Politics & Policy

The GOP Quartet, Once More

Prior to the Jacksonville debate, Jan. 26, 2012

A couple words about last night’s Republican presidential debate in Florida? I’ll wade in . . .

‐CNN plays this pounding rock music as the candidates enter. I wonder what Ron Paul, the septuagenarian, in particular thinks about it.

‐Mitt, standing on the stage, applauds Newt as he enters. Would Newt do the same for him?

#ad#‐Newt’s partisans moo “Newt! Newt!” Reminds me of “Booooooog.” (That’s what they said for Boog Powell, the Baltimore Oriole slugger. Sounded like booing, needless to say.)

‐A college chamber choir sings the national anthem — in C, which is very unusual. (The anthem is usually sung in B flat.) Mitt and Rick Santorum sing along. Paul and Newt do not.

‐Rick introduces his mother, announcing that she’s 93. I think it’s disgusting to publicize your mother’s age. But most Americans eat it up, I think. It’s very modern. Part of the Oprahfied America.

I hope there are still mothers who, if their sons stated their age in public, would slap them.

‐Every politician should speak English as fluidly as Newt does. Would help them a lot.

‐Speaking of English: Newt always says that it should be “the official language of government.” An interesting formulation, and concept. I wonder how many Americans would agree — probably a vast majority (not that vast majorities are necessarily right, of course).

‐Newt has called Mitt anti-immigrant — and Mitt kills him on it, absolutely kills him. Rhetorical smackdowns are not supposed to be a Romney specialty, but the Mittster clearly knows how to execute one.

‐Tonight, audience applause is working for Romney, not Gingrich. Tonight, it’s Newt, not Mitt, who has to wait for someone else’s applause to subside, before speaking.

‐Newt has accused Mitt of wanting to go around nabbing and deporting grandmothers. Mitt says, “You know, our problem is not 11 million grandmothers.”

One of the lines of the campaign.

‐Whereas Newt calls for English to be “the official language of government,” Romney calls for it to be “the official language of the United States.” Not sure what that means.

‐One of the things Ron Paul doesn’t understand is that there is no “trading with Cuba.” Many people don’t understand that. There is trading with the dictatorship, only. You cannot deal with any individual Cubans. You provide the dictatorship with dollars or euros, and the dictatorship in turn dispenses to individual Cubans a few worthless pesos.

And the dictatorship needs the dollars and euros, of course, as oxygen. This money is what keeps them going, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

‐When Ron Paul says that we are imposing our views on other countries, what he means is that we’re supporting democracy — i.e., the right of people to decide their government and their future for themselves. The only imposition is done by the tyrants.

When Paul says that we are dictating to other countries, what he means is that we favor the right of people not to be dictated to.

When Paul says that we are bullying other countries, what he means is that we’re standing up for the right of people not to be bullied — by the likes of the Castro brothers, Chávez, and so on.

When Paul talks the way he does, I wish it were he, not men and women such as Oscar Biscet and Marta Beatriz Roque, who had to live under Communist dictatorship.

‐Paul hopes for what he calls “friendship with Cuba.” What he means, of course, is friendship with the dictatorship. Because Americans have long been the best friends Cubans have (with the Czechs in second place behind us, probably).

This is one of Lincoln Diaz-Balart’s pet peeves about Obama: Our current president, perhaps unique among American presidents, says “Cuba” when he means the Castro dictatorship. Cuba is not the dictatorship: Cuba is Biscet, and Roque, and everybody.

‐What Santorum says about Obama and Honduras — dead right, absolutely right.

‐Mitt didn’t know about an ad that he has run against Newt? He isn’t prepared to defend that ad? A terrible blunder, a fundamental mistake — barely excusable, I think.

‐Listening to the back-and-forth about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, I think of something that Sarah Palin said in the 2008 vice-presidential debate: Yes, government was at fault in the housing crisis and collapse. But don’t individual Americans bear responsibility too? Didn’t our moms and dads teach us to live within our means?

A comment like that is one of the things that make Palin an extraordinary politician (not that many give her credit for it).

‐I believe that, if Mitt is the nominee, Republicans will rally around him big-time — and the angst of the primaries will be largely forgotten.

‐People say, “What if Ron Paul goes third-party, or independent? Won’t that hurt the Republicans terribly?” I give you a related question: What if Newt fails to get the nomination and is so offended, so affronted, so aggrieved, that he goes third-party or independent?


‐Newt springs an attack on Mitt: He, Mitt, has profited from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I think, “How’s Mitt gonna answer this?” And he answers it smashingly: by smashing Newt’s own dealings with Fannie and Freddie — not just as a consultant, but as an investor.


When Mitt’s talking about blind trusts, stocks, bonds, and the like, I’m thinking, “You know, the man knows money — and it’s risky for another candidate to tangle with him on the subject.”

‐Newt says that to “compare my investments with [Romney’s] is like comparing a tiny mouse with a giant elephant.” You know what I love? That Mitt laughingly agrees with this.

‐The last time I heard about blind trusts was when the first Bush was running. His critics said that he had “put his manhood in a blind trust.”

The idea of Bush as not an hombre was always stupid. I mean, I think the guy lied about his age to get into the war so he could fight the Japanese.


