According to a new Gallup poll Americans are pretty much split evenly on whether or not we should repeal the new healthcare law. But as with any other government program, Americans are only against it in the abstract. Americans hate the mandate, largely because it’s called a mandate, but love parts of the bill that end pre-existing condition clauses. Of course, you can’t really have a system of private insurance that allows anybody to get a plan at any time without a mandate, so we’re stuck with the good and the bad.
The healthcare law is a mixed bag. It doesn’t go as far as many wanted it to go – something like single payer, preferably. It changes rather than expands the role of government in providing access to healthcare. It’s inefficient in some ways; in other ways it improves upon the status quo. One thing that sort of irks me about it is how politics forces us to make do with something as ad hoc as all of this. We have Medicaid – administered by the states – and Medicare – administered by the federal government – and now the ACA – administered by the states – and rather than just save tons of money and increase efficiencies enormously by combining all these programs into one federal healthcare program, we have to leave this expensive patchwork in place and then just build upon it (and the patchwork is much worse once you think about how the private insurance system is designed, and the entrenched inefficiencies baked into healthcare writ large including hideously opaque prices…)
In any case, take away the parts that people dislike about the bill and of course people suddenly love it. Talk about it being struck down, and most Americans still imagine that their favorite parts will remain.
If you took away all the fearmongering surrounding the bill, they’d probably be fine with it also. But a steady diet of death panels and threats about tax-hikes has everyone much more frightened than they would otherwise be about a bill that basically just opens up non-employer-based insurance exchanges so that people have just a tiny bit more access to reliable healthcare than they did before. It’s neither a panacea or a government take over. It’s just sort of a step in the right direction and a step in the wrong direction all at the same time, and better – certainly – than doing nothing.
The ACA hurts Obama in swing states, even if people like the bill in pieces; but as James Joyner notes, if Romney gets the GOP nod it may be a moot point anyways.
A new study of the GOP debates finds that Ron Paul has attacked all his Republican rivals save one: Mitt Romney. In no debate so far has Paul attacked Romney, but he’s gone after each of the other candidates. He’s also run ads attacking Romney’s rivals in states where Romney looked shaky. Why is this?
I don’t have a definite answer on this, of course, but it seems to me that Paul is attempting to subvert the playing field – divide and conquer by contrasting himself with the Not-Romney candidates rather than with Romney. Perhaps he assumes that people just know he’s 180 degrees the opposite of Romney and he wants voters to understand that in fact the others, like Santorum and Gingrich, are closer to Romney than they are to Paul when it comes to policy positions. At the same time he can force them to defend themselves against Romney and Paul, and not draw the ire of the Romney campaign. This leaves him on the offensive more and on the defensive less which costs less money and frees Paul up to keep getting his message out without having to deflect the big money that comes with any Romney attack.
In other words, Paul is killing at least two birds with one stone by pitting himself against nobody of consequence and distinguishing himself as the Not-Not-Not-Romney (or something) without risking any big Romney campaign backlash – yet.
It’s another example of Paul’s political acumen, and the cleverness of the people he’s surrounded himself with. A Paul victory may still be a long shot, but you have to admire the political maneuvering here. Of course, it may not be enough. If Paul helps knock out Santorum or Gingrich, it might make the remaining Not-Romney stronger, hurting Paul. We’ll see. I doubt very much that we’re looking at Paul position himself for a VP slot on the Romney ticket – as hilarious as that would be.
Also, does anybody else wish we’d gotten a chance to see Ron Paul debate Sarah Palin?
Why, it’s a little bit like saying that the whole separation of Church and State thing we have baked into our constitution is out-dated, like Rick Santorum said on This Week:
I don’t believe in an America where the separation between church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and visions of our country.
This is stupid on so many levels.
Obviously the church is just one of many special interest groups that really does have some say over matters of state. That’s simply a reality of representative government, whether we like it or not. But more importantly I really don’t think that Rick Santorum understands what he’s saying here, and the implications for freedom of religion.
It’s almost as though social conservatives think that religion and government were kept separate because effete liberal elitists wanted a hedonistic society unfettered by the moral constraints provided by religious institutions. But nothing could be further from the truth. It was the Baptists and Thomas Jefferson who really lobbied hard for the initial cleaving. They saw the political power of the Anglican Church as a real threat to religious freedom and decided that the best way to preserve that freedom was to keep government out of church business, and vice versa.
Fast-forward a few hundred years and you have guys like Santorum who apparently don’t understand the first thing about the point of keeping the two institutions a healthy distance apart from one another. This is either straight-up opportunism dressed in religious drag or it’s one of the dumbest things to have fled a politician’s mouth in, well, days.
“This is not a political war at all,” Rick Santorum told Catholic students at Ave Maria college. “This is not a cultural war. This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country – the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age. There is no one else to go after other than the United States and that has been the case now for almost two hundred years, once America’s preeminence was sown by our great Founding Fathers.”
Santorum’s 12th century rhetoric is par for the course when it comes to the conservative movement during culture war season. Blending religiosity and politics is as old as either, but one still can’t help but cringe a little when you listen to the former Senator from Pennsylvania and his alleyway doomsday sermons. Perhaps it’s because we’ve had such a long bout of fiscal conservatism that the emergence of good old fashioned culture war trash-talking is a shock to the system.
