I thought I would just share with you some notes I took while dutifully, if painfully, watching the CNN GOP debate last night:
The thing opens with NFL football seriousness, what with the music and the introduction of the candidates. I am thinking there is going to be a Stealth Bomber flyover.
I note there are three or four black folks in the audience. Perhaps a debate record for the GOP.
I couldn’t tell if Newt was booed when he came on the scene or whether it was Newwwwwt‘s. But I am convinced he enjoys it no matter what.
Oh, my God. I have to revise my count: there are three African-American kids in the choir singing the national anthem. Three out of twelve. Now, we are definitely talking a record here. The GOP is the party of inclusion!
I notice Newt is not singing along. Neither is Ron Paul. Man, if the President Who Was Born In Kenya did that, he would really get the business on Fox News later tonight and all day tomorrow. But at least Newt has his hand over his chest. That’s a good patriotic sign, or else the too-spicy tamales on the Mexican buffet backstage are getting to him.
When Rick Santorum introduces himself it strikes me how much he would look like Pee-wee Herman, if he only had a bow tie. Where’s George Will when you need him?
The debate gets going:
In response to a question about his calling Mitt “the most anti-immigrant candidate” in an ad, Newt says we have to be “realistic in our indignation.” I’m not immediately sure what that means, but I know Newt has never done it.
Wolf Blitzer, the amiable moderator, won’t let Newt escape and he is forced to admit that he does indeed think Mitt is “the most anti-immigrant candidate.” This is where Mittens begins his attack, using what I will call gentlemanly aggression, and Newt is shrinking before my eyes. And I never thought I would ever put Newt and “shrinking” in the same sentence.
“That’s inexcusable!” Mitt says. And then he drops a Marco Rubio on him, saying Rubio also believes the ad was “inexcusable and inflammatory and inappropriate.” Wow! A Triple Adjective Takedown! I haven’t seen one of those in a while! But Mitt really wounds Newt with this:
Mr. Speaker, I’m not anti-immigrant. My father was born in Mexico. My wife’s father was born in Wales. They came to this country. The idea that I’m anti-immigrant is repulsive.
Then Mittens says,
I think you should recognize that having differences of opinions on issues does not justify labeling people with highly charged epithets.
Oh, my. If Newt can’t label people with highly charged epithets, he won’t be able to say another word the rest of the campaign.
Next, Wolf turns to Mitt’s ad about Gingrich calling Spanish “the language of the ghetto.” And here we find out why Mitt Romney will have a lot of problems going up against Big O. Mitt says he hasn’t seen the ad. And then asks,
Did he say that?
Moments later he adds,
I doubt that’s my ad, but we’ll take a look and find out. There are a bunch of ads out there that are being organized by other people.
Dammit Mitt! This is bleeping CNN! They’ve hired fact checkers for this special night! You can’t get away with that stuff. Sure enough, Wolf comes back later and says:
We did double-check, just now, Governor, that ad that we talked about, where I quoted you as saying that Speaker Gingrich called Spanish “the language of the ghetto” — we just double-checked. It was one of your ads. It’s running here in Florida in — on the radio. And at the end you say, “I’m Mitt Romney and I approved this ad.”
But Mitt soon rehabs himself. Blitzer asks Newt about Romney’s personal finances, and Newt, trying his old shtick, tells Wolf he has asked a “nonsense question.” But the crowd isn’t tearing the place down and Wolf refuses to be detoured (this is his finest moment; later he will degrade himself and ask about the candidates’ wives, a typical cutesy CNN question) and confronts Newt with reality:
BLITZER: But, Mr. Speaker, you made an issue of this, this week, when you said that, “He lives in a world of Swiss bank and Cayman Island bank accounts.” I didn’t say that. You did.
GINGRICH: I did. And I’m perfectly happy to say that on an interview on some TV show. But this is a national debate, where you have a chance to get the four of us to talk about a whole range of issues.
BLITZER: But if you make a serious accusation against Governor Romney like that, you need to explain that.
GINGRICH: I simply suggested —
GINGRICH: You want to try again? I mean –
And this is where Romney triumphs. Not content to let the slimy little Newt get off that easy, he says,
Wouldn’t it be nice if people didn’t make accusations somewhere else that they weren’t willing to defend here?
Damn, Mittens is now on fire! And Newt is forced to respond, which he did, weakly:
GINGRICH: OK. All right.
Given that standard, Mitt, I did say I thought it was unusual. And I don’t know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank account. I’d be glad for you to explain that sort of thing.
Which, of course, Mitt does, unconvincingly. But the damage to Newt is done. He asks for a “two-way truce.”
Just a few more notes on the night (I will deal with Santorum’s critique of Romneycare in another post; it was fantastic):
I am feeling sorry for the woman who asks what she is supposed to do about being unemployed for the first time in 10 years and “unable to afford health care benefits.” Sadly, she gets a lecture on conservative economics from all the candidates, which, no doubt, helped cause her to be unemployed and without insurance in the first place. Newt even says this in response to her question:
We need to have a program which would start with, frankly, repealing Obamacare, repealing Dodd-Frank, repealing Sarbanes-Oxley.
You gotta love that compassionate conservatism.
And I feel sorry for a man who identified himself as a Palestinian-American Republican. I immediately wonder how someone could be a Republican and a Palestinian-American, given the right’s attitude toward the Palestinians, but then I also wonder how someone could be a gay Republican. Go figure. The man asks this:
How would a Republican administration help bring peace to Palestine and Israel when most candidates barely recognize the existence of Palestine or its people? …I’m here to tell you we do exist.
I can guess what is coming: It’s Obama’s fault! Romney says that,
This president threw — I think he threw Israel under the bus with regards to defining the ’67 borders as a starting point of negotiations. I think he disrespected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
If Mitt keeps repeating this lie enough, perhaps Politifact will eventually rate it as “true.” Who knows. But this is one of many lies about Obama on the night.
Truth-challenged Mitt Romney will win the nomination, and the sooner the better. I don’t think I can watch another one of these debates, especially since Newt has decided not to stick anymore firecrackers in Mitt’s skivvies and watch him squirm.
And even though Newt did manage in his closing to drop a couple of references to food stamps and gave a nod to Saul Alinsky, it appears the fight has been knocked out of him this night by Mitt and earlier in the day by the Republican establishment—including a weird tag team of Bob Dole and the disturbing Ann Coulter.
And as much as I’d like to see him get the nomination and thus lose the general election, as a good American, I say good riddance.