I have some scribbles for you on the latest GOP presidential debate, held in Sioux City, Iowa. Nothing major, nothing all-encompassing — just a few scribbles.
‐When Rick Perry is introduced, he gives the crowd a thumbs-up. Cheesy. But kind of likable.
‐Ron Paul’s supporters give him a huge cheer of welcome. Virtually a roar. He makes an unlikely gladiator, doesn’t he?
‐Newt Gingrich says “Merry Christmas.” And he says “Christmas” again! He is a radical, just as people say.
Is “Merry Christmas” legal in Sioux City? Must be.
‐His comparison of himself to Reagan in 1980 — too risky, not electable — is very canny. Brilliant, actually.
‐Um, President Obama will not agree to seven three-hour debates. He is not a moron.
‐When Gingrich ticks off his record as a conservative, you think, “Yup — that’s a pretty impressive conservative record.” Newt always says he “created” the Republican majority that emerged in 1994. He did not create it. He helped it along, big-time.
‐Holy moly, is Megyn Kelly pretty. I guess people don’t watch Fox News for nothing.
Sorry if I seem surprised. I’m a little behind in my TV watching. When I was a TV-watcher, Deborah Norville was the Megyn Kelly. Deborah Norville was — amazing.
‐Don’t think I’ve ever seen Megyn — Megan, Meghan — spelled that way.
‐Ron Paul says that “probably anybody up here can beat Obama.” So not true.
‐Paul describes his foreign policy as “pro-American.” Oh, is that what it is? Then Ronald Reagan’s, which was the antithesis of Paul’s, must have been anti-American.
‐Santorum says, if I have heard him correctly, that we need a nominee who is “strong in his political life and in his personal life.” Shot at Newt?
‐Romney is funny when he says he missed his chance at investing in JetBlue. This is the airline founded by David Neeleman, an excellent and, as far as I know, highly admirable Mormon businessman.
‐Michele Bachmann, as I have said before, is a swell-looking Scandinavian, a belle of the Upper Midwest. But her makeup is unflattering on this night — Tammy Faye-ish.
‐Remember, I’m an opinion journalist, scribbling on the Internet. I’m not Walter Cronkite, circa 1971. I can talk like this.
‐Bachmann says she’s “the first Republican woman out of the state of Minnesota.” Well, that’s cutting it awfully fine, isn’t it?
Do you know what I mean? You’re not gonna make me stop and elaborate in Impromptus, are you?
‐I like that she states, forthrightly, “I’m 55 years old.” Confidence.
‐Perry makes me smile when he says that he has come to enjoy the debates. He’s all eager about them. And he looks forward to debating Obama in the fall. “I’ll get there early”!
‐Not unshrewdly, he hitches his wagon to Tim Tebow’s star. He wants to be the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucus.
Goofy but nice.
‐He has a certain joy in politics, which not everybody does. (Remember the Hump and the “politics of joy”?)
‐Huntsman, it seems, is positioning himself as the serious candidate: no BS, no ingratiation, America is in a deep, horrible hole, and we have to climb our way out.
‐Did he really say “screwed,” as in what Americans are getting?
‐Santorum, I believe, talked about “free markets and free people.” Makes me think of the original Republican slogan, in 1856: “Free labor, free land, free men.”
‐Newt describes Obama as a “Saul Alinsky radical.” You don’t have to convince me, but what about the country at large? And do they know it’s a bad thing?
‐Paul talks about the welfare party and the warfare party, i.e., the Democrats and the Republicans. Neat little demagogue, Ron Paul.
‐Romney says that Obama hasn’t lived in the “real world” of the private sector. True, pretty much. And Romney is very good when he talks about job-creation and entrepreneurship.
But it might serve him, politically, to say something about a safety net (which was Reagan’s term). Capitalism scares the bejesus out of people. It really does, whether they admit it or not.
There’s a reason these socialists get elected over and over, you know.
‐Gingrich, when he talks about his record on housing, reminds me of Jack Kemp. Kemp talked incessantly about “realizing the dream of home ownership.”
Of course, when people buy houses they can’t afford . . .
‐Bachmann is crisp, very crisp.
‐When Michele or someone else says something bad about Newt, Newt gives the moderator a look and a grin that says, “Okay, my turn in a minute . . .”
‐What Newt says about forming a consensus, when going about a big change in American life? Makes perfect sense. That’s one reason many people resent ObamaCare: It was rammed through when the country was split.
‐Paul says that, if we’re going to have the big federal government we have, he’s going to look out for his district. Makes sense, to me. That was one of Bill Buckley’s responses when he was asked about Firing Line and PBS: If we’re going to have PBS, there might as well be one conservative voice on it, not a liberal monopoly.
‐When Paul talks about “policing their lifestyle,” not sure what he means. Sodomy laws? Abortion? Rules against baggy pants?
‐Neil Cavuto asks Perry a gotcha question about Texas — something to do with Perry’s record as ag commissioner.
You know, in my observation, you can’t really “get” Perry on Texas. He knows the subject better than the questioners, the would-be getters.
‐So, Perry thinks the U.S. Congress should meet as infrequently as the Texas legislature? Every other year? Come on, Rick.
I don’t believe he really thinks that. I think it just came out of his mouth.
‐Huntsman says that he invited dissidents to meet him at the American embassy in Beijing. That’s good. Unfortunately, a lot of dissidents aren’t available to come to the embassy.
