Watching a Republican debate is like reading an Australian gossip magazine. You get the general sense that the subjects are important, but only from the way the people in the pictures are getting all worked up. It's all-rounders cheating on presenters, and I'm not precisely sure what either of those is.
I'm not saying the Republican candidates aren't sincere. I'm just saying I search my heart and I still don't see how their issues are issues. I want to get mad and shout things at the screen, but I can't even latch on. They might as well be debating last week's Wife Swap.
I don't know anyone who lists these as his top six problems:
The Crushing Burden of the Capital Gains Tax
Death of Ronald Reagan
Other People's Weak Families
But, then again, I don't live in New Hampshire.
Which brings us to Amnesty. It's a charge almost too volatile to utter. The impression I get from the debates is that just saying the A Word is enough to make Rudy Giuliani's hump explode, Mike Huckabee's stomach staples snap and all of Fred Thompson's blood rush to his face, from wherever it is his people keep it.
Mitt Romney has been dropping the A bomb on John McCain in two campaign ads. One goes:
"On immigration, McCain supported this year's amnesty bill. Higher taxes, amnesty for illegals. That's straight talk for being in Washington too long."
John McCain didn't fight and die in Vietnam to come home and take that. So he struck back during Sunday's debate:
MCCAIN: It's not amnesty. And for you to describe it as you do in the attack ads, my friend, you can spend your whole fortune on these attack ads, but it won't be true.
(UNKNOWN): May I...
ROMNEY: No, no, no, no. I get a chance to respond to this ... I don't describe your plan as amnesty in my ad. I don't call it amnesty. What I say is -- and you just described what most people would say is a form of amnesty.
I think the man the ABC News transcript calls "Unknown" may have been Giuliani. Which might be a sign that skipping Iowa was a mistake. But let's not get sidetracked. McCain accuses Romney of accusing McCain of advocating A-----y, and Mitt indignantly denies it.
And then remembers that it's probably on videotape somewhere. So he clarifies:
I would never stoop to accusing you of doing the horrible things everyone knows you do. I'd just insinuate it.
But it's even more remarkable than that. Mitt Romney has the power to reverse-insinuate. Sometimes when he directly says something, it turns out he's really just hinting.
He can unsay things by saying them. Don't ask me how that's possible. It resists interpretation, like abstract expressionism.
George Stephanopoulos, paid agent of the drive-by media, wasn't content to let the mystery be. He followed up the next day:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Had you not seen your own ad?
ROMNEY: I hadn't seen that one and my staff told me afterwards it does say amnesty and I said well it's not supposed to.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's two ads both of them saying it.
ROMNEY: Yes there's a man in the street, one that says amnesty, as well and I was simply incorrect. His bill -- he does not technically under the term support amnesty because he says, well, he makes them pay $5,000 and technically that's not amnesty and I guess that's true. You could say to somebody if you pay 5 bucks then it's not amnesty but the reality.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it amnesty or not?
ROMNEY: Well, you're going to have to define the word for me. I call it---
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well you're running for president, not me.
ROMNEY: Yeah, ok. When you ask the question, when you ask the question, you want a specific answer based on your definition. My definition is this, that if a -- if illegals are able to all stay in this country and thereby get an enormous advantage over everybody else, that is a form of amnesty.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you do believe his plan is amnesty then?
ROMNEY: Not under a legal definition but under the normal colloquial definition, yes.
We need Mitt Romney is the White House. He's the one candidate who's ready to mislead on Day One.
Imagine if Mitt Romney sold you something -- let's say some land in Glengarry Glen Ross -- and you were trying to get your money back, and he started pulling this crap on you.
So maybe it's good that none of the Republican issues have any real bearing on governing, or any other aspect of life as we live it. Imagine if they were arguing about something important.
WHAT MITT MEANT:
When I didn't say that, I meant every word. And I stand by it, zero percent.
HOW TO USE "AMNESTY" AT HOME:
There's no human way to know what it means, so use it for everything. Like "smurf." "Thanks mom, these waffles are amnesty!"