Ding! Round Three: the Reagan Presidential Library

“If 10% is good enough for God, 9% had better be good enough for the federal government.”

And so began the latest GOP presidential debate. What a perfect way to gel the GOP presidential candidates’ general philosophy: “Render unto God what is God’s. Ceasar can kiss my ass.”

Herman Cain is the candidate I quoted off the top, there. He was talking about his proposed 9-9-9 tax system: 9% tax on corporations, personal income and sales. His theory is that this tax system would level the playing field for all businesses, large and small, and create a new, otherwise unheard-of version of a flat tax that would benefit members of every socioeconomic class.

It was just the first of several semi-ridiculous things uttered on the stage.  To wit:

Rep. Michele Bachmann thinks that “Obamacare” (I hate that term) is responsible for a 47% jobless rate for young African-Americans and 37% for young Latinos. I have no idea how, since most of it hasn’t been implemented yet and I’m pretty sure those young people were not working in the health industry before that law was passed.

President Reagan? Is that you?

Rep. Rick Santorum said Ronald Reagan would have “melted like the old Wicked Witch of the West” before he would have handled Libya the way President Obama did. It was only one of many, many pandering statements and suppositions about the late president. Don’t get me started on the canonization of Ronald Reagan. (This debate was held at the library bearing his name.) I mean no disrespect to the late president, but aside from the fact that he was president 30 years ago – an eon in political time – the gilded age that Republicans seem to remember under President Reagan just did not happen. Maybe these politicians just think it did because they were among those wealthy people whose money it was hoped would “trickle down” to the lowly masses below them.

I told you not to get me started.

Gov. Rick Perry says “maybe it’s time for some provocative language in this country.” He

This man does not control Social Security.

was talking about his firm belief that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and that it is a “monstrous lie” to tell young people that they’re paying into a system that will be there for them when they need it. This statement did two things: it told everyone who votes in Republican primaries that Bernie Madoff gave them Social Security; and it perpetuated the misunderstanding that what we pay in is what we can expect to get out. But I’m not going to argue about Social Security; I’m a member of a generation that’s fairly certain we won’t see any of its benefits when we reach “retirement age.” That is, should we actually get to retire — my PayPal account will be set up shortly; feel free to make donations to my future well-being. Yes, it’s socialist. Deal with it. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, HeadStart, welfare, college loans, federally-backed mortgages, FEMA, the stock market vis-a-vis your 401(k)… all socialist to some degree, if you want to be literal about it. So would it kill you to give $10 so I can still blog when I’m 80?

Anyway, what I’ll argue with Gov. Perry about here is the idea that it’s time for some provocative language in this country. I argue with that because I seem to remember spending eight years under the leadership of another Texas governor who had a “Bring It On” attitude toward foreign policy that earned us substantial dings in our reputation around the world.

Rep. Ron Paul doesn’t think the government should regulate the safety of vehicles or air travel; that should be left up to the companies that do the business in those arenas. Let’s ask the thoughts of drivers whose vehicles’ manufacturers resist recalls until some real disasters happen. He also thinks gas could cost 10 cents a gallon if we just applied ourselves. So… he’s still nuts. He makes sense, I root for him, and then he goes off the rails and I’m all, “Why do you keep doing that?!” It’s amazing. But I give him props (not “propes,” as Rick Perry called them) for being consistent.

Newt Gingrich says the President doesn’t really want to create jobs, because he hasn’t   asked Herman Cain how to do it. I don’t even know what to do with that assertion. He also told Brian Williams that he, frankly, was not interested in the moderators’ efforts to make these Republicans fight with each other. Memo to Gingrich: that’s what debates are for.

The candidate whose campaign frustrates me the most is still Jon Huntsman. He’s still not jumping up and down enough about China, where he was an ambassador for the US. Brian Williams fed him a question on China’s relationship to the American economy, and he still didn’t do it right. Sigh. He delivers applause lines and doesn’t get applause. Three people clapped when he said that he wants to bring American troops home from Afghanistan. At least half the room clapped when Rep. Ron Paul said it. Makes no sense. Huntsman, when asked about being the only one on the stage not to sign a pledge on taxes, said, “I’d love to get everyone to sign a pledge not to sign pledges. I have a pledge to my wife. I pledge allegiance to the United States of America. Aside from that, no pledges.” His point was that pledges equal special interests and that gets in the way of governing. He gets it. Apparently, the audience didn’t.

But Huntsman is working the eyebrow and I think he’s been studying the Andrew Shepard model of public speaking. That’s not an insult; I love Andrew Shepard. Then again, Shepard was a Democrat, so that’s probably not what Huntsman was going for.

Also he wasn’t real.

If you're standing behind the engines of what used to be Air Force One, how can you NOT think there's such a thing as man-made climate change?

But here’s what I love about Huntsman: he’s not like the others. I loved the anti-pledge line. I loved when he flatly stated that you can’t run away from science. He was talking about climate change, but I think it can be applied universally in this crop of candidates, be it climate change, human development, medicine, whatever you’d like. Gov. Perry said about climate change, “The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put the American economy in jeopardy based on science that’s not settled yet…” I’m sorry, but I have to ask: WHAT MORE PROOF DO YOU NEED? If you’re going to talk to me about the economy versus the literal breakdown of the planet, and, in your head, the corporate (not individual) economy wins hands-down, I have to question your morals.

