Out on a Limb: Did God make presence known at GOP debate?

What a week it was. We survived the first two debates of the presidential primary season here in first-in-the-solar-system land, endured four live hours of CNN's Wolf Blitzer, dodged the conventional wisdom onslaught from the estimated 600 journalists covering the debates, and even got a hint or two about the relative states of sanity required to run for, if not actually be, leader of the free (and increasingly unhinged) world.

But before we engage in serious post-debate existential analysis, we must give credit where credit is clearly due. I refer, of course, to God, who may or may not have made his or her (I'm hedging my bets) presence known at the GOP debate during a stormy Tuesday night in Manchester.

While former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was conducting his latest experiment in connecting every issue known to man to his self-proclaimed heroism on 9/11, his microphone was disrupted by nearby lightning strikes. While he recovered with humor and grace, a Massachusetts reader with divine insight wasted no time in e-mailing the world with a real capital letter scoop.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN;

GOD SPOKE AT THE REPUBLICAN DEBATE HELD LAST NIGHT JUNE 5, IN MANCHESTER NEW HAMPSHIRE AT SAINT ANSELM COLLEGE. RUDY GIULIANI WAS ASKED BY MR. BLITZER ABOUT A COMMENT FROM A RHODE ISLAND CATHOLIC BISHOP REGARDING HIS STAND ON THE ABORTION ISSUE.

AS MR. GIULIANI WAS STARTING TO SPEAK, A BOLT OF LIGHTNING CUT OFF ALL COMMUNICATIONS IN THE HALL AND "EVERYTHING WENT SILENT." INCLUDING THE NATIONAL BROADCAST.

ALTHOUGH EVERYONE TRIED TO MAKE IT HUMOROUS, THE FACT REMAINS GOD SPOKE OUT, HE MADE HIS FEELINGS KNOWN ABOUT THE KILLING OF THE UNBORN. THIS IS OUR NATIONAL MORAL PRIORITY.

Enough said. Now on to a few more mortal matters.

Dark prince — By far, Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado has emerged as the dapper and articulate pessimist of the GOP field. Tancredo is a loose, entertaining cannon who, in the debate, not only trashed President Bush with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but his dark dissertation on the dangers of immigration (nation overrun, English language abandoned, looming apocalypse) could have been a speech from the unmade sequel to "Red Dawn," that famous right-wing nightmare porn movie from the 1980s.

Tancredo hasn't been to the state much so far, but he did try to get the most out of his latest visit by throwing an anti-immigration tantrum at the Manchester office of fellow Republican Sen. Judd Gregg. Gregg was having none of Tancredo's primary season stunt — and potentially crushed any chance Tancredo had to establish a meaningful presence here.

In a press release statement, Gregg swatted Tancredo away like an annoying insect.

"There are, unfortunately, people who wish to bury their heads in the sand by ignoring the threat our present dysfunctional system represents to our country, and who are using a jingoistic and demagogic approach of opposition to immigrants as a way to raise their own political visibility.

"These politicians are not constructive players to the process of working towards solving one of America's most pressing and critical problems. Congressman Tancredo has chosen to align himself with this approach. I strongly reject this new 'know nothing' wing of the political spectrum and hope the people of New Hampshire will as well," Gregg said.

Ouch.

Health care nonsense — If I hear another Democratic or Republican presidential candidate talk about the massive savings that will come on that blessed day when medical technology and record keeping will merge to create an efficiency nirvana, I will scream like one of the alien-transformed characters in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

I watched GOP presidential hopeful Tommy Thompson claim to an audience in Portsmouth on Wednesday that about one-tenth or $190 billion of our health-care dollars will magically vaporize through the digital revolution.

He's not alone. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Giuliani, John McCain and the rest of the candidates spouting this magic cure are selling magic, worthless beans. Thompson, the former Health and Human Services secretary under Bush, should know better that it requires a massive technological infrastructure investment of tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars, to reach this nirvana. It's an easy bone to toss — it's also a crock.

Fact challenged — Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts should be subject to a remedial class on just how we got into the war in Iraq. I watched in amazement as Romney, who was never known for putting in a lot of actual work time when he was governor (he was busy campaigning to be president), said the war in Iraq could have been avoided had Iraq henchman Saddam Hussein played responsibly by allowing international inspectors in to look for weapons of mass destruction.

Had Hussein "opened up his country to IAEA inspectors, and they'd come in and they'd found that there were no weapons of mass destruction," Romney responded with certainty, "we wouldn't be in the conflict we're in."

This was news to me because, Fox News to the contrary, Hussein actually did let international inspectors in late 2002. They searched and searched and searched some more. You can look it up. They were booted out in 2003, not by Hussein, but by Bush who decided that no proof of weapons of mass destruction was proof that they really did exist and required invasion.

Or was it links to 9/11? Bin Laden? Or spreading democracy to the Middle East through pre-emptive war? Honestly, I forget because the rationales come and go so easily.

Bush has repeated the same nonsense for years. Perhaps Romney, no dummy to be sure — after all he went to Harvard Business School, just like Bush — was making a calculation that all history is relative and his constituency is reality-challenged anyway, so why bother them with the details. He's also calculated that the national media are too lazy to take notice and challenge him. Romney calculated right.

"Vitriolic vomit" — And last but not least, I need to make a correction, courtesy of a gentle reminder from reader Stuart Hume of New Castle. He wrote: "Readers of the May 27, 2007, Sunday Herald had to slog through more than 40 column inches of the vitriolic vomit of Political Columnist and Editorial Page Editor Michael McCord's sophomoric rant to discover, almost at the end of his infantile diatribe that McCord reveals the depth of his ignorance by failing to come even close to the correct spelling of the last name of the U. S. lieutenant general in charge in Iraq. It's PETRAEUS, Mr. McCord not David Patreas."

As an experienced journalist and combat-trained U.S. Army veteran, I apologize to Gen. David Petraeus and Mr. Hume for this writing and fact-checking error for which I and I alone am responsible. As for Mr. Hume, I thank him for having the courage and perseverance to slog through 40 inches of "sophomoric rant," "infantile diatribe," and "vitriolic vomit." It couldn't have been easy.

Michael McCord is the opinion page editor of Herald Sunday and the Portsmouth Herald. Despite rumors to the contrary, infantile diatribes don't come easy to him.




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