Okay — I have finally read through the entire debate transcript, and my primary reaction is one of frustration with the debate format. Based on the words alone, I agree with my co-author that Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich came out looking the most competent. However, I feel the entire presentation was long on sound bites and short on specifics.
For example, Santorum stated – correctly – that we have a spending problem in Washington D.C., but nobody took the opportunity to explain to the American people what that means. If I were on the stage, I would’ve used thirty seconds to mention the recent GAO study which discovered ridiculous levels of duplication and redundancy in the federal government. 82 separate programs focused on improving teacher quality? 80 programs to help low-income individuals with their transportation needs? This is psychotic! We need to find some way to gradually consolidate these programs; otherwise, the government will just continue to throw more money into the circular file.
Another example: When York and the others started grilling the candidates on whether or not they would ever accept a tax increase, someone should’ve piped up and noted that tax revenues have generally approximated 18%-19% of the GDP regardless of the marginal income tax rates. Moreover, one of the candidates should’ve pointed out that “fat cat millionaires and billionaires” – assuming there are such animals – are not the only people who occupy the top income tax bracket. There are neurosurgeons, for instance, who earn enough money to make it into that top 1%, and they got there through a grueling training process during which they lived in virtual penury. Bottom line? I was disappointed that no one hit Obama hard on his misleading demagoguery during this particular line of questioning.
Were there some things I liked? Sure. Gingrich really was on fire when he slammed the idea that twelve hand-picked legislators can do a better job of cutting spending than the entire Congress. And personally, as a staunch supporter of the pro-life cause, I definitely appreciated it when Santorum remarked that a rapist is currently offered more mercy than is the innocent child he sires. Oo-rah! Seriously, that was completely awesome. But – and perhaps this is because I’m very book-based – I just don’t feel that this debate offered us anything truly substantive, and I blame that on the venue. When you only have a few minutes (at most) to speak, there’s no way you’re going to be able to build a deep, convincing argument.