First Principles

In search of the Unified Theory of Conservatism

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Spending and Taxes – Bonus Features

August 21st, 2015 · 1 Comment

I haven’t done one of these in awhile, because the Earth still won’t stop spinning too quickly for me to do all the things I want to do in a day.  But there was too much good stuff I wanted to include with my latest RGJ column that I just didn’t have the space for.

Brought to you in part by the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

Brought to you in part by the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

The biggest is really this – just as lower taxes do not necessarily equal lower spending (or less government), higher taxes do not also necessarily mean more spending (or bigger government).  You can lower rates and see an increase in revenue due to increased economic activity (such as the deficit reducing and economy stimulating Bush Tax Cuts).  Or you can raise tax rates and see revenue actually shrink.  Or, sometimes you raise revenue for some very necessary public infrastructure improvement (better schools or roads which woo businesses to settle in your town) and see long term growth.

A couple of pieces I’ve recently come across help shed light on what the 2015 Legislative session and the tax increases passed by those folks actually did in terms of growing government. [Read more →]

→ 1 CommentTags: Deficits and Debt · Economy

Reid’s Dark Legacy – Bonus Features

April 3rd, 2015 · 4 Comments

Last week, the RGJ asked me to contribute my thoughts to Harry Reid’s retirement – here they are.  It’s amazing, though, how fast the news cycle can be.  Since I submitted my piece, two new items came to light which make my critique seem almost quaint.

First is Reid’s disgusting confirmation that he was perfectly comfortable – even proud – of his lie, given its political success.

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→ 4 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

How Do Unions Help Nevadans? – Bonus Features

March 29th, 2015 · 1 Comment

Conservatives and union activists rarely agree on things, but they do share this common mistake – they conflate public employee unions with public employees generally.  Both are very wrong to do so.

That’s why, as a guy who has spent most of his adult lifetime working for the government, I have no problem calling out government employee unions – the subject of my latest piece in the RGJ.

Most criticism you hear about these unions – or “associations” as they prefer to be called – is from private sector conservatives who complain about the inflated cost to the taxpayer that comes with the pay and benefits packages the unions are able to negotiate.  It’s sometimes a fair beef, but it’s too often self-destructively wrapped in what sounds suspiciously like the bitter jealousy of the socialist.  “Hey – that guy gets paid more than me!  No fair!”  Republican candidates for office who have chosen careers – or even have any experience – in the public sector are too often pilloried for that fact alone by other Republicans, which is just silly.

The difference between an actual conservative and a nut-job pseudo-anarchist who wrongly claims the label is that conservatives don’t actually hate the government.  We often hate what it does, and are clear-eyed about the destructive power of government when it starts to color outside of its prescribed lines.  But we have an affirmative view of how government can and should work to protect and preserve the liberty of a citizenry, and many of us who are in government do so because we want to be part of that protection.

Public Employees - 350, give or take.   Union members - 0.

Public Employees – 350, give or take.
Union members – 0.

And so – as someone who works in government, and who believes that a government manned by dedicated, talented, and fairly compensated employees is a necessary ingredient to a free and prosperous society – I ask again:  How do public employee unions benefit any of us?  As someone who has seen government workers at their best (see the above pic), and knows they don’t have to be unionized to be the best, why do we take seriously those who insist otherwise at great cost to us all? [Read more →]

→ 1 CommentTags: Uncategorized

Blueprints and Plans – Bonus Features

March 14th, 2015 · Comments Off on Blueprints and Plans – Bonus Features

My latest at the RGJ is up, about the ridiculous and somewhat insulting emptiness of the Nevada Democratic Caucus’ recently published campaign flier/legislative agenda.  The thing about emptiness is that there’s only so much you can say, which makes this a shorter post.

(You have to click through, though, and check out the comments.  There’s one there that should win whatever awards internet trolls give out instead of Grammys.)


First of all, of course, are the citations.  Here is Dan Schwartz’ “budget”.  Here is the Democrats’ “blueprint”, via Ralston Reports.

Back in the day, governing blueprints at least included something about science policy.

Back in the day, governing blueprints at least included something about science policy.

