Rule No. 1 when headed to a cannibal's party: Arrive well after dinner.
Rick Perry is looking like a genius now for arriving after dinner: The telegenic Texas governor waited until cannibalism broke out at the Republican presidential debate Thursday night before coming to the party. Now, stealing the thunder from today's Iowa straw poll, Perry plans to announce his candidacy for president today in South Carolina before making a grand entrance in Iowa Sunday.
The main thing that came out of the Thursday debate anyway was that the media - on Fox News, for anyone who thinks it hopelessly biased - will either tear up each of the Republican candidates (as they never did with Barack Obama) or encourage the candidates to do it to themselves and then stand back and watch.
He's not our favorite candidate, but we're with Newt Gingrich, who quite rightly bristled at the media's trivial personal attacks Thursday night when the economy is coming unglued and the whole word seems to be. What's more important? Gingrich's staffing, or whether 14 million Americans will ever find work again; whether Iran will become nuclear, and what that means; whether America is on the road to Greece; and what to do about borders that remain open and an immigration system that's broken?
Indeed, the only real losers at the debate seemed to be the media panel, which more than once was booed for its superfluous and inordinate lines of questioning. Byron York, of The (Washington) Examiner, had the effrontery to ask the unabashedly religious Michele Bachmann whether she would submit to her husband while as president, as she apparently had acknowledged previously doing regarding a big decision in her life. For Pete's sake, Byron. Do you really think there's some sort of sharia law in the Bachmann house?
To her great credit, Ms. Bachmann shook off being stunned and knocked York's low spitball out of the park, suggesting there's nothing wrong with each spouse respecting the other.
We were waiting for the first candidate to respond to the panel - as Fox's Chris Wallace once infamously asked of Bachmann - "Are you a flake?"
While the media probe the Republican field ever deeper for the nonexistent perfect human being, Americans are crying out for solutions to what ails America. It appeared at times Thursday night as if Gingrich were the only person on stage who wanted to talk about that.
- Other than Perry, who was not there, the big winner was Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor arrived in the frontrunner's car and exited in the same manner. He looked presidential - which is to say that he looked great on TV and was careful to keep his suit clean.
- Bachmann avoided gaffes and looked, dare we say, vice-presidential. In a one-on-one spitting contest with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, she seemed to come out squarely on top.
- We can't figure out what's wrong with Pawlenty. Amiable and accomplished, with a demeanor we would absolutely love in the White House, he nonetheless just can't seem to get any traction, either in debates or polls. The "knock" on him - shame on the country for thinking it a fault - is that he may be too nice. Perhaps his organizational infrastructure will help him in the straw poll today, but someone appears to have told him to attack Romney and Bachmann, and he did; he just looked way out of character and small doing it.
Note to T-Paw: Be yourself and let the chips fall where they may.
- Herman Cain and Ron Paul, though entertaining and energizing, confirmed their status as last-tier candidates. In contrast, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman doesn't even have the pizzazz to be included in the last tier. As for Rick Santorum, unfortunately he's an extremely attractive and viable candidate who, for some reason, has been shown to the consolation couch.
- Anyone who had no prior knowledge of the candidates and their baggage might have concluded that Gingrich won the debate. He was commanding, both in his presence and his knowledge, and the most articulate in expressing solutions to our problems. To cheers, he suggested emptying the Homeland Security bureaucracy to put warm bodies on the border - and correctly noted that it's a scandal Americans have yet to be shown who was and was not bailed out after the 2008 economic collapse, while calling for an audit of the shadowy Federal Reserve.
At bottom, it's both a shame and a detriment to this great nation that presidential debates and elections don't turn on the strength of one's ideas, but rather one's appearance on camera and what perceived peccadilloes one might have in one's past. At least if one is a Republican.
A world on the edge of chaos might be horrified to know how potential leaders of the most powerful nation on Earth are appraised and judged. The process, unlike the usual winners, isn't pretty.