CRACKLING Debate – The Bar is Raised

Tonight’s debate in Michigan might well have been the most intelligent, sharply contested affair in this country since the Reagan/Carter debates of the 79/80 campaign.  Just a tremendous showing for almost everyone.  Almost.  One candidate may well have had his campaign completely destroyed by one very public, very embarrassing gaffe.

I’m gonna take this debate one topic at a time and we’ll give a general candidate round-up at the end.

EUROPEAN FINANCIAL CRISIS:

Group consensus – Europe can save itself if it has the will to do so…we have to save ourselves before we can be in any position to lecture Europe on its follies.  (on this I strongly agree…maybe I’m turning into a xenophobe…I doubt it but it sometimes seems that way…but we have to get our house in order first)

Winners and losers here:

They tried to trap Herman Cain with this loaded question: “So on Italy…let Italy fail, fix our own economy?”

To which he responded: “Make sure we fix our own economy or we’ll fail too.”  To raucous applause.

Newt Gingrich: “Since when does the European market determine our prosperity?”

Santorum: “If we try to fix their problems, we’re going to find it hard to find enough hours to fix our own.”

Perry…didn’t say much of anything useful here.

Oh…and somehow, Cain linked their problems to his 9-9-9 plan, noting that if everyone just adopted it, unicorns would reappear and start crapping money.

CAIN’S SCANDAL:

The audience immediately booed the questioner for even asking about Cain’s character questions.  WOW.  Have conservatives finally woken up and realized how wrong-headed the media has become?  Not that I think it’s wrong to ask Cain about his character…but his answer was fine here.

“I think it’s objectionable that anyone should be tried in the court of public opinion.”

Produce the evidence…and then we’ll bury Cain…making a claim is not sufficient in America to kill a man’s career.  Or it shouldn’t be.  After the debate he interviewed further and pointedly noted that the crowd booed because this was about the economy and whatever he’s dealing with in regard to accusations has nothing to do with the economy.  To their credit, the mods of this debate did largely stay on point and allow for a very mature and very professional debate on the economic issues.

And of course…if you adopt his 9-9-9 plan, you won’t feel so worried about his perhaps overly-gregarious and slightly egotistical dealings with female subordinates.

HEALTHCARE:

Group consensus: Repeal Obamacare!!!!!!!!!!!!!eleventyone!! 🙂

The good news is, as they would say in grassroots training seminars, this is a “stand next to it and smile” issue.  Everyone and their mother wants Obamacare to die.  Even liberals who liked it at one point are starting go “ew” to the exact structure of it.  HR3000 – the phantom GOP answer to Obamacare is held up in committee and Herman Cain gets major credit for attacking Pelosi for keeping it out of the public debate on the floor just to spite the republicans.  He thinks it was a bad idea to call her “Princess Pelosi”…I think it was hilarious. 🙂

He also again emphasized that the 9-9-9 plan would put enough people to work only if Obamacare was gone so that businesses had a more certain economic outlook.

SPENDING CUTS:

Here is where the meat of this debate was.  Because al eight candidates got the chance to lay out their ideas on what programs could be cut or softened…what areas they’d be willing to compromise with the left, etc.  Here are the plans that emerged:

ROMNEY: Cut (insert right wing propaganda listing including Amtrak and farm subsidies and corporate welfare and Obamacare and the National Endowment for the Arts and…etc) because we can’t be taking loans from China to pay for it.

PAUL: Cut everything.  Except perhaps his salary. 🙂  Eliminate five departments (Housing, Education, Energy, Commerce and Homeland Security…wow!).  Cap spending at 15.5% of GDP (!).  Cut military spending to just enough to wall off the country and post armed sentries every mile. 🙂

BACHMANN: Promised real hard that she had a plan coming out soon.  Would support cutting anything reasonable.

CAIN: When he was the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, he closed stores that weren’t working and made sure he was working on the right problem!  He’ll do the same here!  Cut down military spending only where necessary but increase spending on equipment and resources for the troops abroad. End Obamacare, repeal Frank/Dodd, Savagely cut the EPA budget.  Go to the Chilean model for social security.  Go private with Medicare and block grant limited funds to the states for Medicaid.  All good red meat for the voters.

