Thursday, December 15, 2011

Live-blogging the last Republican presidential debate before the Iowa caucuses



I'll be live-blogging here once the debate starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. Keep reloading for more updates.

For more live-blogging, I recommend checking TalkingPointsMemo, National Review, and Althouse (my mom).

9:03 - The moderator tells Newt Gingrich: "You're now physically at the center of the stage, which means you're at the top of the polls." That's the first time I've heard them admit that this is how they choose where to place the candidates.

9:04 - Gingrich is asked about electability. He says he'll win against President Obama in "seven three-hour debates." Huh?

9:06 - Ron Paul gets the second question! That must be a first. He's asked if he'll support whoever ends up being the Republican nominee. "Probably anybody up here could beat Obama." I didn't hear him answer the question.

9:07 - Rick Santorum is asked why he's doing so badly when he's spent more time in Iowa than any of the other candidates. "I'm counting on the people of Iowa to catch fire for me." He says he presents a "clear contrast" with the others because he's been a consistent conservative. If that's so clear, yet he's going nowhere, doesn't that imply that hardcore conservatism isn't the voters' top priority?

9:09 - Mitt Romney is asked why he would be better than Gingrich at "making the case" for Republican policies when debating President Obama. This is essentially inviting Romney to attack Gingrich. Romney doesn't take the bait; he strings together a bunch of his talking points that we've heard in past debates, which are all about his positive qualities, not shortcomings with Gingrich.

9:11 - Michele Bachmann: "I spent 50 years as a real person." Has she been a robot for the past 5 years?

9:12 - Moderator to Rick Perry: "You've admitted yourself that you're not a great debater. . . . You'll be going up against Barack Obama, an accomplished debater." Perry: "I'm kinda gettin' so I like these debates. I'm looking forward to debating President Obama, and I'll get there early, and we will get it on." He's much more lively than he's been in some of the past debates. [UPDATE: Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo says:]

Apparently Gov. Perry saved all the energy from the first 57 debates and packed it all into that one answer.
9:14 - Jon Huntsman: "I am the consistent conservative in this race. . . . We are getting screwed as Americans."

As always, I'm writing these quotes down as I hear them (without the use of a transcript or a rewind button), so they might not be verbatim.

9:18 - Romney seems to be self-consciously shifting to the general election, talking about how he repeatedly "found common ground" with the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature in Massachusetts. Gingrich takes a similar tack, invoking "bipartisanship" and talking about the times he "worked things out with Bill Clinton."

9:22 - The moderator says that after the commercial break, they'll talk about something that hasn't been talked about in any of the past debates.

9:27 - Romney is asked about the fact that his business laid a lot of people off. Romney handles this deftly. He says we're getting a preview of the general election, when Obama will ask him the same thing. "I'll tell him, 'How did you handle General Motors when you were running it? You closed down factories. You closed down dealerships.' He'll say: 'We had to do that to save the business.' 'Same with us, Mr. President.'"

9:31 - Paul savagely goes after Gingrich for his lobbying, saying he's been involved in "government-sponsored enterprises" that are dangerously close to "fascism." Gingrich defends government-sponsored enterprises since they do a lot of wonderful things. Bachmann says she's surprised Gingrich is still defending Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Gingrich says Bachmann made "wild allegations" by saying he lobbied for Fannie and Freddie. Bachmann: "You don't need to be within the technical definition of 'lobbyist' to be peddling influence to Washington." [UPDATE: The New Republic's Noam Scheiber thinks Gingrich's defense was so weak it shows he doesn't really want to win:]
[A]nyone who actually wanted to be president and had made $1.6 million lobbying for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would have come up with a better defense of it by this point than Gingrich's two-pronged "government-sponsored entities do lots of good things" and "I was a national figure doing just fine so I couldn't have been a lobbyist" line of attack. Clearly it's more important to Gingrich to insist on his righteousness than to come up with a defense that might sound semi-plausible, even if it had the collateral impact of conceding he did something slightly dodgy. I'm fairly certain that last night's excruciating (for Gingrich supporters) Fannie/Freddie exchange officially doomed him as a candidate. Well, that's not entirely true. I think his candidacy was already doomed, but this made the doomed-ness really hard to deny.
9:39 - Paul says he "never voted for an earmark," but he will accept the earmarks he gets. "When you fill out your taxes, you take the deductions." He says he would be a completely different president from everyone else: he wouldn't try to be powerful.

9:43 - Perry says we should have a "part-time" Congress so that members of Congress would work at other jobs and "live within the laws they pass." Moderator: "They worked 151 days last year. How much more would constitute part time?" Perry says 140 days every other year!

