This is a campaign for the GOP nomination like no other. Tonight will feature the 11th debate of the season between the contenders, and we are still 6 weeks from the opening caucus and 7 weeks from the first in the nation primary. I live for this political drama, but even I cannot keep up with all of these televised candidate throw downs. I have 3 past debates recorded and ready to watch, but every time I turn around, a new debate records over my interest level in the previous one. For an interminably long election season, this one is going by fast for me.
The landscape has certainly been dynamic. For months, the media has regaled us with the horse race narratives of Romney v. Pawlenty, then Romney v. Bachmann, then Romney v. Perry, then Romney v. Cain, and now Romney v. Gingrich. The real story should be Romney v. Romney, since this presumptive nominee has been a staunch supporter of every side of every issue for years. Rest assured, when the horses are trotted out on stage into their red, white and blue starting gates tonight, there will be no stallions. More than likely, we will be treated to a collection of show ponies prancing and braying as the Far Right base applies the riding crop. We are a long way from the clubhouse turn.
While all the post-debate attention has gone to a variety of entertaining and overblown ‘gaffes’, such as Rick Perry’s brain freezes, Herman Cain’s harassment allegations, and Jon Huntsman’s cloak of invisibility, the real debate news is the substance of what these candidates actually are saying. If I don’t have time to watch every misstep, then you certainly can’t, so here is some of what you are missing on the substance. Apparently this substance smells like it is coming more often from the hind quarters of the horses than from their mouths:
Mitt Romney argued the other night that instead of the Affordable Care Act, we need more market-driven solutions to drive down costs. Specifically, he noted that other countries spend close to 12% of GDP on healthcare while we as a nation spend 18% of GDP. Interesting take, except he forgot to enlighten the debate audience about a simple truth. Those nations spending close to 12% of GDP on health care, the ones he wants to emulate HAVE NATIONALIZED HEALTH CARE! Honestly, does this guy think no one listens to his nonsense? He basically is using an argument in favor of a single payer system to defend a for-profit health care model.
Lost in the comedic furor over Rick Perry “misforgetting” the 3rd thing he hated about Washington for a few agonizing moments on stage was his underlying point. He wants to immediately abolish the departments of Commerce, Energy and Education – not restructure, abolish. E.J. Dionne did a thoughtful take-down of the intellectual vapidity of this position:
Would Perry end all federal aid to education? Would he do away with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the part of the Commerce Department that, among other things, tracks hurricanes? Energy was the department he forgot. Would he scrap the department’s 17 national labs, including such world-class facilities as Los Alamos, N.M., Oak Ridge, Tenn., or — there’s that primary coming up — Aiken, S.C.?
I’m not accusing Perry of wanting to do any of these things because I don’t believe he has given them a moment of thought. And that’s the problem for conservatives. Their movement has been overtaken by a quite literally mindless opposition to government. Perry, correctly, thought he had a winning sound bite, had he managed to blurt it out, because if you just say you want to scrap government departments (and three is a nice, round number), many conservatives will cheer without asking questions.
Michelle Bachmann says in one breath that we as a nation are being overtaken by socialists, but fear not, patriots. Ms. Bachmann will save us by following the fine example of…the Chinese?
“The Great Society has not worked, and it’s put us into the modern welfare state. If you look at China, they don’t have food stamps. If you look at China, they’re in a very different situ — they save for their own retirement security. They don’t have pay FDIC. They don’t have the modern welfare state. And China’s growing. And so what I would do is look at the programs that LBJ gave us with The Great Society, and they’d be gone.”
Ms. Bachmann’s public position is to replace Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security with the Chinese model. She was once considered a viable candidate for the Presidency by GOP primary voters.
One of the candidates (I think it was Newt Gingrich, but I could be wrong) stated during the last debate that the CIA had been taken over by socialists under the Obama administration. That should come as some news to General David Petraeus, the Director of the CIA, and hero of the Right.
Herman Cain, who is being self-victimized every time he opens his mouth, stated clearly and unequivocally that waterboarding is not torture. All of the other candidates agreed with this legal analysis except Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman. The world, legal scholars, John McCain, military leadership, and public opinion dissent, but no matter. Forget that the theory that waterboarding has kept us safer, or that it led us to bin Laden, has been thoroughly debunked. The blood thirsty mob in attendance clapped their approval. For those keeping score, GOP debate audiences have cheered for state executions, the death of the uninsured, the electrocution of undocumented workers, and booing of gay American soldiers. I guess that Tree of Liberty needs to be watered every now and then.
All of the candidates (again, except Ron Paul) thought the announced troop withdrawal from Iraq was a huge error. Perhaps one of them mentioned that it was George Bush who negotiated the withdrawal date. Perhaps one of them mentioned that we had an obligation to leave once we were asked by the sovereign government of Iraq (isn’t it their country, or was the GOP only speaking in theory when they told us that?). Sounds like Occupy Wall Street is bad, but Occupy Baghdad is good. It is fair to ask the contenders how many Muslim countries we should occupying simultaneously, and I would be curious to know their answers, especially since preemptively attacking Iran is high on the next GOP President’s to-do list.
I close with this nugget, also from E.J. Dionne: “At their best, conservatives forced us to think harder. Now, many in the ranks seem to have decided that hard and nuanced thinking is a telltale sign of liberalism.”
If thinking makes me a liberal, I am guilty as charged. When will the media start focusing on these substantive gaffes?