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photo by:

Comments Off on Blueprints and Plans – Bonus FeaturesTags: Uncategorized

Low Hanging Fruit – Bonus Features

February 26th, 2015 · 1 Comment

Raise a glass, ladies and gentlemen – if you vote for Republicans, your opportunities for boozing it up will greatly improve!

The path to voters' hearts wends its way through the liver...

The path to voters’ hearts wends its way through the liver…

Well, that SHOULD be the case, anyway, and will be if GOP legislators read my latest RGJ column, and heed my exhortations.

As always, please enjoy some additional citations, information, digressions, and other thoughts, presented in no particular order, based loosely on the original column. [Read more →]

→ 1 CommentTags: Free Markets

Getting Ahead of the Game – Bonus Features

February 13th, 2015 · 3 Comments

My latest piece for the RGJ is up.  This one is for all the discouraged Republicans out there who are tired of seeing headline after headline reporting the antics of a few incompetent loons.  Most opinion columns involve a lot of complaining, and so it’s nice when we have positive things about Republican control of Nevada’s government to talk about.

Before the more directly related bonus features, I just have to give a some credit to the inspiration for the lead-in.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????This is Steve Shinego, who was the XO on the USS Paul F. Foster when I was there as the Navigator in 2001-2.  He never, ever, ever got tired of promoting his “get ahead of the game” philosophy, and insisted that the entire crew abide by it.  There was plenty of grumbling at times, but he proved himself right over and over and over again.  We flew through inspections, won awards, and earned a great reputation on the waterfront – with a better quality of life besides.

Part of his sense of urgency was the understanding that unexpected crises are things that need to be planned for.  This sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s obviously correct, once you think about it.  It might be an equipment casualty or a personnel emergency, but something will always come up.  (And if it doesn’t, bonus time!)  That, and frankly, he wanted to build in time to enjoy himself, and wanted the rest of us to enjoy ourselves, too.  Miserable sailors working 22 hours per day while they’re lurching from crisis to crisis is not a scenario that puts a destroyer in top fighting shape.  Steve was hands down the best officer I ever served under, and to this day I try to keep his exhortations in mind.

The Nevada legislature isn’t a warship, but the same issues apply.  For example, in 2013, the US Supreme Court decided a case regarding the constitutionality of warrantless blood draws in DUIs that had major impact on our own implied consent statute.  That case came down in April, while the legislature was still in session and could have taken action to update our own laws to be compliant with the law.  But too much was still left for the final scramble, and so law enforcement and prosecutors have spent the last two years dealing with the Constitutional issues on an ad hoc basis.


But like I say in the column, it’s clear that Republican Leadership understands the Steve Shinego approach.  And when it comes to Republicans getting down to real business and demonstrating seriousness and competence, I’m happy to say there’s plenty more to report than what my word limit allowed.

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→ 3 CommentsTags: Nevada Politics

How To Turn Disagreement Into Better Policy In Three Easy Steps – Bonus Features

January 31st, 2015 · 3 Comments

My latest for the Reno Gazette-Journal is now up on line – please check it out!  I’m especially excited for this one, as it’s the first column that will go to print in the paper paper.  But even if you’re like me and prefer your pontifications in the form of pigment-stained dried pulp, please take a minute to click through the link.  It’s hard to do readership metrics with the paper itself, as the RGJ’s spy drones are still in their testing phase…

In the meantime, a couple of related thoughts:


It’s always amazing to me that so many people don’t understand that HOW we do things is at least as important as WHAT we do.  In politics, personal relationships and likeability have huge impacts on policy.  We don’t teach our children manners, grace, and discipline because it’s fun to boss them around, we do it because without those things, they’ll be less successful in life.

"Strike First!  Strike Fast!  Read the budget before complaining about it SIR!!!"

If the Cobra Kai dojo would have taught grace along with their discipline…  well, it may have been a less interesting movie.  But then Johnnie Lawrence could have grown up to be a great Speaker of the Assembly!

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→ 3 CommentsTags: Nevada Politics

A Tale of Two Speeches – Bonus Features

January 23rd, 2015 · 4 Comments

So a couple of things I would have liked to have added to my RGJ column about the contrast between Governor Sandoval’s State of the State and President Obama’s State of the Union addresses, but didn’t fit for space or flow reasons:


I didn’t actually watch either speech.  I’ve always preferred to listen to State of the Union addresses on the radio or read a transcript.  Even when I’ve live-blogged them in the past, I couldn’t really see the TV screen while I was writing.  In this case, I read both of them (here and here), and that’s where the contrast really, really shows up.

