Ron Paul is talking with Anderson Cooper about the stark contrast between his position on bringing all troops home from foreign engagements and the less dramatic opinions of the other candidates. “All great nations usually go down when they spread themselves too thin around the world,” said Paul to Cooper. “Financially, it’s a lot easier to go after this overseas spending than to go after health care.” Ron Paul said in comparing this year’s debate versus those he was involved in in 2008, “There was a difference. The reactions were different. The country now is definitely moving in the direction of less government and a different foreign policy.”
On the role of faith in public life, Paul said, “I think faith has something to do with the people. …You can’t teach people how to be moral.” Paul underscored the 1st Amendment religious freedom tenet. Is Christianity under attack? asked Cooper? “I think, to some degree,” responded Ron Paul. Paul said, “You can’t legislate morality…the law has to have a moral fiber to it. That’s how I think it should apply. It’d be nice if we could remake Afghanistan, but the blowback is too big.”
In speaking with John King, David Gergen and Gloria Borger, Ron Paul underscored that there is a retreat from positions of the previous campaign debates on foreign policy. Gergen said what struck him was how much more conservative the Republican Party has become and that they are “pretty far to the right.”
The exchange with Herman Cain (former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza) about hiring Muslims came up. Cain: “A lot of Muslims are not totally dedicated to this country,” was attributed to Herman Cain. He said he would not be comfortable with appointing Muslims to his Cabinet. Newt Gingrich said he “wanted to go out on a limb here” in demanding an oath of fealty for those who would serve in his Administration.
Andy Card, former White House Chief of Staff for President Bush, said that he felt Herman Cain was trying to dig himself out of a hole on the entire Muslim line of questioning. Cain appeared to be in a hole all night, as far as I could determine. Gergen said that Truman had loyalty tests and it was considered a bad blot on his record and led to McCarthyism. Cornell Belcher, CNN correspondent, said he was “not comfortable with him (Cain).” Independent and moderate voters would not be comfortable with this answer about “loyalty tests.”
I wasn’t comfortable with any of the candidates onstage at the Republican debates. Those who performed best were Mitt Romney, the front-runner and Michelle Bachmann, the former Senator from Minnesota. Although Bachmann can sound as bigoted as they come, this night she announced that, if elected, she wouldn’t let her personal beliefs intrude on state’s rights, especially in regards to abortion and/or its banning.
President Obama took a beating all night long. “He’s failed the American people “said Romney of Obama. Bachmann said, “His report card right now has a big old ‘F.’” Robert Gibbs, former Press Secretary for Obama, speaking afterwards on behalf of the Administration, said, “If you wanted to hear the economic problems that set us up for our current problems, that is exactly what these candidates talked about tonight…We had a massive economic recessions that crested in September of 2008.” Gibbs said, “We have to understand what got us into this mess and we have to make sure we don’t hire somebody to get us right back into this mess.” Gibbs commented on the reforms imposed on the financial institutions and how the Republican candidates want to un-do those financial regulations, as well as slash Medicare and Social Security.
King said, “It’s either a choice or a referendum.” If it’s a choice, said moderator King, then many Democrats are saying, “Where is he? Why isn’t he out there?” Gibbs responded that the American public wants Obama out there talking to CEO’s and creating more jobs. “It took us a while to get into this mess and it’s going to take us a while to get out,” Gibbs said. He responded to a question from Gloria Borger, CNN Chief Political Analyst, “In May, the polling (CNN) showed that public blamed Bush more than Obama for the mess we’re in.” “I’m not suggesting that this election is going to be about blaming Bush,” said Gibbs as the spokesperson for the White House, “but the policies you heard tonight were the same ones that got us into this mess. …I think we have to understand that the American people are hurting every day. We have family members that are out of work. We have neighbors that are out of work. ..We’re going to have bits and sparks to this procedure,” defended Gibbs.