So I won’t talk about the culture wars. I’m more interested in the right’s incoherence than in its issue-arsenal at the moment.
What I don’t understand – what just baffles me endlessly – are these dueling notions of America as the greatest, most super-fantastic nation on Earth and America as an immoral, decayed society under assault from all sides. We are God’s people but we’re also so vulnerable to Satan himself that we need a super-hero, super-holy president like Rick Santorum to save us.
The cult of American exceptionalism is, perhaps unsurprisingly, comprised by the same people who make up the cult of American decline. There’s an insecurity about it that I think shines a little light onto the conservative movement and the Republican Party. The pretense of toughness; the rah-rah-rah nationalism; the sense of victimization, of being endlessly put-upon. These are all forms within the language of American conservatism, or at least mainstream movement conservatism, that give shape to the broader dialogue on the right.
I don’t know if Foster Friess, the billionaire supporter of Rick Santorum, is representative of all of Santorum’s supporters, but I get the feeling he is. Which is great, because if Santorum wins the nomination, that means that all Barack Obama has to do is role tape of this sort of bad crazy and he’s sure to win:
“Here we have millions of our fellow Americans unemployed. We have jihadist camps being set up in Latin America, which Rick has been warning about, and people seem to be so preoccupied with sex. I think it says something about our culture,” Friess said. “We maybe need a massive therapy session so we can concentrate on what the real issues are.”
He continued: “On this contraceptive thing, my Gosh it’s such [sic] inexpensive. You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”
Friess’s ties to Santorum go back a few years. He donated to Santorum’s miserable 2006 campaign to no avail. I think his money is going down the drain this time around, too, but it’s his money and if he’d rather spend it trying to prop up a losing candidate with seriously antiquated ideas about sexual equality, he’s welcome to it.
For that matter, the culture wars represent a losing battle for the right, regardless of the money they burn to wage them. It’s a question of dying ideas and the dying demographics who hold them. I’m all for keeping an eye to tradition, and making sure that as society evolves we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, but part of evolution is to cut off limbs. If we’re to really grow as a culture and a people, we have to get past the notion that somehow women are inferior or that they shouldn’t have control over their own destiny. And we need to get beyond the idea that sex is icky, too.
For conservatives or people like me who actually do value a certain brand of conservatism, this means keeping an eye on how to run a properly limited government – not extend ourselves so far overseas, not fall too deep into debt waging wars and locking up nonviolent offenders. It means modesty instead of hubris. There is much to be said for a conservatism of doubt and a conservatism that urges caution and skepticism toward power. That’s not on display on the right anymore, but it isn’t to say that it couldn’t be. Certainly Ron Paul strikes me as the most tempermentally conservative presidential candidate we’ve seen come out of the GOP in a long time.
George Romney opposed Barry Goldwater's extreme rhetoric
This exchange between Mitt Romney’s father – then Michigan governor George Romney – and Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee at the time, is fascinating.
Actually, it’s especially fascinating given that Ron Paul is in the race against Romney-the-younger this time around, and Paul shares many of Goldwater’s more unfortunate views on the Civil Rights Act. He also has some of the same dubious associations.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think Ron Paul comes off as a heck of a lot less crazy than someone like Santorum, and leaps and bounds more honest than Romney, but the Ron Paul newsletters raise many of the same concerns about Paul’s past choices as George Romney raises about some of Goldwater’s associations.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney displays none of his father’s courage or frankness, none of his honesty whatsoever. The younger Romney comes across as a fake, through and through.
It’s too bad, really. Reading George Romney one does realize how badly this country needs two grown-up parties and not one grown-up party and one party throwing a perpetual temper tantrum.
At a time when the Republican ticket consisted of a man who opposed the Civil Rights Act, George Romney was saying things like: “The assassination of Martin Luther King is a great national tragedy. At a time when we need aggressive nonviolent leadership to peacefully achieve equal rights, equal opportunities and equal responsibilities for all, his leadership will be grievously missed.” George Romney even marched in civil rights marches.
Of course, these days we have Newt Gingrich saying that the first black president is the “food-stamp president” and that black people are all dependent on government largess. And we have Rick Santorum saying that women really ought to be governed by the laws of Christ rather than the laws of America when it comes to their own bodies.
Wouldn’t it be nice if George Romney’s son could speak out against this sort of nonsense the way his father spoke out against similar nonsense several decades ago?
[I]t turns out that Ron Paul has another reason to be smiling ever time he announces that he “lost” a straw poll. His supporters are being elected as delegates in bigger numbers than the straw poll totals indicate.
It works like this: Romney, Santorum and Gingrich supporters vote in the straw poll, then leave. Paul supporters vote in the poll and stay around for the county business meeting to be elected delegates. Because those delegates are completely loyal to Paul, not to the straw poll results, Paul, not Romney, Gingrich or Santorum, might actually be winning the caucuses. So, who the hell knows how many delegates any Republican has at this point.
Paul has a very organized campaign. His people know what they’re doing. They aren’t messing around. The media may not take Paul seriously, but Paul and his people are deadly serious, whether or not Paul actually thinks he can win.
If he takes enough delegates, it’s going to be a really interesting nomination this year. I have no doubt that Santorum or Gingrich will eventually come around and support Romney if push comes to shove. But Paul’s supporters are another bunch entirely.
