Our Quartet in Tampa

On stage at the University of South Florida, Jan. 23, 2012


Ron Paul does what he always does: conflates a dictatorship with the millions the dictatorship rules. Keeps saying “the Cubans” or “those people,” when he just means the Castros’ regime.

In the past, he has done this with Iran, Syria, and others. It’s his habit, and it’s obnoxious. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone call him on it.

For a big libertarian, he has an awfully hard time separating people from the particular government they have, whether by consent or not.

Remember his slander of Bachmann? “She doesn’t like Muslims, she hates them, she wants to go get ’em.” Yup, the mullahs who rule Iran, the girls they stone to death, for the crime of having been gang-raped — what’s the difference? “We have to talk to them.”

Newt has the attitude of, “I’m the front-runner now, I can afford to be statesmanlike, calm, and gracious.” And this has a corollary (if that’s the right word): “Let Mitt be desperate, tinny, and whiny.”

Okay, here’s something I like about Paul — a minor linguistic matter: He pronounces the word “height” as though it had an additional “h” on the end, sort of like “length.” I’m familiar with this from my home state, Michigan. Sounds perfectly natural in my ear.

In other ears, it must sound like, “What the . . .?”

Here’s a phrase I’ve never been able to get used to: “fighting season.” We use it with regard to Afghanistan. I think it sounds absurd.

A questioner essentially — essentially — asks Santorum to choose between tourism for Florida and oil drilling off Florida. (I could get into details, but will not bother to take the time. I trust a transcript is available, for those who want to investigate!)

Santorum answers very shrewdly, I think. What will most benefit tourism, he says, is a growing economy — people with jobs, and money to spend.

True, true.

This same questioner asks what I think is a very good question: You guys say you’re for English only, but you’re appealing to voters in Spanish. Isn’t there a speck of hypocrisy here?

I’m not saying there aren’t answers. I’m saying it’s a good question.

I wish Romney would get off the Obama-and-golf thing. If people think that Obama’s rounds of golf are the equivalent of “Let them eat cake,” they’re badly confused.

Does Romney want Obama to redouble his efforts at policymaking?

On Terri Schiavo, Santorum great.

Newt perhaps even better: Even murderers on Death Row get extensive hearings, right?

The questioner says to Paul — I forget which questioner — “You’re a doctor, what is your view of the Schiavo case?”

I believe the case was far more moral than medical.

I realize Mitt is campaigning in Florida, but come on: He acts as though the national space program were a matter of jobs on Florida’s “Space Coast.” “The Space Coast is suffering,” he says about 30 times.

Ay, caramba. NASA is not supposed to be a jobs program. If we should embark on certain space projects or missions, fine. Let’s do it. But not because “the Space Coast is suffering.”

I can just hear him in Houston . . . 

The candidates talk a lot about ridiculous, choking regulations. Let me offer a recommendation: They should come up with particular stories, anecdotes, Reagan-style. Would do them a lot of good.

I think Mitt’s answers late in the debate are good — particularly about his personal strengths, his accomplishments. He states them without being particularly braggy about them.

When Newt cites his conservative résumé — it’s a helluva résumé.

His distinction between being “for” someone and being “with” someone is kind of inspired. Don’t just be for me — don’t just vote for me — be with me. Help me get this done, these plans for America.

Talking about conservatives who supported the Wall Street bailout, Santorum has a nice line: “When push came to shove, they got pushed.”

Overall, Santorum has a very strong debate. Newt is just superb, I think — in complete control of his thoughts and words. Graceful, interesting, effective. He manages to come off as both rebel-like, or maverick, and presidential — a neat trick.

Paul is Paul. I think he performs the same, from debate to debate. Sometimes he doesn’t get the questions that allow him to shine. (Same with all the candidates.)

And Mitt? Despite a couple good answers late in the game, he is weak, all too weak. On the tax-return thing, he is pathetic. I don’t know why. If he’s caving in to pressure — throwing away his timetable — he should give an explanation.

I think Tampa has been his weakest debate, when he needed his strongest. I’ve already peeked at some of the commentary — others’ commentary. I gather the consensus is different.

Anyway, my two cents, comme d’habitude, as Romney would say (in a Gingrich commercial). See you!



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