“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.” — Albert Camus
Last night a debate between the candidates for the Republican nominee for the presidency of the United States was held in Tampa, Florida. The debate was sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party and the moderator was Wolf Blitzer of CNN.
Why CNN decided to partner with the Tea Party is a mystery to me when most of their commentators, including Blitzer, have made degrading remarks about the Tea Party movement and have called them racist. I guess garnering viewers and ratings outweighs principles.
Having said that I think it was the best debate so far. Questions were asked by Tea Party advocates and members. The answers to these questions were important to people who would eventually pick the Republican nominee, not to the media that wanted to protect Barack Obama. Of course Blitzer could not help asking a few really stupid follow-on questions hoping to embarrass one or more of the candidates.
Unlike my previous blogs where I shared my raw notes taken during he debate I will evaluate each candidate based on those notes and my overall impressions.
Let’s begin with Mitt Romney. Money did not hurt himself during the debate. His answers on Social Security and Medicare should have been soothing to seniors, especially in Florida a swing state. He had good answers on jobs and immigration and seemed to deflect all criticisms of RomneyCare. Each debate is making this issue move more and more to the background. And as James Carvel once said; “it’s the economy stupid” Romney will stick to the jobs theme. His record for creating jobs during his tenure as governor of Massachusetts is not equal to Perry’s in Texas, but he seems to have the correct answers to challenge Obama.
I liked Romney’s analogy of the telephone to Obama’s energy policy where he compared Obama as trying to drop quarters into a pay phone while the rest of the world is using smart phones.
The one thing I did not like with Romney was his waffling on ObamaCare. He said he would issue an executive order allowing each sate a mandate. The problem with this, as Bachmann pointed out, is that an executive order can be rescinded by the next president. Bachmann is right when she says it must be repealed by law.
Some pundits on the right claim Perry won on points. There were two questions going into Monday's GOP presidential debate, which was sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express. First, who would emerge as the victor in the battle between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, the two Republican front-runners, over Social Security. Second, which candidates would elbow their way into the conversation?
After Perry characterized Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme" in a debate last week in California at the Reagan Library, Romney tried to pounce on those comments by accusing Perry of trying to kill Social Security. Romney tried to depict Perry as a candidate Democrats could frame as being out of the mainstream, which, according to Romney, would obliterate Republicans in a general election.
On Monday, Perry responded by saying it was a "slam dunk" for "seniors on Social Security and those moving toward it," that the "program will be there for them."
Calling for the system to be reformed, Perry said politicians have not had "the courage to look people in the eye" and tell them that "this is a broken system."
Romney cited heavily from Perry's book, Fed Up, and accused Perry of implying that Social Security was unconstitutional and a failure. At one point, when Romney and Perry were arguing over what the other had written about Social Security in their respective books, they argued over what Perry meant when he accused Romney of saying "it" was criminal. Romney said "it" was criminal for Congress to rob the Social Security trust fund. In making his point, though, Romney looked like a wonkish Al Gore debating against George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential debates, and Perry came away looking steadier than Romney.
Further, in a CNN/Opinion Research Poll that was released on Monday, Perry led the field in the category that asked those polled about a candidate's conviction.
Like with his comments on Social Security, when Perry did not back down from his earlier comments in which he called Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's potential actions to be "almost treasonous," he both appealed to the base and showed a firm resolve, qualities Romney has had trouble with.
"If you are allowing the Fed to be used for political purposes, then it is almost treasonous," Perry said again.
Against Romney, Perry came across as a leader and an executive who had conviction while Romney came across as a politician intent on racking up debating points as if they were Olympic medals.
However, I think Perry was hurt by the business of his mandating young girls to be injected with the HPT vaccine, something he said he regretted and which was overturned by the Texas State Legislature. I also thought his response on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants was weak. I did, however, agree with him that it was a state and Tenth Amendment issue.
Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum opened up some wounds on Perry by attacking two of his vulnerabilities: His record on immigration and the executive order he signed which would have mandated that girls in Texas get the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer.
Bachmann said it was "flat out wrong" to have "innocent little 12 year-old girls be forced" to have a "government injection through" an "executive order."
Bachmann then said that Perry was guilty of crony capitalism, a theme former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin railed against in her address in Iowa over Labor Day weekend and which candidates have begun to talk about more since.
According to Bachmann, the drug company that made the vaccine "made millions of dollars because of this mandate," and "[Perry's] former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company."
Perry said that the person in question only donated $5,000 to his campaign and he was offended that he was being accused of being bought for essentially $5,000. Bachmann replied that she was offended for the innocent girls that would have been forced to be injected and whose liberties would have been violated by Perry's executive order.
