Monday, September 12, 2011

Live-blogging the CNN/Tea Party Republican debate

You can watch the whole debate here:

You can also check in at Althouse and TalkingPointsMemo for more live-blogging.

You can read my live-blogging of the last debate here, and if you want even more you can see all the live-blogging I've ever done with the "live-blog" tag.

8:07 - Do they only sing the national anthem at the beginning of Republican debates, not Democratic or general-election debates?

8:09 - The debate still hasn't started yet. They're just explaining how the debate is going to happen. Twitter, Facebook, blah blah blah. Boring.

8:10 - Wolf Blitzer: "It is important to know where the candidates agree on these important subjects, and where they disagree." Got that, Newt Gingrich? This is a debate. Please don't scold the moderator for encouraging you to argue over your differences.

8:13 - We're almost a quarter of an hour in, and we're just getting to the first question.

8:15 - Michele Bachmann says Obama "stole" money from Medicare to pay for his health-care reform. Interesting that she's so forceful about the government's property rights.

8:15 - Blitzer asks Rick Perry why his USA Today editorial struck such a different tone on Social Security than he did in the last debate (where he called it a "Ponzi scheme" and a "monstrous lie"). He repeats the words "Ponzi scheme" and "lie" but still softens his tone.

8:17 - Mitt Romney on Perry: The problem isn't that they disagree over whether there's a financing problem. Everyone agrees that there is. The problem is that Perry has said Social Security is "unconstitutional" and "should not be a federal program." Also, the term "Ponzi scheme" is frightening to many people.

8:20 - Perry quotes Romney as calling Social Security "criminal." Romney corrects him: Romney said it would be criminal to raid the Social Security trust fund. The two had been rapidly going back and forth, but Perry suddenly has no response.

[Added later: Here's the video.]

8:22 - Jon Huntsman quotes Romney's book, No Apology, on Social Security, and says, "I don't know if this was written by Kurt Cobain or not." If this is supposed to appeal to younger voters, it's not going to work. Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo says:

Earth to Huntsman: These folks don't know who Kurt Cobain is.
Is that because they're too old or too young?

8:23 - Newt Gingrich brushes off the wild applause in response to one of his comments: "You're eating into my time."

(As always, I'm writing down these quotations as I go. I believe they're generally accurate, but they might not be exactly word-for-word.)

8:25 - Blitzer asks Rick Santorum about Social Security: "Are you with Perry or Romney?" "The question is who's with me!"

8:27 - Gingrich dismisses a woman's question about her family's financial future by saying, "That's just a Washington mythology."

8:28 - Santorum vocally complained in a past debate about not getting enough questions. CNN seems to be overcompensating.

8:32 - Josh Marshall says:
Now we're back to the antics by the also rans. But the whole thing was that Romney/Perry exchange. That book is just a massive obstacle to Perry's run. It's filled with stuff like that. It's written by someone who clearly wasn't planning on running for president anytime soon. Probably ever. Now he's stuck with it.
8:33 - Bachmann has an incisive point: we've gotten used to the idea that the government can keep "buying us more and more stuff." Who is the "everybody else" who's going to pay for all of it?

8:34 - My mom (Ann Althouse) notices that the audience seems to be responding much more positively to Perry than to Romney. Her theory:
I think CNN's scheme is to have packed the audience with the Tea Party faithful, making it a cheering section for Rick Perry. It's a bit irritating. I think Mitt knows what's happening, and he has a great opportunity to show that he can keep his bearings.
8:40 - Perry uses the phrase "risk their capital" three times in one answer. He must have a very tightly controlled set of talking points.

8:41 - Bachmann says: "Don't give the United States a $2.4 trillion blank check." That doesn't sound like a blank check to me! (Democrats were similarly oxymoronic in the 2004 race when they attacked the "$87 billion blank check" for the Iraq war. By the way, that figure sounds quaintly miniscule by today's warped standards.)

