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SEPTEMBER 7, 2011
9:47 P.M. ET: The debate abruptly ends. On balance, a reasonably good debate. Again, the number of candidates minimizes our ability to focus on specific answers. As the months go on, I assume we'll get dropouts, possibly Herman Cain and Rick Santorum. (Possibly.) If I had to choose a winner, I'd say again...Mitt Romney. He was forceful, more forceful than he's been, and he came prepared. Rick Perry, who was the object of most of the attention, held his own. But whether he did more is an open question. At times he seemed a bit distant from the subjects. However, his last statement, about fighting crime, hit it out of the park. I'd say that, for the Republican base alone, he probably came out ahead tonight, but that base, alone, cannot elect a president. And that is at the heart of Perry's problem – his appeal, or lack of it, to the people in the middle. In that department, Romney triumphed.
A few words about Michele Bachmann: She's been overshadowed by Rick Perry, and both appeal to the same constituency. But we must give her credit for remaining in the race, and giving a number of thoughtful, articulate answers. She was less ideological tonight than on other occasions, and that's to the good. I don't think she can come from behind to win the nomination, but she has an important future if she grows, comes up with innovative proposals, and prepares as well as she has.
9:42 P.M. ET: They're varying the subjects in these last few minutes of the debate. Romney is discussing taxes and economic growth, and he speaks with authority. He knows his stuff. Now the question goes to Perry, about the number of people executed in Texas while he's been governor. He gives the best answer he's given during the debate, and presents a passionate defense of the death penalty. Biggest applause line of the night, and here Perry shines. Whether you agree with him or not on the death penalty, his passion comes through and he came alive.
9:35 P.M. ET: Huntsman on, asked a real zinger about comments by his campaign manager that some of the GOP candidates are cranks. He's evasive on that. Perry is now asked about climate change. He's being pressed to give details. He's vague on climate change, but gives some good points about what's been done in Texas on clean air. He does make the point that the science of climate change is unsettled.
9:22 P.M. ET: They're back. Perry is discussing the debt deal. Proposes a balanced budget amendment. Huntsman is now discussing foreign policy, and sounds a bit isolationist. Romney on. Again, I like the way he hits issues in the center. He gives specific reasons for things. I think he'd do well against Obama in debate. Perry on. Discussing defense. He's rambling a bit. He is giving some credit to Obama on security issues, which is appropriate. But again, I think the contrast with Romney's specifics is telling. Now Bachmann is on, with a firm statement denouncing Obama's foreign policy. She also warns about some of the "rebels" in the Mideast. We don't really know them.
9:14 P.M. ET: They're discussing immigration. And Rick Perry, who should have shone in this segment, is largely forgotten. He missed a golden opportunity, as a border-state governor, to really speak with authority and present a program. But he missed it. They're on the second commercial break right now. Again, I think Romney comes out first, and maybe his lead has increased a bit since the last break. But Perry does hold his own, and the others have all acquitted themselves reasonably well.
9:10 P.M. ET: Perry is now discussing immigration. As Texas governor, he knows the subject. But Romney is now outdistancing him with, again, specific proposals. This campaign may come down to a battle between these two men. As of now, Romney comes out better. He is simply better prepared.
9:05 P.M. ET: Perry is now being asked about some poor educational statistics from his state. He answers well, pointing out some accomplishments, and noting the first-class corporations that move to Texas, and which require an educated work force. Good answer, if incomplete. Newt is now talking about education. Again, I point out that he is full of ideas. Sadly, I don't think he has much traction. He is often seen as a man of the past, which is unfair.
9:00 P.M. ET: As always happens in these debates, the session starts to drift. They're talking about whether FEMA should be abolished. I didn't know this was a big issue.
8:54 P.M. ET: Ron Paul is now attacking his fellow Texan, Rick Perry. Now Bachmann is up. She's slipping back into philosophy, rather than practicality, and I have to concede it's a weakness. Perry is being attacked for a mandatory innoculation program for girls that he established in Texas. He answers well, but doesn't add anything in particular. Perry's failure to come up with any specific ideas is beginning to hurt him. He certainly knew that everyone would be attacking him, and that the spotlight would be on him. He speaks well, he's personable, he gives some good answers. But where's the vision?
