Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Third Republican Debate (CNN): Romney's "Null Set"

Talk about programmed candidates! What was Romney talking about in tonight's third Republican Presidential debate? The Cylon as Presidential candidate...

Two of the three front runners did fine in tonight's debate - this one on CNN, like the second Democratic debate on Monday. Guiliani and McCain both presented their positions clearly.

And Romney?

Early in the debate, Wolf Blitzer asked Romney: if you knew then what you know now about Iraq, would you have supported the Iraqi war? Romney's position is that support for the war was justified by what we knew back then - a position held by all Republicans except Ron Paul, who keeps correctly pointing out that we went to war without the formal Declaration of War explicitly required by our Constitution. But Romney's position - that going to war was justified, because we thought that Saddam Husein had weapons of mass destruction - is easy to understand, and is shared not only by most Republicans but most Democrats, in other words, by most Americans (including me - although I was not happy about the war being undeclared, I supported it until it became clear that the WMD reports were wrong).

Why, then, did Romney start talking about the question being a "null set"? This is a term from formal logic and mathematics to describe a category that contains nothing - also known in some contexts as an "empty" set - except the "null set" is more powerful, because the category is not accidentally empty, but empty because the category calls for impossible conditions (for example, a category that says I can physically be here and somewhere else, at the same exact time).

Did you enjoy the above explanation? Did it sound to you more like something a Lt. Commander Data would say, or maybe a Cylon?

What on Earth does it have to do with politics, and with the question Romney was asked? Did he mean that the question was wrong, unfair, or meaningless? If so, why didn't he just say so? Or better, why didn't he just say that he and few others had the wisdom of hindsight when we went to war in Iraq?

With so many Republicans concerned about English losing its position as our preeminent language in America (a nonsensical concern - a null set), maybe it would be good if Republicans spoke a little more plain English up there on the stage.

Other highlights of this debate included Guiliani's answer about abortion being interrupted by lightning (which, unfortunately, punched out seconds of sound on CNN for hours after) and Blitzer finally forsaking the shows of hands and asking candidates to "speak up now" in response to his group question about making English our "official" language (good piece on Media Bistro about this - I've been complaining about it for weeks).

Fred Thompson, who may be the best spoken Republican in the field, probably won't be speaking of null sets. It will be interesting to see how his candidacy fares when he's up there on stage with the others.

See also Going to the Candidates' Debates
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