Jeff Greenfield identified the legacy Jerry Falwell, who died just hours before it started, as the "theme of the night." Falwell had helped to organize Christian conservatives as a "critical element of the Republican coalition--again and again candidates spoke to that base appealing for their support."

Greenfield singled out Rudolph Giuliani's pitch, which downplayed the importance of their real differences. He paraphrased Giuliani's "not-so-subtle message" about Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton: "Whatever our disagreements you need me to beat your real enemy." By the way, Rodham Clinton was raised at the end of anchor Brian Williams' interview with her husband, the former President and would-be First Husband, on NBC. Bill Clinton had been advocating green architecture to conserve energy when Williams asked about his role in his wife's campaign. Healthcare…the economy…climate change…foreign policy…"we talk about the big issues a lot…as we have all of our lives but I am not very much involved in the day-to-day operations of the campaign."

For light-hearted campaign fare, CBS closed with a trip to greenest rural Ireland where the Rev Stephen Neill, canon of the village of Moneygall, claims it was the home of an ancestor of candidate Barack Obama, on his mother's side, six generations ago. "I have been calling him Abracadabra because I did not know how to pronounce his name," confessed one parishioner. "Well, he does not look Irish," Richard Roth inquired of the rector. "No. That is not the first thing that you think--is it?--when you see him." Roth concluded cornily with a montage of village signage--O'Donovan's, O'Connor's, O'Hara--"Obama is a name that would fit right in."


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