Speaking of girls who have had adverse reactions to the HPV vaccine, Bachmann said, "they don't get a mulligan or do-over."
Jon Huntsman accused Perry of being "treasonous" for saying that the border could not be secured. Huntsman may be right on the border, but I cannot see him catching on with the Tea Party or conservatives. He is just too much like John McCain.
In addition, Rick Santorum, who had a substantive debate talking about his family's immigration experience and needing English as the official language in addition to his past successes as a legislator, not only attacked Perry on immigration but also teamed with Bachmann to slam Perry on his Gardasil executive order.
Santorum told Perry that his policy was wrong and criticized him for thinking it was still right. Santorum said that Perry was implying that he should have gone through the legislature instead of signing an executive order, and that he should have had an "opt-in" policy. According to Santorum, forcing "them to have this inoculation" was wrong policy.
I did not care for the placement of Perry and Romney next to each other and the constant quacking between the two of them got boring and annoying after a while. While they were beating each other up the rest of the candidates were standing their like wooden Indians waiting to be called upon. I wish I would have heard more from Bachmann and Cain.
This all aided Romney, who is not going to win a one-on-one battle against Perry, and whose only chance against him is if the other candidates siphon votes away from the Texas Governor.
In the leadoff debate in South Carolina, Herman Cain starred mainly because he got a lot of time to speak because the field was not as crowded as it is now. Consistently, the more Cain speaks, the more people like him. On Monday, Cain spoke of his compelling background and private sector experience while offering a host of solutions.
In reference to his "9-9-9" plan that calls for a nine percent business flat tax, a nine percent personal income tax, and a nine percent national sales tax, Cain said that he has been told by some people that he could not get the plan passed because he doesn't "know how Washington works." Cain said he replies, "Yes I do [know how Washington works]. It doesn't."
Cain also said that he knew how to be "pro-worker because I come from a working family. My mother was a domestic worker. My Father was a barber, a janitor and a chauffeur, all at the same time. I understand work because that's how I came up."
He was specific on his health care solutions, which included repealing ObamaCare, enacting "loser-pay" laws to help doctors fight frivolous lawsuits, restructure Medicare, and allow for more association-driven health plans like the ones he oversaw when he was head of the National Restaurant Association.
And viewers got to see more of his personality when he said he would "bring a sense of humor" to the White House because "America's too uptight."
Gingrich, on the other hand, resembled the Republican team captain rallying the troops to defeat Obama in 2012. Gingrich convincingly spoke of how a full employment economy was the best way to fix Social Security. He spoke of how individuals and not the government or, necessarily, governors create jobs. He called for a Social Security system in which young workers could choose to have personal accounts. He railed against General Electric and Obama's green jobs subsidies. He recounted what Ronald Reagan used to say about turning on the light for the people so that the people can turn the heat on their congressmen to get their message across. Gingrich said the country needed to focus on Mexico, the Middle East, and the industrial base at home as part of a core foreign policy strategy. He focused on the need to cut out waste from government programs such as Medicare. It was another polished and poised debate performance for Gingrich, who is emerging as one of the GOP's field generals going into 2012.
Ron Paul--who attacked Perry for signing executive orders did not back down from his libertarian beliefs on the economy and health care--and Jon Huntsman gave disjointed performances that left much to be desired.
Ron Paul is just about out of the race. He killed himself with his defense of Osama bin Laden. Paul has a cadre of supporters who are like storm troopers. If you don’t agree with hem they will attack you and call you stupid and ignorant. They have no truck with compromise and do not understand that you cannot change things overnight no matter how right you may be. (See my post on the Overton Window).
I agree with Paul on most of his financial and small government positions, especially his love of Austrian economics. I liked his comparison of our new billion dollar embassy in Baghdad to the Vatican. Some of his positions on foreign policy seem sensible, but to me others are way off the wall. Paul just will not increase his position in the race.
I think Ron Paul missed the ball completely when he attempted to respond to one of those hypothetical left-wing questions from Wolf Blitzer. When asked by Blitzer what he would do for a 26 year-old person who chose not to purchase health insurance and was hospitalized in a coma for six months. Blitzer inferred that Paul would allow him to die because he had no money. Paul stumbled and bumbled around the answer talking about personal responsibility and catastrophic health insurance. A better response would have been: If such a case a occurred no hospital in the United States would allow him to die in the parking lot. They would treat him and then transfer his to a care facility for such cases. If and when he recovered he would be billed by the medical facilities and be expected to pay off his debt. It is not much different than not having automobile insurance or homeowners insurance to protect you against the liabilities you might incur from an accident to another party.
All in all I think he score ended as such: