I'm still not getting tired of watching these debates. You know why? I keep learning more about each candidate, their positions and policies, their personalities and politics. This is another one well worth watching. You can find it here. The media articles about it really don't do it justice or reflect the actual spirit of the debate, which was largely civil and informative, with an electric audience - the moderators could hardly get a word in edgewise for all the noise! Newt Gingrich said up front that this is the time for us to be asking difficult questions to see which candidate truly has what it takes to defend himself against attacks which we know are coming up in the presidential debates. There were tough questions on positions and in clarifying records and statements, both from moderators and fellow candidates.
Did you hear about Huckabee's forum on Saturday night for undecided voters, with all candidates except Ron Paul attending? Well, Huckabee said something in the introduction that stuck out me. To paraphrase: We aren't undecided because the candidates are bad, on the contrary - they're all good! It's like we're hungry, coming to a grocery store with lots of prepared foods, and we can't decide which one we want because everything looks good. I think that's true. We're hungry for change in Washington, change in the direction of the country and our economy, and we don't know which one will be best, though they're all good. All good enough to beat Obama- even if the leftist media doesn't agree! We don't need them to agree with us, we just need to vote against Obama and we'll get what we're hungry for: prosperity!
I'll record my own impression of each candidate from the Monday night debate moving across the stage from left to right. Later on I'll cover what I learned about some issues.
Rick Perry: I don't know how much longer he can stick this election season out, but I greatly appreciate his insights on border issues. I hope the other candidates are taking notes. I'm sure they are, I've noticed that the issues they each raise are taken home and studied further by the other candidates. I think they all now support his idea that foreign aid starts at $0, with the countries proving they have America's best interest in mind before receiving aid.
Rick Santorum: He seemed defensive and offensive at the same time. He defended his record very well, didn't seem disturbed at the questions asked. It is obvious that he believes what he says. He did not spare the other candidates, asking all but Perry some good questions. He was not as polite as he could have been, but he's not a frontrunner anyway so he's got nothing to lose.
Mitt Romney: This race is his to lose. He continues to defend his record and explain his record to better our understanding of him as a conservative candidate. I've long noticed that he gets a hard rap for 'supporting' things in Massachusetts that were beyond his actual control. He's convinced me that he personally has been consistently pro-life, pro-family, pro-rights in general, anti-discrimination, and that he has a solid and stellar record with fiscal conservatism. The portrayal of him as a flip-flopper comes from the left. He's also convinced me that he remains calm and polite under pressure and explains himself well, and understands well not only the problems we face as Americans but also how to solve these problems.
Newt Gingrich: He's an opportunist. He doesn't waste an opportunity to point out problems with fellow candidates, to build himself up, or to call out the moderators on some of the questions posed to him. He comes across as a smooth politician, a conservative smooth politician, but a politician nonetheless. He does articulate principles of conservatism better than any other candidate.
Ron Paul: He got grilled on his foreign policy. On the whole, I'm relieved that he's not trying to disband the military entirely, but rather stop getting the US over-involved in the affairs of other nations. I still think he takes that premise too far. He wasn't asked much un-related to foreign policy besides his positions taken against other candidates.
Foreign Policy: I like that Mitt Romney called RonPaul out on his position by reminding us that a strong (opposite of what we have now) military wouldn't likely need to be used because no one would ever want to cross it! He also reminded us that President Obama is expecting the Afghan people to continue the war on the Taliban after he's withdrawn American troops, and after he's offered to compromise with the Taliban. That's a weak position for both us and the people of Afghanistan.
Conservatism: All of them are doing a great job showing conservative colors, including Romney. All of them are doing a great job focusing on Obama and calling him out for his USA-defeating policies. They're all doing a great job explaining where and why the federal government has grown too big for its britches and which types of things should be granted back to the states, like Medicaid, education, etc.
DREAM Act: Romney supports killing treasonous citizens of the United States, that have aligned themselves with groups who have declared war on the United States. I support that too. I want clarification on his views concerning what Rick Santorum brought up later: that the power given the executive branch could be widely abused and the previous rights granted to citizens involved in treasonous activities are sufficient, and no new powers are needed.
Social Security: Gingrich wants to move to a private model like Chile, which has seen the growth of personal savings, personal wealth, and government capital in Chile because they're not having to pay for retirements! I support that. However, Santorum brought up a good point: we're starting $15T in debt (thus far) and before we can start shifting young people away from paying into Social Security as it exists now, we need to put it in the black. Romney supported that measure and said that his tax-free savings accounts proposed for middle-income Americans would do the same thing. Encourage them to save for their own retirements. Romney didn't address whether he'd support phasing out Social Security to a more private model. Nor did he mention that Americans would have an inducement to save, but not additional income to save from since they'd continue paying Social Security.
Super-PACs: Gingrich keeps asking Romney to tell his super-PACs to stop airing lies, even though the law requires no contact between candidates and their super-PACs, and even though Gingrich's super-PACs lies have been bigger than any of the rest! Romney got Gingrich to admit as much, and then Romney aired the view that all the candidates would love to see all PACs disappear with the repeal of McCain campaign finance reform laws! They'd all like to see anyone be allowed to contribute however much they want and to be responsible for their own ads.
Taxes: They're all pretty conservative, arguing that government expenditures have ballooned away from government revenue, which has stayed relatively flat. The underdogs like to boast that their plans are boldest. That may be, but could they get them passed through the legislature? I doubt it, except in Gingrich's case because he's a bully. Ron Paul supports no tax at all! He didn't say where the government got its money from before 1913 when federal taxation began. I'm guessing he wants to return to that source. How he'd convince Congress to defund everything is beyond me.
Welfare: Gingrich consistently tackles this issue directly, and he does it well. Having lived temporarily in a ghetto, I know all too well that what he says is right and absolutely necessary to change the way we think about entitlements and those people dependent on them. Right now, there is no incentive for people on entitlements to work because they can get housing, health care, food stamps, even help with bills because of entitlements. Right now, those out of work get 99 weeks of unemployment - that's long enough for an associate's degree, as Gingrich pointed out! He would like all unemployment benefits to come with jobs training, through private businesses. He supports public aid requiring work for their benefits, essentially making these people employable. He would like to see the need for food stamps die out because people get out of poverty. I think all the candidates agree with this sort of thinking, but I haven't heard them express it like he has.
Again, it's worth the watch if you missed it. The next one is Thursday evening at 8 ET. Then next week in Florida there will be two more, Monday and Thursday again. After that, we get a respite for awhile!