David Gergen: “The question becomes, ‘When is the President going to give us a plan to deal with the slowing of the economy?’” Gibbs: “I’m not setting this up to be a referendum on George W. Bush, but, first and foremost, we have to continue to do the things like tax cuts for small businesses.” Does Obama have more legislation on the table? asked Gergen. Gibbs responded that the administration needs to structure this carefully. (He used, as an example that it can’t be set up so that a business that fired Anderson Cooper on Monday could then hire him back on Tuesday to get a tax credit.)
“Are there things that we can continue to do to spur the economy?” repeated Gibbs back to Gergen, saying, as an answer, “We’ve got to increase job training. Some of the jobs that went away we know aren’t coming back.”
From a veteran political junkie’s point of view, I would say that nobody laid a glove on Romney, who looked presidential, and Rick Santorum revealed even more unpleasant things about his arch-conservative personality. (Lately, there have been articles about Mrs. Santorum’s abortion history, but the Santorums are extremely conservative on the topic, even in cases of rape or incest, even though she, herself, basically has been revealed as having had such a procedure.
Herman Cain just came off as extraneous to the debate and, although Pawlenty had a chance to take shots at Romney (which he had just done on a national news program), in person, mano a mano, he demurred and remained polite. Bachmann did better than anticipated. Ron Paul, as usual, provided some common sense mixed with some comedy. The arched eyebrows of Romney as he stood next to Ron Paul watching him were priceless. [Surely this will resurface on “Saturday Night Live.”]
The debate about Sharia Law seemed a ridiculous topic, given the true problems this nation faces. In dial-testing done in real time, the Opera House Republicans and Independents in Rochester, New Hampshire became heated on the topic of right to work laws. Pawlenty’s remarks on having the “right to work” were popular. The biggest reaction early on was to that topic. Citizens in Ohio and Wisconsin, where teachers, firefighters and other union employees are under attack (and the Governor of Ohio is a spawn of Fox News) might feel less enthused. The country as a whole might be less enthused about the dismantling of the programs and unions they have counted on all their lives.
Michelle Bachmann reintroduced herself to the American public, forcefully mentioning her 5 children (and 23 foster children) and bringing up her expertise as a tax lawyer. Andy Card (former White House aide to Bush) said, of Bachmann’s performance: “I thought Michele Bachmann did a very good job tonight.” Bachmann scored points on Obama’s failure to raise the debt ceiling, when a Senator. The Tea Party-ers will like her, said the commentators. “She came across as very electable tonight,” said one talking head. Cooper wondered what Sarah Palin might have been thinking about Michele Bachmann while watching her this night. Gloria Borger felt she was “the positive candidate” and moved out of Sarah Palin’s shadow.
John King feels Bachmann’s challenge is whether she can move out of her identity as a Tea Party candidate. David Gergen felt she spoke in pithy, interesting sentences and she introduced her biography (repeatedly….Bachmann is a native of Waterloo, Iowa, so who knows how she’ll play in the Iowa caucuses). Gloria Borger thought Bachmann was more impressive than Rick Santorum, the other social conservative. Biggest winners were Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann, for me. Winners were declared to be:
51% Romney, Bachmann, 21%, 9% Pawlenty by Republicans.
35% Romney, 26% Bachmann and 12% Pawlenty by Democrats.
Cornell Blecher, CNN African American pundit, said that Michele Bachmann will be one of the last candidates standing. Why would Pawlenty start an attack and then not follow through? all commentators asked, in regards to the health care bill Romney initiated in Massachusetts when Governor. The consensus: Romney was the winner; Pawlenty missed an opportunity; Bachmann – most underrated.
The entire Republican debate revealed 7 people who oppose Obama’s Health Care bill, are anti-gay, oppose gay marriage and abortion rights, would like to restore “Don’t ask/don’t tell” and are very, very conservative. Cain and Paul seem to have no shot, but Paul is always amusing and a straight-shooter. Cain, a former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, seemed to have no business being on the stage with the other career politicians, but, then, prior to the debate, one would have said that of Michele Bachmann.