The CBS News/National Journal debate between GOP Presidential hopefuls, held Saturday, November 12th in Spartanburg, South Carolina, focused on foreign policy, and shed light on some significant differences between the candidates. Additionally, moderators Scott Pelley of CBS and Major Garrett (that is his name, and not his rank) of National Journal were a substantial improvement from the moderators CNBC featured in the Wednesday economic debate in Michigan: neither Mr Pelley nor Mr Garrett featured the synthetic histrionics of a Jim Cramer or the eye rolls of Maria Bartiromo. The one trip up came early, when Scott Pelley insisted former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney had used up his time. Mr Romney protested, noting the yellow warning light was still on, and Mr Pelley promptly apologized and let Mr Romney finish. Both moderators did a good job keeping candidates within their alloted time. Strangely (and confusingly, for many), the debate lasted ninety minutes, however only sixty minutes were aired on television, the final half-hour pre-empted by NCIS.
The entire ninety minutes was streamed at the CBS News site, however the accompanying live comment stream showed a great many people complaining about cut outs and generally poor reception of the stream (no such problems were encountered on our feed of the stream, however we’re on a 25 Mbs fibre optic line).
Notably, the candidates were not given anywhere near equal time during this debate, with, most notably Ron Paul (but Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann) spending long periods without getting a chance to speak to a question.
The debate featured some interesting responses from the candidates, to be sure.
Here, then, is a brief overview of the candidates’ performances (we’ve noted each candidate’s position on “nation building”, foreign aid, war with Iran, torture/”waterboarding”, and whether the president is permitted to unilaterrally assassinate United States citizens):
Texas Governor Rick Perry fared fairly well, by his standards (that is, however, a particularly low bar indeed). There were no overt mistakes (other than referring to House Represenatative Ron Paul as “Senator” at one point).
Governor Perry seems to be peeking at Dr Paul’s playbook a lot these days: in the prior debate, his now infamous brain cramp occurred as he unveiled his “lite” version of Ron Paul’s plan to eliminate five Departments (Perry’s plan instead prososes to eliminate three). This time, Mr Perry pledged to start all foreign aid at “zero”, which sounds remarkably similar to Mr Paul’s plan to eliminate foreign aid entirely, but differs materially on the details. For example, candidate Perry pledges not to cut all foreign aid, but to evaluate the amount each year. As he was laying out his plan, his aides were simultaneously tweeting assurances that Israel would certainly qualify and continue to receive significant funds from United States tax payers. Things like this continue to reveal Mr Perry for what he is: a politician who wants desperately to say the “right things” to appeal to voters, while being rather steadfastly committed to the status quo (see too his spending record in as Governor of Texas, whereby he has increased state spending by over 80% during his time in office but continues to attempt to portray himself as the “real conservative” and fiscally responsible).
On the issue of torture, Mr Perry again hedged, first stating he opposes torture, but then saying he favors anything which will “save young American lives” and further stated, “This is war. That is what happens in war.” The takeaway, yet again, was that Governor Perry wants to say the thing which will appeal the most, and if he does not get the requisite applause with his first answer, he is willing to try another.
While Mr Perry did not have a gaffe such as that he exhibited in Michigan, he continues to struggle to communicate. For example, at one point he stated, “This whole issue of allowing cyber security to go on”; he presumably meant “cyber attacks”.
Nation building: unknown.
Foreign aid: Yes, and substantial aid to Israel, but he will “zero out” aid in the beginning and re-evaluate. “Obviously Israel is a special ally and my bet is we would be funding them at some substantial level”.
War with Iran: unknown.
Torture/”Waterboarding”: Yes, sometimes: “That is what happens in war.”
President can unilaterally assassinate United States citizens: unknown.
The most hawkish of all the GOP Presidential hopefuls, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum argued the case in favor of continuing financial aid to Pakistan, claiming their possession of nuclear weapons makes it imperative that they remain the United States’ “friends” (“Pakistan must be our friend”). There are a few fundmental problems with this position:
- maintaining a flow of substantial money (approaching $20 billion over the past decade) to Pakistan to “help fight terrorism” does not motivate Pakistan to eliminate “terrorism” – quite the opposite, since absent the threat of “terrorism”, the money spigot will be turned off. If anything, it encourages Pakistan to make it appear as though they are fighting “terrorism” but never actually reduce it much, such that the perceived threat remains and the money keeps flowing. This is precisely what appears to be happening.
- the argument that the United States tax payer should go to work for some small part of each day for the purpose of having the fruits of his or her labor sent to what is, effectively, a military dictatorship might be a tough sell in the midst of a severe economic downturn.
- the argument that possession of nuclear weapons entitles a nation to the economic support and “friendship” of the United States is great motivation for other countries to obtain nuclear weapons – this type of policy is an overt incentive for other countries to pursue nuclear armaments.
Mr Santorum further argued that foreign aid is “all spent in the United States”, “creates jobs” and “creates dependency on our weapons systems”. It is an interesting argument in favor of “sovereign welfare”: the ends justify the means.
One of the most telling remarks from Mr Santorum came when he described how he would build his team: “I’ll get together people that will share my point of view…I didn’t hire people who didn’t share how I approached the problem.” This is a very dangerous approach, because it risks “group think”, and the absence of opposing view points in a discussion of options means important options may go unexplored. Most senior leaders struggle against people simply telling them what they think the leader wants to hear. Surrounding oneself with a team of people who agree is not a mark of effective leadership.
Nation building: Yes.
Foreign aid: Yes.
War with Iran: Yes: “As more sanctions and, and, and providing, you know, more support for pro-democracy movement isn’t going to be enough in time.”
President can unilaterally assassinate United States citizens: unknown.
Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann didn’t mince words: she came out in favor of “waterboarding” and other forms of “enhanced interrogation” (read: torture), decried the notion that the Central Intelligence Agency is “run by the ACLU” (American Civil Liberties Union) and claimed torture produces results (there is considerable evidence that torture, and specifically “waterboarding”, is not an effective interrogation technique, including a report from the CIA, as well as a book by a former FBI interrogator, Ali H. Soufan, who calls such techniques “unnecessary and counterproductive”).
Representative Bachmann’s answer came in response to this question, from Stephen Schafroth of Oregon:
“I served on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War. I believe that torture is always wrong in all cases. What is your stance on torture?”
It should seem obvious that the task of peddling notions of freedom and liberty and decency to other nations, or to hold other governmnts accountable for their humanitarian misdeeds, is made the more difficult when one engages in torture or indefinite imprisonment without trial. Thirty years ago it would have been hard to imagine the United States, as a matter of governmental policy, torturing people, or “rendering” people to other nations for torture by proxy, or ordering the assassination of United States citizens absent a trial or declaration of war, all the while trumpeting “American Exceptionalism”.
Mrs Bachmann also came out in favor of foreign aid, with no preconditions, and, like Rick Santorum, particularly favors aid to Pakistan.
At one point, Representative Bachmann stated, “It seems that the table is being set for world wide nuclear war against Israel.”
Interestingly, prior to the debate, Mrs Bachmann’s team was inadvertently copied in on an email from CBS Political Director John Dickerson in which Dickerson stated that Representative Bachmann won’t be asked many questions. So much for equal time requirements (see too the limited questions and time allotted Representative Ron Paul).
Nation building: unknown.
Foreign aid: Yes.
War with Iran: unknown.
Torture/”Waterboarding”: Yes. “I would be willing to use waterboarding. I think it was very effective.”
President can unilaterally assassinate United States citizens: unknown.
Former lobbyist and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza Herman Cain had his weakest outing of all the debates thus far – as we previosly noted, he seems far out of his depth on matters outside the economy, or when retreat to his “nine nine nine” tax plan is impossible.
Mr Cain attempted a cautious approach, exhibiting none of the flair or charisma of prior debates. Instead, he appeared nervous, and glanced frequently at his notes. He made it a point to mention there are nine nuclear nations, presumably to make up for his prior comments whereby he appeared unaware China has a nuclear arsenal.
On the issue of “waterboarding”, Mr Cain stated he does not consider it to be torture. It would have made for an interesting moment had the moderators asked those candidates who do not consider “waterboarding” torture whether they would be willing to put their money where their mouth is and be “waterboarded” live on television.
On the question of Pakistan: friend or foe, Mr Cain replied, “We don’t know” and called for the relationship to be re-evaluated.
On the question of on what basis Mr Cain would decide to over-rule his advising Generals, Herman Cain gave a long, meandering reply which contained no real substance.
Nation building: Yes. Favors “assisting the opposition movement that’s trying to overthrow the regime”.
Foreign aid: Yes.
War with Iran: “Not at this time”, but would move “ballistic missile defense war ships” to the area.
Torture/”Waterboarding”: Yes. “I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique”.
President can unilaterally assassinate United States citizens: unknown.
Texas Representative Ron Paul showed stark differences with all the other candidates (except former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who had similar positions) on foreign policy, coming out in favor of the rule of law, the requirement of Congressional approval for any acts of war, against torture and opposed to an invasion or sanctions against Iran. In past debates, Dr Paul has been booed for his foreign policy positions; in this debate, he came across as the voice of reason (it’s worth pointing out Mr Paul has received more campaign contributions from members of the military than all the other candidates, plus President Obama, combined).
Nation building: No.
Foreign aid: No aid to any countries.
War with Iran: No.
Torture/”Waterboarding”: No. “Torture is illegal by our laws. It’s illegal by international laws…waterboarding is torture…there is no evidence you really get reliable evidence…it is really un-American to accept on principle that we would torture people we capture”.
President can unilaterally assassinate United States citizens: No.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney continued his steady performance in these debates (with the one notable exception of the Las Vegas debate, where he appeared to lose his cool under attack by Mr Perry). Mr Romney came out firmly against negotiating with the Taliban.
Nation building: Yes. “It’s worth working with insurgents in the country to encourage regime change in the country” in Iran.
Foreign aid: unknown.
War with Iran: Yes. Claims President should have “built credible threat of military action”. “Of course you take military action”.
President can unilaterally assassinate United States citizens: Yes. “Absolutely.”
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman had, by far, his best debate performance to date (that is, admittedly, rather a low bar).
Mr Huntsman came out strongly against a trade war with China, made an impassioned case against torture, and generally came across as well-versed in matters foreign.
Nation building: No. Specifically came out against “nation building” and claimed those resources could be better used domestically.
Foreign aid: unknown.
War with Iran: No.
Torture/”Waterboarding”: No. “We diminish our standing in the world and the values that we project, which include liberty, democracy, human rights and open markets when we torture. We should not torture. Waterboarding is torture. We dilute ourselves down like a whole lot of other countries and we lose that ability to project values that a lot of countries in corners of the world rely upon us to stand up for.”
President can unilaterally assassinate United States citizens: unknown.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was in his usual sardonic form, starting his first answer with, “There are a number of ways to be smart about Iran and relatively few ways to be dumb, and the administration skipped all the smart ones.” He also came out in favor of “maximum covert operations, all of them deniable”, which elicited laughs from the audience.
Mr Gingrich expressed his concerns that the “Arab Spring may become an anti-Christian Spring” and called for the State Department to intervene on behalf of Egypt’s Coptic Christians.
Asked to evaluate Mitt Romney’s abilities to “think outside the box and change United States’ national security or foreign policy perspectives”, Mr Gingrich flatly refused, and when pressed on why he brought the matter up on a radio show the prior day but refused to address it during the debate, he said, “I brought it up yesterday because I was on a national radio show”.
Nation building: Yes.
Foreign aid: Appears to be in favor of foreign aid, but agreed with Rick Perry that foreign aid should be “rethought”.
War with Iran: Yes.
President can unilaterally assassinate United States citizens: Yes. Mr Gingrich argued that it is permitted if a secret “panel” finds the person guilty.
The Michigan debate between the GOP Presidential nominee hopefuls, Wednesday, November 9th, was notable first and foremost for Rick Perry’s implosion (which we’ll get to later), but also for the behaviour of the moderators: CNBC inexplicably decided to include Jim Cramer among the rotating panel of moderators (yes, it apparently takes at least six CNBC people to moderate a debate, because it is important for a no-name network to get as much exposure as possible for its “talent”). Mr Cramer, he of the “I’ve had too much coffee and must yell in all instances” schtick, annoyed immediately and repeatedly, starting off by insisting that the Italian economy is “too big to fail” in making his own case for a US bailout while attempting to bait candidate Representative Ron Paul. Each time Mr Cramer opened his mouth, the credibility of CNBC took a hit. Mr Cramer is, quite simply, rather too buffoonish and far too much the cartoon character to ever be permitted a role (much less a speaking role) in an important thing such as a debate.
The next low point arose almost immediately: in a debate ostensibly focussed solely on the economy, moderator Maria Bartiromo instead asked Mr Cain about the various allegations recently leveled against him. The audience, rightly, booed. The next question remained on the topic, when moderator John Harwood followed up by asking Mr Romney if he would fire Mr Cain, were Herman Cain the CEO of a company Mr Romney had acquired. The audience booed more loudly, candidate Romney shook his head in disbelief and responded by saying that Mr Cain was the one to answer that question and that he just had. The moderator then announced the focus would return to the economy, and the crowd erupted into applause. This, it seems, is the level to which CNBC has sunk in attempting to grab headlines in lieu of taking their debate responsibilities seriously. This was, by far, the most poorly produced debate to date, and two of the many moderators (Mr Cramer and Ms Bartiromo) seemed far, far out of their depth. Rick Santelli, meanwhile, with his extremely long-winded questions and pedantic delivery proved himself well suited for work outside the realm of television.
Here, then, is a summary of how the candidates performed:
Mr Cain, former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and former lobbyist for the National Restaurant Association, focused heavily on his now famous “nine nine nine” plan whenever possible (to the point that Mr Cramer asked him not to include “nine nine nine” or any other numbers in one of his final responses).
When asked about the recent allegation against him, Mr Cain made a forceful case against having one’s character put on trial in the court of public opinion via unproven allegations from, in at least three cases, anonymous sources. Shortly thereafter, Mr Cain made the perhaps imprudent decision to refer to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “Princess Nancy” – something which will no doubt be analyzed in the context of the allegations he has been facing.
On topics outside of taxation and the economy in a general sense, Mr Cain (as we noted previously) seems far less certain of himself, and occasionally struggles to answer. But when he gets into territory he is more comfortable with, he is routinely able to hit it out of the park with his delivery. The “nine nine nine” refrain is wearing awfully thin, however, and he’ll need to get some new material to keep things fresh.
Overall score: B
Representative Ron Paul of Texas had a reasonably good showing. Asked about his plan to eliminate student loans (which currently total an astonishing $1 trillion), and how students would pay for their tuition, Dr Paul answered, “the same way they pay for their cell phones and computers.” He went on to point out that every sector of the economy the government gets involved in faces substantially higher rates of inflation, and gave as examples housing, health care, education and stocks.
Representative Paul continued his common themes of the need to audit the Federal Reserve, and then abolish it, made the distinction between “crony capitalism” (current GOP buzzword) and plain old “capitalism” (while avoiding an attack on Governor Perry, which is what the moderator seemed to set up the question for) and emphasized his plan to cut $1 trillion from the federal budget in his first term in office.
Overall, Ron Paul fared well, but will be lost in the attention Mr Perry is going to receive, which is going to be overwhelming, given his massive gaffe (see below).
Overall score: B+
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney gave a middling performance, and clearly has an ongoing and serious problem with the health care issue and his imposition of a personal mandate in the state he previously governed. It is a problem that both won’t go away (and will only get worse if he ever goes up against President Obama) and can’t be solved, because Mr Romney’s arguments are logically inconsistent and there is no possible answer that logically reconciles his insistence on repealing “Obamacare” with his actions while Governor in instituting a materially similar plan. Mr Romney looks rightfully pained when the topic comes up, but he can’t possibly believe it isn’t going to come up in every single debate and many interviews too.
The moderators pointed out inconsistencies in Mr Romney’s position on bailouts (he was against them before he was for them before he was against them again) to question his consistency, which Mr Romney rebutted unconvincingly.
Not the best performance for Mr Romney, but with Mr Cain dogged by scandal and Mr Perry accelerating his implosion, Mitt Romney gains simply by running in place.
Overall score: C+
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was in a testy mood, and took the moderators to task repeatedly. The first instance came when he scolded the media for their poor job of educating the public on matters economic. Moderator Bartiromo seemed to take that remark personally, and was clearly irritated by it.
Later, the moderators asked each candidate in turn to spend thirty seconds explaining their plan for health care once “Obamacare” is repealed. Mr Gingrich was the sixth candidate to respond, and he started with, “My colleagues have all done a fine job answering an absurd question”, before pointing out that a topic which consistutes eighteen percent of the economy and affects every person in America requires a more elaborate answer (and plugged one of his books in the process). Moderator Bartiromo told the former Speaker to take all the time he needs, to which Mr Gingrich clumsily demurred, claiming the other candidates would object.
Overall, though, Newt Gingrich had a fairly strong performance, and once again came across as the most intelligent (and most belligerent) of the people on the stage.
Overall score: A-
Rick Santorum continued to push his plan to eliminate the corporate tax for the manufacturing sector. While this may play well in his home state of Pennsylvania, and perhaps Michigan too, the moderators (in one of their few redeeming moments) pointed out the logical inconsistency of being opposed to the government picking and choosing individual companies as winners and losers in the economy while being in favor of the government picking and choosing individual sectors of the economy as winners and losers. The point seemed lost on Mr Santorum, but it is an important one, because he seems to be arguing not that government should not pick winners, but rather that the government should pick winners in a different way: “the federal government should indeed meddle in the economy, and here’s how I would do it” is what his position amounts to. That’s a strange position to take while strongly arguing the federal government has no busines in mandated health care.
Mr Santorum, like Mr Huntsman, is seriously short of money and typically polling in the bottom single digits, and is unlikely to be in the running much longer.
Overall score: C-
Another horrible performance from Perry – it is becoming physically painful to watch Governor Perry attempt to keep up with the grown ups in the room. Mr Perry’s worst moment of all the debates so far came when he announced his plan to shut down three Departments, and began to list them off. “Commerce”, he said. “Education. And…um…ah…” One of the other candidates finally threw out the EPA as a helpful suggestion, and Mr Perry said, “Ya!”. The moderator then asked if the EPA was indeed one of the departments Mr Perry would eliminate: “No.” The moderator then followed up by asking if Mr Perry really couldn’t remember the third Department he would shut down. Mr Perry couldn’t.
The only reason Mr Perry is taken even remotely seriously as a contender is because he has raised an awful lot of money. He is not a serious contender, and never was (as we previously noted, “…it’s hard to imagine a scenrio whereby he recaptures the lead in the polls, or comes anywhere close to the Republican nomination”) – he is of the school of politician which believes policy positions are incidental to obtaining power: pick whatever positions your crack support team thinks will get you in office, then you can do what you want. In a more intelligent politician, this can work (see Obama; Bush). Not so Mr Perry.