8:48 P.M. ET: Debate resumes. Perry is asked about his negative views on Social Security, views that can sink him in an election. He continues his attack on the way Social Security is run. But again, he has no proposals. He's in trouble on Social Security. It's obvious. Now Romney is up, also on Social Security. He goes after Perry on Perry's view that states should be able to opt out of the program. Romney wins this going away. Perry is now replying, but he has no ideas for improving Social Security. This is a critical moment in the debate, and Perry loses it, badly.
8:45 P.M. ET: There's now a tribute to Ronald Reagan, and I have to concede it's tasteful and well done. Brian Williams deserves credit for this.
8:39 P.M. ET: There's some back and forth right now among the candidates. This segment of the debate is now over. They've gone to a commercial: Summing up: The candidates are all doing surprisingly well. Focus is on Perry because it's his first time on the presidential debate stage. He's doing well. He's impressive. But he does not have detailed answers on what he intends to do as president. His game tonight focuses on knocking everyone else. He'll have to bring some balance to his campaign. Who's winning? I'd give the edge to Romney because of his knowledge and detail, but it's only an edge.
8:35 P.M. ET: Bachmann up, makes a brief but good statement on energy. Now Huntsman is up again, and I think is the surprise candidate this evening. He's good, and informed.
8:31 P.M. ET: Perry up. Replies to a question about povery by pointing out that the best antidote to poverty is a strong economy. Good answer, but lacking in specifics. Romney up, discussing energy, and again he is more detailed than Perry. He's impressive. At least he has proposals. Between the two men, we have a real, and worthy race.
8:26 P.M. ET: Huntsman discusses health care. I must say he's very impressive tonight, having apparently woken up. He may help himself tonight with his forceful performance, but he's way, way behind. Now Bachmann is up, and again she has that commanding presence. You can't take it away from her. And now Newt launches an attack on the press, charging the questioners with trying to get the participants to fight each other. I don't care for the press either, but I think attacking the press won't do much good tonight.
8:23 P.M. ET: Perry takes a hit from a question pointing out that Texas ranks dead last in people covered by health insurance. This is the kind of question that can damage him in a general election campaign. He does not answer well. He repeats what "the people of Texas" do not want, but really doesn't prescribe a program. Republicans must come up with visionary proposals. It can't just be negative.
8:20 P.M. ET: Perry just zinged Romney on Romneycare. Romney responds by pledging to overturn Obamacare through executive action – giving every state an opt-out, which is legal. Again, both men are speaking well, but I'd give Romney the edge on details.
8:18 P.M. ET: Gingrich up. He won't get the nomination, but he is always full of ideas, and his denunciation of Obama's leftist policies is right on.
8:15 P.M. ET: Michele Bachmann is up at the plate. I have to say, she gives terrific answers. She's human, and yet very well informed. You have to give her credit for coming so well informed. So far, by the way, none of the candidates has stumbled. Ron Paul is on now. Look, I really think the guy is on the fringes.
8:10 P.M. ET: Rick Santorum is on. Look, he won't get the nomination, and, frankly, as good a guy as he is, he's a distraction. There are only two realistic candidates up there – Romney and Perry. Maybe Bachmann, on the outside. Now Herman Cain is up. Again, great guy, good answer, but I sense that people are waiting for what they saw in the opening minutes – Perry vs. Romney. And now Huntsman is up. Speaking well, surprisingly so, since his campaign has tanked. But the party doesn't really trust him with conservative values.
8:06 P.M. ET: Second question is to Romney, also with a kind of sneering attitude by Williams. Is his business experience that great? Romney, like Perry, answers well. Very solid. There's now a back-and-forth between Perry and Romney, and, I'm happy to say, both men are doing well. Presidential. Knowledgeable.
8:03 PM. ET: Rick Perry gets the first question from the very liberal anchorman, Brian Williams. He's asked about some poor economic statistics in Texas. He responds superbly, strongly, with details, correcting the mistakes in the Williams question. Right away Perry is telling us he won't be blindsided by the MSM. Good opening.
September 7, 2011 Permalink
WE ARE ABOUT TO START OUR LIVE BLOGGING OF THE REPUBLICAN DEBATE FROM THE REAGAN LIBRARY, WHICH STARTS WITHIN SECONDS. STAY WITH US.
GOOD STUFF – AT 12:33 P.M. ET: We're always happy to alert readers to good things in which they can participate. I recently received an e-mail from a chap named Mike Caputo, who's Public Insight Network Senior Analyst for American Public Media in Minnesota. You may have read about his efforts recently at Power Line.
