Concerning last night’s debate, a few observations:
Newt received big applause, on being introduced. Quite big, actually. He has made an impression lately.
Mitt received maybe bigger applause. Do they remember his dad in Michigan? Probably not. (Been a while.)
I never thought I’d see these words beneath the name of a leading candidate for president of the United States: “Former president and CEO, Godfather’s Pizza.”
I thought Cain was quite focused and sharp, despite all that has been going on in the last week or so. I remember that many said this of President Clinton, way back. There was a word: “compartmentalization.” Remember that one?
Ron Paul often makes a great deal of economic sense (I swear).
Beholding Jim Cramer, I thought of this: The mother of a friend of mine used to refer to The McLaughlin Group as “those people that yell.”
Huntsman asked this question, rhetorically: “What am I most concerned about?” Came off funny (not intentionally). Reinforced the impression of Huntsman as Joe Self.
An interesting and important point, Huntsman has made: Are our banks too big, for our own good? That would be a very good topic of a magazine piece . . .
That questioner in the middle, John? (Didn’t get his last name.) He was talking as though campaigning against Mitt.
He tried to tell Mitt that he was not asking about his “personal” character but about his “political” character. Oh, yeah, right: Big diff.
I’m not saying that “the personal is political,” as the Seventies feminists did. At least I hope I’m not . . .
Mitt had a quite interesting answer on this flip-flop question: Been married to the same woman for 42 years. Have belonged to one church. Etc. (I liked that Romney didn’t shy away from his religious affiliation.)
When he talked about being married to the same woman, I couldn’t help noticing, he was standing next to the Newtster.
A very good line from Perry: “If you are too big to fail, you are too big.”
That question that Maria B. asked about the relationship between the tax code and jobs? I don’t know whether she meant to be snarky, but it was a quite good one, actually.
When Santorum was talking about his 0 percent tax on manufacturing, I thought of an old National Review point: Why in the world have taxes on business at all?
Cain, answering the question on sexual harassment, said nothing about his wife. That stood out to me.
Santorum’s concern for the blue-collar worker, for those without college degrees: nice. (I mean that non-sarcastically, of course.)
Very nice line from Herman Cain, and true: Tax codes don’t raise taxes, politicians do.
Man, can Newt talk. I’m not talking about length (only), I’m talking about quality.
Maria asks Mitt why his 59-point plan doesn’t mention housing. Very accusatory tone. Mitt says, “Because it’s not a housing plan.”
Reminded me of Bill Buckley, facing Charlayne Hunter-Gault on the MacNeil-Lehrer hour. He had just gone down in a submersible to visit the Titanic. Hunter-Gault said, “Some people call what you’ve done grave-robbing. Why isn’t it grave-robbing?” Bill, blinking, befuddled, contemptuous, said, “Because it’s not robbing graves?”
My opening line, above, of course — “Concerning . . ., a few observations” — is an hommage à Bill.
Um, do my eyes deceive me, or are a few of Mitt Romney’s hairs out of place? Holy smokes, call the FBI (or something). Is this the new mussable Mitt?
Debating before a friendly audience — a cheering, you’re-the-best audience — is relatively easy.
I like this about Maria B.: When she kind of zings a politician, and the politician zings her back, she smiles, as if to say, “Good one.” She’s enjoying it along with the audience.
Rick Perry drops a lot of g’s, including in the word “killing.” The dropped g sounds especially good there, coming from the governor of Texas: killin’.
I love it when Bachmann says the word “bonuses.” Never has she sounded more Upper Midwestern. Right out of the movie Fargo.
Newt’s answer on the business he conducted with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? That’s what we call “brazening it out.” Before this audience, it worked. Other audiences?
Huntsman has such an unfortunate manner, I think. It’s not necessarily his fault. He often comes off as supercilious, self-loving, and snide. He may be none of those things. And he did get elected governor of his state, didn’t he?
I once knew a man who spoke in a very pompous manner. Not in private, but in public. When addressing a group. He just adopted this pompous tone. And he wasn’t pompous at all.
Ron Paul can talk in an unfortunately cartoonish way — a Mr. Magoo-like way?
His status as a doctor gives him extra strength when he discusses health care.
