The headlines announce: “Fox Business moderators pledge ‘real debate’ in Milwaukee.”
That won’t happen. Several candidates who have attempted to engage in serious debate about key issues have been excluded from Tuesday night’s main-stage debate and shunted off to the low-profile “undercard” match. Candidates who have been thoughtfully and consistently critical of front-runner Donald Trump are excluded altogether. And there will be a desperation factor in Tuesday’s Milwaukee debate, as several of the remaining contenders are teetering on the edge of oblivion.
That’s especially true of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.
Paul is getting what may be his last chance to debate on the main stage of a Republican presidential debate. On Tuesday, he will be on the edge of the stage for the Fox Business News/Wall Street Journal debate featuring front-runners Trump and Dr. Ben Carson and a crew of potential also-rans who are trying to get traction. At this point, Paul is closer to the edge than the others. In fact, he was running even with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in the latest Fox News poll, and behind New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the latest Quinnipiac poll—and both Huckabee and Christie have, based on the average of four recent polls, been bumped from the main-stage debate.
So this is make-or-break time for Paul, who like Huckabee and Christie has actually distinguished himself from the rest of the field on some critical issues. Obviously, in this year of personality-over-substance politics, issue distinctions count for less than they historically did. And in the ridiculous debates so far, issue distinctions have counted for even less because the moderators tend to ask so many interview-style questions—rather than highlighting genuine differences of opinion among the contenders.
But Paul has a real chance to stand out on Tuesday.
President Obama has handed Paul an issue, and the Republican should seize it.
Two days after the last Republican debate, Obama reversed his own opposition to putting boots on the ground in Syria. The president decided to send US Special Operations troops to that country. He has done so without adequate congressional authorization, despite the fact that, as Congressman Peter Welch, Democrat from Vermont, says, “Make no mistake about it, this is a war.”