Not-Romney is one candidate with two heads, one of which is very large.
Nate Silver thinks the GOP primary is going to be a long, protracted race, noting that it bears a “resemblance to something like the 1984 Democratic contest or the 1976 Republican race.” Mondale won in 1984, and Ford beat Reagan in 1976, but both primaries were close calls, and neither Mondale nor Ford inspired their respective parties.
Still, I’m not sure either one had as abysmal an outlook as presumed front-runner Mitt Romney does in this race:
Meanwhile, the two not-Romney candidates – Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum – are nipping at Romney’s heels making sure that neither one has any real chance at stealing the nomination.
And of course Ron Paul has his base of support which will likely neither grow nor dwindle in the coming months.
“I think that with $17 million purchasing some ads and some false narrative it was very, very difficult for Newt Gingrich and the other candidates to counter that bombardment of advertisements,” Palin said Tuesday night on Fox News. Yes, Palin has been popping up on Facebook and the conservative media circuit again, touting the former speaker and slamming Mitt Romney at every available opportunity.
The Grizzly wants a piece of the action, apparently, having fallen so far out of the spotlight. Romney’s big win in Florida is just another excuse from the half-term former Alaskan governor to insert herself in the political circus once again. What’s in it for Palin?
The same thing that was always in it for her: the spotlight and the buckets of cash on the other side. Still, if you’d told me three years ago that Palin would be talking up Newt Gingrich I would have laughed or cried or something of that nature. I certainly wouldn’t have believed you. Palin’s star was rising long after Gingrich’s had already come crashing to its fiery demise.
Then again, she was never going to be president saying things like this:
“Whomever it is to allow for the process to continue … I still say competition breeds success for the U.S.,” Palin said. “As it stands obviously it’s Romney and Newt are closest to be the front-running candidate, and so I would continue to vote for whoever it is to allow the process, and at this point it looks like it still is Newt. You have to kind of continue to level the playing field with your vote.”
Now this is Palinesque – the Sarah Palin we knew and loved those many years ago, at the height of her infamy. I’m not sure what she’s saying here but I sure do get a kick out of hearing her say it.
Romney won tonight, and I suspect that Palin picked the losing team on purpose. She plays the underdog well. This way she can be in that seat regardless of whether its Romney or Obama in the White House next year. The perpetual underdog, forever whining at the margins. She’s shrewd enough to see what Newt’s campaign represents – the resurgent grassroots conservatism that is propping it up; the remnants of the anti-establishment Tea Party, or at least that sentiment. It’s a sentiment of loss – of preservation against all odds.
See, Palin doesn’t want to win. She doesn’t even want her guy to win or her cause to win. There’s more to gain from losing. That’s her entire shtick, and she knows it.
The political circus gets a bad wrap. Maybe it shouldn't.
The political circus may have finally come into its own this primary season.
We’ve all heard that phrase before of course. Last September the president used it in his jobs speech when he urged congress to “stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy.”
H.L. Mencken once wrote that “A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in.” Elections are inherently competitive, and for those who care about the outcomes of our democratic process, the stakes are compelling – entertaining even. But it’s hard to recall a time when the sport of politics has been so aptly described as a political circus. A sports game? Sure. A circus – 2012 is already taking the cake.
Indeed, for reasons partly manufactured and partly inevitable no election year has felt so much like a season of reality television. Think about it: reality-TV star and real-estate mogul Donald Trump flirted with a presidential run early on. Once-action-movie-star Chuck Norris has waffled between endorsements of Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich. Herman Cain joined Stephen Colbert for a mock rally in South Carolina. The lines between entertainment and politics are only getting more blurry as the race goes on.
The Fine Line Between Entertainment And Politics
In some ways, this has played right into the hands of politicians who can capitalize on the entertainment factor to shore up support. Newt Gingrich in particular has relied on audience participation to gain momentum in the debates. In South Carolina, Newt’s surge in the polls followed two rowdy debate performances in which the former speaker was able to galvanize the conservative audience with his angry denunciations of the liberal media, turning critical questions from debate moderators into attacks on the media.
After a subdued performance in the first of the Florida debates, in which the crowd was prevented from cheering and clapping by debate rules, Gingrich threatened to sit out the next debate if audience participation was kept to a minimum. Likening the silencing of the audience to a stifling of free speech, Gingrich complained that NBC’s decision to keep the crowd quiet was an attempt to clamp down on dissenting opinions.
“I wish in retrospect I’d protested when Brian Williams took them out of it because I think it’s wrong,” Gingrich said on Fox and Friends. “And I think he took them out of it because the media is terrified that the audience is going to side with the candidates against the media, which is what they’ve done in every debate.”
As Aaron Goldstein notes, this is hardly the case of the media attempting to clamp down on free speech. The rules in place at NBC are old ones. “The debate audiences at NBC, CBS and ABC behave like they’re at a tennis match,” he writes. “The audiences at Fox News and CNN are far more expressive and that works to Newt’s advantage. A sedate audience like the one [in the first Florida debate] at NBC doesn’t play to Newt’s strengths.”
"Mitt Romney would only cut the budget this much..."
