In my view, the Republican Party’s only two serious candidates for President this weekend announced they had turned down the invitation to participate in the completely unserious Newsmax presidential debate, which is set to be moderated by Donald Trump. Jon Huntsman, former Governor of Utah and Ambassador to China, and Ron Paul, Texas Representative and staunch libertarian, told Newsmax that they simply were not interested in participating in a reality TV show masquerading as a serious political event.
“The selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the Presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity,” Paul’s campaign chairman Jesse Benton said.
According to a December 3rd Forbes.com article, Huntsman had pulled out of the debate the previous day, with his campaign humorously announcing, ”Lol. We look forward to watching Mitt and Newt suck-up to The Donald with a big bowl of popcorn.”
The reaction by Huntsman and Paul demonstrates that these unlikely-to-win contenders may well be the only adults in the GOP race. The current lead horses – Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich – seem satisfied to keep the race looking more like a circus than a serious political event. More important, Huntsman and Paul may well be the only candidates in the race with the integrity to serve as the world’s most powerful leader.
Romney is well-known for his inability to stick with a position – whether it be government-funded health insurance, a woman’s right to choose or control of carbon emissions. He has seemingly bent himself into a pretzel in order to shift away from the middle-of-the-road beliefs that marked his governorship of Massachusetts and become more appealing to the conservative Right. This lack of consistency on the issues is one of the reasons that Romney has been unable to seal the deal as the Republican front-runner and has now fallen behind Gingrich among the party faithful.
Gingrich, arguably the single most divisive politician in modern politics, has his own set of ethical challenges. They include the million dollar plus consulting contract with mortgage giant Freddie Mac – an organization that he once praised as a model of good business, but then virulently attacked as part of his presidential campaign. Gingrich lost his House seat over an ethics violation that was the mirror image of one he had pursued against Democratic Representative Jim Wright of Texas a few years earlier. And while Romney is squeaky clean in his home life, Gingrich has been a serial philanderer, even leaving his cancer-stricken wife for a much younger woman, then leaving her to marry former Congressional staffer Calista Bisek, who became the candidate’s third wife in 2000.
In comparison, Huntsman and Paul are paragons of ethical virtue. Ron Paul has been unwavering in his libertarian positions on issues such as American involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the decriminalization of drug use, and the need to audit, then eventually eliminate the Federal Reserve Bank. Jon Huntsman has stood alone among Republicans in announcing his support for issues such as evolution and global warming, and speaks in serious and meaningful tones about relations with our foreign trading partners and allies – especially China.
There seems little doubt that Mr. Trump’s presidential debate will be a continuation of the circus politics that have marked so much of the Republican campaign. Huntsman and Paul have made the wise choice by keeping away.