Last night’s GOP debate (yes, another one) brought forth little new information, but did present one nugget of something I think we’ll all find valuable. A viewer asked, via Twitter, what each candidate thought about the SOPA issue we bloggers have been so aware of (I don’t have a banner on my page because I can’t get it to work. In my head, though? Totally against it.)
Newt Gingrich got to answer first, and of course managed a really snide comment about a Republican considering the defense of Hollywood liberals before actually getting to his answer. Which was this: “Well, I favor freedom… We have a Patent Office, we have copyright law. If a company finds that it has genuinely been infringed upon, it has the right to sue… But the idea that we’re going to preemptively have the government start censoring the Internet on behalf of giant corporations’ economic interest strikes me as exactly the wrong thing to do.”
Mitt Romney said Gingrich got it just about right. “…[T]he law as written is far too intrusive, far too expansive, far too threatening to freedom of speech and movement of information across the Internet. It would have a potentially depressing impact on one of the fastest- growing industries in America, which is the Internet and all those industries connected to it.”
Rick Santorum’s response was slightly less satisfactory, but only in the end, and I think I know what he meant, so I’m giving him a pass: “I don’t support this law, and I agree with everybody up here that it goes too far. But (there is something) …that can and should be done to protect the intellectual property rights of people. The Internet is not a free zone where anybody can do anything they want to do and trample the rights of other people. …In this case, we’re talking about entities offshore that are …pirating things… I’m for free, but I’m not for people abusing the law… But the idea that, you know, anything goes on the Internet, where did that come from? Where in America does it say that anything goes. (Boos, cheers.) We have laws, and the respect of law and the rule of law is an important thing, and property rights should be respected.”
Ron Paul, perhaps obviously, is also against SOPA, but he went a bit further, calling out “fellow Republicans (which he’s not)”: “I was the first Republican to sign on with a host of Democrats to oppose this law. And we have had a concerted effort, and I feel like we’re making achievements. This bill is not going to pass, but watch out for the next one. (He’s referring to PIPA here.) And I am pleased that the attitude has sort of mellowed up here, because the Republicans, unfortunately, have been on the wrong side of this issue.”
SOPA is not going to pass, by the way. It’s been shelved since before the internet protests, and the administration has said there’s no way they’d let it through, regardless. So PIPA is the one that we have to watch; it’s currently in the House.
As for the rest of the debate, again I won’t belabor the points that have been made previously (see my Political Snark category if you want debriefs on any/all of the previous debates except for one that I missed). Last night started out being all about Newt Gingrich, his affairs, and the accusation his second wife made on Nightline last night about him having asked her for tolerance of his affair with his current wife, Calista (who looks like an ice queen – I’m sorry, but never a hair in a different place from the day before and she never speaks. What is that?) As with a lot of other things, Gingrich started out saying he wasn’t going to talk bad about his ex-wife, and wound up saying she’s made the whole thing up. But he has admitted publicly that he’s had these affairs and he always mentions that he’s gone to God for forgiveness. He does not mention that his first wife was fighting cancer when he left her, and his second wife had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few months before he asked her for a divorce – over the phone, while she was visiting family. She says that came before he asked her for the open marriage.
John King, who moderated the CNN debate, opened it by asking Gingrich if he wanted to respond to his ex-wife’s interview. And with what has become trademark transference, Gingrich lambasted the media for reporting the story. While I can appreciate that there are times the media like sex and conflict to sell a story, this one sells itself and John King had a job to do; starting a debate with that question is a no-brainer. This wasn’t old news; it was happening literally as they spoke. Newt Gingrich has a history of ethics violations and a history of breaking marriage vows, yet he’s going around the country talking about traditional marriage values. He led the charge to impeach President Clinton for lying about his West Wing activities with Monica Lewinsky while he was carrying on his six-year affair. (And the president should have been punished – she was a kid and he was the most powerful man in the world – it was supremely arrogant, mindless and stupid, but Gingrich made it about the sexuality, not the lie.) For Gingrich to think that he’s above a character attack like this one is obtuse, willfully ignorant and sanctimonious. Once again, if I could, I would remind the former Speaker that he is running for president and the People (which include the Fourth Estate) have every right to ask him whatever they damned well want. If you didn’t want to deal with questions about your improprieties, perhaps you should have kept your zipper up. Deal with it or leave. The rules apply to you, too, sir.
Rick Santorum is angry at Gingrich, and it shows on his face. They barely looked at each other all night, most notably during an exchange in which Santorum noted with a bit of humor Gingrich’s tendency toward grandiosity and skewered him with accusations of not standing up for what was right or best for the country, instead choosing to preserve the interests of his own ambition. Gingrich responded with a litany of incidents in which he’d taken people down from positions he found ill-gotten or ill-maintained without regard for Gingrich’s own political well-being.
But then Mitt Romney mixed it up, telling Gingrich he’s always taking credit for things he did during the Reagan administration. ” I looked at the Reagan diary. You’re mentioned once in Ronald Reagan’s diary. ..He says you had an idea in a meeting of young congressmen, and it wasn’t a very good idea, and he dismissed it. That — that’s the entire mention. And — I mean, he mentions George Bush a hundred times. He even mentions my dad once.”
I’m sorry, but I loved that. Gingrich got a dose of much-needed humility in this debate, reinforced by Santorum’s hits on how there was a coup from the Speaker’s own party after three years under his leadership and he was forced out in the fourth year.
So why all the body blows to Gingrich? Because yesterday was a big day in politics, and when Rick Perry dropped out of the race in the morning, the lead for South Carolina’s primary switched from Romney by a 7-point margin to Gingrich by one. The backstage whispers have gathered urgency, pushing for a non-Romney candidate to win in South Carolina so there’s time for momentum to swing toward someone else. Right now, it’s Gingrich, because the kingmakers seem to think he’s still more electable than Santorum on a broad base.
I think they’re wrong.
I think, as time goes on, the Republicans feel more and more like they are going to lose in November, no matter what.
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