Newt Gingrich isn’t going to stop, even if Romney beats him bloody in Florida. Don’t get me wrong, the former speaker is finished. He’s not going to topple the party establishment. He doesn’t represent the hope and change he pretends to represent. He’s no transformational figure at all.
The reason the GOP elites dislike Gingrich isn’t because he’s too conservative it’s because he’s a disgrace to the Republican Party. His personal life is an embarrassment and his lobbying for Fannie and Freddie is just one of many toxic items in his record. By comparison, Romney is squeaky clean even with a mini-Obamacare in his past. As far as we know he’s been a faithful husband and father. His Mormonism is problematic, and for some reason his tenure at Bain Capital has him on the defensive, but beyond that his main liability is that people just don’t like him that much. Well when it comes to favorability, Newt scores even worse.
John Heilemann thinks that in spite of all of this, Newt is just crazy enough to keep fighting through the convention:
Pledges to continue the fight unabated in the face of harsh and/or humiliating outcomes are staples of presidential campaigns. And they are also patently meaningless. (Please recall Jon Huntsman’s feigned brio on the night of the New Hampshire primary — and his departure from the race a few days later.) But in Gingrich’s case, he might be serious, so much has he come to despise Romney and the Republican Establishment that has brought down on him a twenty-ton shithammer in Florida, and so convinced is he of his own Churchillian greatness and world-historical destiny.
I suppose this depends largely on whether he can fund a losing campaign or not, in the face of all odds. Andrew Sullivan, no fan of Romney, notes:
I guess I’m biased as I really enjoy a good political bloodbath. And during this campaign, I’ve come to loathe Romney almost as much as his Republican peers do.
But here’s the real question: if Romney builds up a big enough head of steam, he’ll declare victory and withdraw from future debates. Without Romney, no one will be much interested in airing the debates, and no one would watch them even if they were aired. So all three of the also-rans would have to keep up their campaigns even though they weren’t getting regular time to yak on national TV and the press corps was no longer taking the race seriously.
Live blog of the CNN Jacksonville debate is below in reverse chronological order. Excuse the time-stamps. I’m blogging this from Arizona.
This was a boring debate for the most part. No Newt Gingrich feasting on the moderator’s flesh. No pivotal moments where races are won or lost.
Fundamentally, Romney was much better than we’ve seen him in some time. He started out a little sketchy, but rallied early on and got plenty of kidney punches in at Newt.
Both Ron Paul and Rick Santorum sounded more sincere than either Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney. Of course I find most of the things Santorum actually says fairly repulsive, while I find Ron Paul to be a continued breath of fresh air and sanity. Yes, I find most of what Paul says thousands of times saner than what his GOP rivals say. And Paul says a lot of crazy things.
I think he had a “sparkly” performance tonight, as Andrew Sullivan noted during his live-blog. But it’s just not enough. Paul talks about civil liberties, peace, and other issues near and dear to my heart. But the American electorate just isn’t on the same page, and the GOP is on a different planet.
I think if anything, this debate goes to Romney, possibly even shoring up his victory here. Newt wasn’t able to pull off the same red-meat-magic he performed in South Carolina. He seemed defensive, petulant, and insincere. His attempts to preemptively bury the hatchet with Romney and try to team up on The Media fell flat on their face, and Romney was ready and waiting to pounce – which he did quite adeptly.
Santorum may as well bow out. He did fine but he has no momentum. Sticking around is a mistake. Ron Paul has a national network and even if he never leads the pack he can make it for the long haul – which is good, because he can keep the conversations he’s started going. A one-on-one debate with Romney in Virginia could be very interesting. If Newt loses Florida, he may as well stay in for one or two more races I think, but it’s not going to be easy after a Florida loss.
Romney is probably all grins right now. A much-needed comeback for the former governor, if not anything particularly inspiring.
7:59 PM. (Arizona time.) If this was the drinking game I would have had like four or five “fundamental” shots and at least a couple more “Reagan” shots. I’ll need to think of better rules.
The debate is over. My closing thoughts in a moment.
7:57 PM. Suddenly this leaped into my head:
7:54 PM. My timestamps are weird because I’m blogging from Arizona. I’m not going to transpose.
Nice to hear Ron Paul talk about civil liberties a bit. But civil liberties won’t win presidencies, unfortunately. Maybe some day, if we can work together toward that goal.
Romney does seem smooth tonight. Much more polished and maybe even a little personable. But his answer is rambling here on what makes him the better candidate to take on Obama.
7:52 PM. Why doesn’t CNN have ads online between breaks? Missed opportunity.
7:49 PM. I took a ten minute break to tell a story to my daughter before bedtime. Moments like this – telling a story to a four and a half year old in between segments of a Republican debate – remind me what America is really about. It’s not about all of this. It’s not about politics at all. It isn’t about all the things that make all these people so damn angry at liberals or conservatives or whatever. It isn’t even about America.
I totally lost my train of thought here, but you get my point hopefully. We fret about this stuff because it’s like a Soap Opera to us now. So much of our entertainment is derived from politics, even if that entertainment is just to make us feel angry. To feel something.
7:48 PM. Just got back. Thought that Santorum just called the Constitution the “Howl” of America. I have seen the greatest mind of my generation write a long document about the rights of individuals…
7:38 PM. The CNN plant in the audience asks about Israel-Palestine. (Okay, I kid, but c’mon.)
