One Mo’ Time


A few words on last night’s presidential debate in Arizona — four men vying for the Republican nomination.

As he walks out onto the stage, Newt manages to seem both dorky and gladiatorial. Kind of an amazing combo.

Mitt, as he walks, has a bit of a mince.

Ron Paul has just a hint of Monty Burns, as he walks. Tough old bird, though (Paul).

An Arizona State chorale sings the national anthem. Not bad, but something tells me the ASU golf team is much better.

The candidates are sitting down, rather than standing. Usually contributes to a more relaxed exchange.

Santorum makes a nice, crisp opening statement — a winner of a statement.

Did Romney really refer to a character on the Seinfeld show? To George Costanza?

Newt just slays me with, “And I’ve developed a program for American energy so no future president will ever bow to a Saudi king again . . .”

Brilliant. Actually, the bow to the Saudi king was the least bad of the three bows. The worst was the bow to the PRC premier, and the second worst was the bow to the emperor of Japan (the first for moral reasons, the second for historical reasons).

A man named Gilbert Fidler (I believe), from Gilbert, Ariz., asks the first question. Gilbert from Gilbert!

Santorum calls him “Gilbert” — and the man is considerably older than he. I don’t like that, particularly. But it’s modern, I understand.

Santorum: “When I was born, less than 10 percent of the federal budget was entitlement spending. It’s now 60 percent of the budget. Some people have suggested that defense spending is the problem. When I was born, defense spending was 60 percent of the budget. It’s now 17 percent.”

Nicely put forth.

Romney calls Gilbert Gilbert too. Oh, well.

Some people don’t like it when Mitt runs “autobiographically” — when he cites his background, in the various spheres. I think the autobiographical stuff fits nicely with the policy stuff — and that he should keep doing it.

Says Romney, “Government servants shouldn’t get paid more than the people who are paying taxes.” Is the implication that government workers don’t pay taxes? If so, not real cool.

Looks like Rick’s trying to behave, not be peevish: no eye rolls, no sighs, no clucks, no head shakes so far.

Speaking of peevishness, let me mention one of my grammatical peeves: Rick says, “I wish I wouldn’t have voted for No Child Left Behind.” About 15 years ago, people stopped saying (for example), “I wish I hadn’t voted for . . .” I don’t know why. A real puzzler.

The moderator, John King, calls Gilbert Gilbert too.

So does Newt. The man is “Gilbert” all around.

Newt continues to talk intelligently about energy, and I think the Republican field at large has too. I think this is a consensus position for Republicans: the “all of the above” position on energy (i.e., let’s get energy from all sources available).

I especially liked a phrase of Michele Bachmann’s: that it’s time to “legalize American energy.” One of the best bits of rhetoric in the entire campaign.

When someone else is speaking, Romney looks intently at him. I don’t know whether I could do this. Don’t know whether it’s natural to Romney or something cultivated.

I wonder if libertarians, in their hearts, wish they were represented by someone other than Congressman Paul. The libertarian case, across the board, can be made better. Although Paul has that pluck.

I suppose the other candidates don’t feel it’s a wise use of time to explain to Paul, and to the audience, how foreign aid can be in the American interest. (Foreign aid can be dumb and counterproductive too, of course. It depends.)

Santorum sort of lectures Paul about “Pennsylvania folks.” Which is fine. But I’m thinking, “Paul started out as a Pennsylvania folk.”

People for whom Romney can do no right howled and scoffed at a phrase he applied to himself: “severely conservative.” I’m glad John King gives him a chance to explain what he meant. I always thought the phrase was perfectly clear, if unconventional.

(Remember when Nixon said, “Let me be perfectly clear . . .”?) (Another great one was, “Let me say this about that.” I think that was Nixon, too.)


UPDATE/CORRECTION: Readers have pointed out, “That was JFK!” (“Let me say this about that.”) Quite right.

Newt knows how to campaign: Before this Arizona audience, he says, in essence, “The Obama administration should stop picking on Arizona.” Odd the other candidates don’t do the same.

Santorum says “radical Islamists.” People are always doing that, to cover themselves. But really, it’s “radical Muslims” or “Islamists.” All Islamists are radical. But people can’t bring themselves to say “radical Muslims.” So . . .

Saying “radical Islamists” is like saying “fat obese people.”

Rick on earmarks. Very good. Clear and correct. Appropriators should have a say about where appropriations go, right? And if we don’t like it, we can vote ’em out.

Mitt shouldn’t get into the weeds on this earmark stuff. Looks petty. We have huge fish to fry in this country — fundamental choices. Two paths (social democracy, basically, or the old Republic).

Oops, there’s a move from Santorum’s repertoire of juvenile moves: open-mouthed incredulity. He looks like an adolescent or a cartoon character — or an adolescent cartoon character.


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