GOP Debate: The Reviews and Recap

The morning’s consensus is that Michele Bachmann was the standout performer in last night’s vaudeville act GOP debate. News stories say the audience applauded enthusiastically at everything she said. Mitt Romney also had a good night, they say, but his biggest applause line was announcing that the Boston Bruins were leading the Vancouver Canucks.

This morning Pawlenty Dim Tim is being soundly denounced as a weenie for refusing to repeat his recent trash-talking of Mitt Romney to Romney’s face. Pizza magnate Herman Cain failed to deliver. Ron Paul was Ron Paul and Newt was Newt. Rick Santorum seems to have disappeared into the woodwork.

I skimmed through the transcript. Most of the “debate” amounted to someone asking the candidates “what would you do about blah,” and the candidates responding that President Obama is failing at blah, or doesn’t appreciate the importance of blah, or even is trying to undermine blah.

If you listened to this crew without knowing any better, you might think President Obama actually wants to shrink the economy and throw more people out of work, for example. Republicans, on the other hand, are in favor of economic growth and more jobs. Bold.

Only Romney and Bachmann were asked about the debt ceiling. Romney refused to respond to what would happen if it weren’t raised, and instead preached about the evils of government spending. Bachmann just said she voted no on the debt ceiling and then made some remarks about failures of leadership. No feet were held to fire, in other words.

The Ryan budget came up a few times. Most of the candidates repeated the party line about “entitlement reform” being the only way to get the budget balanced. Both Romney and Bachmann criticized President Obama for taking $500 billion out of Medicare to fund “Obamacare,” ignoring the fact that this money was mostly the overpayments to the private insurance companies offering Medicare Advantage policies, and not a single Medicare benefit has been taken away from seniors on regular Medicare.

To clarify: The Affordable Care Act does not take anything away from seniors to give to younger people, but rather eliminates some waste that was mostly paying for marketing and profits, and uses that for other health care funding. The Ryan plan, which they all praised, would take benefits away from seniors and give the money to millionaires in the form of tax cuts.

So the candidates are simultaneously denouncing Obama for taking benefits away from seniors, even though he didn’t, and praising Paul Ryan’s plan that really would take benefits away from seniors.

Pawlenty and Gingrich said they loved them some Ryan budget Medicare plan but would do it differently. Exactly what they would do differently will be announced. Mitt Romney simultaneously took credit for and denounced his own “Romneycare” plan in Massachusetts:

“I can’t wait to debate him and say, Mr. President, if, in fact, you did look at what we did in Massachusetts, why didn’t you give me a call and ask what worked and what didn’t? And I would have told you, Mr. President, that what you’re doing will not work.”

No one pressed Romney to give examples of what worked and what didn’t, however.

This is really my gripe about such debates — the candidates are allowed to weasel out of answering anything, and the moderators don’t push it. For example, moderator John King asked a pretty decent question —

Governor Pawlenty, answer the critics — and as you do so — who say 5 percent every year is just unrealistic. And as you do so, where’s the proof — where’s the proof that just cutting taxes will create jobs? If that were true, why during the Bush years, after the big tax cut, where were the jobs?

Now, that’s an excellent question, and one that all Republicans ought to be asked frequently. But here’s Pawlenty Dim’s answer:

Well, John, my plan involves a whole plan, not just cutting taxes. We’re proposing to cut taxes, reduce regulation, speed up this pace of government, and to make sure that we have a pro-growth agenda.

This president is a declinist. He views America as one of equals around the world. We’re not the same as Portugal; we’re not the same as Argentina. And this idea that we can’t have 5 percent growth in America is hogwash. It’s a defeatist attitude. If China can have 5 percent growth and Brazil can have 5 percent growth, then the United States of America can have 5 percent growth.

And I don’t accept this notion that we’re going to be average or anemic. So my proposal has a 5 percent growth target. It cuts taxes, but it also dramatically cuts spending. We need to fix regulation. We need to have a pro-American energy policy. We need to fix health care policy. And if you do those things, as I’ve proposed, including cut spending, you’ll get this economy moving and growing the private economy by shrinking government.