Rick Perry’s run is done, and no amount of money can help now – that clip is going to be viral on Youtube by the time this article is posted. And so the political system shows its strengths: given enough exposure and opportunities to hang themselves, many frauds inevitably reveal themselves. Mr Perry is one such fraud: the former chair of Al Gore’s Presidential campaign in Texas; the Governor who increased spending over 80% during his time in office but campaigned as the “true conservative”; he of the tongue tied moments, repeatedly, and cursed with an inability to clearly articulate the time of day has been exposed as little more than a political opportunist.
Overall score: F (is there a lower score available?)
Back on stage after boycotting the Las Vegas debate, former Utah Governor and Obama Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman didn’t have any notable moments, but thankfully didn’t try too many of his usual poorly delivered jokes.
Mr Huntsman has all his marbles on New Hampshire, and doesn’t have much cash on hand. Not a signficant contender, and did nothing to persuade viewers otherwise.
Overall score: C-
Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, normally one of the stronger debaters, didn’t have a particularly strong showing by her standards, nor was her performance particuarly poor. Her explanation of her opposition to cuts in the payroll tax wasn’t fully formed, and much of her answers were recycled in whole from prior debates.
Overall score: C
Just in time for the weekend, an…
Ode to the Establishment Three:
Mr Establishment one…I mean Perry
His spending record is pretty damn scary
Lifetime in politics should keep voters wary
He’s no Mr Reagan – more like Mr Kerry!
Plummeting poll numbers just ain’t so nice
But fat cat donors from Texas add spice
If I could give poor little Ricky advice
I’d suggest that he really should have thought twice
About running a race way in over his head
Should have stayed in his kingdom in Texas instead
Where his cronies were keeping him rather well fed
Guess all the backslapping went to his head!
‘Cause keeping positions consistent and straight
For ninety minutes of a TV debate
Ain’t so easy for this candidate
Harder to fool all the folks out of state!
Mr Establishment two…I mean Romney
Can’t get the polls much above a low twenty
Ain’t looking like “President” is his destiny
Hell, they’re calling again for Pawlenty!
Poor poor Mitt can’t get here from there
Really too bad – he’s got slickness to spare!
Bad timing, I guess – these days voters they care
About Mitt’s heavy spending and ObamneyCare
Twenty-three twenty-three twenty-three twenty-three
Polls keep repeating what Mitt doesn’t want to see
Cain goes up more and down there goes Perry
But Mitt’s twenty-three is the only consistency
It’s a real shame ’cause he seems like a good guy
But Mitt’s selling stuff that the people just won’t buy
At least you can say that you gave it a good try
There’s twenty sixteen and you’re still young and spry!
Mr Establishment three would be Cain
Former Fed banker came in from the rain
Tries to come off as just simple and plain
But that former lobbyist is at it again
Old big tobacco used to help pay the bills
Now Cain’s got a smoking guy as one of his shills
Goofy campaign ads don’t give us the thrills
And the “Cain Tax” (read: sales tax) makes us run for the hills!
“Harassment! Harassment!” old co-workers say
“He done me wrong, back in the day!”
“I don’t remember, but yes we did pay”
But somehow the story just won’t go away
But maybe, just maybe the story will pass
With hands in your pockets and not on a…lass
Hard to appear like you have so much class
When lawyers on TV keeping shouting “harass!”
Deep in the status quo these fellows three
Shouting in unison “Please vote for me!”
“I’m the true ‘outsider’, yes honestly!”
“But please, oh please, don’t look so closely!”
Because what you’ll see is the same tired dance:
Establishment figures who hope you’re entranced
By promises that won’t withstand second glance
Designed to fit nicely in all circumstance
In the latest (to November 2, 2011) average of polls of head-to-head match ups against President Obama, Republican Presidential nominee hopefuls Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Herman Cain have the greatest chance of defeating the President in the 2012 election.
In these polls, Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney would lose to President Obama by 43.7% to 45.9%. Texas Representative Ron Paul, so often overlooked in this contest, is the next strongest contender, losing to Obama 41.6% to 47.6%. In third place is businessman Herman Cain, 39.8% to 48.2%.
Perhaps the most interesting statistic in the RealClearPolitics polls is the poll result for a generic “Republican” against President Obama: in this case, the numbers favor the Republican candidate: 44.8% to 41.8%. That seems to indicate that voters are not particularly enamored of the current field of potential Republican nominees.
Since it’s Friday, a little levity is in order to prepare us for the weekend. So here, then, we present an Ode to the Candidates:
Little Ricky he don’t make no sense
Rotten grammar misplaced tense
Ran up the budget eighty percent
He’s part of Texas establishment
“Vote for Gore!” old Ricky said
Gotta wonder about that boy’s head!
“Illegals need to go to school!”
That Ricky’s such a tax and spend fool!
Little Mitt’s got a health care plan
For every woman child and man
But he don’t want you to have a choice
All slicked back hair and radio voice
Mitt says he’s a business man
But he’s just following daddy’s plan
From a family of politicians
Pampered lives oh so patrician
Mr Cain’s a fun pizza guy
He’s got a plan but it won’t fly
Put the tax in every store
Better load your wallet heading out the door!
