Politics & Policy

Republican Octet

Watched last night’s debate, made some notes. Will give them in the order in which I made them. I don’t know what other people think. Don’t know what the consensus is, if there is one. These are my own “reax,” plain and simple. Some’ll be “substantive,” some’ll be frivolous. Whatevsky.

‐Perry looks relaxed and ready.

‐Mitt almost always looks relaxed and ready.

‐Alpha males, these two — Mitt and Perry. There must be considerable pressure on Perry, to perform better than he has.

‐I’m digging the way Cain says “9 9 9” — “nahn, nahn, nahn.” I’m not sure I can pronounce that word any other way now.

‐Charlie Rose is quoting Reagan favorably. Oh, they love him now, seeing that he’s safely dead. Man, did they hate him when he was alive and working. Trust me, chillen: Did they hate him.

They couldn’t tell you which Reagan was more eager to do: nuke the world or starve children, preferably black.

‐Romney goes after Obama very quickly — as soon as he can. He looks ready to be president, Romney does.

‐He occasionally laughs kind of a false laugh. Can’t help it, I suppose.

‐The questioners seem to question the candidates as Democrats. That is, the questions seem to come from the Democratic leanings of the questioners. Nothing wrong with that — just sayin’.

‐Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were ever a Democratic debate with Republican-leaning questions and questioners? Something out of a fantasy.

Not in this lifetime, y’all. And probably not on this planet.

‐I wish Romney wouldn’t say “middle class” constantly. He has probably been coached to do so. Class — economic class — is not really an American notion.

‐Bachmann knows this subprime stuff, this housing stuff, cold. She knows a helluva lot more than her questioner. She’s puttin’ on a clinic, Bachmann is.

‐Loved Newt’s point about protesters and their willingness, or unwillingness, to clean up after themselves. Marvelous.

‐This debate is being held at Dartmouth. I have a memory from the 1988 Republican primaries, I believe — perhaps 1996. Can’t remember. Bob Dole was at Dartmouth, I believe — certainly at a New Hampshire college. He was getting a lot of hostile and ignorant questions (of course).

Finally, in typical Dole style, he said, “Any Republicans here? Any future taxpayers?”

‐Holy-moly, are Ron Paul’s eyebrows something to behold. Is he dying those puppies? Last candidate to do that, as far as I know, was Dick Gephardt.

‐Santorum said that “the coolest thing” about some plan of his was . . .

Have you ever heard a candidate say “the coolest thing”? We’ll get a lot more of that in future years, I imagine.

‐Newt did something graceful. Karen Tumulty, I believe, said “Congressman Gingrich,” then corrected herself with “Speaker Gingrich.” And Newt broke in, “Newt.”

(If I had been the reporter, I’d’ve said “Mr. Gingrich.” I don’t think these titles should carry on forever.)

‐I’m pretty sure that Tumulty’s questions are longer than the allotted time for answers.

‐Sarah Palin gets a rare favorable mention. It comes from Newt. And what does he mention favorably? Something for which Palin was pilloried: her talk of “death panels”!

‐Loved Huntsman’s words of admiration for his father — his father as entrepreneur. A lot of people want people such as Huntsman to be embarrassed by their riches. Huntsman does not seem embarrassed.

‐Liked Huntsman’s quip about “9 9 9” and the price of a pizza.

‐Cain seems to take offense at this. Where’s the characteristic good humor?

‐Unless my ears deceive me, Cain says “deaf tax,” for “death tax.” Let me excerpt a paragraph from a piece in the forthcoming National Review. It is a piece of mine about language:

Some 25 years ago, I heard a black congresswoman talking about the Martin Luther King holiday. She kept saying “birfday.” I winced, thinking she would be subject to derision, that white racists somewhere might chuckle. Later on I learned that “f” instead of “th” is part of many southerners’ speech, southerners white and black. (How southern English became the English of black Americans from Maine to California is “a whole ’nother subject,” as we said in my family.) What’s more, “th” into “f” comes from England, as English tends to. There’s a reason Keith Richards, the Rolling Stone, is known as “Keef.” There’s a reason that the Health and Safety Executive — a pillar of the British nanny state — is known as “’Elf ’n’ Safety.”

Didn’t see a paragraph such as that coming, did you?

‐Mitt is bickering with his questioner. Not sure if that’s a good idea.

‐As a rule, these candidates talk too fast — abnormally fast — because they have only a minute to answer, and they try to cram everything in.

‐It seems to me Perry’s being pretty much ignored. I mean, unquestioned.

‐Romney should not call himself “smart.” He should let others do that.

‐They’re on Perry now — doing a little gotcha with Reagan. That is, Charlie Rose is using a video clip of Reagan against Perry and the other Republican candidates.

Oh, do they love Reagan now! They were the bane of his existence then!

‐I wish one of the Republican candidates would say, to one of these journalists, “We voted for him, you know.”

‐Oops — Perry says that the American people are “untrustworthy,” when he means “untrusting.”

‐He’s absolutely right about these deals that purport to exchange tax hikes for spending cuts. The spending cuts are never-appearing, although the tax hikes are.

‐I wish someone would tell Charlie Rose, and journalists generally, and academia, and the Democratic party, that “tax hikes” and “revenue” aren’t necessarily synonymous. You can get revenue by growth, you know. Big-time.