I subsequently had a conversation with Mr. Caputo, and was impressed with the work he and his organization are doing. They provide a means by which members of the electorate can have their voices heard in the mainstream media, something of particular interest to conservatives. Let me quote directly from Mr. Caputo's e-mail:
COMMENT: This is legit, and you might consider participating. Every voice heard is important. It is critical that reporters and editors hear from as many voters as possible, and actually get to know the electorate.
The late Charles Kuralt, who did the "On the Road" series for CBS, once told me that what impressed him most in all his travels around the U.S. was how well informed Americans are. He was correct. Americans are well informed, and they do listen. To prove that, notice how tracking polls change instantly as soon as anything significant happens in a political campaign. Well informed citizens should, in turn, inform the media, which can use citizen help.
September 7, 2011 Permalink
WILL REPUBLICANS GO TOO FAR? – AT 10:23 A.M. ET: We regularly discuss here the conflict between ideology and electability that is going on inside both parties. There are the true believers, then there are the believers, also true, who'd like a little power occasionally.
Conservative writer Ramesh Ponnuru has written a very thoughtful column on this for Bloomberg. It's worth mulling what he says, because blowing next year's election would be a sin for the Republican Party, and possibly lead to the party's splitting into endlessly warring factions. From Bloomberg:
COMMENT: That is good reasoning. Ronald Reagan showed us that a candidate can be both committed and electable at the same time, but Reagan did it by tempering his ideology with an ability to work with those who disagree.
Reagan's political role model was Franklin Roosevelt, who very skillfully presented himself as a man who wanted to strengthen American institutions, not overthrow them. He would borrow programs from, say, the socialist movement, but keep that movement at a distance. (And please remember that, when abortion was a very hot issue, Ronald Reagan never addressed a pro-life rally in person. He always did it by phone.)
Ironically, Obama succeeded, cynically, in convincing a good part of the electorate that he was a centrist when he ran in 2008, a practical man interested in practical solutions.
America is an idealistic nation, but not an ideological one. Ideology means far less here than in Europe, where it's golden. There's an old line about a socialist saying, "I know it works in practice, but does it work in theory?" Americans just want to know that it works. The successful presidential candidate will understand that.
September 7, 2011 Permalink
ATTACK IN INDIA – AT 9:39 A.M. ET: We are regularly reminded that terrorism continues as a major threat around the world. There has been a new attack in India. It was simple in its execution, the kind of attack American authorities dread could come here. From AP, via Fox:
COMMENT: Some terror experts have wondered out loud why we haven't seen attacks of this kind in the United States. There have, of course, been attempts – the attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit, the attempt to set off a bomb in Times Square in New York – but they and other plots have failed. Is it our good security? Is it luck? Is it the possibility that Al Qaeda and its allies only want to plan large attacks?
It's probably a combination of all three. But the Department of Homeland Security has been warning about lone-wolf attacks, attacks carried out by individuals who may have been radicalized on the internet. For the lone wolf, the "bomb in the suitcase" scenario is ideal.
Eternal vigilance, my friends. Eternal vigilance.
September 7, 2011 Permalink
IS THAT CASH OR CREDIT? – AT 9:10 A.M. ET: Tomorrow, one day after the Republican debate at the Reagan Library, President Obama will unveil his jobs plan to Congress. We are being told by the usual informed sources that it comes with a whopping price tag:
More on the White House plan:
COMMENT: The question is whether this is too little, too late. Obama will have been in office three years in January. Yet, only now does he seem to be getting serious about the unemployment crisis.
The bottom line here is that the United States is in trouble. It will only get out of trouble if our economy grows dramatically. No combination of budget cuts in Washington and federal programs can begin to compare with a growing economy as a solution. But our economy is not growing, and one reason has got to be the loss of confidence in the president's leadership and the uncertainly that brings. Even modest private citizens are fearful about making plans, buying large items or taking risks because of their fear of the future. Companies are reluctant to hire workers, fearing their profits may be cut in a declining economy.
It took World War II finally to get us out of the Great Depression. I hope we don't have to go that route again.