Cause 9-9-9′s a catchy rhyme
But it’s 12-12-12 in no short time
Gotta love his delivery
But this ain’t pizza, can’t you see?
Dr Paul’s a Texan man
With a three year balanced budget plan
“The Constitution’s coming back!
End the Fed’s monetary attack!”
Cut a trillion in year one
But hold on folks, Mr Paul ain’t done
Ditch the Ed, Interior and HUD
Energy, Commerce and all the other crud.
Ms Bachmann’s got some solid points
Despite her time in all those tax lawyer joints
But her hero Reagan didn’t drink that tea
Raised taxes every year of his presidency
Think TEFRA was a good idea?
And massive spending every year?
Grow tax receipts by 8.2
Is that what Michele wants us to do?
Newt is full of bluster and bluff
And all the wonky policy stuff
Give him credit – he’s got good lines
But Newt my man you’ve had your time
“Personal mandate!” big Newt used to say
Until the tide went a different way
Now he’s peeking at Ron Paul’s lines
And damning the Fed – it New Newt times!
Thank you Sarah for sitting it out
Your spending in Alaska left us all in doubt
TV shows seem more your style
To stretch your fifteen minutes a mile
You really don’t belong in this ode
With “bridges to nowhere” and a dead end road
You’ve had your fun now keep on walking
There’s business at hand and the adults are talking
Rick Santorum gets just one verse
’cause “war war war” just makes things worse
Little Rick’s running out of cash
And that odd expression – I think he’s got a rash!
Huntsman – are you kidding me?
Stilted jokes ain’t comedy
Working for Obama has made you nuts
And where the heck are the budget cuts?
So which one’s going to take on Barrack
And put the country on a different track?
And send that man from whence he came
“Community organizing” seems more his game
’cause leadership ain’t his song to sing
Takes more than that “hopey changey” thing
One term it seems is more than enough
For “tax the rich!” and class warfare stuff
Guess we’ll see on that day in November
How many of his sins the people remember
“Spend! Spend! Spend!” is his rally cry
“Congress won’t do it – I can’t understand why!”
Should prove to be an interesting race
Keep making a mess or clean up the place?
Will forty-five get his four
And point forty-four to the exit door?
Dr. Ron Paul, one of the Republican Presidential nominee hopefuls, and currently averaging third place in recent polls (trailing Herman Cain and Mitt Romney), has released his economic plan, the “Plan to Restore America“.
The plan outlines significant changes to the United States federal government, and promises a balanced budget by Mr Paul’s third year in office, primarily by way of the elimination of the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as significant cuts to the Department of Defense and Medicaid. No additional tax sources are proposed.
What is, perhaps, most striking about Ron Paul’s plan isn’t the reduced role of the federal government, but rather the significant reductions in spending required to balance the budget. The US federal government’s deficit, which President George W. Bush gave birth to, and which President Obama nurtured into an accelerated adulthood, is truly astonishing, in both its size and the rapidity with which it grew during the Obama administration.
Here’s a look US federal revenues and expenditures over the past two administrations, as well as the impact of Dr. Paul’s plan:
In the absence of significant budgetary changes, the United States federal government is on a dire path indeed: over 40% of all federal government spending is done with borrowed money; over one in seven US workers works for government of one level or another (by comparison, in bankrupt Greece, that ratio is one in five), which is more than the number of people working in manufacturing and construction combined; at the time Social Security was founded, there were thirty workers paying for each one retiree, while today that ratio is three to one (and nearing two to one); medical costs continue to rise more quickly than inflation (this is significant, because close to 70% of all medical spending in the US is by government).
Ron Paul’s plan begins to make some of those difficult choices which are increasingly becoming unavoidable, and further has one big advantage over most other plans presented by the GOP Presidential hopefuls: an even-handed approach which doesn’t single out special interests or seek to carve out exceptions for favored groups (by contrast, the floundering Rick Santorum started his attack on Herman Cain’s “9-9-9” tax plan at the GOP debate in Las Vegas Tuesday by suggesting that the federal government is obligated to subsidize certain groups of people in order to produce children – one of his pet causes which he feels the government should change the rules for. Most of the candidate (with the notable exception of Herman Cain) favor continuing the type of patchwork the current 72,000 page tax code employs: an extraordinary number of special exceptions for certain favored groups).
It will be interesting to see how the media reacts to Mr Paul’s proposal, which makes choices which return government spending to a level supported by government revenues, without increasing the source or scope of those revenues.
Tonight’s GOP debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, between hopefuls for the GOP Presidential nomination featured lots of fireworks, stumbles by some candidates (most notably Governor Rick Perry, but Newt Gingrich too) and some significant differences on policy positions. Here’s an overview of how the candidates fared:
Texas Governor Rick Perry has had a rough time in prior debates, and has seen his standing in the polls plummet rather dramatically, from an early, substantial lead, to currently out of the top three. Mr Perry needed a strong performance in this debate.
