I don’t know whether many people (especially on the left) had the stomach to watch this 90 minute exercise in silliness and futility, but I personally am a bit of a masochist. I sat through the full thing, knowing all the while that it was over an hour of my life I could never get back. For the most part, little of interest was said, though I must confess to a few points of agreement on my part with a couple of the candidates (95% disagreement of course). There were even some laughs scattered throughout, so I can hardly call it a complete waste, can I?
Let’s have a look at what was on the table tonight.
Brett Baier of Faux hosted, and the candidates present at the debate (sponsored by The John Birch Society and held in Greenville, SC) were Ron Paul (who brought his entire clapping collection of Paulbots with him), Herman Cain (pretty much characterized by Fox as “the pizza dude”), Tim Pawlenty (whose performance must have been underwhelming to even his biggest fans), Gary Johnson (repeatedly marginalized by the moderators), and Rick Santorum (who brilliantly lived up to the definition of his name).
Both in an attempt to garner interest in what was actually a pretty boring endeavor, and to encourage a few jabs at Obama (Fox’s biggest ratings technique) early on, Baier began by asking Pawlenty (who was pretty hawkish overall) whether he still saw Obama as “weak” in light of recent events and the killing of bin Laden. He weaseled predictably in response, careful to point out that Bush tactics led us to bin Laden and that he didn’t like the looks of Obama’s national security record generally speaking. (Pawlenty is all in for waterboarding in certain situations, but then again, so are most Republicans. Of the five debaters, Johnson and Paul are the two who don’t support it in any context.) Next Baier wanted to know which candidates would release photographs of bin Laden’s body, and only Cain said he would not. If Baier could have stuck with Obama questions for the full 90 minutes, he clearly would have, but I guess he figured even the sheeple who routinely watch Fox might notice that kind of obsessive focus.
The foreign policy discussions were fairly boring, although, as usual, I’m horrified by how often I can agree with Ron Paul on some issues in this arena. He got plenty of applause for his stance on Afghanistan, indicating that he wants us to GTFO. He says Israel is too dependent on us, financially and in terms of decision-making. He suggests we need to pretty much stop foreign aid across the board – oh jesus. Cain basically indicated that he’s got no clue what’s going on in Afghanistan and that he wouldn’t want to formulate a plan of action without his experts and more in-depth knowledge of the situation – so maybe that makes him the most honest among them on this question? Johnson is ready to GTFO too. Santorum thinks we pretty much need to tell Pakistan to do what we say or bugger off. He also does a bit of dancing but pretty much stands by his assertion that Islam is full of a bunch of violent extremists. Pawlenty (I think) becomes the first (and, I believe, only) one to worship at the altar of Ronald Reagan, talking about how right he was for trying to get Gaddafi. Basically calls Obama and the United Nations a bunch of pussies. Johnson is asked whether Trump (who is, in case anyone’s forgotten, conspicuously absent) is right to want to put a 25% tax on Chinese imports “if China does not stop manipulating its currency.” Johnson says no tariffs – ever – ’cause he is a “free market kind of guy.”
The whole field is terrifying when it comes to the economy. I’ve already repressed/blocked out most of the discussion. I do recall that there was talk of abolishing the corporate income tax and eliminating the minimum wage (in order to “create jobs”) and the usual promotion of the fair tax – and a lot of lying about the purposes served by both. Cain seems to think there’s no need for reliance on energy resources from other countries – not because he thinks we should be seeking safe energy alternatives, but because apparently there’s enough fossil fuel here in the US to keep us afloat indefinitely. He’s especially big on abolishing the IRS and instituting the fair tax, and damn what “the experts” say because he’s “studied it for a long time.” How reassuring. Let’s let the pizza dude overhaul our entire financial system.
For a while there, the candidates react to the dinging of the “STFU” bell as if they’ve been slapped, stopping cold literally midsentence. Pretty funny, really.
Look, I’m pretty liberal on the health care issue overall, and I’ve complained plenty about us not getting enough done with the recent reforms – but I’m going to STFU now that I’ve heard the Republican field yap about it together, and so should the rest of the Lefty whiners. Pawlenty pretends to have principles by not attacking Romneycare without Mittens being present at the debate. Over on dKos, Jed Lewison has a pretty fair bit of analysis of Santorum’s stance on health care:
Chris Wallace basically asks Rick Santorum why [he] is a raving lunatic (conditioning a debt ceiling increase on repeal of health care reform, and turning Medicare into a voucher program immediately). Santorum, who voted for prescription drug coverage for Medicare, says blocking health care reform is the single most important item on the conservative agenda and that the fate of America depends on its repeal. In other words, he doesn’t care that Chris Wallace thinks he’s crazy.
Honestly, that about sums it up for Santorum on the issue. He talks about how “Obamacare” goes against the intent of the Founders because it creates a “broad-based entitlement” for people. Apparently this is the most important issue that faces the country too – and Americans are “addicted to the drug of government”? I’d like to know what he’s smoking actually. **shrugs** Puff puff pass, you sanctimonious asshole.