I have a hard time imaging any of these guys negotiating peace in the Middle East. Ron Paul holds views on the region closest to my own, but of course Ron Paul believes we have no business negotiating peace.
Newt is asked about his “invented people” remark and doesn’t really back down. They were “Arab” before he said. Does he honestly not understand what the definition of “Arab” is? Seriously? We are given platitudes about “mutual prosperity” and digs at the political leadership there. I’m waiting for Newt to attack the Israeli media next.
Newt wants to move the embassy to Jerusalem? And Ron Paul is not given a turn.
7:36 PM. “When Fidel Castro leaves this planet…” We demonize our political opponents. But the problems in Cuba go much deeper than Castro. The country won’t miraculously change when Castro is flung to the fiery depths of hell. We need to work to bring these so-called rogue nations into the global economy.
Newt Gingrich is speaking again, but I find him dreadfully dull tonight.
7:34 PM. Ron Paul isn’t going to win this race. More importantly, Ron Paul’s message is going to fall on too many deaf ears. On Cuba, Paul is once again 180 degrees away from his opponents. Common sense on better relationships with Cuba, trade with Cuba, openness. No “jihadist under the bed every night.” I wish Ron Paul could just keep running for president.
Romney wants to avoid Ron Paul’s answer even when pressed by Blitzer. Let’s attack Obama’s policy instead! He will, in the process, ignore Obama’s actual record on this.
7:31 PM. Gingrich is on the defense. Whining and squirming.
Nob Akimoto says my beer blogging is more interesting than the debate. Next time we’ll do a drunk blog. Every time anyone says “fundamentally” take a drink. Every time someone says “Reagan” take a drink. Every time someone says “freedom” take a drink. We’ll come up with more rules.
We’re on to Cuba again now. It’s funny to hear so many people who pretend to advocate free trade so badly misunderstand the problems with our trade policy toward Cuba.
7:28 PM. A question on the Reagan mantle. Like we have to actually put Reagan in the questions. Come on Wolf, they’ll insert Reagan all on their own. Romney manages to be both humble and talk himself up at the same time. He’s got this whole job interview thing down.
7:24 PM. Oh goodness, I thought Newt was going to say “having gotten to know them I think all three of my wives would be great first ladies” but of course he was saying all the wives of the other candidates.
I get the feeling that this debate, unless it changes course very soon, will not change the debate in a, ahem, fundamental way; will not alter the course of the race at all except that Romney may be able to win this thing after all. Gingrich just isn’t doing his thing.
Santorum has a nice little smile when talking about his wife. He sounds more sincere than Romney or Gingrich. He and Paul are certainly more authentic than the other two. Interesting that the least sincere of the candidates is the front-runner, and the second least sincere is nipping at his heals. Ah democracy.
7:23 PM. What a dumb question. We’re asking the candidates to defend their wives? This is all fine for three of the candidates, but if Gingrich answers wrong Callista will eat his heart with a spoon.
7:21 PM. Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale. Malty. I’m on a big hops kick so the IPA is a little better in my book. But this is still a very tasty beer.
7:17 PM. Ron Paul doesn’t name names. He wants people to understand monetary policy. He says Hispanic community should understand a non-interventionist foreign policy. Oh good it’s a break. Beer me.
7:16 PM. Rick Santorum kisses Marco Rubio’s ass from a distance. A very impressive ass-kissing if I do say so myself. What did Newt say? I wasn’t listening. Romney is ready for the answer, naming just about every Hispanic Republican in elected office in America. At least Republicans.
Wolf wants to move on. Santorum wants to hit Romney in the face. Romney wants to smirk. Ron Paul chuckles. He’s sort taking on a prankster shape tonight – almost Puck-ish. He’s the only one who seems like he’s having any fun, that’s for sure.
7:09 PM. I need that second beer in a fundamental and profound way. Going across the house to get the beer may be a grandiose vision that will cost me a minute or two of this riveting debate. But I am fundamentally in favor of getting a top-down beer that I can drink from the bottom-up. Or something.
7:08 PM. Damnit. The beer is gone. The fridge is all the way across the house. What can the candidates do for me to help me get my beer? Eh? Eh?
7:02 PM. Audience member asks about lack of healthcare. Ron Paul shows once again that he understands that the employer-insurance problem, but he only understand part of the problem with healthcare. Yes, subsidies (among many other factors) lead to increased healthcare costs. But what about the other factors? There are other market problems – such as a lack of price transparency – but there’s also the fact that we have a lot more medical care than we used to have back in Paul’s younger days. It would be more expensive regardless. Neither Paul or Gingrich has a good answer on how to actually get to a point where people can afford insurance on their own.
Romney is in uncomfortable territory, but he’s right so far about employer-based insurance coverage. But again, how do we get individuals on their own insurance plans? If we have any pre-existing conditions we can’t get coverage. If we’re too old, too sick, too poor, we can’t get health insurance. Government may have made a hash out of healthcare but there isn’t a clear market way back.
6:59 PM. Roland Dodds in the comments: “I do love that in an election focused on jobs and the economy, we have now spent 5 minutes on moon colonies. Says a lot about the Republican Party.”
My thoughts exactly.