So, he evaded the question — which was not asked of the other candidates — and simply declared he is for strong economic growth while President Obama is, apparently, against it.

Toward the end they were asked about religious faith — they’re for it — and abortion — they’re agin’ it. Like this is a surprise. When asked about foreign policy, they all love the troops deployed overseas and think President Obama has failed at leadership.

Bachmann spoke at some length about Libya saying that we have no business messing around in Libya because no vital interest of America is being served there, and then she denounced President Obama for ceding leadership in the Libya action to France. No one pressed Bachmann about whether she thought being a participating member of NATO was still a vital interest of the U.S.

If I come across any particularly sharp analyses of the debate, I’ll add them here.

27 thoughts on “GOP Debate: The Reviews and Recap

  1. I spent the evening reading a mystery novel. It’s too far in the future for the campaign to start. Campaigns are taking too long and cost too much. Besides I need to keep my blood pressure controlled and I fear that hearing these people talk would just set me off.

    (But thanks for the summary; I appreciate your willingness to listen to this stuff on our behalf.)

    • It’s too far in the future for the campaign to start.

      Oh, I quite agree. I can remember when the candidates were chosen at the conventions, maybe four months or so before the general election, and then the campaigning started. The campaign thing has gotten way out of hand.

      From the GOP perspective, however, I can see why they would want to get the primary-ing over with as soon as possible so that they can have a clear front-runner to market to a gullible public.

  2. You know when I’ll turn in to watch?

    When Mitt debates himself, alone, on stage.

    Or the voices in Bachmann’s head are given their own microphones.

    Until then, I know what I’m gonna hear – the same Luntz-approved BS talking points I’ve heard for years.

    Also, too – when was it decided by the MSM that asking a follow-up question is unfair and unsportsmanlike conduct – like winding up and kicking a candidate square in their private parts with steel-toed boots?

    Where have you gone, Mike Wallace?
    This nation turns its lonely eye’s to you.
    Woo woo woo…
    What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson,
    ‘Follow-up Mike’ has left and gone away?

  3. Well, I can provide you with some sharp analysis...They’re all a bunch of pandering mutts!

  4. I ‘lasted’ about 10 minutes. I repeat what I previously said, the debates should fade into history never to be revived or revisited. I did manage to hear one of candidates ‘answer’ the moderator’s question with, I paraphrase, “We’ll never hear Democrats debate each other…” The moderator was so dumbfounded by this particular non-answer (there were scads of them) that he stood there for at least 30 seconds literally unable to speak. And there lies the glaring nonsense factor of the debates – a question is asked: the candidate delivers his spiel which seldom is the answer to the question: the next question is asked…and so it goes, ad nauseam.

    The audience comes away from the debate having learned nothing, so what is the point other than to provide free air time for the politicians to air their propaganda, yet again. The danger is that the audience is being led to believe that because it’s a ‘debate’ (it wears a fancy label) it isn’t propaganda.

  5. Glad I went to karate class last night, it seems.

    Here is a video clip which seems to sum up my response to all Republicans and most other politicians:

    South Park: Tynacorp

    Other than screaming “Dude, I don’t care!” I go around with my fingers in my ears singing “la, la, la, la, la, I can’t HEAR you! I have the blow dryer on!”

    Yes, it’s a sad life I lead.

  6. You know when I’ll turn in to watch?

    When Mitt debates himself, alone, on stage.

    Or the voices in Bachmann’s head are given their own microphones.

    Either one would be exquisitely entertaining, which is the only value in this crop of contenders. The Mitt Show would be like that scene in LOTR where Gollum argues with Smeagol, only Mitt is more CGI-fakey. Bachmann would alternately channel Sally Field in that 1970s TV-movie where she had multiple personalities, and Piper Laurie as Carrie’s mom.

    But until those are the formats, I too will find better things to watch.

