Debating the Debate

Now that the smoke has cleared from the Republican presidential debate on Thursday, it’s worth taking a look at what was really said, rather than the knee jerk reactions that followed.

Gary Johnson got laughs for his remark about his dog creating more shovel ready jobs than Obama, but that took some chutzpah, considering Rush Limbaugh had told that joke earlier in the day.

Some chuckles ensued when Rick Perry suggested pairing Newt and Herman Cain for the ticket. That kind of question from the panel was indicative of the kind of debate it was. Even though the stock market had tumbled precipitously that afternoon, the Fox panel didn’t mention that at all, nor the European mess, nor the poor jobs number that morning. Instead, they went the route of minor issues such as college tuition for illegals and gays in the military. Those are not the same urgency as a faltering economy.

It’s also crazy to have eight people debate, especially when seven of them are out to get one. The amount of time allocated to each is not enough to get your toes wet, figuratively speaking. Most issues today are quite complicated and a minute or so isn’t enough to make a case.

The consensus is that Rick Perry lost the debate and Mitt Romney won. Perry could have and should have done better. John Podhoretz at the New York Post called it “awful. Just awful.” He decried his “unfortunate” defense of a measure allowing children of illegals living in Texas to pay the same college tuition at state universities as in-state citizens. Perry’s remark that “I don’t think you have a heart” if you are against educating them Podhoretz deemed “unquestionably offensive.”

Then Podhoretz says “And yet maybe Perry’s debate wasn’t all awful. Far from it. The thing is, debates aren’t only about performance; they are also about the way the interchanges reveal the character of the candidates – their political character.

“Do they stand up for what they believe? Do they believe in anything, or are they just willing to say whatever their audiences want to hear?

“And in that regard, Romney did not perform well at all.

“In the opening of the debate, Romney went after Perry for statements in his book, ‘Fed Up,’ about Social Security and the problems with the direct election of senators. And Perry lowered the boom on him. Romney, he noted, changed his line on his own health-care plan in the text of the paperback version of his book ‘No Apology.’

“Words poured from Romney’s mouth like smoke from a wildfire. He zoomed through sentences impossible to follow as he tried to deny that he had done what he had in fact done, which was scrub his own book as his own position changed.

“The speed with which he spoke recalled the flim-flam salesman Harold Hill, clouding the minds of innocent Iowans as he raced through the song ‘Trouble in River City’ in ‘The Music Man.’

“Even more telling, Perry hit Romney for speaking well of President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, as implemented by Education Secretary Arne Duncan – which Romney absolutely did in Miami on Wednesday. ‘I think Secretary Duncan has done some good things,’ he said, as reported by Poltico. ‘I hope that’s not heresy in this room.’

“Romney denied it – a huge blunder, because this contradiction can be thrown back at him daily until the campaign is over. And because it speaks to precisely the reason Romney has been unable to make the sale with Republicans despite his incredible persistence in wooing them over the course of five years. He comes across as false, somehow.

“Is unprepared and graceless worse than smooth and false in the eyes of voters desperate for authenticity? I don’t think so,” Podhoretz concludes.

I might add this question: Would you rather live in Texas or Massachusetts?

In some ways, it’s worrisome that a Republican elected in one of the most liberal states in the union would portray himself as Mr. Conservative. No Republican in Massachusetts can survive as Mr. Conservative. He has to tilt left at times. Ask Scott Brown. Elected to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat he has disappointed Red states with his often liberal votes.

Would you like to live in Massachusetts where Romneycare has cost citizens rate hikes of nearly 25%? Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner says there is little difference for residents there than there will be with Obamacare. “Neither bill literally says that people have to drop their coverage, but both effectively make people lose their current coverage. For one thing, both mandate that individuals purchase insurance, and once the government does that, it has to define what qualifies as insurance. Obamacare employs the phrase minimum essential coverage where as in Romney care, it’s called minimum creditable coverage. In both cases, anybody who does not have a qualified insurance policy, therefore, has to obtain one that meets the government imposed standards, or pay a fine.”

He continues, “furthermore, both plans create incentives for businesses to drop employer based private insurance and dump workers on the government exchanges. We’ve seen rumblings of this as Obamacare moves closer to implementation, and last year the Boston Globe reported the following news: ‘The relentlessly rising cost of health insurance is prompting some small Massachusetts companies to drop coverage for their workers and encourage them to sign up for state subsidized care instead, a trend that, some analysts say, could eventually weight heavily on the state’s already stressed budget.'”

Perry got hit by Rick Santorum for his solution to Texas’ health care problems. Santorum called it “binational health insurance” between Texas and Mexico. In truth, Perry, according to National Review Online’s Kevin Williamson, would have let health insurance companies write policies there, too, where and when they pleased. It was not government ordered.

As Williamson remarked, one million people live on one side of the border and work – legally – on the other. A worker could get health insurance for himself, but his family wouldn’t. Perry’s policy would allow insurance companies to cover the families in Mexico. He notes, too, that it’s not just a one sided issue. Americans cross the border to get minor medical and dental services in Mexico less expensively.

As for educating illegals, a record Romney didn’t do well from a conservative point of view, Perry did not make the policy. Under a Supreme Court mandate, Plyler vs. Doe, Texas is obliged to provide K-12 education for illegals. As for college, Perry appeared on the Sean Hannity radio show and pointed out that illegals don’t get preferential treatment over citizens of other states, nor special rates. Anyone living in Texas for three years, including Oklahomans, gets the in state rate, according to state law. Benefits are not handed to them over U.S. citizens.

Perry went on to say that it was the federal government that is letting the states down when it comes to immigration. He has asked for drones to patrol the border, military personnel, a banning of sanctuary cities and he billed the Obama administration $350 million for border help. He supported Arizona’s stand against the government. It’s hardly a soft position.

Texas under Perry has also seen jobs skyrocket and people flock to the state. In Massachusetts, Romney’s record pales in comparison. Americans are leaving liberal states like Massachusetts for the income tax free states like Texas where businesses can grow.

We already have a smooth talker in the White House whose prose has not been met with reality. It’s best everyone looks at facts behind the debate clips to avoid that consequence again.

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