Michael Smerconish: One by one, GOP candidates ride the wave, while Obama laughs

By Michael Smerconish

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Published: Thursday, Dec. 1 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

From the moment he announced his candidacy, he's provided one reason after another for the fringe faithful to ignore him.

On June 21, Huntsman actually said: "I respect the president of the United States. He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help a country we both love."

Respect the president? Obama loves this country? That's heresy. In a September debate, Huntsman stumbled over science:

"Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science."

Just last week he messed up an answer on torture. "We diminish our standing in the world and the values that we project, which include liberty, democracy, human rights and open markets, when we torture," Huntsman said.

In the same South Carolina debate, Huntsman offered this knee-slapper:

"I take a different approach on Afghanistan. I think it's time to come home. I say this nation has achieved its key objectives in Afghanistan: We had free elections in 2004, we uprooted the Taliban, we have dismantled al-Qaida and we killed Osama bin Laden."

Forget that he's pro-life, an ardent defender of the Second Amendment, and actually practiced fiscal conservatism while governor of Utah (as opposed to just talking a good game).

To the migrating GOP voters, he's been gaffes galore. No doubt the one laughing the hardest is President Obama.

Michael Smerconish writes a weekly column for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Readers may contact him via www.smerconish.com.

I very nearly missed it.

A soldier was making his final journey, accompanied by police and Patriot Guard Riders.

I was waiting for the light to change by the TRAX station that sits between the Triad Center and Energy Solutions Arena, my mind racing with all the things I had to accomplish that day.

Work interviews, stories, grocery shopping, geometry with my eighth- and ninth-graders crowded everything else out on that early-autumn day.

Though I was looking straight ahead, I wasn't actually paying any attention to things around me. It took a minute for the procession even to register.

It moved in slow, stately formation down 300 West to its left turn at South Temple: dozens and dozens of motorcycles with American flags flapping gently. First came the uniformed police officers on what looked like just-polished motorcycles. Then the hearse, a heart-wrenching sight, followed by members of the Patriot Guard Riders in another flag-bedecked group of motorcycles, at least two abreast, that stretched nearly the block's length.

As traffic continued its normal flow and pedestrians shuffled along the street, many with heads down or earphones in, as oblivious as I'd been a few minutes before, I got a huge lump in my throat and literally froze at the sight.

If you've never seen it — the flags, the procession, the hearse that's a tender, grim reminder that men and women die for this country's cause — it's hard to explain the moment. It was more than touching. It was astonishingly emotional.

And I suspect that wave of raw emotion would cross political lines and that it wouldn't even matter what you thought about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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