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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?"

1 comment:

PatD said...

What I found interesting was what Gingrich said on Greta after the debate:

“Governor Palin’s speech in Iowa last weekend on crony capitalism and on the problems of both parties is a very, very important speech. I’m going to be tweeting a link to it. I’m also going to be doing some other things with it. I think it was maybe one of the most important speeches she’s ever given, and I think it raised a series of very profound questions that all of us — Democrat and Republican — have to wrestle with as citizens. And she did it very well. It’s a very, very impressive speech.”

Here it is, in case you missed it:

Notice how she is shaping the debate by highlighting the divide between Washington and the rest of the country.

“Seven of the ten wealthiest counties are suburbs of Washington, D.C. Polls there actually – and usually I say polls, eh, they’re for strippers and cross country skiers – but polls in those parts show that some people there believe that the economy has actually improved. See, there may not be a recession in Georgetown, but there is in the rest of America.

Yeah, the permanent political class – they’re doing just fine. Ever notice how so many of them arrive in Washington, D.C. of modest means and then miraculously throughout the years they end up becoming very, very wealthy? Well, it’s because they derive power and their wealth from their access to our money – to taxpayer dollars. They use it to bail out their friends on Wall Street and their corporate cronies, and to reward campaign contributors, and to buy votes via earmarks. There is so much waste. And there is a name for this: It’s called corporate crony capitalism. This is not the capitalism of free men and free markets, of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and of risk. No, this is the capitalism of connections and government bailouts and handouts, of waste and influence peddling and corporate welfare. This is the crony capitalism that destroyed Europe’s economies. It’s the collusion of big government and big business and big finance to the detriment of all the rest – to the little guys. It’s a slap in the face to our small business owners – the true entrepreneurs, the job creators accounting for 70% of the jobs in America, it’s you who own these small businesses, you’re the economic engine, but you don’t grease the wheels of government power.

So, do you want to know why the permanent political class doesn’t really want to cut any spending? Do you want to know why nothing ever really gets done? It’s because there’s nothing in it for them. They’ve got a lot of mouths to feed – a lot of corporate lobbyists and a lot of special interests that are counting on them to keep the good times and the money rolling along.”

She may or may not run, but she is having an impact on the race. When Gingrich and the NYT take notice of her ideas, you know the ground is shifting. Here’s Giridharadas in his NYT article:

“Ms. Palin may be hinting at a new political alignment that would pit a vigorous localism against a kind of national-global institutionalism.

On one side would be those Americans who believe in the power of vast, well-developed institutions like Goldman Sachs, the Teamsters Union, General Electric, Google and the U.S. Department of Education to make the world better. On the other side would be people who believe that power, whether public or private, becomes corrupt and unresponsive the more remote and more anonymous it becomes; they would press to live in self-contained, self-governing enclaves that bear the burden of their own prosperity.”

The way to beat Obama and his merry gang is to call them what they are: crony capitalists.