8:43 - Romney: "We've moved from a pay-phone world to a smartphone world. President Obama keeps jamming quarters into a smartphone thinking that's going to make it work. They're not connected, Mr. President!"

8:44 - Romney: "I think Gov. Perry would agree with me that if you're dealt 4 aces, that doesn't necessarily make you a great poker player." The audience reacts very negatively, supporting my mom's theory (see above). Perry responds: "Mitt, you were doin' pretty well till ya got to poker."

8:45 - Romney has a clever point about Perry's record: Perry has achieved good results in an environment where it worked well to go in expecting things to be fine. This mindset might not work so well for the position they're running for.

8:46 - Ron Paul is asked whether Perry deserves all the credit for Texas's growth. Paul, chuckling, says: "Eh, not quite!" He says taxes have doubled in the time Perry has been governor. "But I don't want to offend the governor because he might raise my taxes."

8:49 - Gingrich points out the paradox in Perry running as a conservative who created lots of jobs: "The American people create jobs, not government."

8:50 - A commenter on my mom's blog named Jim Howard says:
I'm not sure who will be the next President, but I'm pretty sure that Herman Cain will be the next VP.
I'm not so certain, but I see the point. Cain isn't running for president; he's running for vice president.

8:51 - Huntsman: "This country needs more workers. Can we say that? This country needs more workers." When he asks if "we" can say that, he intends to present himself as someone who has the courage to speak the truth, but he ends up sounding like he's weak, tentative, in need of others' approval.

8:53 - Another commenter on my mom's blog says:
Newt totally seems like a professor who's going to give me a B.
8:59 - Perry is asked about his "treason" statement about Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke. He says he only made a statement starting with "If..." I guess you can get out of any statement if you preface everything with "If..."

[Added later, video:]

9:03 - Gingrich: President Obama says he's going to get rid of tax loopholes. "Doesn't he realize that every green tax credit is a loophole?" That's why General Electric is able to pay zero taxes.

9:04 - Blitzer comes back at Gingrich: Wouldn't getting rid of those tax loopholes be a tax increase? Gingrich admits this, but incoherently says he's against tax increases.

9:10 - Perry keeps defending his HPV vaccination law by saying, "My goal was to fight cancer," and "I will always err on the side of life." Isn't that exactly the same principle used by supporters of government-sponsored health care, which Perry presumably thinks is tyrannical?

9:25 - My mom says:
Bachmann accuses Perry of being bought for $5,000 and Perry says he's insulted that she'd think he could be bought so cheaply.
Josh Marshall's take:
That was a great expression on Perry's face when he realized that the logic of his response to Bachmann was that $5,000 was way too little to buy him.
Even CNN itself is using this as a "BREAKING NEWS" headline at the top of its homepage:
Perry says he's offended if someone says he can be bought for $5,000 campaign contribution
9:30 - Santorum: "Gov. Perry gave in-state tuition to illegal immigrants. Maybe that was his attempt to get the illegal — uh, the Latino vote."

9:31 - Perry defends his tuition policy in response to Santorum, taking a resoundingly pro-immigration tone: "It doesn't matter how you got here. It doesn't matter what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way." The audience loudly boos Perry here.

9:33 - Huntsman, grinning, says: "For Rick [Perry] to say we can't secure the borders is a treasonous comment." Perry cracks up.

9:35 - Romney says that Huntsman's decision to give drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants "creates a patina of legality." Lose the law-prof-speak, Mitt!

9:36 - Huntsman comes back: "We could talk about where Mitt's been on all the issues, and that would take forever." It's been surprisingly rare to see the candidates attacking Romney for his famous flip-flopping. They don't want to draw too much blood from Romney; they might need him later.

9:40 - Paul: There's a big difference between "military spending" and "defense spending." We should cut military spending, not defense spending.

9:41 - Paul: "What would we do if another country, say China, did to us what we do to the countries over there [in the Middle East]?" We can't think we can occupy them with no retaliation.

