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Comedy, Tragedy, and the Big "Tell" at the Republican Debate

12/11/2011 01:20 pm ET | Updated Feb 10, 2012

Everyone has their "tell." In poker, that refers to the thing you do that gives away your hand. It could be as minor as a finger tap or throat clearing, but it reveals what you are trying to keep hidden. I'd suggest that in the large scale poker game we all witnessed last night known as the Republican debate, there was a tell as blatant as a flashing neon sign.

Sure, there was the opportunity for a drinking game in which we all could down a shot every time they mentioned "Obamacare." I stopped counting after five, but I was only drinking Chardonnay. Note to self: purchase Tequila before next debate.

The best soundbite of the night award goes to Newt Gingrich for his smackdown of Mitt Romney: "The only reason you didn't become a career politician is you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994." We could have all packed our bags and gone home after that one. Nicely played, Newt.

Then there were the camera shots of the loving and supportive spouses in the audience, particularly and repeatedly Michele Bachmann's husband...and the man sitting next to him. (A friend??)

There was the offer of the $10,000 bet by Mitt Romney to Rick Perry, winner of the most awkward moment of the evening award, only to be outdone by the frenetic scrambling for tales of personal poverty necessitated by a write-in question. Kudos to the questioner. But let's face it, these candidates are not starving, nor are they choosing between medication and a place to live in the frigid winter months ahead. No, this crowd of wealthy presidential hopefuls could not be more removed from your plight or mine.

But here's the kicker, the tell, if you will: the rules of this debate were discussed and agreed upon by all the candidates prior to the start of the debate this evening. Yet, no matter how much reminding, cajoling, gentle nudging, or outright admonishing my beloved moderators Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos offered, this group would not and did not abide by what they had previously agreed to. They broke the rules. And that, my friends, says more about each and every one of them than the content of their words or how many years most of them have been married. We now know that their word is not their bond. Yes, even you, Texas handshaker, Rick Perry. If they can't do what they said they would do in a setting as benign as a debate, then rest assured, they will not keep their word in office.

Oh, I could go on and on about the revelation that I may be the only one who does not refer to the Prime Minister of Israel as "Bibi," or how I firmly believe that the crazy numbers all the candidates bandy about as if they actually would know them are made up. Seriously. It's kind of like that "fake it 'til you make it" concept. If you say it with certainty, they will believe you. The only thing is I don't.

So here's my take away when all is said and done: Newt won. Mitt "Sears Roebuck model" Romney lacked the authenticity to stop his downward spiral. Ron Paul still manages to both entertain and horrify me simultaneously, while Rick Perry and Michele "I miss Herman Cain" Bachmann just flat out horrify me. And who's left? Oh yes, Rick Santorum, still fighting, unsuccessfully, to be taken seriously as a legitimate candidate in the race.

Yes, we're in full political swing now, boys and girls. Here's hoping for peace on earth, good will toward men -- at least until Christmas.