Debate a series of hits, misses

The Republican presidential debate at Morgan State University ended around 10:30ish Thursday night when I rose from my seat in the Carl Murphy Auditorium and announced to no one in particular, "Boy! That certainly was more fun than skydiving!"

I trust you will forgive me for that bit of hyperbole. But the debate among the six Republican candidates considered to have little or no chance at the presidential nomination did have moments both entertaining and informative, so much so I'm inclined to hand out some awards.


1. Most uninformed question: To the woman, who won a contest on Tom Joyner's radio show that allowed her to pose one query to all the candidates, who implied that there had been no Republican president since Lincoln who left "a positive and significant legacy for black Americans."

Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas pointed to President Eisenhower's using federal troops to preserve order during the desegregation of Arkansas' Little Rock High School in 1957. And a greater percentage of Republicans than Democrats, Brownback rightly noted, voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.


Brownback - and the other five candidates - should have gone back to 1954, when the Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawed segregation in America's public schools.

That happened during the administration of a Republican president, under a Supreme Court chief justice - Earl Warren - appointed by a Republican president. That decision was considered to be such "a positive and significant legacy for black Americans" that black leaders and the entire civil rights establishment celebrated its 50th anniversary three years ago.

None of the candidates mentioned Brown v. Board of Education as the legacy of a Republican president. But they didn't mention that it was President Nixon who implemented the first affirmative action plan that called for quotas and timetables, either.

2. Most cogent reason the no-shows - former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson - could have given for not showing up, but didn't: Any one or all of these four, rather than citing scheduling conflicts, could have said, "We don't believe in holding debates in one-party states. If we wanted to do that, we may as well have the debate in Havana, Cuba."

Baltimore is, essentially, a one-party state, with all the dysfunction and pathologies endemic to one-party states. But Cubans have no choice in their country being a one-party state; they have to vote for someone who's a member of the Communist Party or vote for no one.

Baltimoreans, on the other hand, willingly, cheerfully and shamelessly choose to impose one-party tyranny on themselves. Giuliani, McCain, Romney and Thompson may have rightly reasoned that they can't reach people with that kind of mentality.

3. Most startling revelation: The news that black Americans and Latino-Americans are now joined at the hip. Every question from the journalist panel of Juan Williams, Cynthia Tucker and Ray Suarez talked about what impact presidential policies would have on "blacks and Latinos," as if the two are now one ethnic group.

I wasn't aware of that. I suspect this came about as a result of some edict handed down by Tavis Smiley, the moderator for the debate. I stand corrected. Now will Smiley, Williams, Suarez and Tucker kindly correct those Latinos in Los Angeles who've been waging war on blacks in that city?


Somebody clearly didn't get the memo.

4. Most missed opportunity: All the candidates blew it when Williams asked, "Is the Supreme Court right to say that integrated education is no longer the key to equal opportunity for all?" Not one pointed out that in Baltimore, it's the public schools that are most segregated and formerly lily-white private schools that now have integrated student bodies. Vouchers allowing black students at Baltimore's public schools to attend those private schools will lead to more integration and diversity. Those vouchers are opposed, primarily, by which party?

Hint: it ain't the Republicans. But not one of the candidates said that.

5. Most cogent quote: It came from Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who said of the war in Iraq and the expanding federal government so dear to the cut-taxes-and-spend brand of new Republicans, "We can't perpetuate a welfare state and police an empire without going broke, and we're on the verge of that."

Other candidates scoffed at Paul's reluctance to have America poke its nose into the business of smaller countries, but I have news for them: Paul is right, and you're wrong. The British already tried perpetuating a welfare state while policing an empire. They found it didn't work.

6. Most notable observation about the no-shows: It was a better debate without them.


Really, did anybody actually miss any of these guys?