Numbers and thoughtful policy specifics tend to be boring for most people, which is why people who rely on rhetoric instead of substance try to avoid them.  A good delivery or a speaker you’re already predisposed to buy into can make complete nonsense sound profound.

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→ 4 CommentsTags: Brian Sandoval · Obama · Partisanship

A Bold New Era* In Nevada Punditry

January 22nd, 2015 · Comments Off on A Bold New Era* In Nevada Punditry

Hey – is this thing still on?  It is?  Wait, we’re posting?  Man, step away from a blog for a few years, and a guy forgets all his technical skills…

Ah, that’s better.  Now – let’s see if I can remember how to cross promote across multiple platforms!

The reason for blowing the dust off of this little corner of the internet is that I was recently offered a chance to write a column for the Reno Gazette-Journal.  I’m super excited about it, and incredibly appreciative of the folks at the RGJ (and one or two others who thought to mention me) for the opportunity for a new and bigger platform.

Here’s the column, which contrasts Governor Sandoval’s substantive, detailed, and adult State of the State speech with the President’s vapid and dishonest federal version – and hints at some lessons conservatives can learn from both.  I think it’s not a bad start, as judged by the fact that several breathless, insult-filled, and point-missing comments have already been posted in response!

Ah, the mature thoughtfulness of modern political discourse…

Anyway, as pumped as I am, the space limitations of a newspaper column is a different way to write, and presents a new and welcome challenge.  I actually prefer to read the paper on dead trees, and not just because getting Daddy’s newspaper makes a great first chore for a two year old.  And the discipline of having to get to the point will be very good for me.

But I love the ability to hyperlink to supporting evidence, provide clarifications and caveats, and otherwise free-form my way through a topic.  Fortunately, thanks to the miracle of the interwebs, I don’t have to chose!  Besides – the RGJ was kind enough to add my website to the bottom of the piece “to read more,” so there should probably be more here.

So if it’s your first visit, welcome, and if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, welcome back!  Whether you agree with me or not, I hope you find something interesting and thought provoking here.  And please do click through to the RGJ – not only do I think the pieces are worth perusing, but shares and clicks are the name of the game for us both!

*Individual eras and the degree of their boldness may vary.

Comments Off on A Bold New Era* In Nevada PunditryTags: Housekeeping

Barack Obama vs. Liberalism

May 19th, 2013 · 4 Comments

In defending the President against his responsibility for his scandals, liberals undermine their governing philosophy.  We should support these efforts!

It’s been incredibly interesting to watch supporters of the President try to defend his actions – or lack thereof – in his various swirling scandals these days.  First there was a lot of silence – it took awhile for the damage control talking points to get worked out.  It takes special skill to defend the indefensible, after all.  Some are denying anything is wrong at all, that the IRS was just doing its job, that no one was lying about Benghazi, and that monitoring the AP reporters’ phone calls was vital to national security.  The RGJ’s Corey Farley absurdly argued today that the IRS targeting and harassment is no big deal, because Nixon, McCarthy, and Ted Kennedy (all folks modern Republicans hold in the highest regard, of course) did it, too.  All of these excuses have the same drawback, though – they require the excuse maker to be either stupid or a liar.  But now they seem to have settled on the ultimate defense.

The President didn’t do anything wrong, you see – he’s just incompetent!

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→ 4 CommentsTags: Big Government · Obama · Partisanship · Principles

Badassiest Mascots 2013 – The Winner Revealed!

March 19th, 2013 · 2 Comments

Here we go into the final stretch – let’s see which mascot will wear this year’s Badass Crown!

Sweet Sixteen

The (16) Liberty Flames over the (5) Oklahoma State Cowboys

SS - Liberty v OK StThere are times when not giving a crap any more can be what you need for a final badass push.  But not when it comes to being consumed by the flaming torch of avian-borne freedom [Read more →]

→ 2 CommentsTags: Silliness · Sports

Badassiest Mascots 2013 – The Third Round

March 19th, 2013 · Comments Off on Badassiest Mascots 2013 – The Third Round

We’re underway, and the creme is starting to rise to the top of the chaffe, or something.  Let’s find out just how badass these mascots can be in the third round!


