Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Live-blogging Rick Perry's first 2012 Republican presidential debate

My mom, Ann Althouse, is live-blogging too. So is TalkingPointsMemo, in 4 parts: 1, 2, 3, 4.

[Added later: Here's the complete transcript of the debate, on the New York Times' website. But I don't know how accurate that transcript is; it refers to Brian Williams as being with Politico, when he's the anchor of NBC Nightly News. Here's the full video:]

Feel free to post any reactions to the debate in the comments.

8:03 - Rick Perry says Brian Williams is wrong to say most jobs that have been created in Texas are "low-wage jobs," because 95% of them were above the minimum wage. Spot the fallacy!

8:06 - Mitt Romney touts his "experience succeeding [and] failing." I'm sure some people would like to use his positive spin on "failing" against him, but it makes sense.

8:07 - Perry reveals his strategy against Romney: concede that he did well in the private sector, and contrast this with his work as governor.

8:08 - Perry has a zinger against Romney: Michael Dukakis created jobs three times as fast as Romney did in Massachusetts. Without missing a beat, Romney retorts that Perry created jobs more slowly than George Bush did (presumably this refers to Bush as Governor of Texas, not President). Brian Williams: "Nice to see that everyone came prepared."

[Added later: here's a video of the most attention-getting squabble between Romney and Perry.]

8:11 - Herman Cain has a "9/9/9" plan for the economy. Maybe he was listening to the Beatles' "Revolution 9."

8:15 - In response to a jobs question, Michele Bachmann puts the emphasis on kids and racial minorities.

8:16 - Ron Paul "doesn't believe in" any federal safety regulations. He believes only in the "regulations" of the free market.

[Added: I was writing down these quotes on the fly based on trying to pay attention to the debate while making soup for dinner. I believe my quotes are reasonably accurate, but they might not be verbatim.]

8:21 - When asked about his health-care reform in Massachusetts (as he always is in these debates), Romney not only gives his usual vow to give waivers from Obamacare to all states on day 1 and eventually repeal it. He also defends his decision in Massachusetts based on the fact that the status quo ante was unacceptable because people were incentivized to rely on emergency rooms for all health care, the costs of which were passed on to the people.

8:27 - Newt Gingrich continues his tactic from the last debate of attacking the moderators: "I'm not interested in your attempt to get Republicans fighting each other. . . . Let's not puff this up into some giant thing."

8:31 - I agree with Rick Santorum about welfare reform.

8:33 - Perry paraphrases John F. Kennedy, who "said that the most powerful welfare program is a job." I believe this is the first time in the last three debates that a candidate has referenced a Democrat in a positive way.

8:35 - Romney on President Obama: "He keeps talking about green jobs. Where are they?" Good question.

8:37 - Ron Paul calls out the moderators for only asking Romney about his health-care plan and not asking Perry about supporting Hillary Clinton's health-care plan. (Perry denies this.)

8:39 - Perry takes a gratuitous swipe at Ron Paul for quibbling with then-President Reagan. This is a transparent gambit on Perry's part to give more time to Paul and take time away from the stronger candidates.

8:49 - Perry says anyone who promotes Social Security as we know it is perpetrating "a monstrous lie" to young people. He does not exclude Karl Rove or Dick Cheney from this.

8:51 - Romney clearly places himself as the moderate candidate — who wants to save Social Security — against Perry, the extreme candidate — who wants to abolish Social Security. He seems to have read this article in The New Republic:

You must persuade the decisive portion of your party that Rick Perry is too extreme to be elected president.

Here’s your theme: Rick Perry wants to repeal the 20th century. I don’t. And neither do the American people.
[I've added this video, and commentary from TalkingPointsMemo:]
The exchange marks a crucial moment in the campaign: this is the first time Romney has deliberately staked out a centrist position in order to attack Perry explicitly from the left. This is a dynamic that’s going to have a huge impact on the character of the race from this point on, assuming Romney holds his ground.

8:58 - Romney is notably gracious in not going along with Paul and Bachmann in attacking Perry over his widely reviled HPV vaccination law.

9:01 - Paul says the attacks of September 11, 2001 happened because Americans didn't have enough guns.

9:04 - Jon Huntsman says the Department of Homeland Security has "a fortress security mentality that is not American."

9:08 - Gingrich praises Obama for showing "some courage" on education policy. I believe that's the first time any candidate has praised anything about Obama.

9:13 - Santorum makes a good argument on immigration, which I've never heard before: "It's a very good thing for the first thing you do when you come to this country to be a legal act, not an illegal act."