  7. I ‘lasted’ almost an hour. What struck me is the conbusiness that the deficit and debt can best be addressed by lowering taxes in the rich and big business. It’s not an opinion, it’s a mathematical fact that this can’t be done without slashing entitlements. Not just Medicaid. Social Security OR Medicare is much larger than Medicaid. Benefits for Seniors are clearly the target, whether you look at the Ryan plan or Pawlenty’s program.

    Both plans mask what’s really on the menu with pie-in-the-sky predictions of economic growth. This growth didn’t happen with the Bush tax cuts. They won’t happen under Romney, either. So make a guess. When benefit cuts for Seniors and tax cuts for the wealthy don’t produce the predicted economic boost that will raise revenue (without a tax increase) there will be a huge deficit which will send the GOP back to the drawing board. Do you think they will fix the deficit by A) raising taxes or B) amputation benefits for Seniors even more?

  8. This impudent spellchecker is more boss than my wife.

    Second sentence of previous comment…”What struck me is the consensus that the debt…”

    My apologies fur being more incoherent than usual.

  9. Pizza magnate Herman Cain failed to deliver.

    Heh. You’ve just been waiting to use that one, haven’t you?

    Anyway, thanks for watching so the rest of us didn’t have to.

  10. Calling shows like these “debates” is like calling our government a “democracy”. Both concepts have been sold to the highest bidders, to the masters of technology and information–neither of which maintains the slightest association with communication or knowledge for both (tech and info), like fascism, depend on control, a process once differentiated from power. As in: power to the people.

  11. Living on the other side of the world, far out of reach from Fox News, I couldn’t have watched the debate if I had wanted to. Not that I wanted to. But I did have a politically educational evening – I finished reading Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia. I HIGHLY recommend this book. And Barbara, I think you especially need to read it – it might shake your faith a bit in the Affordable Health Care Act, and Obama’s ability to change anything even when he really wants to. Anyway, the book gives a lot of background info on how we got to this dismal stage in the USA’s history – there were quite a few things that I didn’t know (like, for example, how the health insurance industry became exempt from anti-trust law).

    Just to be clear, Matt Taibbi is quite liberal, and the Republicans get a thorough thrashing. I can assure you this is not a Tea Party manifesto. But the Democrats come out looking weak, at best. Obama seems to have been run over by a steamroller driven by Goldman-Sachs. The basic theme is just how much money politics has thoroughly corrupted the system. After reading it, you may wonder if the USA will be another Guatemala or Bangladesh in 10 years.

    • Candide — actually, without reading Taibbi, nothing you say he says sounds new or original. It’s pretty much conventional wisdom in some parts of American liberalism.

  12. I happened to pick up Griftopia in a bookstore, and had a hard time putting it down. Taibbi has a very entertaining style of writing. To add my own twist on what maha wrote, there’s little doubt in my mind that the USA is well on its way to third world status.

  13. …without reading Taibbi, nothing you say he says sounds new or original

    I’m sure it’s true that a lot can be pieced together from other sources, but Taibbi not only pulls it together nicely, but he also deserves a lot of credit for his original reporting on Goldman-Sachs. It’s stuff that nobody else published before. He did a series of articles for Rolling Stone which even led to congressional hearings where Goldman execs had to testify. Not that it changed anything, of course. The last chapter of Griftopia is devoted solely to exposing Goldman – it seems that they basically control the USA, much like United Fruit (now known as Chiquita Bananas) used to control Central America.

    Anyway, if you can grab a copy from somewhere, I do believe you’ll find it worth reading. The last political book I read of this quality was The Wrecking Crew by Thomas Frank.

  14. pizza,pizza ! The Hermanator might be a pizza magnate…but Newt is a babe magnet!

    I’m getting a big kick out of watching these clowns jockeying for believers. Bachmann is the only one who really scares me..she’s whacked out in the most insidious way and she draws followers who are the most possessed. When you have an army of possessed adherents at your really doesn’t matter if the war for independence began in New Hampshire or Massachusetts…It’s akin to Jim Jones syndrome.

  15. Governor Pawlenty, answer the critics — and as you do so — who say 5 percent every year is just unrealistic.

    Hah! Pawlenty is a wuss. He should be demanding – *DEMANDING* – 10% growth every year for at least *15* years.