The (16) Liberty Flames over the (9) Missouri Tigers

R3 - Liberty v Mizzou [

Comments Off on Badassiest Mascots 2013 – The Third RoundTags: Silliness · Sports

Badassiest Mascots 2013 – The First and Second Rounds

March 18th, 2013 · 3 Comments

Woo Hoo!  It’s Madness Time on the hard court once again, ladies and gentlemen!  It’s a time I’ve always looked forward to, even as a casual sports fan most of the year, for reasons that totally had nothing to do with finals being over.  And indeed, as our politics have gotten stupider, the need for escape becomes that much greater.  Here at First Principles, I’ve always tried to offer a perspective that you won’t get anywhere else, and that commitment to Uniquiosity™ isn’t limited just to politics.   Anyone can watch games, crunch statistics, know which players match up well against who.  You can look at seeds, win-loss records, RPI, distance from home, etc., and everyone does.  But no one – no one! – seems to account for what might be the most important stat of all:  The Relative Badassity of the Team Mascot, as defined by Myself.

Click on this picture for hilarious real mascot fights.

Click on this picture for hilarious real mascot fights.

“Badassity” is a function of many things – “Who Would Win In a Fight” is a major determiner, but that alone isn’t always enough.  Mascots lose points for lack of originality (I’m talking to you, 8 Million Wildcat Teams).  History of the team nickname matters, as well as how it’s used today.  Logo design can be key – what do do when you have multiple Bulldogs?  Acknowledging Badassity doesn’t necessarily constitute endorsement – the Forces of Darkness tend to do well in this bracket.  And I try to look to the past when in doubt in close contests, following the rule of stare decisis when possible.  You can check out 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012 just for reference (2010 was purged from the record books after an NCAA rules violations investigation that I’m contractually prohibited from discussing).  And of course, the results are totally and completely guaranteed*!

*If you believe this, please join my pool.

So, defend your own school’s mascot if you can, and let’s get on with the Dance!

The First Four – Play-In Round

The (16) Liberty Flames over the (16) North Carolina A&T Aggies

R1 - NC AT v LibertyThis first matchup is an odd combination of overused mascots tossed together in a stew of medium grade Badassity, but with some real hidden potential in each.  Aggies, of course, refers to [Read more →]

→ 3 CommentsTags: Sports

Hey… It’s Gotten a Little Dusty in Here

March 17th, 2013 · Comments Off on Hey… It’s Gotten a Little Dusty in Here


This is probably the longest I’ve gone without blogging since I started doing it back in 2005.  There are a lot of reasons for that, but it’s time to come back, unlock the doors, blow off some dust, and open this shop back up.  I’ve been working on a series of posts about what Republicans and conservatives can do to change our fortunes – and the country – for the better, so stay tuned for that.  But as long time fans know, my favorite blogging of the year comes from my own, unique, and of course flawless take on the NCAA tournament.  With the Selection Sunday show now in the books, and the field set, I can no longer sit back and remain silent…

So the mascots are calling me back, along with a lot of readers who have asked me what’s going on and demanding more (thanks, you guys!).  In the meantime, enjoy some hoops predictions in the next few days!

Comments Off on Hey… It’s Gotten a Little Dusty in HereTags: Housekeeping

Uff Da.

November 7th, 2012 · 9 Comments

Obama wins.  Republicans lose everywhere they could have lost in the Senate.  No wave.  No repudiation.  No change.  No mandate either way, and yet everyone will claim one.

Let me say this at the outset – I hope like hell that I’m wrong about what we’re in store for in the next four years.  I hope my friends who voted for and still support the president are wiser than me.  I hope that Obamacare bends the cost curve down and that it provides good health to Americans in an economically sustainable way.  I hope the economy comes screaming back to life, with the GDP growing at 5%+ every quarter for the duration.  I hope unemployment plummets.  I hope that Obama will make a serious effort to balance the budget.  I hope a Democrat wins in a landslide in 2016 because things are going so well.  I hope Iran will be prevented from getting a nuke because the Islamists are enchanted with him as a global healer.  I hope Obama stops considering me his “enemy.”