He didn’t produce it. In fact, his performance was so poor, the Las Vegas crowd booed him on several occasions. Mr Perry, it seems, has decided to focus on two things: answer as many questions as possible by working in the term “energy independence” (regardless of whether energy in any way relates to the question at hand), and attempt to attack former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
On this second point, Mr Perry adopted a strange strategy: clearly weakened by revelations in prior debates that, as Governor of Texas, he instituted a program whereby illegal aliens are subsidized by the state for post-secondary education (an illegal alien studying in Texas pays less than a visiting student from, for example, California or Illinois, with up to $100,000 less being the figure commonly quoted by Mr Perry’s adversaries), Governor Perry decided to level an allegation against Mr Romney that Mr Romney had previously knowingly hired illegal aliens and continued to employ them after learning of their status. This was not only effectively swatted aside by Mr Romney (as he explained it, a company he hired to tend to his lawn maintenance happened to employ an illegal alien, and fired that individual after Mr Romney objected, but subsequently hired another illegal alien), it allowed Mr Romney to make a point about his own plan for an electronic system which would permit employers to identify the legal employability status of employees.
On multiple occasions, Governor Perry repeatedly interrupted Mr Romney during Mr Romney’s answers, so much so that the crowd began to boo. Mr Romney effectively put Mr Perry in his place by suggesting that, as President of the United States, he would have to occasionally listen to other people without interrupting. And jarringly, Rick Perry repeatedly referred to Herman Cain as “brother”, which he did not do to any of the white candidates.
Mr Perry also suggested withdrawing United States support for the United Nations in its entirety. And Rick Santorum accused Governor Perry of writing a letter to Congress on the day of the TARP vote urging Congress to act (Mr Perry’s rebuttal was that his letter urged them to do “something”, but not what they did).
Governor Perry had a very poor outing, and it’s hard to imagine a scenrio whereby he recaptures the lead in the polls, or comes anywhere close to the Republican nomination. In each debate, Mr Perry has seemed vastly out of his depth, and increasingly relies upon repeating that his state has created the most jobs (notably absent from his claims, and not mentioned by the other candidates, is the fact that an awful lot of those jobs were in the state government: Governor Perry has increased spending 81.94% since he took office, as we previously reported in our article, “Perry vs Romney: Both Big Spenders, History Shows…“). It will be interesting to see how long Mr Perry remains in the race, given how poorly he has been performing, both on stage and in the polls, and it’s further hard to envision Governor Perry beating even the weakened President Obama. Mr Perry’s confidence and charisma have vanished; unfortunately it does not appear that leaves him with much to trade on in this race.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney had a generally steady night. Attacked early for his Massachusetts health care plan, and for prior suggestions that he considered such a program suitable for the entire country, Mr Romney fired back by proclaiming that the Massachusetts plan is right for the state but not right for the nation, and backed it up, as he has in the past, by pointing out that the citizens of Massachusetts favor his health care plan by a three to one margin. It’s an odd and difficult argument to make, because Mr Romney is essentially arguing that the merit of such a plan is a function of its scale: it’s okay at the state level but not okay (and, he claims, unconstitutional) at the federal level.
Governor Romney managed to very effectively silence Newt Gingrich by claiming Mr Romney’s plan took the idea for an individual mandate directly from Mr Gingrich. Mr Gingrich vehemently denied the charge, before admitting on a direct question from Mr Romney that he had indeed spoken out in favor of an individual mandate.
When Mr Perry attempted to cast Mr Romney as a “flip flopper”, Mr Romney responded by pointing out that Mr Perry previously chaired Al Gore’s Presidential bid against George W Bush.
Mr Romney’s strategy of avoiding specifics and masterfully directing many of his answers into, essentially, “This country needs jobs and I’ll give them to you!” played well: his style is so smooth that, unless listening closely, it’s easy to miss that he doesn’t actually say very much on any topic.
Texas Representative Ron Paul had another strong showing: here is a candidate who doesn’t need to pause and calibrate his message into what a candidate is “supposed to say” – his positions are logically consistent (Governor Perry, on the other hand, appears as though he has had too many aides providing too many “positions” on too many topics, to the point at which they have overcome his ability to memorize his supposed positions).
Ron Paul scored with the audience when moderator Anderson Cooper listed off the federal departments Mr Paul would shut down: Housing and Urban Development, Education, Energy, etc. On the question of foreign aid, Dr Paul simply stated he would cut all foreign aid, and at one point had both Mitt Romney and Rick Perry telling the audience they agreed with Mr Paul. His message that foreign aid amounts to taking money from poor Americans and giving that money to rich people in poor countries resonated with the crowd, as did his message about bailouts, the economic bubbles and the inability of the federal government to “manage much of anything”.