Can you depress revenue by tax hikes? I’ll let experts address that.

‐Bachmann speaks of a “$2.4 million blank check.” Or was it billion or trillion? Anyway, it didn’t sound blank. But I knew what she meant — 2.4 for Obama to do with whatever the heck he wanted.

‐Each candidate is at the mercy of what he is asked. Each one has a chance to shine or not depending on what he’s asked. Kind of unfair. Kind of a lottery.

I’ve felt like that on radio and television before.

‐Bachmann says “I’m a federal tax lawyer” rather a lot. Reminds me of a skit I saw on Saturday Night Live, many years ago. Apparently, there is, or was, a person on The View who said or says “I am a lawyer” a lot. In the skit, that was her habitual preface to a statement: “Now, I am a lawyer, and . . .”

Anyway, thought of that.

‐Sometimes, when Perry is listening to others answering questions, or when he is simply observing the proceedings, he has a look that says, “Just let me be the governor of Texas. Enough of this baloney.”

‐I think Romney makes a lot of sense on the subject of economic relations with China: He sounds both tough-minded and flexible, without seeming two-faced or wishy-washy. A hard thing to pull off.

So’s the China relationship generally.

‐Rick Santorum refers to Obama’s “health-care bill,” which is now, not a bill, but a law, unfortunately.

‐Does he have to sound so whiny and petulant when he complains about the amount of attention he has been given, and goes over his allotment?

He’s running for president. Presidentiality — is that a coinage? — is key.

‐I have to miss five, six, seven minutes of the debate. No, nature didn’t call. Someone else did, and I needed to talk to her. Have I missed the most important part of the whole show? Probably. If so — forgive.

‐When the candidates ask questions of one another, they give speeches, even rants, with maybe an interrogative at the end. Just like the White House press corps (when a Republican is in office, for sure).

‐Every time Romney is asked to defend RomneyCare as distinct from ObamaCare, he gives the same answer, a detailed-yet-succinct answer, and he gives it very well and convincingly. You know, the other candidates are going to have to get off this, sooner or later. It’s just not working for them.

‐The commercials with kids giving little scripted speeches about politics and policy? Nauseating, absolutely nauseating. I find it grotesque when adults put words into kids’ mouths — words the kids may not even understand. I don’t even like it when adults place signs in the hands of children at rallies. If an adult has something to say, he should say it himself, and leave the kids out of it.

‐Actually, this is a pretty substantive, thoughtful debate, this Republican debate. Lots of meat.

‐Did Perry mean to be kind of a Johnny One Note tonight, that note being energy independence? Was that a plan?

‐Someone brought up the Simpson-Bowles commission (or Bowles-Simpson, if you prefer). I spent months knocking it, or pooh-poohing it. I thought it would be nothing but a VAT commission. Then they came out with a good, tough, sensible report. Which the president, whose commission it was, promptly and totally ignored.

I was wrong, Obama was wronger.

‐In past weeks and months, Romney has referred to the economy as his “wheelhouse.” This is his time, he says, because the issue is the economy, which is his “wheelhouse” (or in his wheelhouse). That was certainly apparent in the debate, which he all but owned.

‐No doubt, he can stand toe to toe with Obama next year, in the debates, if he gets the nomination. He may even appear the more experienced and presidential.

‐He has the habit — not a good one, I think — of smiling at the end of an answer, no matter what he is saying. He could be talking about something grim, and on comes that smile, like clockwork.

Reminds me of a longstanding complaint about bel canto music: When the words or situation is grim or nightmarish, the music can be happy, peppy, up. Disorienting.

‐Assume that Bachmann fails to get the nomination. Does she run for Congress again in 2012? Or has she seen the lights of Paree, meaning she is in no mood to go back to D.C. for committeework?

‐Karen Tumulty goes after Rick Perry very hard about his relations with businesses in Texas. She is way, way over-adversarial. She won’t let Perry talk. Perry is too polite to bull through her.

Plus, it all seems like small-ball — like gubernatorial stuff. Couldn’t the reporter use her time, and our time, better?

Plus, Texas has an enviable record, in this atrocious national economy. Is it really worth denying that? Is that not straining at gnats? Come on.

And when Tumulty talks, she reminds me of the classic coinage by the first Mayor Daley: “insinuendo.”

‐Newt for consigliere!

‐Mitt Romney is positively champing at the bit to be president. He wants to be sworn in now. He is ready.

‐Three cheers — eight cheers — a thousand cheers — for Rick Santorum for bringing in the cultural aspect of poverty. The spiritual aspect, I would say. Is the root of poverty entirely material? Oh, no, not by a long shot.

Nice goin’, Santorum. Great.

‐Herman Cain says, “I was po’ before I was poor.” Beautiful.

I can’t help thinking of an old southern friend of mine. Like Cain, he was from Georgia — Waycross. He made a distinction between “ugly” and “oogly.” “Jay, she’s not just ugly, she’s oogly.”

Sorry, that wasn’t very nice. But I’m smiling at the memory.

‐Has anyone ever commented on this? Romney has a radio voice. A smooth, practiced one.

‐Did he really mean to say that President Obama doesn’t desire America to be the strongest nation in the world? Anyway, he said it.

And I’m out. Thanks for joining me, friends, and for putting up with this mightily peculiar list.




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