No tongue-in-cheek – I hope this will be so with all of my being, even as I know it won’t be so.

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→ 9 CommentsTags: Campaign '12

Final Pre-Election Thoughts

November 5th, 2012 · 6 Comments

One day away.  I’m feeling good about this election, and even better that it’s almost over.  But nothing is certain, and it ain’t over ’til it’s over – GO VOTE!!!!!

I think Romney wins tomorrow, and the “why” boils down to this:  Romney isn’t simultaneously demolishing Obama among independent voters and losing the race.  Those two things are just not compatible.  And while the polls have been all over the map, there has been one tremendous consistency – Romney wins big with independent voters.  Even in polls where it’s showing things tied, like in this CNN poll, Romney is winning Indies by 22 points.  22!  And the poll, like many others, assume Democrats will have an even greater electoral advantage than they had in 2008.  No thinking person thinks the electorate will look like this tomorrow.  Couple that with Obama failing to breach 50% pretty much anywhere, along with the tendency of late deciders to break hard for a challenger, and I feel like my cautious optimism is pretty well justified.

The other reason, beyond all others for me, is that Obama is acting like a losing candidate, and Romney is acting like a winning one.  Good polling is very, very expensive, which is one of the reasons there are so many bad ones out there.  Major campaigns are one of the few entities who can afford the better ones.  Obama wouldn’t be talking about getting “revenge” if he thought he was winning – indeed, that word suggests he’salready lost.

But still – VOTE!  A win is good.  A mandate is better.


But what about Nevada?

For my non-Nevadan readers, this is (l to r) Senator Dean Heller, some guy who blew in from the parking lot, Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Congressman Mark Amodei, Governor Brian Sandoval, and Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki.

Today I had the honor and opportunity to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at a campaign stop by Condoleezza Rice here in Reno.  Scheduled to speak before her were my Governor, my Lt. Governor, my Senator, and my Congressman, and we were all in a back room waiting for the former Secretary of State to come.  Four of the most powerful men in Nevada were relaxed, happy, and having fun with each other.  They were warm, respectful, and gracious to harried staffers, volunteers, and almost-3 year-olds who could have slept more last night.

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→ 6 CommentsTags: Campaign '12

LiveBlogging the Final Debate – LIVE from Washoe GOP/Team Nevada HQ

October 22nd, 2012 · 1 Comment

Final Thoughts:  I thought this went well, and Romney did what he needed to do.  Some of the activists are wondering why Romney didn’t hit Benghazi harder, but it’s clear that was a calculated decision.  (I probably would have hit Libya harder, but I wonder if they have some focus group data that suggested that wasn’t resonating.)  Again, the audience here are the late undecideds who aren’t happy with Obama (or they wouldn’t be undecided), but want to make sure Romney isn’t some crazy, loose canon warmonger.  He did that, and did it very well.  He looked reasonable, strong without being overly brash, well informed, and competent.  Obama did nothing to reverse the momentum here, and said a few things that I think will really hurt him.  (He does know our largest Navy base is in swing state Virginia, right?)

As a successful business guy, Romney is necessarily very good at FIRST asking the question, “What does it mean to win?”  Pundits and activists want to count blows and “points” and other such nonsense.  Undecided voters want a gut feel that the guy they’re voting for is going to take care of business so they can quit paying attention to politics for awhile.

Obama was playing for the pundits (and even they are conceding that Romney “passed the Commander-in-Chief Test”), Romney for the voters.  If the polls after the last debates are any indication – and I think they will be – the momentum remains with Romney.

My cautious optimism is growing…

Read the full recap here!  [

→ 1 CommentTags: Campaign '12

LiveBlogging the Presidential “Town Hall” Debate

October 16th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Bottom Line:  I thought Romney bested the President in the first half hour, but the President finished pretty strong.  Since it was boring in the middle, I think that benefits Romney.

