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Rick says he opposed both the Wall Street bailout and the auto bailout, making him consistent, whereas Romney supported the Wall Street bailout and opposed the auto bailout — making him a politician of convenience. “I believe in markets,” says Santorum, and “not just when they’re convenient for me.”

Romney’s answer reminds me of something Vice President Cheney said to a group of us journos, just before he left office. He was explaining why he supported the bank bailout but not the auto. I thought the veep had a case. See if you agree.

Here’s my write-up, and the bailout portion is on the third page. (Cheney said, in a nutshell, that the banking system is the lifeblood of the economy, and if it dries up, so does the economy as a whole. Plus, the federal government has its nose in banking anyway, through the Federal Reserve, the currency, the Treasury Department, and so on.)

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The house in Mesa feels a little stacked for Romney, is my impression.

I don’t care for audience noise in these debates — all the whooping and booing and whatnot. Detracts from the debates. A circus atmosphere is for conventions and other things. The audience, so to speak — the public for these debates, the real audience — is the television audience.

This is a little extreme, but the live audience should be like people who happen to be attending a studio recording session.

I guess Romney thinks he can demonize the UAW, in advance of the Michigan primary. Okay.

Newt demonizes ’em more!

In case I don’t have another chance to say it — in case there’s not another debate — let me just say it once more: What a talker, Newt is. What a talker. Probably none better in American politics.

The presidency, of course, requires other virtues too.

I love it when the other candidates get a kick out of what Ron Paul is saying. Of course, there’s a bit of condescension in their mirthful reaction. What they convey is, “Isn’t this coot entertaining?”

Um, dear readers, you probably remember the 18-and-a-half-minute gap. (I seem to be mentioning Nixon a lot in these notes.) Well, I have about an hour’s gap. Owing to a DVR malfunction, I was able to watch the first 40 minutes of the debate — and the last 20. Oops (as a governor once said).

No worries, though — at least the column will be shorter.

When Santorum says, about the Iranians and their drive for nuclear weapons, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a president who isn’t going to stop them,” I’m afraid he’s right.

Gingrich says “Straits of Hormuz” — which is surprising from him. It’s “Strait of Hormuz,” which I’d expect Newt to know, but not the others.

Maybe he’s going along, not wanting to sound out of step? (I sometimes do that, depending on the audience and the circumstances.)

Rick says that, in supporting No Child Left Behind, he was taking one for the team, following his leader, President George W. Bush. Later, he gives a more respectable defense.

In my recollection, a lot of people supported NCLB because they agreed with Bush that money should come with strings attached. You didn’t want to keep shoveling money at the schools; you wanted to be sure you got something for it.

But the law, as I understand it, turned out to be too restrictive — a straitjacket for schools.

Sorry to say it, but I still believe in strings attached, if there are to be federal dollars for education at all.

Rick scores big when he denies that he’s for one-size-fits-all: “Look, I’m a home-schooling father of seven. I know the importance of customized education for our children. I know the importance of parental control of education.”

Hard to refute.

I see that Mitt figures there’s no percentage in going easy on the teachers’ union — not in the primaries, anyway.

Newt seems a little subdued. Is he still running, still hungry for the nomination?

If I were Mitt — I’m serious about this — I might pledge, right now, to use both Santorum and Newt in my administration. (Santorum could do the same, regarding Mitt and Newt.)

A classic Gingrich moment: In schools, “you’re told you have self-esteem, even if you can’t read the word ‘self-esteem.’”

John King’s question “What is the biggest misconception about you in the public debate right now?” is Barbara Walters-esque — but it’s a good question, at this moment.

Newt gives an interesting and compelling answer, about how hard it was — harder than people know — to get the conservative reforms he and his allies were able to get in the 1990s.

Mitt doesn’t answer the question, instead giving the closing he planned to give (apparently). Some months ago, in an Iowa debate, I think, he took on the notion that he has “no core.” He made a rather beautiful statement, actually. He would have done well to repeat it here.

There has been a lot of talk, among conservatives, about ditching the “MSM” for the 2016, or 2020, debates. Fine with me. But I believe that, no matter the questioners, no matter the format, candidates reveal themselves: their thoughts, their personalities, their capacities. They will out (whether they like it or not).

And I think John King has done a commendable job.

Friends, do you like these debates? I do. Many are tired of them, but I’m not. And no one has to watch them (except for those professionally obligated). I hope we have more. I might even like to participate in one of these bad boys myself one day.

Before Walter Mitty takes over entirely, I’d better sign off . . .
 

#JAYBOOK#



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