Friday, September 28, 2007


They set places at the table, but the four GOP presidential frontrunners were no-shows.

Or, as Tom Joyner pointedly remarked in his opening comments last night at the GOP presidential candidate debate held at Morgan State, a historically black university in Baltimore, "Let me take a moment right here and now to say hello to those of you viewing from home: Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator John McCain, Gov. Mitt Romney and Senator Fred Thompson."

It seems there may be two reasons for their absence from this minority forum.... the quarterly campaign funding report deadline is Sunday and money hasn't exactly been pouring in over the transom, so they were fundraising .... and, they aren't ready for prime-time outside the comfort zone of the GOP privileged-white-men-only country club.

McCain in an ironic statement considering his empty podium.... and his Straight Talk Express idling on fumes.... lectured that the GOP is failing to reach out to African-Americans and Hispanics and needs to be reminded "that we are the party of Abraham Lincoln."

John, John, John.... you need to be reminded that Lincoln was famous for his debating.... his debates with Stephen Douglas are legendary and raised Lincoln's national profile. Lincoln would have been there last night.

Thompson continues to play the seven-dwarf role of Sleepy.... maybe he wasn't aware of the debate. After all, a major part of Thompson's platform in his run for Senate in 1994 was his support for the death penalty. Yet, asked recently for his thoughts on the recent landmark cases in his home state of Tennessee and Kentucky on lethal injection, Thompson drawled... "I hadn't heard that. I didn't know."

In Florida earlier this month Sleepy was surprised that oil drilling in the Everglades was a major state issue. Nor could he remember much about the brain-damaged Terri Schiavo case that stirred national debate. Even social conservative religious-guru James Dobson dismissed Thompson as being weak on the campaign trail and wrong on the issues. Fred, wind your alarm clock.

Maybe Giuliani didn't show up because cell phones were banned at the debate.... so he couldn't do his Fibber McGee and Molly shtick with his wife. Ring, ring.... And, Romney really missed an opportunity to muss his "Ken" persona a bit.

For those who did show up.... former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, Rep.Tom Tancredo of Colorado, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and the ever-opportunistic Alan Keyes, a former conservative diplomat.... the reduced participation allowed them more face time than usual.

Insofar as the impact of the shunning of the debate by the four GOP hopefuls, Travis Smiley who moderated the forum took dead aim: "Some of the campaigns who declined our invitations to join us tonight have suggested publicly that this audience would be hostile and unreceptive. Since we are live on PBS right now, I can't tell you what I really think of these kinds of comments."

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