9:47 - Romney is asked what sector of the economy will be the most dominant in the next 10 years. Romney says he has no idea; the market will decide that. He criticizes Obama for trying to pick and choose winners in the economy, especially the energy sector. [CLARIFICATION: I shouldn't have said that Romney said he has no idea. He said there's no need for government officials to figure out the answer to that question, but that if he has to make a prediction, he expects the dominant sectors to be manufacturing, high tech, and energy.]

9:49 - Gingrich calls for an "uprising" to "rebalance the judiciary." He criticizes "law schools" for making courts feel "empowered" to write the law.

9:51 - The topic that hasn't been talked about in any past debate is the judiciary. This is a dull topic; it just prompts everyone to say judges should be restrained and must follow the Constitution.

9:53 - Paul correctly says it would be an "affront to the separation of powers" to follow Gingrich's preposterous proposal to abolish courts that issue rulings that offend him.

9:55 - Romney points out that we already have a check on the courts: if they incorrectly interpret a statute, Congress can amend the statute to clarify what it's supposed to mean. That's an important point, but it's also a way to avoid talking about Gingrich's proposal to stamp out supposedly bad judicial rulings on constitutional interpretation. Romney has a clear strategy tonight: never attack.

9:56 - All the candidates are asked to name their favorite Supreme Court Justices. Santorum: Thomas. Perry: Alito, Roberts, and Thomas. Romney: Roberts, Thomas, Alito, and Scalia. Gingrich: same as Romney. Paul won't answer, because "they're all good and they're all bad." Bachmann: Scalia. Huntsman: Roberts and Alito.

10:04 - The moderator asks Paul about the fact that he would be running "to the left of President Obama" on Iran. Paul says our current policy encourages countries to acquire nuclear weapons. "What did we do with Libya? We talked them out of having nuclear weapons. And then we killed 'em!" He praises Obama for apparently backing off from sanctions on Iran.

10:07 - Santorum on Iran: "They've been at war with us since 1979." He calls Iran a "radical theocracy" and says they're founded on "martyrdom." "Their objective is to create a calamity. . . . We need to make sure that they do not have a nuclear weapon."

10:11 - Bachmann: "I have never heard a more dangerous answer for American security than the one we just heard from Ron Paul."

10:18 - Hunstman goes way overtime in a rambling answer on foreign policy. Moderator: "OK, 2 dings in that one."

10:21 - Gingrich: "I'm very concerned about not appearing to be zany."

10:33 - Perry: "If I'm President, and I find out that the Justice Department has a program like 'The Fast and the Furious,' and my Attorney General says he didn't know about it, I will have him resign immediately." Santorum agrees.

10:38 - Gingrich sticks with his past comments that he'd give some kind of amnesty to an illegal immigrant who's been here for 25 years and has ties to the community, but puts more emphasis on cracking down on "sanctuary cities" and dropping federal lawsuits against states for excessive immigration enforcement.

10:43 - Romney is asked why he flip-flopped on gay rights, and Romney denies the charge. He says he's always been against discrimination based on sexual orientation . . . and opposed to same-sex marriage.

10:47 - Bachmann attacks Gingrich for missing an "opportunity to defund Planned Parenthood."

10:50 - Gingrich defends himself for supporting Republicans who have supposedly favored partial-birth abortion: "I don't see how you're going to run the country if you're going to go around figuring out who to purge." Too bad he doesn't understand that point when it comes to the courts.

10:52 - Romney: "President Obama has unveiled himself as someone who's not the right person to lead the country." Interesting word choice.

33 comments:

Jason (the commenter) said...

I wonder if the newly released Romney bomb-shell will be brought up.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Whenever Bachmann is asked to give a solution to a problem she explains how she would have done things differently. She's all hindsight and no foresight.

Jason (the commenter) said...

9:14 - Jon Huntsman: "I am the consistent conservative in this race. . . . We are getting screwed as Americans."


I think that's the first time he said the word "conservative".

Jason (the commenter) said...

9:39 - Paul says he "never voted for an earmark," but he will accept the earmarks he gets. "When you fill out your taxes, you take the deductions." He says he would be a completely different president from everyone else: he wouldn't try to be powerful.

He wants to change huge parts of the government without power?

John Althouse Cohen said...

Ha, good point.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Huntsman was openly supportive of the courts. Paul less so. Romney saw how popular it was to be anti-court and was wishy-washy in his answer. The others were insane.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Santorum actually bragged about how ineffectively he challenged the court. He passed a law saying the courts were wrong and it was overturned. And he acted like that was an accomplishment.

Jason (the commenter) said...

10:21 - Gingrich: "I'm very concerned about not appearing to be zany."

This is the point where Newt gets his mojo back with the crowd.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Romney is getting fact-checked real time. It's murder. He started well, but is deteriorating. Newt started very weak, but is ending strong.

Dantes said...

'doesn't that imply that hardcore conservatism isn't the voters' top priority?'


No, it means that Perry is not a hardcore conservative, and even if he were, up until the last couple of debates he has barely been able to articulate his name,much less conservatism.