6:58 PM. Romney is talking about firing people again. This must be a favorite of his. Careful, Mitt, you may call back Donald Trump from the dead…
6:53 PM. Newt talks about the inefficiency of NASA. Wants prizes to get private companies into the space race. Gingrich knows his futurism; Romney knows it’s a bad investment. Gingrich tries to make the case that Americans should colonize the moon before the Chinese. Can we rekindle the old magic of the Cold War space race?
Santorum seems to be backing Gingrich’s enthusiasm but takes him down a peg on responsibility when it comes to spending big money on big ideas. Paul wants to send politicians to the moon. Good idea.
6:51 PM. Okay we’re on to the moon colony. I like the idea, honestly, but not the idea of Newt being behind it. This is his opportunity to shine, though. Romney is talking about cost. It’s true – it’s a costly thing to run a space program. But the Space Coasters are thinking about jobs.
6:50 PM. Ron Paul says he’d gladly race anyone on a bike. You can’t campaign with as much vitality as this guy without being in great shape, even in your seventies. Gingrich has nice things to say about Paul’s health.
6:45 PM. Since when is Gingrich an advocate of the flat-tax and the gold standard? Is this a new thing tailored specifically to this election or has Gingrich had these ideas listed out before somewhere?
Santorum is taking a slightly more populist approach. He calls it the Reagan approach.
Ron Paul says he wants to get rid of the 16th amendment. Then he talks about having sympathy with the 99%. He’s the only Occupy Wall Street fan who talks about sound money and a sound currency. It’s sort of wonderful, this Austrian take on income inequality. No reason why libertarians and progressives can’t work toward common goals.
6:41 PM. And….we’re back. On to taxes and tax returns because Blitzer wants everyone to know everything they can possibly know about these guys. Newt gets in his first viper-strike at the media when Blitzer asks about his attacks on Romney. “This is a nonsense question.” Blitzer strikes back, unlike John King, pointing out that Gingrich made the accusation. Good for Blitzer, but the crowd boos. Romney hits Gingrich hard again, saying that it would be nice if Gingrich would stick by what he says in an interview rather than try to dodge the question. Romney is picking Newt apart tonight. Is the speaker’s shtick wearing thin?
6:38 PM. I’m drinking a Founders Centennial IPA for the first part of the debate. Something tells me I will need to resupply very soon. It’s a hoppy, delicious, strong brew.
6:35 PM. Paul gives a clear answer, at least, to the question rather than just slam the other candidates. You know how I can tell he’s not serious about running for president? He’s not nearly interested enough in scoring cheap points against the other guys. He wants to actually answer the questions – a rare quality in a politician and something nobody who is serious about winning ever does.
6:34 PM. Gingrich is comparing investment size. He describes his as a tiny mouse and Romney’s as a giant elephant. Is this a pissing contest? Why yes…it is.
6:31 PM. Gingrich is indignant. Trying to spin his work as a lobbyist for Fannie by pointing out that Romney has investments in Fannie and Freddie. Sort of a big difference, though. Romney hits back by pointing out that Gingrich also has investments in Fannie and Freddie. Gingrich is off his game tonight. No opportunity to slam the media so far.
6:28 PM. Wolf Blitzer changes the subject from South America to housing. A question about phasing out Fannie and Freddie. This is a lovely softball.
6:25 PM. Santorum rises to the occasion. Hitting Obama on Honduras. Says we need to support freedom in South America. Ron Paul has another good answer to American force and arrogance. Santorum pretends like he doesn’t understand the history of American involvement in the region.
6:23 PM. A good answer on South America from Ron Paul. Paul gets very few cheers for promoting trade with Cuba. A Florida crowd, after all. But yes, we should expand free trade to as many South American countries as possible. Paul is forthright and honest as ever on the issue. Get ready for some tough talk on Cuba from the others.
6:21 PM. Now that I have the formatting figured out…so far I think Romney is scoring some points but he seems too outraged. I mean, how dare Gingrich call him anti-immigrant. Gingrich is hardly better, of course, but neither of them sound as hard-line as they have in previous states.
6:12 PM. Sorry, I meant to start this at the opening but between helping with kids, getting a beer, and technical difficulties I’m late to the game. Apparently I’ve been missing some immigration debate. There’s never much debate on this subject – at the moment we’re discussing the utterly absurd topic of “self-deportation.” It’s impossible to have this debate when the premise is so off the mark.
Money is the primary mechanism that parties use to herd voters toward the choices the elites would prefer them to make. The nomination of George W. Bush offers a classic example. Bush and his network had organized so many Republicans to donate so much money that the contest was essentially over well before a vote had been cast. The Bush fund-raising network didn’t involve a handful of billionaires in a room. It required thousands of fairly affluent people working together.
If Gingrich does win, veteran GOP strategists tell CNN to expect pressure on Senate Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders to call key GOP donors and ask them not to contribute to Gingrich’s campaign.
Chait notes that ten years ago “this sort of edict would have suffocated Gingrich. But under the present system, Gingrich can simply have a single extremely wealthy supporter, Sheldon Adelson, write a series of $5 million checks.”
Now I draw a very different conclusion than Chait from this. Here’s Chait:
Conservatives may not care much about the good-government problems that this scenario raises. (I care! Imagine a sitting President trying to make a fair judgment about a policy decision impacting the businessman who single-handedly financed his entire election.) But they may come to care about the problems arising from a system that now allows one very, very rich man with very, very poor political instincts to overturn their own best laid plans.