9:42 - Santorum attacks Paul for a post on his website yesterday, saying that U.S. policy led to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

9:43 - Paul: "This whole idea that al Qaeda is attacking us for being free and prosperous is just not true." He paraphrases Osama bin Laden's purported reasons for attacking America. He seems to have difficulty continuing because the audience is so vocally negative. I don't know why Paul takes bin Laden at his word.

9:52 - Bachmann answers the question what she'd bring to the White House: copies of "the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights." The Bill of Rights is part of the Constitution, so that's redundant unless you want to emphasize the first 10 Amendments — most of which are about protecting the rights of criminal defendants.

9:54 - The debate is over. TalkingPointsMemo notes one ghoulish moment, which I also noticed but didn't have time to write down:
Wolf asks Ron Paul about a hypothetical 30 year-old who has no insurance and needs intensive care.

“So society should just allow him to die?” Wolf asks.

“Yeah!” someone in the audience shouts out.
There's your Tea Party debate in a nutshell.


victoria said...

John, I love your mom, but I think she is dead wrong about the room being packed with Perry-ites.
I think that is a little paranoid.
Love your insight

Vicki From Pasadena

John Althouse Cohen said...


I wouldn't say the room was packed with Perry supporters. Perry was booed for his comments about immigration. I think the room is packed with people who represent the hard-core Republican base, which is going to be more sympathetic with Perry than with Romney.

I hope they stop and think about the fact that they're not going to be the only ones voting in the general election.

Anonymous said...

I hope they stop and think about the fact that they're not going to be the only ones voting in the general election.

Do you think there is a certain amount of Texas-fatigue?

Cause I do. I think the Texas cowboy brand was used and abused, and resented by the world, under Bush.

But you know, in spite of that, one big reason Perry is there is because his evangelical mega-church buddies in Texas can't stand the idea of a Mormon winning.

And they promised him they'd raise him a sum certain to win, even if they lose.

I'm not so sure that evangelicals wouldn't consider Obama's reelection to be the second best outcome, and a Republican Mormon president the worst possible outcome of all.

Bzod said...

Not so sure one person yelling out "yeah" to the 30-year old dying question qualifies as "Tea Party in a nutshell" but thanks for the re-cap.

John Althouse Cohen said...

I didn't say it was the "Tea Party in a nutshell."

I said it was the "Tea Party debate in a nutshell."

There's a difference.

Anonymous said...

Nicely done, John. Echoing Bzod, I hope you are above believing the "Yeah" came from a Tea Partier.

Anonymous said...

So therefore, you believe Dem plants are ghoulish? I would have just called it politics, John.

John Althouse Cohen said...

In a night with a lot of raucous crowd participation that seemed to be coming from a far-right direction (even by Republican primary standards), and with the debate being billed as "CNN/Tea Party," that moment stood out to me as summing up the atmosphere of the evening.

Bzod said...

My point from last night holds whether you use Tea Party, or Tea Party debate, for the context. There is a difference, but you see what you want to see I guess...

John Althouse Cohen said...

You may still have your point, and that's fine. And I have my point, which is not that all or even most Tea Partiers are enthusiastic about Wolf Blitzer's hypothetical 30-year-old man dying. (I don't know enough about the Tea Party's views to know the answer to that.) My point is about the type of awkward situations that result when you take the well-established presidential debate format and try to bring a rowdy, right-wing protest group into the mix. CNN is trying to make itself relevant by making this a "CNN/Tea Party" debate, and we got to plainly observe the results of this odd mixture last night.

john marzan said...

If Perry wins the nomination, the best thing he could do is to get Giuliani for VP-yes?

John Althouse Cohen said...

If Perry wins the nomination, the best thing he could do is to get Giuliani for VP-yes?

These are the potentially good choices for a Republican running mate that I can think of (for anyone, not just Perry):

Paul Ryan
Mitch Daniels

Anyone else?