Another Night, Another Debate
I was suspicious about this debate when I heard Tammy Bruce play audio on Thursday of Romney telling his supporters who couldn’t get tickets to shove their way in, so I wasn’t surprised to hear rumors as the debate wore on that the audience was stacked with Romney supporters. The scuttlebutt is that 900 additional Romney supporters were brought in by the Florida Republican party, but I’m looking for confirmation. It seems that the Florida GOP did control 900 of the 1200 seats, so if they wanted to rig it for Romney, they certainly could have, but as of yet, I have been unable to confirm that it was disproportionately given to Romney supporters, but the fact that the Florida party controlled them means it could have been.
If I had to pick a “winner,” I would say Rick Santorum, but that’s provisional, because I think while he definitely made some excellent points, and put Romney in the position of making an ass of himself, I also suspect most people didn’t catch one thing he said that would actually damn him in my book, and theirs if they thought about it. If I had to say who was most honest in this debate, I would say Ron Paul, followed by Gingrich and Santorum in a tie for second, with Romney getting the evening’s Pinochio award.
You might ask why I would give Mitt Romney such a distinction, but it has to do with what he said about his vote in 1992. In the primary that year, he voted for Paul Tsongas, in the Democrat primary, so I’m a bit confused about what he said during this debate. The other significant issue was his use of the whole Gingrich “ghetto” business in relation to language. What Newt had been discussing was that he didn’t want to see people locked into ghettos defined by language barriers because they had not learned English. It had nothing whatever to do with the Spanish language, or those who speak it, as Romney and his ad attempted to imply. These two lies were the worst among lesser ones, but definitely noteworthy.
Ron Paul was steady, and CNN did not let him answer the Israel/Palestine question. Had he answered it, he might have gotten a black eye, and that wouldn’t have served CNN’s purposes. As usual, he was right about fiscal matters, and monetary issues also. The problem is that he only touched on his defense and foreign policy stances, and this made him seem much more acceptable than usual. That was the point.
Rick Santorum had a pretty good debate, and his exchange with Romney surely put the former Massachusetts governor in a defensive position, so much so that he said “there’s no reason to be angry.” Frankly, there’s every reason to be angry about the way in which Romney conducted himself during that series, because he lied repeatedly. More than this, however, the manner in which he said this to Santorum was more condescending than usual, and that’s quite a bit. Santorum was spot-on to point out that Romney, particularly would have difficulty contrasting himself with Obama, and that to nominate Romney is to give up the issue of Obamacare.
Unfortunately, there are two areas in which I think Santorum failed. Let me put the last first, and that was in his answer to the final question. When he spent time attacking Gingrich and Romney as a part of his answer, it came across as desperate, and a little non-responsive, because while what he was saying was largely true of the other two, the question was about why he could beat Obama. Instead, he squandered part of his time telling us why the other two could not.
The other issue I had with Santorum, and the one I think damns him in my view, was the discussion of taxes, when he effectively endorsed a “progressive” income tax, albeit with slightly lower rates. I don’t think many people noticed this, but what it implies is that he would do little or nothing to rethink the entire question of taxes. I think that’s a shame, because what it came across as being was an appeal to class envy, or at least pandering in that vein.
Santorum did well in answering other questions, but this one would hurt him if most people noticed, which I doubt. Had a not said that, and if he had focused on his own virtues and electability with that last question, I’d be prepared to call him the winner unreservedly. As it is, I’ll call him the winner, but I’m putting an asterisk next to his name.
Gingrich was flat. I don’t think he bombed, but I don’t think he shined. I also noticed that the way the questions were structured, it was clear CNN wanted to set up certain responses, and they got them. The problem is that in the FoxNews debate of Monday last week, it wasn’t a bunch of leftists asking the questions. In this debate, a leftist asked every question, except those from the audience, but clearly those had been screened and selected for the same reason. Let me explain.
This debate was rigged. Romney’s one “shining moment” was supposed to be his moment equal to last Thursday’s “Newt moment,” but it looked contrived and rehearsed, which I am now certain it had been. He’ll get away with it, of course, because there will be no proof, but it was served to him on a golden platter, and of course he hit it well. The driving idea behind the management of this debate was to keep Gingrich off balance, and to push Santorum and Paul up a little, hopefully scavenging some support from Gingrich. At the same time, Romney was supposed to find some separation, and in a world wherein most of the audience won’t have noticed his two biggest lies, he will have prevailed.
Factually, of course, Gingrich is right about the immigration question, and I’m surprised when he didn’t capitalize when Romney made the best point in favor of what Gingrich had said: This isn’t about eleven million grandparents. That’s true, but if grandparents are the thing on which Romney hangs his criticism of Gingrich on this issue, didn’t he actually demonstrate why Newt’s proposal is not altogether unreasonable? In other words, it’s a small segment of a greater issue, so tormenting Gingrich on behalf of the point seems preposterous. More, Gingrich is right: Grandparents will not “self-deport.” Their families here legally will care for them and shield them from the law, along with their churches, as Gingrich made plain. It’s true. In this sense, Gingrich was being honest where Romney was being disingenuous at best.
Romney did make one criticism that is true, about candidates promising things to voters in various regions to get their support. That’s true, but the problem is of course that Romney has done it too, so the value of his truthfulness on the one point is negated by the fact that he is guilty also.
All in all, I think it was one of the poorer debates, in large part because it was managed in order to obtain one predictable outcome: Newt Gingrich was not to be allowed to prevail.