On the other hand, I’m sort of thrilled to see the duopoly threatened. Our two-party system really is a threat to American democracy. No power bases are more entrenched than the Democratic and Republican parties. Money be damned, if the party is going to unite around Bush in 2000 then McCain’s chances are null and void. In 2012, the rules have changed.
Is this the first crack in the GOP’s thick armor – an even more stunning change of fortune than the Tea Party sweep in 2010? I wrote recently about how Citizens United helped take at least a little power away from traditional media corporations. Is it also weakening the two-party grip on the political system? Could this be the beginning of the end for lesser-of-two-evils democracy in America?
To Chait’s fretting over good government, why should we be more concerned with the influence of one billionaire over the decisions of a hypothetical president Newt Gingrich than with the amassed influence of corporations over the Republican party itself? After all, if Gingrich did anything explicitly to help Sheldon Adelson we’d know about it rather quickly. Everyone would be paying close attention. But the machinations of the Republican party itself and the money which keeps the back-scratching mutual between the party and its benefactors is largely opaque – a perpetual process that, like breathing, we barely notice at all.
Rubio is a charming young congressional freshman and son of Cuban immigrants, is a popular conservative and once-darling of the once-great Tea Party, and he’s taking Romney’s side in the Romney-Gingrich Florida fight:
In a Spanish-language ad airing in Florida paid for by the Gingrich campaign, Mitt Romney is called “the most anti-immigrant candidate.”
Sen. Marco Rubio blasted Newt Gingrich today for describing Romney that way. “This kind of language is more than just unfortunate,” Rubio told the Miami Herald. “It’s inaccurate, inflammatory, and doesn’t belong in this campaign.”
“The truth is that neither of these two men is anti-immigrant,” Rubio added. “Both are pro-legal immigration and both have positive messages that play well in the Hispanic community.”
Rubio has indicated he has no plans to endorse.
No plans to endorse, but this is still picking sides. Rubio would make a smart pick for Romney’s VP for numerous reasons. He’s more reliably conservative than Romney. He’s a good speaker, likable and eloquent. He’s young and good-looking. And he’s a minority who would appeal to that much-alienated Hispanic vote.
Is this his first move to position himself in Romney’s good graces? What happens if Newt wins Florida?
The Republican party has taken a page from The Daily Show’s playbook:
Of course all politicians – or at least most of them – engage in the same sort of repetitive rhetoric. Call it a leftover from the Halcyon days before YouTube mash-ups, when our short memories were enough to shelter politicians from their own talking points.
Times have changed. Our political institutions – and leaders – have not.
Newt Gingrich is threatening to sit out the next debate
Want more proof that Gingrich’s entire shtick is completely dependent on riling up the audience? Look no further:
Mr. Gingrich, a former House speaker, on Tuesday morning threatened not participate in any future debates with audiences that have been instructed to be silent. That was the case on Monday, when Brian Williams of NBC News asked the audience of about 500 people who assembled for a debate in Tampa to hold their applause until the commercial breaks.
In an interview with the morning show “Fox and Friends,” Mr. Gingrich said NBC’s rules amounted to stifling free speech. In what has become a standard line of attack for his anti-establishment campaign, Mr. Gingrich blamed the media for trying to silence a dissenting point of view.
“I wish in retrospect I’d protested when Brian Williams took them out of it because I think it’s wrong,” Mr. Gingrich said. “And I think he took them out of it because the media is terrified that the audience is going to side with the candidates against the media, which is what they’ve done in every debate.”
I don’t blame him for being upset. His extraordinary victory in South Carolina was built on the back of his demagoguery there in the debates. Newt managed to whip up the crowd’s anger and frustration into a frothy mix of, er, well fervor. Fast-forward to the last Florida debate and Newt was off his game. No whooping or cheering from the audience. No opening to stick it to Brian Williams. And the former speaker fell on his face, taking blow after blow from Romney.
Could Newt actually sit out the next debate? I don’t buy it. It’s a lot of sound and fury from a man who expects such a threat will move mountains. And perhaps it will. The networks want to put on a good show. This is reality television at its very best. Why not let the crowd run wild?
Mitch Daniels gave the 2012 State of the Union GOP response.
Mitch Daniels actually gave a pretty decent SOTU response tonight. None of Jindal’s tragic, loping performance, though that’s a low bar to cross. Perhaps I was too quick earlier to dismiss the Indiana governor. His line about “trickle down government” was extremely clever. Kudos to his speech writer.
Daniels manages to be folksy and fairly likable without sounding insincere. That’s a good quality to have in a politician. Romney would give his left leg to have a bit of that natural, low-key charm.
Still, I find the opposition response to the State of the Union address mind-numbingly boring and, perhaps more importantly, extremely unnecessary. Even a pretty good, pretty positive, upbeat response has me nodding off. After sitting through an entire speech from the president, it’s hard to muster the strength to sit through yet another – albeit shorter – follow-up. Besides, you never know when you’ll pull a Jindal.
If I believed that Republicans were serious about actually reforming entitlements the way they say they want to, I might even find a few things to agree with in Daniels’ response. We do need entitlement reform. We do need smart government and pro-growth policies. The problem is that the grown-ups have by and large abandoned the Republican party. I have many quibbles with the Democratic party but at least they attempt to govern well.
