Post-GOP debate open thread

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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64 Responses

  1. Burt Likko says:

    * Gary Johnson was… absent.Report

  2. Rufus F. says:

    I didn’t watch it, but really I don’t watch much tv. I do think that Romney’s got the nomination locked up, unless he has some sort of sex scandal, which isn’t very likely.Report

    • RTod in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Yes! Because really, when has a straight laced white male pro-family nationally recognized pol ever been caught dipping his pen in… well, anywhere but home?Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to RTod says:

        I was really thinking more about him being a Mormon. I used to date a Mormon girl all through High School and spent a lot of time with the Mormons and, well, they really didn’t strike me as the sex scandal type.Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Now, if pictures come out of him drinking a cup of coffee? That could be political dynamite!Report

        • Trumwill in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Yeah. This. Being from the south, I’ve been around religious people all of my life. But when it comes to certain things, I think it’s the Mormons that take it much more seriously than most (that is, religious that do not attempt to force it with violence. Anymore.)

          It’s also Mitt Romney. It’s not just that he’s straightlaced, but he is so in a quiet way. Some of the louder ones make me wonder. Not Mitt. I would be genuinely surprised.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I heard someone say just matter-of-factly that we wouldn’t see a Mitt Romney sex scandal this cycle. I tend to agree, but I’m sorry to say I don’t see the reason to think this for him more than any other candidate as having anything to do with the actual likelihood that there is no behavior in his past that would justify a Weiner-like imbroglio. That is, if a good old-fashioned, white-bread/plain-vanilla extra marital man-on-woman porking or fifteen would still count as such behavior. Instrad, I think it is a matter of the press buying into the brand of politicians and simply not seeing them that way until they are forced to. The comment I mention above was made by a major-daily naitonal political reporter on some radio show or other last week. I think it quite well reflects where the press’ heads are at as far as considering sex scandals as real possibilitites for male politicians who are masterful at cultivating the image of the perfect family man. They exhibited exactly this pattern long after the National Inquirer reporting on John Edwards was clear to be based on far more than a typical National Inquirer story.

      Perhaps I have been made cynical by what has been brought to light about the behavior of males in power in the last fifteen years of American politics, but I look at a guy with the career and looks and money and power of Mitt Romney, and I see a guy whom I am not inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to as to his unswerving marital fidelity over the years, and who indeed I would be pretty astonished if he has not been getting a fair bit of action on the side through his long trpis across the country and, before that, the state of Massachusstts. And, ya know what, other than just basically hating the guy for simple, base reasons of material envy (though I could never, and would never want to, live his life) as a matter of public interest, fitness for office, what have you, I really couldn’t give less of a shit. Whatever. (Though I certainly have nothing against a good sex scandal every so often, especially involving a leading contender for a major-party presidential nomination…)

      So, yeah: I’d say yes, a Romney sex scandal is unlikely, but not because it’s unlikely he’s done things that would qualify him for scandal-eligibility. Were the press inclined to bestir themselves to look for it (and I have no interest in bringing into existence a Breitbart-of-the-Left, though I’m sure some of my fellow commenters will be able to sugget to us media figures who they contend are exactly that), or cover it with the kind of alacrity that they have in other instances if it were uncovered serendipitously, I think the likelihood that Mitt Romney could find himself having to answer for some personal, to include sexual, transgressions (or ‘transgressions’), would be rather more considerable.Report

  3. Koz says:

    Didn’t see the debate.

    There’s been some interesting developments in the field over the last month or so. Basically the GOP has eliminated most or all of its downside. Huckabee especially carried the possibility of hurting the party. But, there was one real blow. The failure of Mitch Daniels to run creates a much weaker field.

    And in this field Michele Bachmann is for real. The new conventional wisdom is that Bachmann is who Sarah Palin was supposed to be, and I buy it. Which is a shame because she is ultimately an untenable candidate, for reasons that became clear in 2010. As you look at the results from 2010, American were willing to elect any plausible right-wing platform. What they were not willing to do was elect a right-wing candidate who only engages with right-wing players or audiences. That’s why Sharron Angle and Ken Buck are not US Senators. Unfortunately for Mrs. Bachmann, that applies to her as well, and for that reason I don’t think she will be the next POTUS. Otherwise, she’d be a strong candidate.Report

    • tom van dyke in reply to Koz says:

      Fair, if not even overly charitable for one of yr stripe, Mr. I. Salut!