On the issue of whether he is in favor of the federal government storing spent nuclear contamination in Nevada, Ron Paul suggested it is inappropriate for the federal government to forcibly dump the garbage of forty-nine states on one of the states, said he considers it a state issue, and mentioned that, at one point, he was one of three members of the House to vote against the measure, the other two being representatives of Nevada.
Perhaps the most striking contrast of the evening came between Rick Santorum and Ron Paul on the issue of cutting defense spending: Mr Santorum (clearly a hawk, who previously stated he would like to “go to war with China” but probably meant he would welcome a trade war with the Chinese) said he would not cut one penny of defense spending. Ron Paul, on the other hand, pointed out that the United States maintains bases in 150 foreign countries and that it was time to bring the troops home.
Former Godfathers Pizza CEO, and Chairman of the Kentucky Federal Reserve, Herman Cain has seen his fortunes shoot skyward after strong prior debate performances. His “9-9-9” tax plan was a focus of much of the early part of the debate, as Mr Cain’s new found status as front runner in some polls served to increase the scrutiny of his proposals.
Criticism of his tax proposal centred on the sales tax portion of his 9-9-9 plan: a 9% sales tax on all retail sales. Michele Backmann, a former tax attorney, repeatedly referred to it as a value added tax (the difference between a sales tax and a value added tax is that, with a value added tax, each step a product goes through on its way to market is taxed on the difference between the input cost and the sale price – the “value added” is taxed), while Mr Cain explained it was not a value added tax. Mr Romney asked if this sales tax would apply in addition to state sales taxes, which Mr Cain attempted to deflect as comparing “apples to oranges”. Mitt Romney replied, “And I’ll have to get a bushel to hold all the apples and oranges”.
As a former central banker, Mr Cain argues that he was in favor of the bank (and other) bailouts, but not how they were applied. That’s a message that is unlikely to resonate with many Republicans (or independents, or Democrats, or anyone who isn’t a current or former banker or other of the “bailed out”).
Other candidates argued that it would never pass (Newt Gingrich), that the people will not accept a sales tax (Rick Santorum) and that it will inevitably rise (Ron Paul; Michele Backmann). Herman Cain, meanwhile, argued that it would eliminate all the invisible taxes while simplifying the tax code.
Moderator Coooper quoted a statement Mr Cain had previously made in which he suggested that if people weren’t employed and weren’t rich, they should blame themselves, which caused much of the audience to applaud. Mr Cain said he stood by the statement. On the question of the current “Occupy Wall Street” protests, Herman Cain suggested the protesters’ anger was misplaced, as the government was to blame for the financial downturn and not Wall Street. Ron Paul suggested Mr Cain was blaming the “victims”, in reference to the unemployed, while the government people in charge of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as Wall Street participants, had yet to be held accountable.
On issues not related to his tax plan, Mr Cain seemed less confident and more as though he had been coached, and his answers to issues such as defense and immigration were far less compelling than his answers on matters economic.
Senator Michele Backmann had a generally strong performance, leveling several effective attacks on other candidates. Her positions on foreign policy were particularly strongly articulated, attacking Iran for their nuclear program as well as the purported assassination plot against a Saudi dipomat on United States soil. Mrs Backmann also came out heavily in favor of continued financial aid to Israel, “our closest ally” (the question of foreign aid to Israel drew strong contrasts between Michele Backmann and Ron Paul: Mr Paul argued in favor of withdrawing all aid to Israel).
Towards the end of the debate, on a question about the federal government’s role in housing, in light of the high number of foreclosures, Mrs Backmann made what seemed like an odd appeal to the “mothers out there”, and seemed near tears. It came across as a blatant appeal to female voters, and further, did not seem to resonate with the audience in the way Mrs Backmann no doubt intended it to.
However, Michele Backmann is a strong debater, and continued to find ways to insert herself into the conversation.
Essentially out of money and consistently polling in the single digits, former Pennsylvania Governor Rick Santorum started the night with an appeal to family values, and carried that theme on later in the debate, suggesting that “liberty” is founded upon families (at which point Ron Paul interjected, stating “I don’t think liberty comes in bunches”).
Mr Santorum, who often seems visibly pained by anything less than full militaristic support from the other candidates, attempted to insert himself into the debate with a spirited attack on former Governor Romney, attacking Mr Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan. He also successfully attacked Rick Perry’s support of the TARP bailout (see above).
Toward the end, Mr Santorum pointed to his record of having won as Governor of Pennsylvania, a swing state, stating that, “If we win Pennsylvania, we win the election!”
Given his lacklustre financial support and poor showing in the polls, expect Mr Santorum to drop out of the race after Iowa, at the latest.
Former Governor of Utah and Obama Chinese Ambassador Rick Huntsman did not participate in the debate, ostensibly in order to boycott Nevada (which has changed the date of its primary to January 14th, in violation of GOP rules), but more probably because his campaign is in severe financial difficulty. Expect Mr Huntsman to withdraw from the race soon – after New Hampshire at the latest.