September 7, 2011 Permalink
SHOWDOWN AT THE REAGAN CORRAL – AT 8:35 A.M. ET: The nationally televised Republican debte from the Reagan Library is on for tonight. At last report, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, the current frontrunner, will attend, having skipped a debate over the weekend to supervise his state's response to wildfires.
This will be the first presidential debate for Perry. Eyes will be on him. Will he be able to solidify his frontrunner status, or will he simply become the flavor of the month? Will he show he can be a national candidate. Or will he show – and many in the GOP fear this – that he's strictly Texas?
Eyes will also be on Mitt Romney, former frontrunner trying to win back his status after the initial Perry surge. Will he attack Perry, quoting from Perry's own words to indict the Texas governor as an outside-the-mainstream extremist who could never get elected?
The jury tonight will be that great body of voters in the center who decide presidential elections. Romney's problem is that, while he can appeal to that center, he fails to excite the much more conservative base. Perry's problem is that he can excite the base, but may repel the center.
There will, of course, be tributes to Reagan flowing tonight. But some analysts point out that Reagan might not be able to win the Republican nomination today. A skilled politician and two-term governor of California, he might easily be seen as a compromiser, not ideologically acceptable to the Tea Party and its allies.
While Obama's poll numbers are down, his numbers against individual Republican candidates remain quite respectable. Beating him will not be easy. I wish many in the Republican Party would start to understand that, and plan accordingly.
Of course, we'll be watching the debate carefully, and live blogging throughout.
September 7, 2011 Permalink
SEPTEMBER 6, 2011
SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 11:24 P.M. ET:
NEW VIDEO GAME – A new video game makes its entry into the marketplace, heralding a fresh era of political civility. It's called "Tea Party Zombies Must Die." The object of the deeply intellectual game is to destroy zombies who look like conservative figures, like Sarah Palin or Fox News analyst Brit Hume. You can also shoot up the headquarters of Fox News. We await comment on this from leading Democrats, the White House, and all those who lectured conservatives after the Tucson shootings.
CALIFORNIA, HERE I...NO, I'M NOT COMIN' – A new poll shows California voters increasingly downcast about the direction of the country. At the same time, Californians of both parties are hardening their positions and urging leaders not to compromise their ideological positions. Sounds like Student Government to me. And despite the mess in Washington, Obama has the highest approval rating (50%) of any politician included in the poll. Wasn't this the state where Ronald Reagan was governor? Or was that another galaxy?
SHAKEUP – The Michele Bachmann campaign staff is being shaken up. Ed Rollins, a respected Republican figure, is leaving his position in charge of Bachmann's day-to-day campaigning, but will stay on as an adviser. His deputy is leaving altogether. Rollins conceded what everyone already knows, that Bachmann hasn't been able to capitalize on her win in the Iowa straw poll because of Rick Perry's entry into the race. Rollins also concedes that Bachmann is now the "third candidate" behind the leading pair of Romney and Perry. Unless Perry self-destructs, I suspect Bachmann will not rise higher.
WHICH COUNTRY WILL BE THE LUCKY WINNER? – London's Telegraph reports that intensive talks are underway to allow Colonel Gaddafi to leave Libya and seek asylum in a sympathetic country. (Or, of course, he could be made a professor at the Kennedy School of Government. Can you imagine the party invitations?) The Telegraph further reports that convoys carrying gold, cash and members of Gaddafi's inner circle traveled across the Libyan border in Niger earlier today, setting off the diplomatic scramble to resolve Gaddafi's housing problems.
September 6, 2011 Permalink
MILITARY GENIUS AT WORK – AT 8:57 P.M. ET: President Obama has apparently blindsided his generals by approving a drastic reduction in American forces in Iraq. There is substantial anger in the military. From Fox:
COMMENT: Some pundits are speculating that domestic politics controlled this decision, a desire not to offend the leeft wing of the Democratic Party, which wants all American troops out of Iraq. (Sometimes I think they want all American troops out of America as well.)
That's probably correct. There doesn't seem to be any legitimate military reason for such a drastic cut, but this will make the Obama base happy, and give them something to cheer about.
September 6, 2011 Permalink
NOT MUCH OPTIMISM ON THE STREET – AT 10:33 A.M. ET: Wall Street isn't exactly saluting the return from Labor Day. Right now the Dow is down 272 points, or 2.42%. The S&P 500 is in even worse shape, down 2.63%.