Where’s Gao Zhisheng, for instance? He’s been “disappeared” for a long time. Dead? Does he wish he were?
One of the greatest men alive. Or dead.
‐Huntsman keeps saying that the U.S.-China relationship will be the most important of the 21st century. How the hell does he know that?
Did people in 1911 really know about the 20th century? Come on, Huntsman!
‐Romney is at his best when he’s asked what sectors the jobs will come in. He says he is not a central planner. People operating in a free market will determine these things.
What was he supposed to say, “Plastics,” like the guy in The Graduate?
‐Megyn Kelly looks like she wants to school Newt Gingrich in the Constitution — balance of powers and all that. I’m thinking, “Big mistake. Newt is not really schoolable in the Constitution.”
In what he says about the courts and their proper place in American society? Right as rain (to borrow a British expression). For years, ignoramuses have said, “The courts have spoken,” as though that were the end of the story. Sometimes you hear, “Well, the courts haven’t ruled on that yet.” So how could a person know what to think?
Often, candidates or officeholders, when asked about an issue, will say, “According to the courts . . .” Okay, but what do you think?
Lots of people swear an oath to uphold the Constitution. Not just judges.
Tell ’em, Newtsky!
‐People try to school Romney on his record in Massachusetts. They never really get it done. He knows better than they.
‐I have known many people in sports, politics, the arts, and other fields. Not sure I’ve ever come across a worse bragger than Rick Santorum. I have a feeling he’s unaware of what he does.
‐Gingrich refers to Scalia as “the most intellectual” justice. That’s a compliment, right?
‐This is Paul on Iran, basically: Just relax. Don’t worry. Don’t get your knickers in a twist. Nukes, schmukes. America’s a bunch of warmongers. None of our business.
‐I recall a story about a survivor of Auschwitz. After the war, he was asked what he had learned over the past several years. He said, “When someone says he intends to kill you, believe him.”
‐Paul on al-Qaeda: Quit provoking them! If we leave ’em alone, they’ll leave us alone.
It is irksome enough when Michael Moore or Noam Chomsky talks this way. A candidate for the Republican nomination for president?
‐He says that we have “declared war on 1.2 billion Muslims.” Who has?
Again, Paul says what the hard and crazy Left says. That’s fine for the hard and crazy Left. Do we need this talk in the Republican primaries?
‐When Romney talks about defense and security, I think of a phrase from Reagan days: “Weakness is provocative.” I also think of a slogan: “Peace Through Strength.” Romney doesn’t use any of these words. But he gets his points across.
‐On the subject of Iraq, Bachmann makes perfect sense. I didn’t quite realize she was that kind of politician. I knew she knew the tax code. But her Iraq spiel was impressive.
‐When she says “fools and knaves” — a common phrase — I think she means “fools and naïfs.”
‐I should say, chillen, that I’m working without a transcript.
‐Newt is a big talker, and a grandiose talker, sure. A little gassy, like Obama. Maybe a lot gassy. But, you know? He’s also a straight talker.
Recently, he gave us some straight talk — very rare straight talk — on the Arab-Israeli conflict. And at tonight’s debate, he gives us some straight talk on the U.N. Some gloriously straight talk. He’s not hyper-critical; he’s just — accurate.
Tell it, Newt!
‐Governor Perry’s pronunciation of Israel is priceless. Comes off “Izrul.”
‐Unless I’m mistaken, every candidate is asked a question about foreign policy except Romney.
‐Cavuto goes back to Perry with another gotcha thing about Texas. But Perry can’t really be got.
Remember where Palin was at her most assured, in ’08? You couldn’t mess with her on Alaska. At all.
Stands to reason . . .
‐Perry mentions getting Washington out of governors’ hair. I’m thinking, “He has a tremendous amount of hair to be gotten out of.” The guy makes Romney look like Yul Brynner (not quite).
‐Romney has gone for, what, an hour without a question?
‐Tonight, Santorum seems chummy with Perry on the question of border security. Not so long ago, he was accusing the governor of Texas of being “weak on national sovereignty.”
‐Romney is mentioning Rudy Giuliani, and favorably! Funny — ’cause Giuliani is all over the media bashing Mitt and boosting Newt.
‐Chris Wallace really grills Romney on his social-issue flip-flops, or emphases, or evolutions, or whatever we wish to say. Romney parries okay. Just okay.
‐Bachmann breaks in to say, “I’m a serious candidate. My facts are accurate.” That sounds a little pathetic — the “I’m a serious candidate.” If you have to say it, are you?
But her anger is kind of interesting. Kind of effective. Almost arresting. She doesn’t want to be dissed. She’s ticked at Newt, for giving her the back of his hand.
A little righteous indignation in a candidate — again, not at all bad.
‐There they go again — someone brings up Ronald Reagan’s “Eleventh Commandment,” to wit, “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.”
I wish someone would say, “Oh, you mean the guy who challenged a sitting Republican president for the nomination? Brought it down to the wire? That guy?”
‐Gingrich says that any member of the current Republican field would make a better president than Obama. Whether he means that about Paul, I doubt. Whether he would place the nation’s security in the hands of Ron Paul, I doubt.
‐When Gingrich is good, he’s very good. Thrilling. A thrilling politician. But there’s the erraticism, the “baggage,” etc., etc. Romney will probably never be thrilling. But is he trustworthy, solid, capable? Seems so.