John Althouse Cohen said...

You mean Santorum?

Dantes said...

Brain cramp, read Perry. But...applies to Santorum who really doesn't communicate what hard core conservatism is.

I take issue with that characterization. Hard core conservatism isn't pornography. Your very comment belies your prejudice. Conservatism is not an extreme philosophy. It was the norm which wrote the Constitution.

Anonymous said...

Ron Paul was off the rails no-or do you younger guys like him?

Anonymous said...

LIke do you really think the US has killed millions of Iraqis?

Do you think all Muslim violence is caused by the US and/or Israel?

Why does it happen in Indonesia then?

John Althouse Cohen said...

When Santorum claims he is clearly to the right of all the other Republican candidates, he is claiming to be not a moderate conservative, but a hardcore conservative. I don't see any way around that.

John Althouse Cohen said...

I don't go along with Ron Paul's theory of why terrorists are terrorists. I've pointed out in the past that he's too trusting of their own statements. (See 9:43 in this live-blog.)

Anonymous said...

Ok gotcha...

Ironic Hitchens died tonight. Just heard.

Anonymous said...

It's kind of weird you missed how wildly off his statements were tonight...why?

that's a rhetorical question-I'll catch you later this week to get your answer-but I have been afraid that Ron Paul is the guy you are thinking of voting for....

(ended in a preposition-can't really think...)

john marzan said...

what's interesting about romney's choice of "unveiled"?

rcommal said...

"You're now physically at the center of the stage, which means you're at the top of the polls."

Did they move him from the center to reflect differences among polls?

; )

rcommal said...

I mean, here in Iowa anyway, he's been slipping quickly.

My question was obviously rhetorical (and I did watch the debate, so I know the answer anyway). That quote just provoked an interesting picture in my mind's eye, is all, and it amuses me.

rcommal said...

Whenever Bachmann is asked to give a solution to a problem she explains how she would have done things differently. She's all hindsight and no foresight.

Perceptive insight, neatly put, Jason.

John Althouse Cohen said...

what's interesting about romney's choice of "unveiled"?

Is that the word you would have chose to make that point? What connotations does "unveiled" have? Why do you think he chose that word? He seems to choose his words pretty carefully.

John Althouse Cohen said...

It's kind of weird you missed how wildly off his statements were tonight...why?

What do you mean?

John Althouse Cohen said...

I don't consider Paul a realistic candidate, and I think we need a realistic candidate.

Anonymous said...

Ron Paul said that Americans have killed millions of Iraqis. Or a million-either way that's a gross estimation-it's wildly off.

As is his thesis that all Muslim terrorism is caused by American actions.

Extremist-Muslims kill the most Muslims-and for example Indonesia experiences lots of Muslim extremist violence-and it would be hard to square that result with America's actions or relation with Israel.

There's been Muslim on Muslim violence since Mohammed died.

You have a very muted reaction to that as compared to other issues.

(Great -I can't find a transcript-and hell the media isn't reacting to that either...)

John Althouse Cohen said...

You have a very muted reaction to that as compared to other issues.

I've done each live-blog by watching the stream live, typing about it, repeatedly re-posting the blog post, and occasionally catching up with other bloggers' live-blogs — all at the same time. I'm doing it without the assistance of a transcript or a pause or rewind button. So I'm not going to catch everything everyone says. And I'm more likely to focus on other tasks while Paul is talking than while Romney or Gingrich is talking because Paul isn't going to win.

Anyway, In these live-blogs, I've rarely expressed my personal opinion on anything that's said in the debates. Sometimes I do, but usually I don't. I mainly just say what people said.

So the fact that I don't express an opinion on any one point doesn't have any significance.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...I think it makes sense that what you specialize in-you prioritize-notice that?

Weird aside-what might help Ron Paul the most is no one really takes him seriously-so his wackiness does not get exposed....

Except-have you noticed how well he is doing in the polls?

That's been surprisingly consistent this time around.

Still I don't think he gets past Florida-yet I don't think anyone here would have thought-

Newt v Mitt for the Republican nomination-particularly the Newton phenomena.

And then-if Ron Paul goes third party....

Game changer.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Anonymous: And then-if Ron Paul goes third party....

Ron Paul isn't going to go third party because Ron Paul is a fraud. Everything he says is to get donations/sell books. He doesn't believe any of it. And he doesn't want to win the Presidency because he would have no idea how to implement any of his policies if he did.

Look at his interviews, where a reporter asks about implementation. He goes blank. Because he's never given it any thought.

Meanwhile he's requesting earmarks, which are nothing more than a loophole for bribe taking. He's one of the most corrupt politicians in America and yet he gets lauded as a libertarian paragon.

If he ran third party, or became the Republican nominee, this would all come out. The other Republican candidates let him be so they can get his endorsement after he's done skinning the rubes.

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