Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reflections on the GOP Debate

I listened to the GOP debate last night as I was grading papers. I basically agree with Jennifer Rubin's analysis. Rick Perry didn't shine and came through as unprepared. He seemed to deflate after being criticized for his HPV vaccine executive order and his stand on offering in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. If he's going to be out there criticizing Social Security, he needs to decide what he's offering to reform it. His rhetoric sounds as if he wished we didn't have the program. Well, we do. It's not going to be abolished; so how would he reform it? He's correct that it's unsustainable, but he gives nothing but some vague rhetoric on how he'd improve it. He also didn't seem sure of himself on foreign policy. He said he favored a pullout from Afghanistan, but wants to keep troops there. He just seemed unprepared with foreign policy issues.

I agree with Michael Barone on Perry's best line of the night: “People are tired of spending money we don’t have on programs we don’t want.”

Ron Paul came off as a rather scary whack job on his view of foreign affairs as he blamed 9/11 on the thousands of bombs we'd been dropping on Iraq. Huh? Rick Santorum fulfills a useful purpose in exposing Ron Paul's isolationism and blame-America attitude.

Romney was adequate. He usually appears knowledgeable and forceful without being irritating. He still has problems with defending Romneycare. He attacked Perry on Social Security, but used Democratic rhetoric that is unappealing to a conservative audience. The crowd was clearly not in Romney's corner, but Romney is good at addressing himself to the wider audience.

Romney must so appreciate having Michele Bachmann on the stage to be the attack leader on Perry.

Jon Huntsman was quite embarrassing. He pretends that he's the candidate of civility and then made two sharp "jokes" against Perry and Romney which fell completely flat. It was jarring and unappealing. It's not clear how he'll keep even his 1.4% position in the polls.

Herman Cain gets off the best lines, but he's not presidential material. He'd do better running for a lower office or sticking to his talk show career. I'd enjoy having him in the Senate or Congress. He has a valuable background, but I just don't believe in someone starting off with the top job for his first job in government.

Newt gets off some good zings, but it's irritating how often he plugs himself, his books, his website. It's as if he's in this to increase traffic on his website. He admits that government doesn't create jobs and then brags about the number of jobs created while he was speaker. Yes, we really need that dot-com bubble back again. But at least Gingrich keeps the focus on criticizing Obama rather than the other Republicans. The other candidates could learn from that.

Wolf Blitzer started off as if he were trying to drum up glitz and excitement and introducing the candidates as if it were the WWF. But he did a generally decent job balancing among the candidates. It was a neat idea to partner up with tea party participants. They asked questions that conservatives are interested in. The most interesting question was when the young man asked how much of his money he should be allowed to keep. Blitzer steered the question to Huntsman. It would have been interesting to have heard the answer from some of the other candidates.

I don't know how much it matters. How many people were watching or caring about the GOP debate. They just had one less than a week ago and it was the first night of Monday Night Football. The debate was in Florida while the Dolphins were playing on TV. How many viewers does that draw?

At least it gives Rick Perry some practice at debating and perhaps clues him in that he needs to prepare more carefully. This debate exposed some of his weaknesses, and has some others that are more likely to come up in a general election. Michele Bachmann touched on the allegations of crony capitalism with giving Merck that benefit from mandating the Gardasil shots. Perry's response was that he couldn't be bought for a $5,000 donation. As Jennifer Rubin wonders, "But bigger donors could have tempted him?"