The GOP Onstage


I would like to make a few points on the Republican debate last night — not necessarily the most important points, but a few points. I will start with some generalities.

Perry was stumbling and unimpressive. I have a feeling that the Obama people are rooting for him to be the nominee.

You can be an excellent governor, an excellent president, and an excellent leader without being particularly good in debate, or even particularly articulate. Still, articulateness — or at least an ease with the English language — is a help.

Romney was less stumbling and less unimpressive than Perry — but still nothing to strike fear in the heart of the Obama campaign.

Huntsman comes across as incredibly vain and self-loving. (N.B.: “Comes across” is not the same as “is.”)

Bachmann, to me, was surprisingly crisp. Not Condi-esque, which is crispness itself, but crisp.

Part of me wished that just the leading candidates — the top three or four — could have been there. The others are lark candidates, or boutique candidates. They just want to be “in the process” and on television. Some of those have valuable things to say. But, fundamentally, they’re in the way. They’re clutter.

Okay, here are some less general points . . .

Brian Williams referred to Texas’s “lack of regulation.” I imagine there’s some regulation in Texas, don’t you? (I think it was Brian Williams — forgive me if it was the other guy.)

Perry started with “he or she,” and then just gave up, going to “their.” Oh, well.

Romney and some of the others have me confused: Do governors and presidents “create jobs” or don’t they? Sometimes they say they do, sometimes they say they don’t. Get it straight, please.

Romney could descend into sheer gibberish: “restructure the basis of the foundation,” stuff like that. Come on, speak English, Mitt.

He was great on the wonderful things about Texas. You could almost hear him add, mentally, “And Massachusetts stinks. You ever tried to get anything done in that state?”

Perry may have a Joe Isuzu problem — the look, the air. But then, that requires smooth speaking too, doesn’t it? (I imagine — I’m sure — that Perry can perform much better than I heard last night. A good friend of mine once said about Larry Nelson, “You don’t win three majors just kicking it around.” And you don’t win three gubernatorial elections just stumbling.)

Santorum looks remarkably slim and young. He looks younger, to me, than he did when he was in the Senate.

Cain made an allusion to tithing that I think would be lost on many Americans, particularly in the “unchurched” areas.

Huntsman shares a linguistic idiosyncrasy with John Bolton: These two Americans pronounce “negotiate” in the British way: “ne-go-see-ate.” Strange.

Every time I have seen him on television — which is twice — Huntsman has bragged about his ability to speak Chinese. Does he always do this? Does he ever credit the Mormon church with giving him the opportunity to learn this language?

He bragged about “knowing something about this world,” then smiled the cheesiest, most self-satisfied smile afterward. Ay, caramba.

Bachmann was quite good on the question of regulations — more than superficial.

She has that strong, handsome Scandinavian look that you often see in the Upper Midwest. Not to mention Scandinavia.

I’ve always disliked the expression “biological children.” All children — all people — are “biological,” in a sense. I can’t think of a better substitute just now. It’s late and I’m typing fast (and thinking slow?).

Newt was fantastic on Obama’s hostility to, or certainly ignorance about, business and enterprise.

Romney has had a long time to develop a spiel on RomneyCare. And he has. I thought he sounded quite reasonable on the subject.

I agree with Newt: People make way too much of the individual mandate in RomneyCare. I know why they do it — but they have made a mountain out of a molehill. Or, if not quite a molehill, a modest, gently sloping hill — the kind you’d start a toddler out on, when he sleds.

If it weren’t for the less helpful elements of Newtness, what a leader Newt would be!

Santorum was very good on “Why do you conservatives hate the poor?”

A good Romney line: “We’re an energy-rich nation living like an energy-poor nation.” A nice encapsulation. (Remember Milton Himmelfarb? “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.”)