      Mr. Koz rightly notes that this is still the general campaign, and it is free advertising: there are swingable voters to be got. Any candidate who isn’t running for President of All of Us and not president of his party even at this early date isn’t fit for the job.Report

    • Barry in reply to Koz says:

      ” There’s been some interesting developments in the field over the last month or so. Basically the GOP has eliminated most or all of its downside. Huckabee especially carried the possibility of hurting the party.”

      I agree with this.

      ” But, there was one real blow. The failure of Mitch Daniels to run creates a much weaker field.”

      Only in the sense that the MSM wouldn’t point out much that he was Bush II/Cheney’s loyal servant in the budget BS which helped us get to where we are today.Report

      • Koz in reply to Barry says:

        Oh, please. After four years of Obama as President, GWB would beat Obama himself if he were still eligible. IIRC his approval rating was already higher than Barry’s before the death of OBL. We could bomb brown people in Asia from now till the end of time, we can pass Medicare Part L granting senior citizens free golf club membership, we can pass refundable tax credits for the Sultan of Brunei, and we’d still be better off without the horrific economic debacle that is the Obama Administration.

        Oh, Mitch Daniels worked for OMB under GWB. That’ll git ’em up for sure.Report

        • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Koz says:

          Election Night 2012 ain’t likely gonna’ be fun for you. Not at all. Not because Obama is or isn’t going to win, but because you’re so sure he’s going to lose. I remember the same feelings among some of my friends in ’04.Report

          • Koz in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            I’m not sure at all Barry won’t be reelected, I think there’s a decent chance he will. I can promise you, “OMG President Bush was a Republican” won’t cut any ice.Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to Koz says:

          Ah, I smell a bet here…Report

        • Barry in reply to Koz says:

          Koz June 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm

          ” Oh, please. After four years of Obama as President, GWB would beat Obama himself if he were still eligible. IIRC his approval rating was already higher than Barry’s before the death of OBL.”

          His approval ratings were in the 30’s. Now, among Republicans, they were higher, perhaps even over 50%.Report

    • Pat Cahalan in reply to Koz says:

      > As you look at the results from 2010, American were
      > willing to elect any plausible right-wing platform. What
      > they were not willing to do was elect a right-wing
      > candidate who only engages with right-wing players or
      > audiences.

      I think this is an astute observation, Koz.

      Isn’t there an implication, then, that you have to have a public personae of being a centrist, or a facsimile thereof?Report

      • Obama’s a centrist, just ask the mainstream media or a Democrat. But I repeat myself…Report

      • Koz in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

        Actually, no, that’s just the point. I was thinking of Chris Christie in particular, but anybody else would work just as well. Chris Christie talks with and to his adversaries, Michele Bachmann talks about hers, and the difference is crucial.

        If the only people you’re talking to are CPAC, Renaissance Weekenders, or Tea Party rallies, you’ve got some license to say whatever you perceive will make yourself good. If you’re talking with adversaries, whatever you say, you’re more or less committed to. Therefore the voters can be confident that they know what they’re getting.Report

  4. “Although I felt King went to Paul far too often, considering the Texas congressman’s minuscule chance of winning the nomination, it’s great to have the plucky gadfly in the debates.” It seems like everything I read ever anywhere about Ron Paul falls over itself to emphasize just how little shot he has at winning. Serious question: how do we know this? And why don’t we ever say the same thing to the same degree for the other candidates? Why does the media take clowns like Herman Cain and Bachmann seriously, but discount Paul despite his edge in polls, national visibility, and fundraising ability?

    Mitt Romney:

    And then there’s this gem:

    “With a great flurry of handshakes and smiles, Mitt is suddenly in the house, marching straight to the space in front of the fireplace where a mike on a stand awaits him, as for a stand-up comedian. He is wearing a smart suit, the purpose of which, it seems, is to allow him to whip off the jacket in a moment of wild unscripted anarchy, so as to demonstrate his informality and desire to get right down to business and to hell with the outrage and horror this will cause in his minders. British MPs and candidates of all stripes now do the same thing. The world over, male politicians have trousers that wear out three times more quickly than their coats. And who would vote for a man who kept his jacket on? Why, it is tantamount to broadcasting your contempt for the masses. Politicians who wear jackets might as well eat the common people’s children and have done with it.

