1) GOP Frat House Rumble. 2) Did Rudy Take a Dive? 3) Excuse Me, I Think You Forgot Something.

It was a debate for the ages, ladies and gentlemen! Like Lincoln vs. Douglas, but on laughing gas. Underwater. In 1962.
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You did not pledge Delta Phi! I Pledged Delta Phi!

It was a debate for the ages, ladies and gentlemen! Like Lincoln vs. Douglas, but on laughing gas. Underwater. In 1962.

Surely somebody else has noted the resemblance between Mitt Romney and Niedemayer from Animal House, and yet I suspect he's the more rational of the two leading GOP candidates. McCain apparently misrepresented Romney's record, which triggered a "did so! did not!" argument that resulted in both of them becoming visibly smaller as we watched. They were paramecium-sized and still shrinking when it ended. Meanwhile Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee sat at the sidelines like squirrels at a tennis match.

One of these candidates is likely to issue a press release tomorrow entitled "I'm rubber and you're glue."

The Clash Notwithstanding, Rudy Can Fail

How could Giuliani's campaign team have done such a lousy job? Was it a communications problem -- no radios, maybe? Whatever went wrong, his withdrawal is certainly good news for these families. Rudy's exploitation of their tragedy won't be quite as public anymore.

But it happened so quickly, and he looked so happy about withdrawing, that I can't be the only person to wonder if he might have deliberately thrown the race. Sure, he showed up for the debates, but other than that his heart didn't seem in it.

Consider the scenario: At first he thinks he can win, but then the race starts backfiring on him. His national security blunders after the first WTC attack begin to get major exposure. Then the personal scandals start coming out. Murdoch and Ailes probably told him all of these stories could be managed, but they're spiraling out of control anyway. And it won't stop as long as he's a candidate.

That means Brand Rudy is in danger -- and with it, his mega-million business. What to do? He can't withdraw, because that will raise even more questions. So he slowly, gently downscales his campaign effort until he can ease himself out after the resulting poor showing in Florida. Add a helpful endorsement to the likely nominee and it's a happy ending: The brand's intact, and he's well-placed to earn more ethically questionable commissions by selling iffy technology to the new Administration.

As Jerry Lee Lewis used to say: Think about it, darlin'.

They Come and Stand at Every Door

And now John McCain inherits the Rudy mantle -- as dubious a distinction as that is. Does he inherit Rudy's policy team of discredited neocons, too? Democrats better hope so, because that will give them an even stronger case for running on the Iraq issue.

That is... if Democrats remember the Iraq issue. The Republicans certainly will, as they proved in tonight's debate. But a lot of Dems are distracting themselves with stories about whether Obama "snubbed" Hillary.

What is this? High school?

If you're obsessed with this sort of thing, just look at the picture and read what Claire McCaskill said. It's silly season. And word up: Americans and Iraqis are still dying. More than nine hundred U.S. soldiers have lost their lives since the start of the "surge" that McCain boasts of supporting. There's been no political progress, however, so the mission's no closer to ending than it was a year ago.

I would think the American people deserve a candidate who provides a timetable for withdrawal so that the Iraqi government has clear deadlines to meet. Hmm. Would that be Candidate A or Candidate B?

Oh, but excuse me, Democrats. Apparently you've hired Maureen Dowd as your Social Director. Party on.

Don't let me -- or them -- interrupt you.

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