    Sure, it’s never happened, and no one thinks it can, but those naysayers just don’t believe in *AMERICA*, which is, as you know, exceptional.

    • Hah! Pawlenty is a wuss. He should be demanding – *DEMANDING* – 10% growth every year for at least *15* years.

      And everybody gets a pony!

  16. To Candide – yes, the Dems are weak; but, we have no alternative. Voting for a third party candidate is a wasted vote. Voting Republican: I would rather die before I did that. And BTW, America was great in 2000 up until January 20, 2001, when Bush took over. Bush and the Republicans in 8 short years took a tremendous surplus and gave us record deficit–economically destroying the country. The AFA is better than the nothing we had before. At least, the insurance companies (the 21st Century representation of Satan) can no longer discriminate under the guise of “pre-existing conditions.” I agree with Maha that there doesn’t appear to be anything new in Taibbi’s book. Also, I am sick to death of this gripe, gripe, gripe about what the Democrats are not doing. Constant criticism does not make any thing grow. Positive reinforcement would achieve many things if a few more people would give it a try. I thank my lucky stars that we no longer have the Republicans in control of our Government. I believe the majority the Republicans have in the House will be gone after the next election. And, then, Obama can really get something done.

    P.S. Besides the economic destruction the Republicans brought to us in those 8 years, they also committed treason by outing a CIA covert operative.

  17. The Pawlenty and Ryan proposals are based on the assumption that the economy will grow at 5% per year and the bigger economy would generate more revenue even at the lower tax rates they propose. To try to put some scale to the assertion, if the economy grew at a sustained 5% for 8 years, it would grow by 48% of the original size. (Assuming the growth compounds)

    Wonderful. Yes. Realistic? I looked up the history at the Bureau of Economic Analysis. ( if you want to check my numbers, I used the spreadsheet gdpchg..xls Here’s the score.

    H.W Bush averaged exactly 2% growth in his 4 years.
    Bill Clinton averaged 3.65% growth in his 8 years.
    Shrubbie averaged 1.62% growth in his 8 years.

    A note on method – I don’t know SOP for economists, but I ‘bumped’ the count by one year on the assumption that changes in policy don’t show in the first year. HW was president from ’89 to ’92. But I credited him with the economy from ’90 to ’93. This gave HW credit (or blame) for Clinton’s first calendar year, but I used the same method throughout the calculations.

  18. “Toward the end they were asked about religious faith — they’re for it — and abortion — they’re agin’ it”

    “Glad I went to karate class last night, it seems”

    For myself alone I’m agin karate

  19. You know what? Not ONE of the so-called candidates had the balls or, perhaps, the huevos, to come out in FAVOR of healthcare. The Obama law has ALREADY meant $3000 in my pocket, as BC/BS was ripping me off, over-charging me, when I was unemployed. I anticipate many thousands of people IMMEDIATELY got some kind of benefit when the law went into effect. You know what? Parents can keep their underemployed kids on THEIR plan longer thanks to the law. People formerly uninsurable can get insurance.

    On top of that, the GOP clowns have already gone on record as being AGAINST medicare and Social Security.

    Now, what’s the part of their platform that is supposed to pull in votes among people with IQ’s > 50? Lower taxes? Isn’t that why we have a deficit problem? Aren’t are taxes already the lowest in the western world?

  20. long time no comment. i must say that maha’s points about the idiocy of the questions should be repeated. i watched the debate for two hours (!), at each commercial break (I think 4 of them), John King would show us a big tv and say, “look at all the questions coming to us on twitter and facebook…” he made it sound like those were going to be used next, these questions were not simple excuses to talk about the benefits of tax cuts and disadvantages of abortion… but they were meaningful questions! i find it bizarre that people like me can come up with better questions than john king in his suit and $1,000,000 smile…

    • i find it bizarre that people like me can come up with better questions than john king in his suit and $1,000,000 smile…

      Let me at ’em. I could grill those losers like hot dogs on a spit. They’d have no where to hide.

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