Cain calls the former Speaker of the House — not Newt — “Princess Nancy.” I think of her more as a queen.
Mitt Romney says, if I have jotted it down correctly, “I would do exactly what Ron Paul said — and I don’t say that very often.” Charmingly delivered, charmingly conceived. (That’s the wrong order, I realize.)
Man, can 30 seconds seem a long time. How long are these 30-second answers, two minutes?
Romney says, “The malpractice system is nuts.” Good line. And true.
Lord knows I love running against the media, but I think Newt may abuse the privilege a little.
Has he become a tad too enamored of his experience? A tad too boastful about it? “I’ve been working on this question since the impeachment of Andrew Johnson,” etc.
Speaking of boasting: Rick Santorum would do well to curb this, or refashion it. There’s a way of mentioning your Senate experience — particularly your committee work — without saying, “Don’t you know how important I was?”
One line came off with a particular clang: “I was one of 24 people who wrote a letter to Harry Reid . . .” You can’t say that in the tone you would use for, “I climbed Mt. Everest naked, and discovered the polio vaccine on the way up.”
John, the anchorman, really gave it to Mitt on his working with Democrats in Massachusetts — including Ted Kennedy! I don’t think he meant to “give it” to him. I think that was merely the effect.
Which Romney, of course, pointed out. But I thought the candidate’s spiel was good: My legislature was 85 percent Democratic; I was always playing an away game; etc.
Actually, Mitt said “Democrat” — used “Democrat” as an adjective, as in, “Eighty-five percent of my legislature was Democrat.” Now, that’s what I call pandering to the base!
Stay out of Democrat wars! (Remember that one?) (Vice-presidential debate in ’76.)
When Perry was fumbling for his third cabinet department, I thought, “He needs a lifeline.” I also thought he should have said, “. . . and a player to be named later.”
Frankly, I thought his “Oops” was charming. When he said “Oops,” he was saying, to my ears, “That was a fine time to screw up. And that was a fine issue on which to screw up. But, you know? Stuff happens, and it’s not the end of the world.”
Perry’s fumbling around was very, very human. I know it’ll hurt him. But I don’t think it ought to. What matters is what he is planning for the government, not which departments he can remember at a particular moment.
Once, Bill Buckley couldn’t remember the name of Evelyn Waugh. He said to me, “Who’s my hero, the author of Brideshead?”
Do you see what I mean? I think Perry should be cut much slack, but people aren’t like that, maybe especially in politics.
Back to health care for a minute. (Have I talked about health care?) The candidates were asked to address health care in 30 seconds. Romney was pretty charming: “Health care is a big subject for 30 seconds, but here goes . . .”
Newt made the same point, but he made it oh so pissily — and at length. Didn’t he?
Speaking of length: I’m fairly sure that Rick Santelli’s “questions” were longer than candidates’ answers. But I know we owe Santelli a lot: father of the Tea Party, true?
The guy is so important, he should wear a wig.
Newt was very, very gracious when he said, in essence, “I’d like to hear Jon Huntsman on this subject, because he has a great deal of experience in and with China.”
At these debates, every time the subject is China, I wish one of the candidates would say, “And, remember: We have to deal with ‘the People’s Republic.’ But it is a one-party dictatorship with a gulag. It is a place where innocent, brave, and heroic people are tortured to death nearly every day.” No one ever says it. Currency manipulation is bad, yes. So is the ongoing torture of Gao Zhisheng, Chen Guangcheng, and countless others, who are among the best people on earth.
Okay, better lighten up: I believe I caught Romney with a hair out of place, and I’m not talking about the physical this time: I think he said “flaunt the rules” instead of “flout the rules.” Oh, Mitt! And your education was so expensive, I’m sure!
For my money, the best line of the night was uttered by Herman Cain. He said there were three big problems with the Dodd-Frank law. He stated the first of them. Then he said the other two were Dodd and Frank.
You may have heard that line before. I hadn’t — loved it. Am I laughing along with a serial sexual harasser? I hope not.
You know what America needs? Its groove back. That should be a Republican slogan next year: “America: Let’s get our groove back.”
I’m going to be running around for the next few weeks, and will probably not be able to watch any more debates, or scribble any more columns, but heaven knows the world can limp on, and I’ll see you soon. Thanks for joining me today.