9:20 - A commenter on my mom's blog says:
Perry is a disappointment - not ready for prime time. His simplistic sloganeering makes Sarah Palin sound like Thomas Jefferson.
9:23 - Romney dodges the question whether he's a member of the Tea Party: "I don't think you carry cards in the Tea Party." (This sounded a little odd, since the moderator didn't use the phrase "card-carrying member.") He qualifies his answer that "I'm for the Tea Party" by saying this is true "if the Tea Party is for" smaller government and so on. In other words, he agrees with them as long as they agree with his opinions. That's a weak answer. Why not say unequivocally that he supports the Tea Party because they are for those things?

9:25 - A Facebook friend, Alex Knepper (who gave me permission to identify him and link to his Facebook), says:
REAGAN is not a synonym for GOOD, people!
9:29 - Perry blatantly dodges the question whether Bush was too quick to go to war without thinking through the risks. He blithely says he's against "adventurism" but doesn't clarify how he would apply this to any of Bush's foreign-policy decisions.

9:29 - Perry, of his own accord (not in response to any question), gives emphatic praise to Obama for prosecuting the war on terrorism.

9:33 - Bachmann firmly states that it was "wrong" for the United States to go to war with Libya.

9:36 - Huntsman: "We can't run from science." He says other (unspecified) candidates have made "comments that don't reflect the reality of the situation" including denying what 98% of scientists say on climate change and denying evolution.

9:45 - Perry slowly, dramatically lists capital crimes and says if you come to Texas and do them, "you will be executed."

9:49 - Paul has the last word, saying he rejects the idea that if he's against federal government benefits, he lacks compassion. It's compassionate to understand that the most effective way to care for children is through the free market.

ADDED: That was a solid, substantive, lively debate. The moderators did a good job of keeping the candidates reined in without cutting them off so soon that they struggled to make their points. There was a good mix of gotcha questions and broader "What do you think about this issue?" questions. The MSNBC debate led by Brian Williams far outdid the debate back in June hosted by CNN and led by John King. Between tonight's debate and the previous FoxNews debate, CNN has a high standard to meet when it hosts the next debate, on Monday, September 12.

As for the candidates, I'm not going to claim to be impartial — I'm rooting for Romney. I was hoping that finally appearing on stage next to everyone else would remove some of Perry's luster. I don't know if that happened or not. The conventional wisdom seems to be that Romney "won" the debate, but Jon Chait says Romney lost to Perry by being too reasonable:
The media seems to consider Romney the winner. Pardon the condescension, but they’re not thinking like Republican base voters. Romney approaches every question as if he is in an actual debate, trying to provide the most intellectually compelling answer available, within the bounds of political expediency. Perry treats questions as interruptions. What scientists do you trust on climate change? I don’t want to risk the economy. Are you taking a radical position on social security? We can have reasons or we can have results. His total liberation from the constraints of reason give Perry a chance to represent the Republican id in a way Romney simply cannot match.

In this way Perry eerily apes the style of George W. Bush, who was also mocked for his intellectually vapid debating style, but who succeeded in rallying Republicans behind him. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I suspect the Bush-Perry debating style broadcasts a subliminal message of strong leadership. Romney feels compelled to bind himself to the parameters of the question before him. Perry ignores them. It is, in a sense, an alpha male move. I am not going to lower myself to your premise about scientists. I am going to declare my principles.

In my view, Perry established his alpha male style, and that impression will matter more than any position or statement he’s made.


john marzan said...

You're "rooting" for Romney because:

a) he's the best GOP candidate who can win?

b) he's easier for Obama to beat?

John Althouse Cohen said...


John Althouse Cohen said...

And by the way, I don't think Romney would be "easier for Obama to beat." I think he'd be the hardest candidate for Obama to beat (except maybe Huntsman).

But I'm trying to focus on who I would actually want to have leading my country, and that's Romney.

Agnostic Monk said...

Loved the live-blog even though I am a few days late. Just watched the whole debate yesterday on youtube.
Romney would be the hardest candidate for Obama to beat in the general. A Romney-Rubio ticket or Romney-Cain ticket would work very well. The republican is guaranteed to get the entire South. Ohio, Florida, Minnesota, and Florida would be states the president would have to win. Jon Huntsman has all the attributes of a Mitt Romney but he is not going very far in this primary. If he did, he would be just as effective in the general. I think the Obama campaign would prefer running against Rick Perry.