Thursday, September 22, 2011

Live-blogging the Republican presidential primary debate on FoxNews, September 22

Feel free to post any comments on the debate, whether or not they're relevant to what I said.

You can see more live-blogging at Althouse (my mom's blog), TalkingPointsMemo, Politico, and National Review.

Any quotations in this post will be whatever I write down on the fly. I'll try to keep these reasonably accurate, but they might not be exactly word-for-word.

9:03 - Rick Perry seems weary, disoriented, and halting, just one minute into the debate.

9:04 - Perry, where's your specific jobs plan? Perry says he'll show it to us . . . eventually. In other words, he doesn't have a specific jobs plan.

9:05 - The moderator tells Romney his 59-point jobs plan is very specific, but perhaps too timid. Romney gets off to an awkward start, asking if the microphone is on. "In order to create jobs, it helps if you've had a job. And I have."

9:07 - Romney refuses to answer the question how he defines "rich." He wants everyone to be rich. Sounds like a great plan.

9:08 - Bachmann is re-asked a question from the last debate (which was originally asked by an audience member): How much of his money does he deserve to keep? Of course, Bachmann says you deserve to keep all of your money. It's the wrong question. It implies that there's some bureaucrat somewhere who just loves taking people's money because they think people don't deserve all their money; so we have to debate with that person about what the right percentage is.

9:12 - The debates this year have had more discussion of welfare than we've heard in presidential debates since before 2000. Everyone seemed to decide it was no longer a salient issue at some point. Notably, the welfare reform law of 1996 needs to be reauthorized on September 30.

9:15 - Herman Cain is asked if his "9/9/9 plan" of eliminating many taxes and creating three new flat taxes will just lead to tax increases in the future. Don't worry, says Cain: there's no chance of that! Well, that's a relief!

9:18 - Ron Paul is asked what he'll do to protect the 10th Amendment. He concisely says he'll veto any bill that violates the 10th Amendment. In an unprecedented move, the moderator complains that Paul hasn't used enough of his time.

9:21 - During a commercial break, a FoxNews anchor tells us they asked viewers to answer the question of what counts as rich. The most common answer (to rephrase it in negative terms) is that anyone who makes $999,999 or less is not rich. Wow.

9:27 - Romney to Perry: "You better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying" that Social Security is unconstitutional and so on. In other words, Perry has watered down his talking points about Social Security, and Romney isn't going to let him get away with it.

9:29 - Perry unilaterally shifts the debate to health care, retorting that Romney said in his book that his health care reform would be a good model for the country. I'm not clear on what Romney's point was in rebutting this.

9:30 - Does Romney believe that President Barack Obama is a socialist? Romney says: (1) The better title for him would be "Former President Barack Obama." (2) He's a big-spending liberal who's going down the path of Europe.

9:31 - Romney, apropos of nothing: "I didn't inhale." [Added: I didn't catch his setup, which made this make a bit more sense. My mom transcribes the full comment: "I spent 4 years as governor. I didn't inhale." She notes that Romney says this while glancing at Perry.]

9:34 - The candidates are asked which federal department they'd eliminate if they were forced to do so. Cain says the Environmental Protection Agency, but he emphasizes that this presupposes he'd be forced to eliminate one. Republicans seem to have softened from the old days, when they would boast of their willingness to "abolish" federal agencies.

9:36 - My mom points out that 3 of the 9 candidates are wearing yellow ties (of course, that's 3 of the 8 candidates who are wearing ties at all): Jon Huntsman, Cain, and Paul.

9:38 - Libertarian Gary Johnson (in his first debate of the race) says he'll abolish the Department of Education — and this was not in response to the question about which department he'd abolish if forced to.

9:40 - Paul repeats his "care" theme from past debates: "If you care about children, you'll want to get the federal government out of the business of educating them."

9:42 - Perry goes even more negative than he's gone before, sternly calling Romney "not conservative" on education. Perry is apparently saying this only because Romney has praised elements of Obama's education policy. Romney laughs this off: "Nice try!" He agrees with Obama's policy goal of making it easier to fire teachers. This was an odd move by Perry. I thought it was conventional wisdom that Obama has challenged the standard Democratic teacher's union orthodoxy.

