Thoughts on the Presidential Forum

Former Governor Mike Huckabee hosted a Republican Presidential Forum Saturday night on his Fox News channel show. It was one of the best events lately, maybe because the debate set up is getting old and has lots of problems inherent in it.

With Huckabee’s forum, he avoided the scant amount of time candidates are given to outline their policies and there was no showboating. Each got the same amount of time and were asked in a respectful manner to clarify their issues by three state attorneys general. There weren’t any gotcha questions by liberal media reporters. Without an audience, usually stocked with candidate supporters anyhow, we were spared the catcalls and applause time that weigh down the format. With a full two hours and six candidates, we got a better picture of them than we have before.

Jon Huntsman declined to participate and Herman Cain had already suspended his campaign.

Newt Gingrich took the first questions. He began his answer each time with “first of all.” That got old quickly. It’s a device people use to get a few seconds to collect their thoughts. I thought he was better than that. I was glad Pam Bondi of Florida asked Gingrich about the community boards for approving long time illegal immigrants. His answer was to point to the selective service bureau of the past in comparison. I don’t see how that is a very good model. Seems his answer has changed on this topic and he has never given specifics as to who would appoint the board and how it would operate. Newt got that smug look on his face when she called him on this.

Nor did Gingrich give good answers to Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia’s questions about the individual mandate and climate change. He said his approach was a way to stop Hillarycare (huh?) and admitted that sitting with Nancy Pelosi was stupid. What makes us feel he wouldn’t do something stupid like that again, this time in office when it counts?

Rich Santorum followed Gingrich. He seemed mired in social conservative issues, partly the fault of the panel. It made his ideas get stuck in that arena. Although he knows a lot about foreign policy, that was not touched.

Gov. Perry followed and did well. He called for the federal government to get out of the school business and leave it to the states to decide. When questioned about making laws about labor practices federal, he stuck to his 10th amendment stance that states should decide matters, not Washington. Perry said he was for term limits for judges, complaining about “legislators in robes” who decide whether and how we can pray at schools and public places. When asked to describe strict constructionism, he whipped out a copy of the Constitution and said it meant just what was in the document; no interpretations.

Next up was Michele Bachmann. She called Obamacare “the social engineering playground of the left.” That’s spot on, but when asked questions about the EPA, she was off. AG Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma asked how without a federal organization like the EPA states could deal with each other’s pollution. Bachmann replied that they could negotiate. On that and other questions Bachmann would say “you’re making a good point” or “that’s a good question” which seemed to me like an admission that they were right to object. I did like that she picked out the Kelo decision as one of the Supreme Court’s worst recent rulings aside from Roe v. Wade.

Ron Paul got wound up in the Patriot Act. It seemed to rattle him. His rationale for denying it is that you can’t stop all crime just because you legislate. That falls flat. Pruitt persevered and said not having one would deny “a comprehensive law at the federal level equipping law enforcement to prevent domestic terrorism in this country.” Clearly, Pruitt had Oklahoma City in mind, but he also asked about the World Trade Center, whether that was an act of terrorism. Paul’s knee jerk reaction was to say it was “violence” but then trailed off into an agreement that it was terrorism. Not a good performance.

Mitt Romney still likes his Massachusetts health care law. He insisted it was different from Obamacare in that it changed health care for only 8% of residents, rather than 100%. Cuccinelli disagreed and said it affected everyone. Romney said that for most people nothing changed. Well, how about a big hike in health care premiums for one example? That didn’t come up. Romney reminds me of the Energizer bunny: the answers keep coming, fast and furious, even if they aren’t cogent. He did himself no good in his closing with a reference to New York Times columnist, the pseudo conservative David Brooks. Romney should have moved away from that guy, not closer to him.

It was a good forum. We need to see the candidate somewhere else than behind a podium. A president will not use debating skills to confer with foreign leaders, nor will he participate in debates with legislators. More of these, please.

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