Gary Johnson offers up a not-unjustified bit of whine about halfway through the debate because he was blatantly being ignored: “…This is like 9 questions for all of these guys, and none for me!” Dude had a point. When Chris Wallace finally gets to him, he asks about Johnson’s position that Medicare/Medicaid should both be cut in half, turned into block grants, and that states should run health care. So Johnson rambles about the deficit and balancing the budget. Uh, that’s pretty much it. After the completely pointless question and answer, Baier offered what struck me as a pretty tongue-in-cheek reassurance that the moderators would be “fair and balanced” with the questions. Right.
On immigration, Cain says it’s about empowering the states because the federal government can’t… ugh, meh. Blah blah, nothing to see. Santorum is a little more entertaining, but mostly in the way watching a train wreck is entertaining. The blonde moderator whose name I can’t remember points out that he has actively spoken out against creating a path for citizenship, and for making English the official language of the United States. What she wants to know is, will positions like these alienate Hispanic voters? In response, Santorum proceeds to tell some bigoted story about his childhood, the money quote being Daddy Santorum telling wee Ricky, “…You’re an American, and you need to learn the English language. That’s the language of success in America.” Then he goes on to say that we’re not doing anybody any favors by not making them learn English. TL;DR? Short version: “Fuck those brown people.” Johnson has some more interesting ideas (for a Republican), actually. He says immigration is responsible for job creation and that we should make it as easy as possib
le for immigrants to get a work Visa (background check and social security card so that taxes would get paid). He suggests the government is the reason so many immigrants are here illegally because it has made legal immigration so difficult. So he indicates that we should set up a “grace period” during which we can document workers. He thinks the border fence is a waste of time and resources, which is kinda refreshing.
Blah blah, reliving what I just watched is getting old. Let’s hit some social highlights reaaaaaal quick.
Johnson was pretty interesting on drugs actually. Thinks we ought legalize marijuana and not criminalize addiction. Legalize, tax, federally regulate weed, with age limits on who can buy and partake. Paul is cool with legalizing drugs, and wants the government out of gay marriage altogether – let the churches handle it on an individual basis, and if government’s gotta get involved, it should only be the states. Yes yes, we know the federal government is evil. **clapclapclap go the Paulbots**
I can’t remember what everyone else said about gay marriage, but Jed over on dKos reports that Cain said that not defending DOMA is treasonous. Maybe he said that during one of my wine breaks.
At some point, Santorum was asked about his past remarks to the effect that women working outside the home was due to radical feminism. He dances all around it, and says that what he really meant was that we should affirm women for whatever choice they make, whether it’s working within or without the home. But much stuttering and backtracking indeed. Look for the clip, it was funny.
Some questions to Pawlenty about teaching creationism in the schools, and he didn’t want to touch it with a 10 foot pole. Managed to stutter out something about Intelligent Design as an option and finally indicated that things should be left up to the schools. Here’s hoping that’s what goes down and that teaching about the Flying Spaghetti Monster becomes more popular/mainstream in coming years. Props to Pawlenty though, for apologizing all over himself for a comment he made regarding cap-and-trade. I won’t go into it, but I have to admit it was refreshing to see a serious mea culpa from a Republican.
The lightning round was pretty assholish all around on Fox’s part. Really, the defining moment of this debate for me – in terms of showing how fairly unbalanced and petty the “news” organization really is – was when the moderators asked Johnson what his reality show would be about if he had one like Trump. Johnson was, again justifiably, completely stumped. The whole spectacle was really disrespectful – it was like a beauty pageant question, and of course he didn’t know how to answer it.
Btw, if you watched the debate like me, you’re a bigger dork than Boehner, who wasn’t going to lose any time in the tanning beds over it. He didn’t bother watching it, which is probably a good thing, since there’s little doubt it would have led to tears. It almost did here too.
Um, and apparently Cain wins?
To wrap, Cain is a completely confused loon who will never win no matter what a focus group says because the GOP is mostly white males, and there’s no way they’re picking an African American nominee. Paul and Johnson are both off their chumps generally speaking, but creepily enough, they both have some ideas I can get on board with at times; plus, Johnson says he’s scaled Mt. Everest, which – I don’t care what you say about the guy – is fucking neat. (Amazing, a Republican candidate who has actually accomplished something!) But neither Paul nor Johnson will be the nominee because, despite the Paulbots’ enthusiasm in the audience, they just don’t answer questions right on the wedge issues. Pawlenty is a pretty boring guy with standard GOP beliefs, so my guess is he has a good shot. Santorum’s very existence is offensive to my sensibilities, and after watching this debate, he has officially climbed above Sarah Palin on the “Politicians Sricki Hates” list. He won’t be the nominee either because he’s an even bigger piece of shit than most rank and file Republicans are willing to swallow. Hm, in a way, that too is an accomplishment.
So what are your thoughts, Moose? Who watched it, who regrets it, and who won?