9:46 - Josh Marshall said (half an hour into the debate):

I'm curious how it will play. But Romney's just running circles around Perry. He's a very different candidate than he was four years ago, let alone back in '94 when he ran against Ted Kennedy. Tight, on message.
9:50 - Romney attacks Perry for giving more money to illegal immigrants than citizens to go to the University of Texas. "It makes no sense." In fact, it makes so little sense that it's hard to believe that's even the real policy. [Added: I understand now: as this TNR article explains, Romney was referring to the fact that in-state UT students who happened to be illegal immigrants got the same discount on their tuition as other in-state students, so they paid $22,000 a year less than out-of-state students.]

9:52 - Question to Perry: How do you feel, being criticized by many of the candidates for being soft on illegal immigration? "I feel pretty normal." Perry adds that if you make arguments like the one Romney made about education for illegal immigrants, "I don't think you have a heart."

9:53 - Moderator Chris Wallace: "Senator Santorum, you don't need to butt in, because I'm about to ask you a question." Santorum sheepishly responds: "OK."

10:03 - Romney says Obama has gone wrong by publicly criticizing Israel. It's OK to disagree with an ally, but make the criticism privately.

10:04 - Romney: "It is unacceptable — and I use that word carefully — it is unacceptable for Iran to become a nuclear power."

10:10 - Gingrich says (reasonably, in my opinion) that he'd get rid of almost all direct government-to-government foreign aid since it leads to corruption.

10:11 - Johnson: It's "crazy" for us to be giving money to any countries when we have to borrow money to do it.

10:12 - Like Romney, Huntsman can't tell if his microphone is working even though we can hear him. FoxNews seems to have some problems with its debate infrastructure.

10:13 - Huntsman: "People are ready to bring our troops home from Afghanistan."

10:14 - Bachmann is asked about a comment she made saying "separation between church and state" is a "myth." In response, she says all "separation of church and state" means is that there isn't a United States-sponsored church. "We should have freedom for all people to express their belief in God."

10:16 - A self-proclaimed "gay soldier," serving in Iraq, asks if the candidates would allow him to serve. The audience loudly boos the soldier. Santorum responds that he doesn't want gays to have "special privileges." The moderator re-asks the question since Santorum didn't answer it. Santorum incoherently says he would reinstitute the old policy so that "sex would not be an issue." But it was precisely under the old policy ("Don't Ask, Don't Tell") that sex was an issue. It's the repeal of DADT that takes sexuality off the table as an issue. I thought conservatives were supposed to be attuned to the fact that government policies lead to unintended consequences.

[Added: GOProud is asking Santorum to apologize to the soldier, saying:]
It is telling that Rick Santorum is so blinded by his anti-gay bigotry that he couldn’t even bring himself to thank that gay soldier for his service.
10:19 - Paul doesn't support a law against the "day-after pill." He makes the important point that you don't always need law to make people behave well.

10:21 - Cain says he would be dead today if Obamacare had been the law back in 2006 when he was diagnosed with cancer. His reason is vague: Obamacare would have provided a "bureaucrat's timetable" for when he could get treatment.

10:27 - Bachmann attacks Perry for being influenced by a campaign contribution to support a law requiring that girls in Texas receive a vaccination for the sexually transmitted disease HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer. Perry dramatically responds: "I was lobbied on this issue. I was lobbied by a 31-year-old woman with cervical cancer."

10:31 - Romney says his health care reform was "different than Obamacare" because it was "market-based." It didn't create some new government health insurance. Does Romney not realize that the public option failed?

10:33 - The sniping between Romney and Perry has started to feel worn-out. Perry is incapable of getting through his litany of issues on which Romney has flip-flopped; he stumbles over his words so much he's incomprehensible ("You were for it before you were before it . . ."). [Added later: TalkingPointsMemo seizes on this as the moment when conservative pundits turned against Perry. TPM aptly says that Perry "attempted to deliver a knockout blow against Mitt Romney’s various changes of position — only to trip over all his words as he tried to keep track of them." Here's the video, with Perry's bumbling starting after 1:25:]

10:39 - Cain: "Ronald Reagan said we were a shining city on a hill. We've slid down the bottom of that hill." Overall tonight, the candidates have been mercifully restrained in mentioning Reagan.

10:41 - Paul: "Government destroys jobs; the market creates jobs."

10:44 - Johnson: "My next-door neighbor's 2 dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this administration."

10:47 - Who on the stage would you choose as a running mate? Johnson, of course, says Paul, the only other libertarian on the stage. Santorum would pick Gingrich. Gingrich: "I couldn't imagine hurting the rest of their feelings by picking one of them."

10:49 - Paul points out that he's the #3 candidate in the polls. He'll wait until he's one of the top 2 before picking his running mate.