    Romney is impressive in a rather ghastly kind of way, which is not really his fault. He has already gone over so many of his arguments and rehearsed so many of his cunningly wrought lines that, try as he might, the techniques he employs to inject a little life and freshness into them are identical to those used by game show hosts, the class of person Governor Romney most resembles; lots of little chuckled-in phrases like ‘am I right?’ and ‘gosh, I don’t know but it seems to me that’, ‘heck, maybe it’s time’ and so on. In fact he is so like an American version of Bob Monkhouse in his verbal and physical mannerisms that I become quite distracted. Rod and Patricia beam so hard and so shiningly they begin to look like the swollen pumpkins that surround them.

    ‘Hey, you know, I don’t live or die just for Republicans or just for whacking down Democrats, I wanna get America right,” says Mitt when invited to blame the opposition.

    A minder makes an almost indiscernible gesture from the back, which Mitt picks up on right away. Time to leave.

    ‘Holy cow, I have just loved talking to you folks,’ he says, pausing on his way out to be photographed. ‘this is what democracy means.’

    ‘I told you he was awesome,’ says Deirdra.

    In the afternoon we move on to Phillips Exeter Academy, one of the most famous, exclusive and prestigious private schools in the land, the “Eton of America’ that educated Daniel Webster, Gore Vidal, John Irving, and numerous other Americans all the way up to Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook as well as half the lineup of indie rockers Arcade Fire. The school has an endowment of one billion dollars.

    In this heady atmosphere of privilege, wealth, tradition and youthful glamour Mitt is given a harder time. The students question the honesty of his newly acquired anti-gay, anti-abortion ‘values’. It seems he was a liberal as Governor of Massachusetts and has now had to add a little red meat and iron to his politics in order to placate the more right-wing members of his party. The girls and boys of the school (whose Democratic Club is more than twice the size of its Republican, I am told) are unconvinced by the Governor’s wriggling and squirming on this issue and he only manages, in the opinion of this observer at least, to get away with not being jeered. I could quite understand his shouting out, ‘What the hell you rich kids think you know about families beats the crap out of me’, but he did not, which is good for his campaign but a pity for those of us who like a little theatre in our politics.

    By the time he appeared on the steps outside the school hall to answer some press questions I was tired, even if he was not. The scene could not have been more delightful, a late-afternoon sun setting the bright autumnal leaves on fire; smooth, noble, and well-maintained collegiate architecture and lawns and American politics alive and in fine health. I came away admiring Governor Romney’s stamina, calm and good humour. If every candidate has to go through such slog and grind day after day after day, merely to win the right finally to move forward and really campaign, then one can at least guarantee that the Leader of the Free World, whoever he or she may be, has energy, an even temper and great stores of endurance. I noticed that the Governor’s jacket had somehow magically been placed in the back of his SUV. Ready to be put on in order to be taken off again next time.”Report

    • Oops; meant to say that gem was from Stephen Fry’s In America.Report

    • > It seems like everything I read ever anywhere about
      > Ron Paul falls over itself to emphasize just how little
      > shot he has at winning. Serious question: how do we
      > know this?

      Ron Paul won’t get elected because if he does get elected he won’t be able to do anything, and the voting public knows that and thus they won’t vote for him.

      For someone like Paul to get elected, there first needs to be at least a credible block of like-minded folk in the Congress. A President can buck a majority party to some degree by negotiating with the veto. A President who has no representation in Congress has nothing to negotiate *with*… what’s Paul gonna do, threaten to veto everything until they impeach him?

      Mind you, I can imagine far worse than to have a President veto everything until a reasonable military budget hits the table, I just don’t see it happening.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      but discount Paul despite his edge in polls, national visibility, and fundraising ability?

      Because he had all those things going into New Hampshire last time (probably more than now), but very much underperformed in gettting actual votes.Report

    • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      As been pointed out, Paul’s problem isn’t just that half his positions are against his own parties orthodoxy, it’s that another 20% of his ideas are against both parties orthodoxy, and the other 30% of his ideas (mostly on foreign policy) only have support of half of the other party.