I have no doubt that Daniels qualifies as a grown-up in his party, but it must be an awfully lonely experience.
Instead we have Newt Gingrich toppling expectations in South Carolina – a man whose ego is childlike in its grandiosity.
Daniels did fine, but conservative dreamers like Bill Kristol should avoid getting their hopes up. A fine SOTU response doesn’t build a political organization out of thin air. Daniels still has no organization. He’s still leagues behind his would-be rivals in just about every sense except, perhaps, sounding and acting like an adult. We should know by now that qualities like maturity are hardly important when electing a president. We elected George W. Bush twice, after all.
Obama cut a presidential figure, especially compared to his rivals.
President Obama gave a pretty good speech tonight. American exceptionalism and the emergence from darker times were the interwoven themes of the evening. Scattered throughout were some decent ideas on Senate reform and tax policy, but overall it was still a pretty low-calorie affair. Nothing too wonky or deep. Nothing to sink our teeth into.
Still, I think it’s important to remember the intended audience when we listen to these sorts of speeches. Most Americans, after all, don’t obsess over politics the way we bloggers and denizens of the internet do. Most Americans like to hear a positive, rousing speech that isn’t too long.
Just as importantly, it’s remarkable to watch Barack Obama speak about his vision for America. He cuts a striking contrast with his opponents in the GOP primary. There’s not a lot of visionary material in the speech itself – nothing particularly detailed – but he sure looks like a president doesn’t he?
After several months of the GOP primary circus, listening to Obama give a rousing speech about the American dream, the American promise – the indispensable nation that is us - well, it’s hard not to compare him to the dimensionless Mitt Romney, or the bristly Newt Gingrich and his aura of self-importance. Obama looks dignified. He has gravitas. He’s eloquent.
I was hoping for a vision. I was hoping for real, strategic reform. What we got was one big blizzard of tax deductions, wrapped in a populist cloak. It was treading water. I suspect this will buoy liberal spirits, but anger the right and befuddle the independents. It definitely gives the Republican case against Obama as a big government meddler more credibility. I may be wrong – but the sheer cramped, tedious, mediocre micro-policies he listed were uninspiring to say the least.
We voted for Obama; now we find we got another Clinton. The base will like this. I’m not sure independents will. As performance, he did as well as he could with the thin material he had in his hands. As a speech, I thought it was the worst of his SOTUs, when he really needed his best.
Josh Barro wanted Obama to talk about monetary policy and was disappointed when he didn’t. Indeed, there was little policy meat in tonight’s speech.
But isn’t hoping for a vision sort of missing the point? Isn’t hoping for concrete policy a little like wishing for unicorns?
This is the first of many campaign speeches Obama will give. Will it anger independents? I don’t think so. Most independents are actually just undecided low-information voters.
The point of a speech like this one – an election year State of the Union Address – is not to lay out a grand vision. To be honest, the time for grand visions is over. What the president needs to do – and what he didn’t do enough tonight – is lay out in stark terms why his presidency is important and distinct from the hypothetical presidency of Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich.
But none of that really matters. Obama looked like a president tonight. He sounded like one, too. For that matter, Mitch Daniels actually sounded a bit like a president.
Both men sound a lot more like presidents than Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich. This is a really bad sign for the Republican party. And since it’s too late for Daniels to get into the race, it’s a really good sign for Obama.
Mitch Daniels is the man of the moment—he’s been selected to respond to Barack Obama’s State Of The Union address, which essentially means that he’s about to kiss any sort of rising star status goodbye if history is any guide. And it should be: Daniels is soft-spoken and not terribly magnetic, and my hunch is that the Republicans devoutly wishing he’d gotten in will not be wishing it this time tomorrow. SOTU responses are a lose-lose situation, the only decent ones in recent years were (1) the one given by Sen. Jim Webb in 2007, which was packed with gravitas, toughness, and dignity, and (2) the one given by Gov. Bob McDonnell last year, which ramped up the cheesy atmospherics (cheering crowds, speaker walking down the aisle and shaking hands) to turn the whole thing into an ersatz State Of The Union, but which somehow worked because it turned the whole thing into a joke that McDonnell was entirely in on. It was actually kind of amazing to watch. Daniels, though, will likely shoot for the first and see his buzz evaporate faster than Bobby Jindal’s did
Frankly, I can’t for the life of me understand why the opposition still gives a response to the State of the Union. Everyone has already had to sit through a long, boring speech once. Now we have to sit through an even less meaningful speech? Seriously? Do we at least get free beer?
On a more serious note, Daniels must know this isn’t the proper forum for a soft-spoken guy like him. What gives? Maybe he knows that this will shatter any hopes that he’ll enter the race and can think of no better way to shake the speculation.
I’m still curious why so many on the right seem to think Daniels would make such a good candidate. He’s short, soft-spoken, and not particularly “presidential” in any sense of the word. Worse still, he can’t really appeal to the base. He has none of Newt’s flare. He’s good on some policies – prison reform, for instance – but he adds very little to the current line-up. Indeed, if he had run I suspect he would have already disappointed those calling for him to run now. Some other dream candidate would be hypothetical number one.