The GOP Onstage, Again


Feel like some quick notes on last night’s presidential debate in Tampa? The Republicans were all onstage, smiling brightly, doing their best. As I said, I’ll make my notes quick. (“Miss it quick!” we say in golf.) And I’ll give them in the order in which I made them, sitting in a mighty comfortable leather recliner. (Did I say sitting? I meant reclining.)

You want to know what one qualification for the presidency is? You have to run. You have to participate. Whether we like it or not, the GOP nominee will be one of those eight, probably Perry or Romney. Who declined to run? Well, Gov. Mitch Daniels, Gov. Haley Barbour, former governor Jeb Bush, former governor Sarah Palin, Sen. John Thune, Rep. Paul Ryan, John Bolton, others.

You go to war with the army you have. You pick your nominee from the candidates willing to run. Mitch and all those others — they made room for Rick. And he filled it. He stepped up.

I’ll give you another expression from golf: “Never up, never in.”

When I first knew about Wolf Blitzer, he was a Middle East correspondent. How did he become the Monty Hall of American politics? I guess he just did.

Rick Perry — total Marlboro Man.

Mitt Romney looks like a Ken doll, as everyone says. By the way, what’s wrong with looking like Ken? You ever see Barbie?

Perry and Romney, the two leading candidates, positioned next to each other. Deliberate?

And in the center — center stage — too.

I liked that Romney kissed Bachmann, enthusiastically. You could hear the “mwah.”

Generally speaking, is the process a little demeaning? Oh, yeah.

Are you allowed to have the national anthem on CNN?

That singer, bless her heart: ornamentation and portamento (and bad pitch) out the yan.

CNN and the Tea Party co-hosted a debate? Proof of the old adage “Politics makes strange bedfellows.”

Newt should have run in ’96 — that was his time, that was his year.

Perry’s line about making Washington as inconsequential to you as possible? I’m reminded of how Phil Gramm campaigned. He’d shake a man’s hand and say, “I’ll try to keep the government out of your wallet.”

I wonder if Bachmann got to go first — got the first question — because of the impression that she was shortchanged in the last debate.

Bachmann said that Obama “stole” from Medicare — a strong word. Far too strong, I think. Almost fringy.

In general, she is a very good seller of herself — very good.

When Perry said “slam-dunk guarantee,” I couldn’t help thinking about George Tenet and Saddam’s WMD. (I didn’t mean for that to rhyme.)

What Perry is now saying about Social Security? How it will be unchanged for current retirees and those nearing retirement, but that younger people will have flexibility and options? Exactly what Candidate George W. Bush said, way back in 2000.

Romney was not very good when being pesky, when badgering Perry. He looked small.

That said, why shouldn’t Perry be made to answer whether he stands by his claim that Social Security is unconstitutional? I mean, that is not an insignificant claim. Isn’t Perry’s great strength supposed to be his candor, his straight talk, his lack of varnish? Well?

When it comes to the country in South America, I’ve heard “Chili,” which is the American, or English, way, and I’ve heard “CHEE-lay,” which is the Spanish way — but I’d never heard “Chee-LAY,” which is Herman Cain’s way.

Charming guy, Cain. Might there be room for him in a future Republican administration?

Santorum kept talking about all the “courage” he had shown in his political life — “I had the courage to” do this, “I had the courage to” do that. Ay, caramba, Rick. That’s for others to say, not you.

He referred to himself as a “spokesperson.” I wish he had had the — what, courage? — to say “spokesman.” If a Rick Santorum waves the linguistic white flag, we’re all doomed.

When Newt talked about all the “waste” in government, and how getting rid of it would take care of our budget woes, I almost ralphed. Every bad, dim, or dishonest candidate has said this since the beginning of time: waste, fraud, and abuse. And going after tax cheats. Newt knows so much better.

Romney pounced on this, saying, Waste, schmaste — we have to cut spending, seriously and structurally. It was just about the most adult moment of the campaign.


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