HUNTSMAN: Looked real purdy and said things about how awesome Utah is.

GINGRICH: Made a great point about Social Security not really being a part of the Federal Budget…it’s a separate account that’s in there only because it makes the budget seem tidier than it is…until now.  Brought up all kinds of great history lessons about how some programs got funded…go look at the highlights and be amazed at how much of a genius Gingrich is.  He’s a freakin’ wonk if ever there was one.  And after all of his hot-headed past indiscretions…he seems to have mellowed in his old age into something more mature.

SANTORUM: Issued the general consensus position but shied away from big grandiose bold cutting plans.

PERRY: I want to cut three departments…Education, Housing and ummm….oh what was that last one…I can’t remember right now.  Oops. (literally…he said that)  WOW…that is gonna HURT.  He remembered it later…Energy.  But still…ouchies.

Oh…and if you elect Herman Cain, he’ll push hard for 9-9-9 and that will make sure the economy grows enough that a smaller percent of GDP will need to be spent to keep government at pre-Obama levels.

TAX REFORM

A HUGE variety of answers here…even BACHMANN got in on the act, albeit after the debate had ended and she was being interviewed.

CAIN: 9-9-9!  9-9-9!  9-9-9!  Oh…what else was there…oh yeah…9-9-9!

ROMNEY: I’m more worried about spending than taxes…but I am advocating a very nuanced plan and it’s on my website if you’re dedicated enough to care.

PERRY: My plan is a flat tax at 20%…or you can take your old rate if you like it better so that the poor people don’t hate me for taxing them at all.  And to pay for that…I’ll add a small payroll tax and some sort of corporate earnings tax.  Or something like that…I can’t remember anymore…my head don’t work too good.

BACHMANN: (post-debate interview) HI!  I’m still running, you silly moderators!  I wanted to talk about my flatter Reagan-style marginally progressive tax idea.  I will abolish the current mess and come back with a simpler several-tiered system that makes sure everyone pays at least a little bit.

GINGRICH: A lot of our problems would be solved by doing away with the enormous complexity of the current tax code and eliminating a lot of the needless loopholes for individuals and corporations…BUT…I am pushing for a flat tax at 15% for income and a 15% capital gains tax (Reagan-era levels) among other lower rates I want.

SANTORUM: The current code does not need to be replaced…it just needs to be cleaned up a bit. (yeah…right)

PAUL: Income tax rate of ZERO (!), tax only sales and payrolls and those at tolerable levels.  Force the government to shrink.  Some of this will have to be phased in slowly…but it’ll work…I promise!

HUNTSMAN: I was the only one on this stage who actually got a flat tax passed.  In the most conservative state in the union, they somehow agreed to a 12% state income tax…a flat rate for all.  And that’ll definitely work at the Federal level too even though I’ll actually have opposition now.

CAIN AGAIN: Don’t forget…9-9-9!!  Fuel in the engine of the economy baby!  Balanced budget proposed within one year of my taking office!

EDUCATION:

This being held at a college, they tackled the education bubble and Ron Paul DESTROYED the field here…he was dead dead DEAD right when he made this point:

“Notice that every time government comes in to try to control the market and decide who has the right to access a product or service, the price skyrockets.  Housing?  They tried to control mortgage lending and prices skyrocketed.  Energy?  They tried to control fuel prices in Carter’s day and they’re doing it again.  How much are you paying for gas now?  Education?  You get less quality education and you pay way more for it because the government started handing out loans to people who could never pay them back without conditions.  The stock market?  They tried to pick winners and losers and hold shares in our corporations and their values skyrocketed, but it was all a lie and we’re paying taxes to cover for it now!  Health care?  They are trying to fix prices and the costs are already climbing!”

Dude.  DUDE!  That is the line of the night Paul.  You might be crazy, but even a nut can sometimes be just what you need to spice up the salad.