10:49 - Perry: "If you could take Herman Cain and mate him up with Newt Gingrich, I think you'd have a really interesting candidate." Romney: "There are a couple images I'm going to have a really hard time getting out of my mind."

10:50 - Romney says he'd be happy with anyone on the stage as a running mate. He's asked how can he say that about Perry, whom he's attacked as unelectable. Romney doesn't take the bait to lob yet another attack on Perry. He simply says everyone on the stage has problems that would be obstacles for them in getting elected.

10:52 - Huntsman makes my mom's point about his and Cain's yellow ties, while saying he'd pick Cain as a running mate.

10:54 - Almost everyone picked Gingrich as a running mate. Reminds me of the 2008 Democratic primary debates, when Joe Biden was able to get a whole ad out of running together all the times the other candidates said during debates that they agreed with him. If you're getting lots of praise from everyone in the debates, it means you have no chance.


Dana Loesch says on Twitter (via Jonah Goldberg):
That Gary Johnson's line is most discussed tells you how badly some of the other candidates performed.
She's also, like Romney, thinking about the image of Perry wanting to have Cain "mate up" with Gingrich:
Brangelina ... Caingrich?
My mom gives Romney the "quote of the night" award, for saying this:
I'm going to stand by my positions. I'm proud of them. There are a lot of reasons not to elect me. There are a lot of reasons not to elect other people on this stage. But one reason to elect me is that I know what I stand for, I've written it down, words have meaning, and I have the experience to get this country going again.
(You can see Romney saying this at the end of the video I embedded between 10:33 and 10:39.)

Huntsman says the audience's booing of the gay soldier was "unfortunate." "We all salute the same flag."

Frank Luntz's focus group on FoxNews is saying Romney won the debate. TPM says the focus group is calling Romney
“Presidential,” “decisive,” and “elegant.” Perry, meanwhile, is being called “too much of a waffler” by one woman in the group. The crowd also seem angry about the moment when he turned on his immigration critics and accused them (and Bachmann in particular) of not having a heart.
A new Gallup poll shows that Romney has a distinct lead over Perry and Obama in a hypothetical general election.

So, can we stop calling Perry "the frontrunner" yet?


Jason (the commenter) said...

9:04 - Perry, where's your specific jobs plan? Perry says he'll show it to us . . . eventually. In other words, he doesn't have a specific jobs plan.

Perry doesn't have a written jobs plan, he has Texas.

John Althouse Cohen said...

As Romney said in a previous debate, if you believe Perry created everything great about Texas, that's like believing Al Gore invented the internet.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Did you notice that Perry brought up the change in Romney's book that you blogged about?

Maybe he's a fan.

Jason (the commenter) said...

And Romney said, defending himself, that he wasn't taking back anything he said in his book. He's denying the documented evidence!

John Althouse Cohen said...

Yeah, I noticed. Romney addressed this in a recent interview:

BLITZER: I know you stand by the health care reform you passed, you got enacted when you were the governor of Massachusetts, and you differentiate between who what you did in Massachusetts as opposed to what President Obama did on a national scale. But some other news organizations have done some research, and I'll give you a chance to respond to this.

They have taken a look at your book, the book entitled "No Apology," the hard-cover version, in that book you this, you wrote, "It's portable, affordable health insurance -- something people have been talking about for decades," referring to your plan. "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country, and it can be done without letting government take over health care."

Now in the paperback, more recent version, it was changed to say, "It's portable, affordable health insurance -- something people have been talking about for decades. And it was done without government taking over health care." The line, "we can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country," was taken out.

Explain why.

ROMNEY: You know, Wolf, we updated the book because it came out almost a year after the first book, and, of course, the president's plan was then put in place.

I was in asked when we put our plan together by Dan Balz of "The Washington Post," is the plan in Massachusetts something that, if you are president, you'd have the entire country adopt. And I said no. I said that very clearly. I've said it throughout the campaign in 2008. The Massachusetts plan was crafted for Massachusetts, for the needs of 8 percent of our population that didn't have insurance, not for the 92 percent that did. Obamacare is a plan that takes over 100 percent of the people in the country and their health care, and that's one of the reasons why people don't want it.

So our plan was a model for other states to copy, some states have copied parts of it, others say no way, they'll do something else, that's their right. But it is not a plan to have a one-size-fits -all approach, I said that from the beginning, continue to say it.

By the way, it works pretty well in Massachusetts, but there's some flaws in it, I'd like to see them changed.