      It’d be much like if there was a Democrat who was strongly anti-immigration, for invading Syria, but strongly pro-choice, anti-gay marriage, but for increasing the illegality of drugs. Then wondering that despite the fact said person might get 10% of the primary vote after numerous national television appearances that people give him no shot of winning then nomination.Report

      • But Paul’s overarching theme is to basically defer to lower levels of organization where possible. It’s not like his platform is a random assembly of radical positions.Report

        • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Christopher Carr says:

          But, our politics isn’t based on that. I agree, aside from his pro-life stance, that Paul is ideologically consistent. Unfortunately for him, the American people are not. It would make sense that someone truly worried about the national debt would be for decreased military spending just like someone who truly believes in less government interference should be for gay marriage, but the American populace don’t quite go that way.Report

          • So Paul’s failure to launch is because our twisted political norms cannot be changed? Seems more than a bit self-defeating to me.Report

            • A May 5 CNN poll had Paul losing to Obama 53-45, pretty much exactly McCain’s number.

              Of course, Ron Paul is kind of nuts, so the final numbers would be way off that. I imagine I’d vote for Obama myself, and that takes some doing.

              I think libertarians serve as a necessary caution to the communitarianism of the right [social] and left [governmental]. I find the conventional wisdom that the only ideological consistency is a uniform anti-communitarianism, social and political, to rather be a libertarian invention.

              Neither is consistency particularly admired: Roman Catholic social science is on the whole communitarian both socially and politically, but Catholic voters split down the middle, and Catholic critics snort at Catholic thought [as we saw here lately].

              One note: I wonder if Paul would even be on the debate stage if he were a Democrat, or be a congressman atall…Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to tom van dyke says:

                1. Ron Paul gets 45% because all people know of him is, “small government, doesn’t like wars, yay!” Not aware so much of his wish to eliminate 80% of the federal government. Not to mention that if somehow Ron Paul won the nomination, somehow, the Constitution Party would nominate Rick Perry & Michelle Bachmann and every major GOP politico would endorse them.

                2. Shockingly, no, Democrat’s wouldn’t elect someone as a Congressman who wants to turn the clock back to 1873 when it comes to the federal government.Report

              • Mr. Ewiak efficiently dispatches the warm & fuzzy for Ron Paul.Report

              • You think he wouldn’t present himself well to get the middle to vote for him?Report

              • Koz in reply to Christopher Carr says:

                I think would have an excellent chance to win a general election against President Obama. His problem is that he’s not going to get that far.

                A lot of Paul’s supporters have internalized a narrative that “MSM doesn’t respect gadflies, they’re keepin’ him down.” There might be some truth to that, but very little. It’s much simpler than that. Mr. Paul has consistently shown poor support in the polls. This is the second time he’s ran, and he had consistently low support in the polls then.

                If you want to dig deeper into that, I think it has to do with the fact that Paul’s base doesn’t view themselves as Republicans. Such people might think they’re being cool. But, they have little credibility to persuade real Republicans into supporting Paul. For example, we don’t have a very good picture of what a hypothetical Paul Administration would look like. I think it’s fair to say that he would withdraw US troops from Afghanistan. Would he really close all foreign military bases? Would he really end the Fed? I don’t think a significant number of Republicans will support Paul until these things are known.

                FWIW, I’d vote for Paul in a heartbeat if he were nominated.Report

              • Christopher Carr in reply to Koz says:

                I think Paul could appeal to the base by appealing to his Reagan credentials.Report

              • Koz in reply to Koz says:

                He could, and probably should. Before that, he has to change the whole philosophy of his campaign (not his governing intentions but his campaign). He’s got to transition from a protest candidacy to a legitimate one.

                He’s got essentially a worse version of the problem that Michele Bachmann has. At least she talks to the base. The Republican party has a substantial majority of people who supported the Iraq War (and for that matter still probably support it). Ron Paul’s flakier issues (gold standard, etc) also get no traction.

                Ron Paul is entitled to disagree with the base, he just can’t pretend they’re not there.

