by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Petersburg, Fla.
November 28, 2007
'VALUES' HYPOCRISY IS TONIGHT'S CHALLENGE FOR ROMNEY, GIULIANI
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Nov. 28, 2007 -- There's a haunting image from the Denver Democratic Convention walk-through for the media that keeps going through my mind when I consider the current round of debates. In Denver, near the Wynkoop Brewery that hosted a terrific media reception the night before the walk-through, there were two bordellos before the turn of the century whose madams were at war with one another. Eventually, their dispute was escalated into a deadly duel, and the two women faced off as the single object of their affections watched. The pistol shots rang out and one of them fell dead - the victim was the boyfriend.
How long will it be before harsh debates kill a party's presidential hopes?
That is a question the candidates would do well to consider as they march into tonight's CNN /YouTube Republican Presidential Debate in St. Petersburg, Fla., where the amazing beauty of this bayfront city and its wonderful downtown will be on exhibition along with the men who would be President. As things stand now there is only a very poor chance that any Republican can get elected in November 2008, but the clash that appears to be coming between former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney - with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee poised to overtake the latter in Iowa - could be devastating for the Grand Old Party.
The peril is that the hypocrisy of the Republican electorate could be exposed in all its ugliness for all the world to see. Imagine if Giuliani and Romney ignore Huckabee and start charging and countercharging each other with elements of their decidedly non-conservative, non-Republicans past positions - support of abortion rights, gun control and gay rights, and their family dysfunctions and all the rest? It would be delightful for Huckabee, of course, who has made run up the ladder in the past month or so based on his long adherence to what are called key family values cherished by Republicans.
When I was a young man and an ardent Republican, we never heard of family values in the Republican Party - or the Democratic Party - and these medieval morality plays had no part in the campaigns. Today, unless the two leading candidates can surmount them - and the evangelical Christian wing of the party that advances them - they may be dead meat for the grinning Mr. Huckabee, the yokel who's no jokel. To accomplish that, the candidates must prove buy pointing to the past that evangelical concerns are not a part of enduring Republican history, but a recent aberration of it; they must work together to isolate Mike Huckabee and all the hard-line evangelicals who have distorted the party's platforms and driven its candidates mad for the past 16 years.
Our President, allegedly a two-time drunk driver, layabout, deserter, drunk and drug user - like so many of our era - has never been agile enough to mask his human flaws as he marches onward for the Christian Right, and the stress of trying has taken a heavy toll on the cognitive part of his brain. President Bush desperately wanted to make his father proud, but in living a lie about who and what he has been and is, he instead brought his family's name into deep disgrace. Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney can do much tonight to avoid the same fate for themselves, but it will require a delicacy and plain courage that will test the true presidential mettle of both men. And if they are not equal to the task, well, then, they ought to let Huckabee have it for himself, because his hypocrisy is not ideological.
This is the essential dynamic that will drive tonight's debate. The searing honesty that brings liberation is the shining path to his party's presidential nomination for one of these men. Whether they will take it will depend, ultimately, on whether they think it's worth telling all and risking the religion-driven conservative voters in 2008; they could always stay silent and march onward into 2012 with their hypocrisy intact.
Joe Shea is attending the Republican Presidential Debate in St. Petersburg, Fla. Reach him at email@example.com.