I had a choice on Wednesday night. I could have watched the Republican debate, or I could have stuck a screwdriver in my eye.
After some difficult deliberation, I opted for watching the debate. About 30 minutes into it, though, I started looking for that screwdriver.
Here was my impression: Kate Gosselin, of Kate Plus 8 fame, needed to be on the stage supervising the eight kids. We had a couple of Ricks, a Mitt, a Newt, a Herman, a crazy Aunt Michele, a crazy Uncle Ron, and a John who spells his name J-O-N, all determined to, at one time or another, poop in the sandbox and ruin it for the other children.
By the way, the over-under on when Obama would be called a socialist was 20 minutes. If you had the under, you’re a winner. At 7:19, Newt said the President was committed to “class warfare and bureaucratic socialism.”
Ding, ding, ding.
The next socialism reference was seven minutes later when Michelle Bachmann labeled Obama’s health care reform law “socialized medicine.”
Ding, ding, ding.
The Big Loser of the night: Rick Perry, unfortunately.
Here is Perry’s response to a question he was asked about the nasty things he wrote in his recent—recent!—book about Social Security:
JOHN HARRIS: In the book, you call Social Security the best example of a program that “violently tossed aside any respect for states’ rights.” We understand your position that it’s got funding problems now. I’d like you to explain your view that Social Security was wrong right from the beginning.
PERRY: Well, I think any of us that want to go back and change 70 years of what’s been going on in this country is probably going to have a difficult time. And rather than spending a lot of time talking about what those folks were doing back in the ’30s and the ’40s, it’s a nice intellectual conversation, but the fact is we have got to be focused on how we’re going to change this program…
But I think the Republican candidates are talking about ways to transition this program, and it is a monstrous lie.
It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you’re paying into a program that’s going to be there. Anybody that’s for the status quo with Social Security today is involved with a monstrous lie to our kids, and it’s not right.
There you have it. Rick Perry tripled down on his assertion that Social Security, which has lifted millions of Americans out of end-of-life poverty, is essentially a criminal enterprise. I’m sort of all goose-pimply that I witnessed the end of Rick Perry’s Jesus-endorsed quest for the presidency. It’s sort of like being in the Garden of Eden at that pivotal moment when God asked,
Who told thee that thou wast naked?
But not only did Perry eat the forbidden fruit of speaking ill of Social Security—and lying to young people about the program— he actually spoke ill of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, suggesting they might be liars.
Well, at least he didn’t call Barack Obama a liar. He called him an “abject liar.”
And Perry was also at the center of one of the most disturbing moments of the night. He was asked this question by Brian Williams:
Governor Perry…your state has executed 234 death-row inmates, more than any governor in modern times. Have you—[interrupted by raucous, if not bloodthirsty, applause]—have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?
Now, forget for a moment, if you can, that a room full of Republicans thought it appropriate to applaud the record-setting government execution of 234 people (which Brian Williams noted a moment later). Think about Perry’s answer:
No, sir. I’ve never struggled with that at all…
Never struggled with approving the death warrant of 234 people? Never? He’s been accused in one prominent case of possibly executing an innocent man. And following that execution, Perry then removed members of a state-authorized panel who were looking into the case. Never struggled? What kind of man is that?
A dangerous man.
In any case, even though Perry tried to bring all “the Republican candidates” onto the kill-Social Security train, which will leave the station at the same time as the kill-Medicare train, Mitt Romney had the good sense to stay on the station platform, for now. He took the opportunity to challenge Perry’s position:
Our nominee has to be someone who isn’t committed to abolishing Social Security, but who is committed to saving Social Security.
Thus, the big winner of the night: Mitt Romney, unfortunately.
Mitt, as I have said all along, is the only candidate in this Kate Plus 8 field who has a chance of beating Obama. Romney challenged Perry’s dissing of Social Security, even though Romney himself has at various times been in favor of privatizing the program and raising the eligibility age. With friends like Mitt Romney, Social Security doesn’t need any enemies.
But the truth is that despite Romney’s lack of affection for historical Social Security, there simply isn’t any other Republican capable of beating Obama in a general election and at some point Republican kingmakers, like Karl Rove, will broadcast that reality to the GOP establishment, and Rick Perry will go back to hell or west Texas, the distinction not all that important for my purposes here.
Mitt did have a Tea Party moment, despite the fact that he failed to enthusiastically embrace the movement when given a chance. He said:
We need to have an individual lead this country, who not only loves America, but has the experience to get us back on track of being competitive globally.
“Not only loves America…” Let me see. Who doesn’t love America? Oh, yeah. The black guy in the White’s House. That ought to make happy those who doubted Romney’s ability to exploit to white angst.
Finally, before I end this eye-witness report on the debate, I want to mention a couple of the other kids in the Reagan Library sandbox:
I don’t know what kind of doctor Ron Paul is or was or hopes to be, but I wouldn’t let him trim the nails on my faithful dachshund, after I heard his criticism of Rick Perry’s sensible policy on the virus that causes cervical cancer, HPV. That policy was one of the things Rick Perry got right in Texas, even though he may have got it right for the wrong reason. Paul said it wasn’t “good medicine.”
And besides insisting that private industry could and should simply regulate itself, crazy Uncle Ron suggested that the U.S.-Mexico border fence, a favorite solution of conservatives to stop those hungry Mexicans from ordering off the dollar menu at El Paso area McDonald’s, might actually be a way for our government to “keep us in” the country. Gee, I never thought of that.
Oh, yeah. Ron said he could fix it where we could buy gas for a dime, a silver dime. How many of those do you have in your pocket?
I do want to mention, though, Ron Paul’s one stunningly brilliant contribution of the night. Since the event was held at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, naturally there was a lot of talk about Reagan. Paul said about the Reagan presidency:
We have to be honest…It was not all that great.
Ding, ding, ding.
Ms. Bachmann, true to herself, mentioned that she sits on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence—thanks, John Boehner—and that because she is privy to “classified secrets,” she “firmly believes” that President Obama “has weakened us militarily and put us more at risk than at any time.” Man, I’d like to see those intel documents. Where’s WikiLeaks when you need it?
Mr. Huntsman, who took a lot of unfriendly shots at his former boss, Mr. Obama, failed to aggressively attack his fellow Republicans for being stuck in the 8th century, when it comes to science. He had his Tim Pawlenty moment—a chance to say face-to-face what he had been saying on the campaign trail—and like Tim Pawlenty, he shriveled up like a fat man at an Arctic nudist camp.
The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO presented his 9-9-9 plan, which, as my nephew texted me, means 9 pizzas with 9 toppings for 9 bucks. I’ll vote for that!