#page#‐Rick says, “I stood out, I stood tall.” Frankly, I can hardly comment. I guess I don’t understand why people think it’s okay — even admirable — to talk this way. But they do.

‐Wolf Blitzer asks Newt about Romney’s tax returns. And Newt says, “This is a nonsense question.” Whoa, come again? Wasn’t Newt yammering, two seconds ago, about how Romney had to release his tax returns, or he was a total fraud? And, once the returns were released, wasn’t he lambasting what was in those returns?

So strange.

Romney proceeds to kick the tar out of him on the question.

‐Mitt: “What you’ve accomplished in your life shouldn’t be seen as a detriment, it should be seen as an asset to help America.”

Nice one.

#ad#‐Often, when others are speaking, Newt has a look of disdain, puzzlement, mockery, superiority. I understand (I hate to tell you). But he would do well to disguise some of that.

‐Newt talks about financial incentives in discovery and adventure — for example, “Lindbergh flew to Paris for a $25,000 prize.”

I also think of the contest to determine longitude — to figure out a way for a ship at sea to determine longitude. Wasn’t that a wonderful book? (I’m referring, as you know, to Dava Sobel’s 1995 little blockbuster Longitude.)

‐If Mitt is the nominee, I think he should adopt Newt’s idea of offering prizes — government prizes — for the achievement of certain objectives.

Newt has good ideas, you know, along with the others.

‐He says that Americans should be dominant in space, not the Chinese. He says that we should not leave the field to Beijing. I agree. Why can’t Mitt? Simply for the sake of being anti-Newt, and making all his space ideas — not just a few of them — seem, well, spacey?

‐Mitt could at least nod to the idea that there’s a little romance in space — and that that is not a terrible, damnable thing.

‐Says the Newtster, “It is possible to do the right things in the right order to make this a bigger, richer, more exciting country. You don’t just have to be cheap everywhere. You can actually have priorities to get things done.”

Right on, baby.

‐I love what Romney says about health insurance: that it’s time, at long last, to move it away from the employer. There should be a proper market, an array of options.

‐I don’t love, at all, that he says to an unemployed woman, “If I’m president, . . . I’ll get you back to work.” (She is an audience member who has asked a question.) I don’t see how you can promise such a thing.

‐Have you noticed that, when referring to Massachusetts, Romney often says “our state,” without naming that state?

‐Santorum always seems to be shouting — to be shouting at me, to be shouting at the world. Through much of this debate, he is shouty. Some people appreciate this as “passion.” Even as “authenticity.”

Me, I think it’s weird and off-putting.

It’s one thing for Bo Schembechler or Woody Hayes to shout all the time. (Can you tell what conference I grew up in?) But a presidential candidate?

‐I know there are people who think that Obamacare and Romneycare are the same, and that Romney can’t possibly oppose Obamacare. I must confess, I don’t understand those people. Santorum can shout all he wants, it still doesn’t add up, to me.

‐Romney says, “Rick, I make enough mistakes in what I say, not for you to add more mistakes to what I say.”

Not the smoothest formulation ever, but entirely charming, I think.

‐A questioner says, “We have many qualified Hispanic leaders. Which of our Hispanic leaders would you consider to serve in your cabinet?”

I wish a candidate would answer, “I won’t judge by race or ethnicity.” But that is too much to ask for.

‐Mitt says that the experience of being governor made him more conservative. I have a memory: That’s exactly what Pete du Pont told me, about becoming a conservative. He said that he wasn’t conservative when he took that office. But what he learned there made him a conservative, and rapidly.

‐Talking about the Castros and their “puppets,” Santorum mentions Chávez, Morales, and Noriega. For this last, I think he means Ortega. A forgivable slip.

‐A Palestinian-American Republican asks a question: “How would a Republican administration help bring peace to Palestine and Israel when most candidates barely recognize the existence of Palestine or its people?”

Mitt gives his standard pro-Israel answer: “We will not have an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally, Israel.” But I wish he would just nod in the questioner’s direction — and acknowledge the immense suffering of the Palestinians, thanks mainly to their vicious leadership, and the refusal of that leadership to make peace.

But he doesn’t — he doesn’t nod at all. I think this is impolitic, unwise, and even rude.

‐Mitt mispronounces “Netanyahu” every time — he says “Natanyahu.” He also needs help with “Diaz-Balart” and “Ros-Lehtinen.”

‐Newt on the Arab-Israeli crisis: Perfect. That’s all I can say. Perfect.

Hell, it may be his best subject.

‐He pledges to move the American embassy to Jerusalem — which pretty much every presidential candidate pledges. They’ve done so for eons. Don’t never happen.

‐Puerto Rican statehood! It was Jerry Ford’s cause, during his lameduck months.

‐Newt’s answer on religion and the presidency — very, very good. Every president should spend time on his knees (if only figuratively).

Again I’m reminded of President Ford. Rick Santorum says, “If our president believes that rights come to us from the state, everything government gives you, it can take away. The role of the government is to protect rights that cannot be taken away.”

Jerry (my fellow Michigander): “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”

‐I like Romney’s closing statement a whole lot, a statement that cites his experience in business and government: “I will use the experience of my life to get America right.”

To get America right — fingers crossed, y’all. I am not one who believes that 2013-17 constitutes our last chance. But I do believe that, you know: We need to get movin’.



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