Shane Vander Hart and I attended the Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines Saturday evening where we listened to a series of short speeches by eleven presidential hopefuls, and, with a couple of notable exceptions, there were no real surprises to report.
The substance of the speeches was generally good, as everyone said the “right” things. To those of us who have heard these candidates speak before, we didn’t hear anything particularly new.
There were themes that recurred in nearly every speech: President Obama’s time in office has been a disaster for the country. We can and we must beat Hillary Clinton. Radical Islam is a great threat that must be dealt with. We nonetheless need to be optimistic. America’s best days are ahead of us…
Rand Paul moved in a different direction in his remarks, emphasizing the Constitution, the oppressive and intrusive nature of the Federal government, and taking jabs at Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. He asserted that the government must protect us from terrorism and still protect the Bill of Rights. The government shouldn’t be doing things without first getting a warrant. His Libertarian influenced message clearly differentiated him from the rest of the field.
Lindsey Graham got the crowd laughing with some light-hearted remarks, but he was serious long enough to let the audience know that he thought Rand Paul was wrong: “If you’re thinking about joining al-Qaeda or ISIS, I’m not going to call a judge, I’m going to call a drone, and we will kill you. We’re at war, and I’m tired of treating the war as a crime.”
Perhaps the story of the night was Carly Fiorina, who really connected with the crowd. This was a crowd that, in theory at least, should have been more excited about Scott Walker or Jeb Bush, but Fiorina generated some real excitement. Everyone we spoke to afterwards mentioned her speech as one of the best. In her best line of the night she said: “I was asked whether a woman’s hormones prevent her from serving in the Oval Office. OK, ladies, this is a test: Can you think of a single instance in which a man’s judgment was clouded by his hormones? Including in the Oval Office?” She was cut off (speakers were only given 10 minutes) and the crowd was audibly disappointed.
Lastly, I hope Donald Trump stays in this race. I haven’t had this much fun observing a presidential candidate since Ross Perot ran for the presidency in 1992. Trump is a national treasure. In his nearly incomprehensible rambling remarks he told us (I think) that The Donald can build stuff, including a good wall for our Southern border. He will also stop companies from building plants in Mexico. Oh, and I don’t think he likes the Chinese. He had Shane and I laughing uncontrollably at one point in his speech. Shane had tears rolling down his face. Please, Donald, stay in this race. We all need some comic relief.