                Of course, the flip side is, that RP’s base is there because he’s a protest candidate and probably a significant number of them don’t intend to vote for any Republican other than RP.

                Short story: yes, it is true, he really can’t win. No, it’s not the media’s fault, it’s the candidate’s.Report

              • Barry in reply to Koz says:

                Koz June 14, 2011 at 6:30 pm

                ” I think would have an excellent chance to win a general election against President Obama. His problem is that he’s not going to get that far.”

                Hey, don’t bogart the joint! It’s obviously got some extra good stuff in it.Report

              • Koz in reply to Koz says:

                Come on, look at Libya or unemployment or whatever. It’s not just that Barry (the Prez) is wrong, it’s the fact that narrative on these things are ridiculous to the point of being in Weiner territory. Contrast that with a flaky Republican who plainly does tell a straight story, it’s not obvious to me why people shouldn’t vote for him.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Christopher Carr says:

                *Looks at Ron Paul’s actions over the past thirty years*

                Nope. Paul’s a true believer. He truly believe it’s unconstitutional for the federal government to do x, y, l, and r. He doesn’t care that r, l, and y all are incredibly popular.Report

            • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              Hey, I wish a social democrat could be elected President. But unlike many libertarians, I don’t act like somebody kicked my dog when I’m told one can’t win. These are the rules of the game. Either change them via years of hard work like conservatives have over the past thirty years or get off the bus..Report

              • A social democrat is president. That he can’t do what he really wants is why I like our system, esp the “glacial” senate, which is structured that way precisely to thwart the type of radical change the President would do if he could.Report

              • Obama is definitely more of a pragmatic technocrat and consensus-builder than a social democrat. That’s why both rational Hillary supporters were so upset when he was nominated.Report

              • I suppose the electorate will decide whether he’s a lousy social democrat or just a lousy technocrat.

                Hey, I think he’s both!Report

              • Chris in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Tom, I wonder, what is a social democrat, to you?

                To me, on the side of calling Obama a social democrat, we have some minor environmental policies, pro-welfare, the bailouts (which would probably have happened under either party, in one form or another), and a nod or two to gay rights. Against calling him one, we have no real attempt at single-payer health care (he ended up supporting a watered down version of a 1990s Republican proposal!), no real focus on labor, or even much in the way of pro-labor legislation, a smaller-than-needed stimulus, nothing in the way of progressive tax reform, and little in the way of regulation.

                By the way, I find it interesting that social democrats, who would be considered center-left in most of the civilized world, are considered too far left to be elected in this country. It just goes to show that in the U.S., our two-party system is comprised of a right wing party and a center to center-right party.Report

              • Obama would have done single-payer, but this center-right nation stopped him, incl the Blue Dog members of his own party. You’re quite right about this being a center-right country. Which is why so many liberals call themselves “moderates,” which is just more smokescreening.

                I’M a moderate, a claim that makes liberals scoff, but there you have it. So I freely confess to being a conservative, to make folks like you happy. 😉Report

              • Koz in reply to Christopher Carr says:

                He’s constitutionally a consensus builder on the Left. He’s not competent enough to be a technocrat, as we in America have found out to our detriment. He doesn’t have enough ideological commitment to be a social democrat.Report

              • Barry in reply to Koz says:

                Koz June 14, 2011 at 6:32 pm

                ” He’s constitutionally a consensus builder on the Left.”

                Um, have you actually talked to anybody on the left?Report

              • Koz in reply to Koz says:

                Of course. For example, let’s look at the President’s actions in Libya. It seems pretty clear that the D’s in Congress are going to support the President no matter how ridiculous they are. That’s because the center-left in America accepts President Obama as their leader and doesn’t want him to lose points politically.Report

              • Don’t you think like a new political dialectic between socialism and libertarianism could help both groups advance politically then?Report

  5. E.D. Kain says:

    I agree that Mitt is much, much better this time around.Report

  6. James Hanley says:

    Is it fair to say that anyone who actually watched the debate last night is a political junkie in desperate need of an intervention by his/her friends?Report

  7. Kyle Cupp says:

    His emphatic declaration that he would not have anyone in his Administration who was not loyal to the United States represents a stunning break with America’s long history of electing candidates openly hostile to the electorate and the nation itself. A risky move.