Think last night's Wolf-o-rama in Tampa was a bit goofy around the gills? Well, take a trip into the memory hole of four years ago, when the Blitzer role was taken by WorldNetDaily Editor Joseph Farah, when the proceedings began with the moderator reciting a prayer, where there were literally empty podiums for the upper-tier candidates who declined to participate, and where Rep. Ron Paul was surrounded by Mike Huckabee and a cast of minor supporting actors (John Cox, anyone?) who tried desperately to out-God one another. Dip a toe into the transcript, or read then-Reasoner David Weigel's spit take. Here's a sampling from the candidates' opening statements. One of them is not like the others:
ALAN KEYES: [A] country that is based, as we are, on the truth that our rights come from God cannot hope to survive unless we revive our allegiance to the existence and the authority of God. Every issue we face, every problem we face, can be traced back to our abandonment of this principle. I believe that the time is long passed when we must hoist on high the banner of our Creator, God, and never let it fall again, though we die for it!
DUNCAN HUNTER: I believe very strongly that God still loves this nation, that we are still a people of faith, and hope, and character.
RON PAUL: A free country is designed for individuals to deal with a subject of virtue and excellence. Once we defer to the government to get involved in worrying about our virtue and our excellence and perfect, fair economies, it is done at the sacrifice of liberty. If we do that and we sacrifice that liberty and the job of virtue and excellence is taken over by the government, you can only do that through tyranny. The only way we can solve our problems is expecting to do the things.
SAM BROWNBACK: [U]ntil we get back to the basics, we're not going to be able to grow and prosper. And to me those basics are: life–that every life is sacred, beautiful, unique child of a loving God; family–that the best place to raise a child is between a mom and dad bonded together for life; and faith. Faith is an important thing. And it's something that we've been running out of the public square when we should be inviting it into the public square.
JOHN COX: [O]ne of the basics is found in Matthew 6:24, which says that you can't serve God and money. And you know what? I think the same thing holds in politics.
TOM TANCREDO: We share the general feeling that there is a degradation of our own society, especially the morals of our society. We recognize that it is important for us. This is an important issue in order for us to survive in this clash of civilizations–by the way, with which I believe with all my heart we are engaged.
MIKE HUCKABEE: First of all, I want to say thanks to everyone for giving us this opportunity. I must say, it's unlike any debate I've been a part of so far. I cannot imagine Chris Matthews opening in prayer and having a choir at some of the other debates we've had. And how refreshing this is to be a part of this tonight. I think all of us who were on the state prayed during those debates. I'm not sure that the moderators were praying. But we'd better be praying for our country. We really better be praying for our country, because it's in trouble.
Peter Suderman's post-write of last night's events here.