Six Quick Post-Debate Observations
Some quick observations about tonight’s debate:
Observation #1 – Anti-Government Rhetoric Is Apparently Just That – Rhetoric
If there was one universal constant – universal among both all candidates and all issues – was that government only creates problems; if everything were simply left to the free market all of our problems would be solved. I would challenge anyone that Tivo-ed the debate to find a three-minute stretch where this mantra isn’t being repeated to applause. The thing of it is, though, that I am starting to wonder if Republicans know what the words “government” and “free market” mean.
Here is a quick review of all of the proposals that the various candidates proposed as a way to get government out of the business of business:
• Having the federal government break up the six largest banks
• Raising tariffs against China, plus having the government intercede on trade agreements on businesses’ behalf
• Pledge to the young workers of America that they will have ample retirement funds waiting when they retire
• Instruct Congress to create multiple tax structures to shift the tax burden on certain industries, while allowing others to take advantage of government services without paying any taxes at all
• Totally privatizing all healthcare by having each individual state set up it’s own Medicaid bureaucracy
• Having all of healthcare set up to have “extra” options over a federally paid for system (a la Medicare)
• Revisiting all regulations created since 2008, but giving a pass to regulations from before 2008
• No more bailouts of any kind! Except for ones like the ones that bailed out the nice people from Michigan, where the debate was being held. Those were awesome bailouts. Except the way that Obama did them was terrible.
All of these items were cheered for by the anti-Government base; in fact each of these was straight faced pitched as an idea to eliminate government interference. Having certain industries subsidize others through legislative fiat was actually presented as a way to “stop Washington picking winners and losers.”
Observation #2 – A Goal is Different From a Solution
The proposed solution from just about everyone to any troubling issue was, “I think we should grow the economy.” As if the competing current strategies to getting out of the recession were growing the economy, shrinking the economy, and knitting the economy a nice cozy for the winter.
“I think we should grow the economy” was also the way everyone got away from any troubling side effect his or her position might have. For example, when arguing that the government should not artificially be keeping student or housing rates low, the candidates were asked, “So, you’re OK with the interest rates going up?” As an independent, almost any of the people on stage tonight could have come close to competing up my vote by responding “Yes. I know that it will be a bitter pill to swallow for many, but it’s something we need to do.” Instead they would reiterate their position, and pretend the unintended consequences couldn’t happen because they wanted “to grow the economy.”
Observation #3 – I’m Worried About Jim Cramer
Seriously, he needs to relax. Everything with that guy is communicated at off the charts stress levels. It’s tiring just watching him listen to a candidate respond.
Observation #4 – The GOP Can Begin Kissing the General Election’s Female Vote Goodbye
Cain was asked about the harassment scandal, of course, and the audience roundly booed the moderators. When Cain dismissed the women accusing him – after a week of getting caught in successive lies personally, finished by a complete whopper by his campaign manager – the audience gave him the biggest cheer of the night.
Wow. To my mind, going on just Presidential debate audiences, we can chalk the Republican base as cheering executions and sexual harassment, and booing soldiers who are gay. It’s as if the whole party keeps saying to itself, “Huh, Obama’s still down in the polls? We need to find a way to make sure we can’t possibly beat him next November! Think, damn it! Think!”
Observation #5 – Please Tell Me You Were Pandering
Were the candidates just pandering to an audience it thought simple? I sure hope so, because it was hard not to get the impression that the reporter/moderators knew far more about any of the issues than the candidates.
For example: When candidates were asked about what if anything the US should do with the situation in Italy, each one asked said it was not America’s problem. Which in itself is a fine enough position. But the moderators followed up asking how they would deal with the instability that non-action might cause the US dollar. When the candidates seemed to not understand, the moderators had to start explaining how the international monetary fund worked. Then they asked, were the candidates suggesting pulling out of the monetary fund? And as the candidates flailed, it was hard not to get the sense that they had no idea what the moderators were talking about. (I believe Cain’s final solution to potential international monetary fund problems was 9-9-9. This is not me making a joke.)
Observation #6 – Bachmann and Perry are Officially Toast
I can’t understand Bachmann at all. If anything, over the past year she seems to be becoming less seasoned with each passing month. Six months ago it was hard not to root for her plucky charisma, even if she did occasionally say things you assumed were making her campaign manager want to commit hari-kari. Now she seems so brittle and panicked, like she’s never been in front of an audience before. What happened? I want the old Bachmann back.
Perry though, I will say, had me fooled for a while. He didn’t look great, but he looked somewhat passable through the first part of the debate. And then the train wreck came. He claimed that a cornerstone of his Presidency would be to eliminate three specific departments of the federal government – and then couldn’t remember what all three were. Education, Commerce, and… something. No, not the EPA, but like it… The moderators, being polite and offering him more time so he could remember, just made that self-dug grave that much deeper as he finally had to admit he had “no idea.” He did remember later in the debate, and let everyone know out of context that he also wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy. The audience gave him a polite, encouraging applause that just made it worse. Of all the moments of the debate, this will be the one you’ll read about and see clips of for days. But if you didn’t see it live, you’ll never know just how painful a thing it was to watch.