Gingrich actually largely agreed with Paul as well.  He very smartly brought up one university that only accepts students who need financial assistance to go to college and then they are required to work 20 hours a week to pay for their tuition.  WHAT A CONCEPT!!  Cain thinks we should pass the 9-9-9 plan so that more students can get jobs after college and he also thinks it’s a bad idea for the government to give out free loans to everyone and his solution would be to give a tax credit where it was needed but focus mainly on forcing universities to be more lean and mean by withholding public funding to universities without an audit of the product they generate.

CHINESE OUTSOURCING:

EVERYONE amazingly agreed that China is acting in bad faith…rigging their currency to artificially lower costs for manufacturing there, stealing our intellectual property, acting like a monopoly power on a global scale to set prices low by going way into debt and hoping to crush our economy first.

ROMNEY: Wants to raise tariffs on Chinese goods when they appear to be ill-gotten.

GINGRICH: Thinks this is a horrible idea because they’ll do the same to us and we won’t win that fight because we need them to buy our stuff.

PAUL: Thinks anything outside our borders is evil and would like to see us have nothing to do with international trade at all.  Except for pot.  Which he thinks should be legal (maybe he needs it to calm down…he always seems so ANGRY…LOL) and doubtlessly imported from a more drug-happy nation.

BACHMANN: pointed out a few details that she knew about China’s chicanery that had little to do with the question she got asked, but her solution to China would be to make our pricing structure competitive somehow.

CAIN: Do I have to tell you what he said?  Actually, at this point, the audience burst out LAUGHING hysterically when he brought up 9-9-9.  His point was that cutting our tax rates would make us a more attractive destination than China and we’d keep our jobs, and he’s partially right…but there’s still the giant wage gap.  Though I’m told if you do the math, the higher wages here are worth way less than the tax gap would be under 9-9-9.

SANTORUM: Admitted that China was a bad actor and talked about getting an international consensus on that one and about working with the WTO, just like Romney did.

HUNTSMAN: Appeared to be amused watching everyone else get asked lots of fun questions while he was ignored.

PERRY: Forgot what question he was asked and yet somehow managed to say something for a good solid 90 seconds and run over his time.  I think he mentioned China at one point…but it may have been accidental.

CANDIDATE PERFORMANCE:

Newt Gingrich had a sterling debate…AGAIN.  He even seemed like less of an asshole tonight…he almost seemed electable!

Rick Perry’s career in politics is over outside of Texas.  He’s a dead DEAD duck.  He simply does not have the debating gene…and that will kill you at the national level.

Bachmann seems to be gaining in maturity and common sense as her campaign trudges along in Iowa…the only state whee she’s really active.  She has ZERO chance…but maybe this experience will make her a better Congresswoman and maybe she’ll be back again later.

Huntsman reminds me of that guy at the board meeting scene of every movie or TV show I ever saw who doesn’t get a line and tries to take his acting seriously anyway.  He tried very hard tonight to make himself appear to be the only mature, logical choice…and all it did was make him more boring.

Santorum finally managed to go a whole debate without looking like someone was ramming a fifteen foot rod up his ass.  I don’t know why he always LOOKS like a dick…because everything I hear about him suggests that disagree with him or not, most people who know him think he’s an outstanding, likable guy.  But he just doesn’t present well.  Although tonight, he did improve that and still manage some good points along the way.

Ron Paul is Ron Paul…what can you say?  He’s a nutball but he brings entertainment value to these debates and lights up a lot of key issues…and that line about govt. screwing up everything they touch…that’s going on my office wall.

Mitt Romney played this one like he thought nothing at all of his competitors…he did nothing at all to confront anyone…not even Obama this time around (except on Obamacare and spending…and those were just jabs…not real all out attacks)…he’s just trying not to screw up and hoping everyone else beats each other up and falls back as a result.

And Herman Cain…is the GOD of staying on message.  That was a freakin’ CLINIC out there tonight, folks.  He’s obviously learned from the best in the business about going with your best qualities and just hammering that message over and over and over again.  It was a sight to behold.  BY FAR Cain’s best debate…it may have saved his candidacy given the ugly anti-persecution climate among conservatives.  He put on quite a show tonight…the audience figured out what he was doing and it just became infectious and hilarious.  I don’t know if it made anyone think better of him…but it might make everyone forget about their worries for a while.

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