Wall Street, of course, is only an indicator. It isn't the real Main Street economy, but it does create a psychological effect on the nation that can be stimulating or devastating. In the current case, there's plenty of devastation to go around. Aside from domestic problems, the markets are looking at the mess in Europe, where decades of welfare state spending have led to a debt crisis.
There is also a mindset building that our serious economic woes will go on for years, and that results are not guaranteed. The only way we'll get out of our doldrums is through an expanding economy, and you can't have an expanding economy when no one has any confidence, and few are willing to take any risks.
Community organizers tend not to be very good at dealing with stuff like this.
September 6, 2011 Permalink
SNIPPET OF THE DAY – AT 10:10 A.M. ET:
Yeah, but if he dies for Gadhafi the bank won't let him withdraw his money because he couldn't present his photo I.D.. I guess he didn't figure that. Only in the Mideast do people pine for the likes of Gadhafi. And the rebel movements, which have our initial sympathy, have often turned out to be stalking horses for governments worse than the ones they're seeking to replace. Great place, the Mideast. Make sure to have a return ticket.
BUMBLING BARACK – AT 9:22 A.M. ET: What is it about Obama? He was such a smooth candidate in 2008, but, as president, he messes up every time he opens his mouth.
He's going to give a major speech about jobs on Thursday to a joint session of Congress. That's a big deal in Washington. How often, as a friend of mine asks, does a president address Congress outside the State of the Union message? So, you would think the president would try to build support from both sides of the aisle before the speech, demonstrating that, as president, he's above petty politics.
But Barack Obama has never been above petty politics. He is petty politics. The Chicago clubhouse all the way. Consider his warm embrace of the Republican Party in a speech just yesterday, as the Washington Post reports:
Oh, that's just swell. Question the patriotism of Republicans in Congress. That ought to get them applauding when the president makes his grand entrance. If a Republican president said that about Dems in Congress he'd, within five seconds, be labeled a modern-day McCarthyite.
And get this for nerve:
He's already questioned the Republicans' patriotism, and now he says he'll present a plan to win their support. Does anyone read these presidential speeches before they're delivered?
And the real message:
Translated into English: We know we can't get anything through Congress, so we're going to do as much through executive action as possible.
We'll be fair, of course, and wait to evaluate the president's ideas after his Thursday speech. But one would think that, if he actually had any economic ideas, they'd have surfaced long before now.
While the speech is anticipated, there is virtually no confidence that I can detect that the president will actually say anything significant. The economy will react appropriately.
September 6, 2011 Permalink
THE TRUTH EMERGES – AT 9:10 A.M. ET: When General David Petraeus was asked to leave his four-star rank, put on civvies and become director of Central Intelligence, many Petraeus watchers were baffled. Was this a promotion? An inspired naming of a successful general to an agency that often needs better guidance...or were the Obamans trying to shut Petraeus up?
If you checked (c), the shut-up option, you may well be right, according to reporting out today. From The Politico:
Look, let's also add the bottom line here: The White House fears Petraeus, who could have resigned from the Army and sought the GOP presidential nomination, which he probably would have gotten. He'd then be seen as a modern-day Eisenhower, who ended the Republican Party's 20-year absence from the White House when he won election in 1952.
COMMENT: I'm just speculating, but I suspect that Petraeus is heading for oblivion. The Dems are not going to let this man breathe, let alone think. They don't like military men to begin with, and they know that Petraeus is the most popular soldier of his time.
I wonder how long Petraeus will last before he realizes he's been sidelined.
September 6, 2011 Permalink
WHERE OBAMA STANDS – AT 8:14 A.M. ET: The political season unofficially starts today, and the president of the United States is, frankly, in poor political shape. From the Washington Post:
I wonder what the other third are thinking. Are we on course?
However, there is no room for relaxation on our side:
COMMENT: This is more or less consistent with other polls we've seen. Indeed, Gallup has had approval of the president as low as 38%.
However, most polls also show Mr. Obama either tied with or defeating potential Republican rivals. Public discontent with a president doesn't always lead to his defeat...if the public thinks the other side is worse. The Republican Party remains unpopular, and its candidate for president must rise above that. An NBC/Wall /Street Journal poll out today reports:
The headache is that this generic guy, whom everyone writes about, doesn't exist. If he does exist, I wish he'd get his campaign together.
September 6, 2011 Permalink
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism."
"Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred. "
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