Well, alright. If it’s going to be like this.
Last night was another debate. This one was in Florida, Land of the Hanging Chad. What did we learn?
We learned that Wolf Blitzer, in addition to having the most awesome non-fake name ever, will not take crap from Newt Gingrich. He asked Gingrich for his thoughts on Romney’s taxes, Gingrich tried to play his The Media Suck and Every Question They Ask That I Don’t Want To Answer Is Stupid Game, and Wolf said, “But, Mr. Speaker, you made an issue of this, this week, when you said that, ‘He lives in a world of Swiss bank and Cayman Island bank accounts.’ I didn’t say that. You did.”
Gingrich’s response: “I did. And I’m perfectly happy to say that on an interview on some TV show. But this is a national debate, where you have a chance to get the four of us to talk about a whole range of issues.”
Boo-freakin’-hoo, Mr. Speaker. Wolf told him that, if he’s going to say something like that publicly, he needs to explain it when asked. And that’s when Mitt Romney hit him with the follow-through: “Wouldn’t it be nice if people didn’t make accusations somewhere else that they weren’t willing to defend here?”
There was, yes, a lot of arguing in this debate. Bitter arguing. You know who didn’t do any of it? Ron Paul. He rose above everything and came out unscathed. But we heard in a speech after the South Carolina primary that he never expected to get this far, really. He said his campaign was about promoting an idea, and then when he saw how well he was doing, he realized that getting elected is how you further the ideas. He’s flying by the seat of his pants at this point, doing fine because he pulls in contributions and he really never varies his stance on anything.
Gingrich and Romney did the most jabbing, with some flavor thrown in by Santorum, who took Romney to task, and I mean to task, on the Massachusetts health care plan. Santorum effectively made Romney explain it a little better than before. He said 92% of the people already had insurance, and the 8% who did not have insurance had to choose between finding their own insurance or “paying the state for part of the cost of their free healthcare.” Which, by definition, means it’s not free, but I digress. Santorum used the description to point out that, in the plan, Romney required all Massachusetts residents to buy healthcare or pay a fine. He said the fine is lower than a lot of health care plan costs, and therefore more people in Massachusetts have elected to just pay the fine, which he says amounts to taking a free ride.
I think that might have been the most effective deconstruction of this long-hashed out subject to date.
There was also further discussion of the immigration question, and a plan I hadn’t heard of before. It’s called “self-deportation,” and apparently it works by giving legal immigrants cards that verify their legality and allow employers to give them jobs. The illegal immigrants don’t get those cards, so if employers hire them, they lose their jobs and the employers are sanctioned stiffly. As Romney said, “If you do that, people who have come here illegally won’t be able to find work. And over time, those people would tend to leave the country, or self-deport.”
Raise your hand if you believe that.
You’ll note I’m still typing. I am still using both hands.
We learned, perhaps a little surprisingly, that The Newt might be considering Marco
Rubio as a running mate. We learned this when a woman in the US island of Puerto Rico asked the candidates to name which Hispanics (her word) they might consider for cabinet positions. Gingrich said he’d consider Rubio for something a little more “dignified” and “central” then being in the cabinet, “but that’s another conversation.”
Ree-hee-heeeeallly? That’s an interesting play. I don’t see it happening, but it’s an interesting play. Rubio is popular with the Tea Party and Gingrich may have bought himself some Florida caucus votes with that comment. And not a moment too soon: Gingrich’s poll numbers are slipping below Romney’s again.
Santorum decided not to spend any money on TV ads in Florida. I suspect it’s because he wants to go the distance in the race and he really doesn’t have the war chest to fund the whole shebang. It will be interesting to see what happens with him in Florida, then, because if he doesn’t finish at least a strong second, I think his numbers just dwindle from there. He also said in a post-debate interview that he’s not staying in the state the day of the primary, because it’s a wasted day, and he’d rather go campaign in Nevada, where the next primary will be held just days later. Super Tuesday is approaching and with more states dividing up their nomination votes by percentage of primary votes, Santorum is just hoping to stay alive until summer.
One of the best moments of the debate was when Wolf Blitzer asked the candidates why their wives would make the best First Lady. Ron Paul’s answer was sort of superficial: she’s a mom, she’s a grandma, she wrote a cookbook. Okay. My mother could be First Lady based on that. (Not the cookbook part.)
Santorum’s answer was something we’ve heard before: mother of seven children, one severely disabled (their youngest child has Trisomy 18, a chromosomal defect so severe that kills the overwhelming majority of those who suffer it before birth, and most of those who make it to term die during birth. The great majority who survive that die within the first year. Bella is 3 1/2 and highly physically and developmentally challenged). In addition, the Santorums lost a child, Gabriel, mid-term. Karen Santorum wrote a book about that experience that Rick Santorum says “saved hundreds of lives” when expectant mothers read it and decided not to terminate their pregnancies.
She also wrote a children’s book about manners. She sounds like fun.
Mitt Romney explained that his wife has multiple sclerosis and is a breast cancer survivor, two things I’m not sure I was aware of before (and both eerily reminiscent of the conditions Gingrich’s first two wives were suffering when he left them). He said she’d be able to understand and reach out to those who suffer, and that she’s also worked on helping young women make family choices that emphasize marriage before children.
But the part that I was most intrigued by was Newt Gingrich’s wife. Callista seems like a Little People figure. Her hair never moves and she never speaks. She is a slash of severe red lipstick on an all-white head. But apparently, she is also an accomplished musician and singer, and the arts are her passion.
That warmed me up to her a little. I’d love a First Lady who made the arts, and particularly music, more important. However, the supposedly devout Catholic had a six-year affair with Gingrich while he was still married to his second wife, which sort of knocks her down a peg. And I will say it in black and white, plain: I don’t want her husband in the White House.
Perhaps a White House on the moon, where he suggests the US should build a colony by 2020, and perhaps the citizens of said colony could petition for statehood.
The moon. A US state.
Most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my life. Explore space? Absolutely, when it’s fiscally feasible. I don’t want to end space discovery – far from it. But claim the moon as American space soil? It’s the moon, for God’s sake. Nobody can own the moon.
Here was perhaps the most delightful touch of the evening: Ron Paul was funny. Not just “holy crap, he’s off the reservation again, look at him go” funny, but actually witty. His line about the moon? “Well I don’t think we should go to the moon. I think maybe we should send some politicians up there.” When they were talking about what kind of relations should be maintained, if any, with Cuba, Blitzer asked Paul, “What would you say to Raul Castro if you were talking to him?”
“Well, I’d ask him what was the purpose of his call?”
He was the comic relief for a relatively tense night of debating who the best candidate is for the Republicans. I don’t know if it got anyone closer to a decision, and I think Gingrich’s performance, for all his belligerence, was flat. Romney was a little more commanding and he came off not giving a flying fig about how rich he is – something he’s really struggled with because of the current economic climate of the country. He has a new debate coach. It might have worked.
The transcript: http://archives.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1201/26/se.05.html