Advancing a Free Society

Debate Thoughts

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Perhaps because it was an MSNBC-sponsored debate, Brian Williams’ opening questions seemed straight off a page of Democratic National Committee talking points – Rick Perry’s Texas as an overrated economic entity; Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital as a scourge of the private sector. A couple of suggestions for the candidates: Perry should note that people are voting with their feet and moving to Texas in large numbers; Romney should point out that most political operatives who take pot shots at his world of venture capital know little of the private sector other than candidate hop-scotching (btw, here’s some blogosphere criticism of Williams’ treatment of Republicans).

“If 10% is good enough for God, 9% ought to be good enough for the government.” It’s a great line, courtesy of Herman Cain (he used it when touting his “9-9-9” plan(9% rates for personal, business and a national sales tax).

My doorbell rang amidst Ron Paul’s explanation as to why the government maybe doesn’t need to be in the business of air-traffic control of auto-safety. I’d like to thank the good folks at Federal Express for sparing me from another cringe-inducing moment courtesy of the Texas congressman (here’s Paul discussing the need for FEMA, which came up later in the debate).

As per usual, Newt Gingrich gives arguably the best opening statement – pointing out that President Obama hasn’t come to the Reagan Library seeking economic advice. First-rate political mind; second-rate candidacy (a couple of minutes after I wrote that, Gingrich took after Politico’s John Harris for trying to get Republicans “to fight each other”. Newt will be media-barbecued for doing this a third time; I give him credit for verbalizing an audience bubble thought. Sadly, in the politics of 2011, it’s also the closest these candidates will come to honoring the Reagan “11thCommandment”).

A popular refrain from the left these days: Ronald Reagan (once supported Harry Truman, signed a California abortion law and raised taxes as governor) wouldn’t pass today’s conservative litmus test. Let’s see if this comes up at some point in this debate. Answer: it never does.

A friend of mine is trying to watch the debate back in Georgetown. The cable’s on the fritz; MSNBC’s signal is scrambled. Does anything in Washington work as promised . . .?

Nearly an hour into the debate and, at last, a real difference between Romney and Perry: Social Security. If Romney wins the nomination, how much will he owe Karl Rove? If Perry win the nomination but loses to President Obama, how much will he regret writing his target-rich Fed Up!?

The last time I checked, the President of the United States is the commander-in-chief of America’s military and sort of an important figure on the world stage. And, oh by the way, Sunday is the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Yet, an hour into this debate, hardly a peep about military and world affairs other than a passing mention about Romney and Chinese currency manipulation (and so it continues, until Jon Huntsman brings up Afghanistan with 15 minutes left in the debate, followed by a question about George W. Bush and military intervention). Barring unexpected events next year, 2012 may be the most domestic-heavy presidential election since1992 (“the economy, stupid”).

Ten minutes to go and Huntsman is asked about his differences with Perry on climate-change (and evolution) and the greater question of GOP electability. This is the 400-lb. gorilla in the room deserving of more attention and not getting it tonight (especially in a state like California that long ago abandoned Republicans not named Reagan or Nixon in national elections).

Winner: He has little chance of getting his party’s nomination, but Newt Gingrich drew the biggest applause lines and demonstrated the best knowledge of the Reagan record.

Loser: At a time her campaign is stumbling, Michele Bachman was a minor presence on the crowded stage of eight candidates. A bad night, compared to herstronger earlier debate performances.

Winner: Nancy Reagan – on nights like this, the Reagan Library shines like a magnificent jewel.

Loser: The debate moderators, for running a decidedly non-provocative show.