Eighteen hours later, no one has answered the basic question of the final pre-caucus GOP debate: What in the hell was Alan Keyes doing there? A technicality in the debate requirements let him onstage, sure, but wasn't it an insult to the other candidates, who've been campaigning here for months, to invite a guy who clearly hadn't been stumping in rec centers or even prepped for the event? Byron York followed Keyes to get an answer.
"You have a couple hundred paid staff in Iowa?" a reporter asked.
"No, it's not paid staff," Keyes said. "Are you listening or not?"
"It's a question. How many paid staff in Iowa?"
Keyes had had enough of such details. "You are working, I guess, for the elites who want us to believe that campaigns are about money," he told the reporter.
"Do you not wish to answer the question?"
"No, I want you to understand that you don't have the right to dictate our political process. It belongs to the people, not to you. And money doesn't buy votes."
I jumped in again. "Ambassador, I'm going to ask you one more time. Have you personally been doing campaign events here in Iowa in the last few months?"
"I have had several campaign events here in Iowa, but I will not define those events as you do," he said.
"In the last few months?"
"I don't define those events as you do. And I don't think you have any right whatsoever to establish yourselves as the arbiter of what constitutes an event. I will do that in a way that reflects the best needs and purposes of the people who are working with me. Because as I see it, every time somebody comes forward and takes the pledge, that's an Iowa event."
Is this really the same guy who ran for the Senate in 1988 and had his campaign managed by Bill Kristol? Or the guy who scored 14 percent in Iowa eight years ago? He sounds, honestly, like he's had a psychotic break. Anyway, his childish whine about media bias and money made a little sense in 2000, when George W. Bush vacuumed up millions of dollars to freeze out Steve Forbes, but in 2008? When Mike Huckabee is outpolling Mitt Romney after spending one-twentieth the cash? Or when Ron Paul can build a movement online, for basically free, and vault into the top fundraising tier?
Keyes's rants about the media aren't even fresh. In 2000 Peter Bagge followed Keyes for Suck.com and came out with the definitive profile of the man.