Isn’t that ironic?

Rep. Bachmann seemed to want to compensate for her flagging numbers by pumping up

Pump up the volume!

the volume in her hair. It was the only thing about her that didn’t fall flat in this debate. That sounds sexist, so I’ll also point out that Mr. Romney seemed to have just gotten out of the shower before the debate began. Maybe that was actually the case. Maybe he just had way too much gel in his hair. But between that and the graying temples, and a suit that looked super-blue under the lights when the camera had him head-on, he actually looked a little like a lean version of Paulie Walnutsfrom “The Sopranos.”  And Newt Gingrich has the most amazing hair of all of them. It’s so fluffy and shiny and white. I was transfixed by it. So transfixed that I

Even Rick Santorum is awed by Gingrich's hair.

almost forgot to be completely befuddled by the way the crowds at these debates react to him when he says something populist. He reminds me of my father when he does it. He says something curt and snippy and gives the moderator a look that says, “I dare you to defy me,” and it goes over. This is, as I’ve said before, the most cerebral candidate on the stage. From what I’ve seen in recent campaigns, a populist approach and a cerebral approach do not go hand-in-hand. But when it comes from him, all awkward and unsure of how it will land, the audiences eat it up.

I think I might have to do a post on debate audiences. They crack me up.

Rep. Bachmann did herself some favors on foreign policy by talking about her service on the congressional committee. But I don’t think she had a night that was better than average. She’s been the most threatened by Perry’s entrance in the race. I haven’t quite worked out why she’s suffered as much as she has for it. If you have, please share your thoughts.

Former Pennsylvania senator and Google sensation (and oh, what a sensation) Rick Santorum got called on a few times. Who knew MSNBC would call on him more than Fox News Channel did? But he’s still a fringe candidate and I don’t see him ever gaining ground. He’ll hang around until Super Tuesday and then he’ll be gone.

Gov. Rick Perry sounds more like Pres. George W. Bush than he did last time I heard him

"You wanna go?! I'll fight you right now, old man!"

speak. “We got rid of a bad man in the form of Osama bin Laden,” he said. It’s not that it’s not true. It’s that he sounds exactly like the guy most of us (including a lot of staunch Republicans) were dying to get rid of in 2008. Why is it working for him? That said, I don’t think he had the night he hoped for in this debate. This was his chance to really explode onto the national stage, and instead I think he just introduced his persona with his “cuttin’ and cappin’ and gettin’.” Right now, I see no difference between him and President Bush.

I take that back. Gov. Perry comes off as being more thoughtful and intelligent.

I don’t actually think anyone really stood out in this debate. But that puts it in the Romney win column, for me. He’s still the one to beat, and with Bachmann fading and Perry gunslinging, he’s the only one left looking presidential.

But I really hope Rep. Ron Paul hangs around, just for the entertainment value.

Huntsman debates whether to use his powers for good or evil over Perry and Paul.

For a transcript of this debate: check out this link from the New York Times.


6 thoughts on “Ding! Round Three: the Reagan Presidential Library

  1. Thank you, as always, for your considered opinions and commentary on this debate. I’ve come to look to you for these types of posts, as I don’t watch the debates myself, since they just irritate and frustrate the snot out of me. And I love your photo captions.

  2. The pictures were super-fun to do. I opted to go lighter on fact this time around; I’m hoping it’s not too tremendous a disservice to the process. But I do recommend watching. It really does give you a chance (when you get past the snot) to hear and see how candidates answer – or don’t answer – questions. Over time, you start to see patterns and you then recognize when they break from their traditional responses. I’ll always be a cheerleader for audience participation, but in the meantime, I’ll try to keep up on my political posts as well!

  3. Awesome analysis. I missed the debate, so your summary was great. Glad to know that at least one candidate is willing to acknowledge the validity of science. And as for Santorum… I can’t believe we have a candidate whose name engendered a term in the urban dictionary. That alone tells me he’s unelectable.

    • Glad you liked it. But I think there are some candidates hiding vis-a-vis science. Huntsman, I believe, is not the only one. I’m not sure what Herman Cain things, and it’s not really that Ron Paul doesn’t believe in science – since he’s a doctor – I think with him it’s more that he doesn’t want to regulate corporations and industry.

      Santorum is, inexorably, the Google Candidate. I don’t know who came up with it, but by God, it’s amazing what can do damage. New Campaign Goal: avoid definition by the urban dictionary.

  4. As you probably know, Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink is about the about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye … and how effective that thinking can be in certain situations. But he also gives examples of rapid cognition gone awry. One of his examples of rapid cognition gone wrong is the election of Warren Harding. According to Gladwell, Harding looked presidential and sounded presidential and the nation dug no deeper, producing one of our worst presidents. Looking presidential is very over-rated. Give me a gnome with a brain … and some experience … any day.

    • That’s a very good point, and to be clear, I don’t want anybody to be elected because of how they appear. When I say someone “looks presidential,” I mean it in a sense of political perception and strategy. But for me personally, one’s carriage, demeanor, poise and confidence in speaking do matter. I believe they indicate character in leadership.

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