Crowley was much better than I thought, but not as good as she could have been.  And she was incredibly misleading about Obama calling the Benghazi incident a terrorist attack, as was Obama, of course.  Again – moderators can’t be trusted to be “fact checkers” any more than the candidates.  But still, Romney missed a huge opportunity on that, and missed an opportunity to really put the President on the spot.  I’m glad there is a final debate focusing on foreign policy.  And I’m equally glad that exchange will now dominate the reaction press until the next debate.

There were three exchanges when Romney was essentially trying to cross examine the President, and the President squirmed.  He needs to do more of that.

If folks were still undecided going in to this debate, I doubt this will change their minds – they will wait until the third.  I think Obama stopped some bleeding, but gained no new ground.  My Facebook feed tells me it was a draw – lots of enthusiasm from my friends on both sides.  And I have to think the President’s sunny picture of the economy will sit in jarring contrast to what people are seeing in their lives.

As always, the Ultimate Poll will tell!

Click here to read the full live blog…  [Read more →]

→ 1 CommentTags: Campaign '12

LiveBlogging the VP Debate

October 11th, 2012 · 2 Comments

The Bottom Line:  Before this debate, I thought Biden was a likeable buffoon.  Now I think he’s a very unlikeable buffoon.

Not a clear domination like the last debate.  Indeed – it left me damned frustrated for the lack of substance.  This is what happens when you have a too-present moderator who won’t do her one actual job, which is to be the umbrella for both sides when it’s their turn to speak.  Horrible.  Just horrible. And by the way, hate, hate, hate this sitting.  I agree with Peggy Noonan – stand up at podiums, people.

Ryan was unflappable, but I actually wish he would have flapped a bit more in response to Biden’s constant interrupting and grinning.  How great would it have been if he would have said, “Mr. Vice President, I don’t find 4 dead Americans funny – why are you laughing?”  And, “Mr. Vice President, I understand you don’t want the American people to hear the truth behind these numbers, but they deserve to hear them, and they can’t when you keep speaking over me and jumping in.  Be still for just 2 minutes!”  Biden exemplifies the incompetence of our political class.

The talking heads are aghast right now about the interruptions and rudeness.  I wonder what effect that imagery will have, especially coupled with the calm demeanor of Ryan.  For anyone with a well-tuned BS detector, interrupting like that spikes the BS Meter off the charts.  I’ve been losing faith, however, in the calibration of the American electorate’s BS detectors…

There is plenty here for both sides to claim victory on, but I don’t know.  I think both sides credibly got their messages out, and the question is how they will resonate with the undecideds, who are a mercurial bunch.  As always, when I live blog, I hear more than I see, and I thought Ryan had more memorable quips and takeaways, even a few with numbers (run the govt for 98 days and all that).

I didn’t watch it on CNN, but I understand from people who did that the undecided voter reaction was incredibly positive for Ryan, particularly with women.  If that’s true, the takeaway from this will be whether Biden energizing his base at the expense of turning off the undecideds came at too high a price for Obama.  Update on this:  The CNN snap poll:

Winner: Ryan 48%, Biden 44%
More likeable: Ryan 53%, Biden 43%
More in touch with problems of people like you: Ryan 51%, Biden 44%

CNBC Snap Poll:

Paul Ryan: 56%, Joe Biden: 36%, Neither: 8%

As I understand it, these snap polls are pre-selected, self-described undecided voters.  If that’s indeed the case, then this was a BIG win, since “winning” in this case is defined as what moves the most voters to our side.  If these numbers are accurate, the momentum Romney built last week was solidified, and that’s a good thing.

Click here for the whole live blog!  [

→ 2 CommentsTags: Campaign '12

Why Romney Won – A Worthy Debate Format For Once

October 3rd, 2012 · 1 Comment

Pretty much every pundit – and every one with at least a brain stem – acknowledges that Romney won this debate decisively.  But what most of them are missing is why it was such a blowout.

It’s the format, stupid – the best political debate format I’ve ever seen. And contrary to a lot of the professional pundits – most of whom dream to some day be in the spotlight (on par with or above the candidates themselves) by being debate moderators themselves – Jim Lehrer did exactly the right thing by NOT participating any more than with a gentle reminder here and there on time and the broad topic to be addressed.

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→ 1 CommentTags: Campaign '12 · Mitt Romney · Obama