Kathryn Lopez

There was something remarkably attractive at the Republican debate at the Reagan Library on Sept. 7.

No, it wasn't Jon Huntsman's tan, Mitt Romney's hair, Michele Bachmann's shoes or Rick Perry's swagger.

Although I suppose the swagger isn't entirely unrelated. But what was special was something far less superficial, the kind of thing you know when you see, but that we all might be a bit too jaded about politics to acknowledge: authenticity.

Yes, even politicians can have it.

You saw it when Romney, given the opportunity to beat up on Perry for a terrible decision he made as governor of Texas -- to mandate that Texas girls going into the sixth grade be inoculated against the human papillomavirus (a trampling of parental rights, for starters) -- decided not to. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, perhaps seeing his own vulnerabilities -- records can be a biting reality -- didn't take the bait.

Whatever the motivation, it was one of many pander-free zones in the Reagan Library debate.

You even saw it in things I don't agree with. Consider Gov. Perry on the death penalty. I actually found it more than a little disturbing when the audience applauded his robust record of capital-punishment enforcement in Texas before he even had the opportunity to speak. I do think the death penalty is used way too widely, but Perry's record is what it is -- and so he stood by it, explained it and didn't try to finesse it. I'm not with him, but the man seems to know who he is and is unapologetic about it.

Perhaps there's even an authenticity to Jon Huntsman's presentation, which left everyone scratching their heads, wondering what exactly his strategy is or who makes up his constituency. One can't really accuse him of saying what conservative primary voters in South Carolina (or wherever) want to hear.

And then there is Rick Santorum.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.