This cycle was when I had become apathetic and embittered to politics again after the previous 2 elections of increased awareness and excitement. By this time, we knew about NSA surveillance, I was a lot more passionate about certain issues like healthcare, the war on drugs, privatized prisons and military adventurism which I didn’t see Obama making enough headway on. I had lost a lot of faith and respect for him, and the excuses that “Oh, but that’s all the Republicans’ fault!!” simply didn’t ring true because three of those issues (and many more) could’ve been addressed by him alone as head of the executive branch. Then as now, I felt the right was going too far in their criticism of him (“Gay Muslim Communist Anti-christ!!!”) and the left was making pathetic excuses for all his shortcomings and lies. I had no real interest in seeing Obama reelected, but at the same time I expected worse from the Republicans. Basically, I went from being hyped for change in ’04 and ’08 to just resigned to support the lesser of two evils. Truth be told, I didn’t even bother voting in 2012, and in all honesty I don’t feel the least bit bad about it. [I did my part in ’16 and plan to vote this cycle, for whatever that’s worth.]
To hone in on the Republicans specifically, again I didn’t care enough about the election to pay attention to their primaries like I had in 2008 and would again in 2016. It was just like “oh…I guess this guy Romney is the Republican this year. Huh.” I disliked him more than Obama, so I passively “supported” the Democrats again by default. Now that I know more about Romney’s oratory skills, or lack thereof, I’m gonna guess that this had to be a pretty weak field for him to rise to the top. I recall most conservatives I knew weren’t even all that enthusiastic about him; they were like me, just kinda sliding into place by default not because either candidate was that great. Romney, in my humble estimation, is like a cross between Mondale and Dukakis for the Republicans. Like the former, he was an old party insider who was dead on arrival yet running anyway (with the establishment’s backing) because it was his “turn.” And like the latter, he was a bland, unlikable, unapproachable governor who ran a pretty mediocre campaign and got his ass handed to him in the debates. The tank photo-op and Willie Horton killed Dukakis, while “47%”, “binders full of women” and general awkward tone-deafness killed Romney. So was there anyone better than himthis cycle (besides Ron Paul)? Let’s find out!
Besides those two, we also have Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann (ugh kill me now), Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain. Oh boy, it’s vaguely all coming back to me now, the absolute craziness I remember reading about from these clowns. Bachmann in particular I genuinely believe is certifiably unwell, and I think her deep, unhealthy hatred of gay people stems from jealousy and insecurity in herself because her husband is a rumored closeted gay man. That’s my unwarranted and speculative armchair diagnosis for the day. Newt Gingrich is one of the men most responsible for the Republican Party descending into the travesty it’s become due to his unscrupulous behavior as Speaker during the Clinton years. He seems to openly embrace the filth he’s created though, judging by his willingness to join forces with Trump. We have the return of the “token black guy who has no chance but we’re including him to prove we’re not racist” trope with Herman Cain. He seems to be filling two roles in fact, the token black guy and the “I’m a businessman, not a politician” slot for the Republicans in this primary. Santorum is supposed to be the evangelical for this iteration of the GOP. I know nothing about Tim Pawlenty.
Right off the bat I can tell this is going to be a lot more painful than 2008, with this sorry lot. I don’t know how or why, but it felt like 2008’s field was a step in the right direction from the previous 3 cycles, and then with this field and certainly 2016, they went right back to full-on abrasiveness.
Oh boy. You can tell by the first question this is gonna be an especially gruesome experience because of the format. I like the idea of having average people ask questions—I really do. But why in the hell do they have to physically ask the questions? Why can’t they just be submitted to the moderator, who’s a trained professional hired for their enunciation, to be asked on their behalf? And why can’t the moderators maybe receive a pool of questions from the audience/state and then use those to say “ok, ABC topic is super important to the voters, so we’ll ask about that. And they seem to really want to hear Candidate So-and-so’s position on XYZ, so we’ll be sure to ask him about that in particular, etc”? That way, the general topics the people want to hear about are raised, but the actual specific questions can be phrased better. As is, we’ve got some old man just asking the generic unanswerable “the Democrats say you won’t create jobs. Will you? How?” I imagine they’re all gonna be this bad.
Herman says the private sector and lower taxes will do it. What a surprise. Santorum says oil prices (“we need to drill!”) and blames “oppressive polices like Obamacare!!” as what’s killing the economy. More right wing platitudes please!
You know Pawlenty is full of shit when he accuses Obama of having a defeatist attitude when he (Obama) apparently said that it’s not possible for our economy to grow at the same rates as developing countries. Pawlenty either doesn’t understand that third world countries going through the industrial revolution and/or prostituting their own people out for cheap labor to multinational companies are absolutely going to grow faster than a developed country that’s more stable like America. Or, I suspect, he’s blaming Obama for whatever little thing he can because OBAMA IS EVIL SOCIALIST!!1!!1!!1
Obama-bashing continues with Romney, who is so eager to shit on the Democrats but offers no real solutions of his own. He says Pawlenty has “the right instincts” but doesn’t go so far as to say he’d do the same thing.
Gingrich name-drops Reagan (everybody drink!) and calls for the repeal of Dodd Frank.
Speaking of drinking, Michelle Bachmann proves in her very first answer that she’s a few cans short of a six pack (at best) when she announces that she’s officially running for President. No, I’m not joking. Like, I kinda assumed you were already since that’s supposed to be why you’re on stage during a presidential election debate…but…thanks for the info, I guess? I’m actually confused, don’t you need to officially declare to get invited to a debate like this? If not, why, and how do they stop any knucklehead who won’t commit to running from showing up and eating valuable time just for fun? This revelation just raises so many more questions for me. This poor woman needs help, not encouragement, but bizarrely she gets a (polite, not enthusiastic) round of applause for this inane waste of time.
Round one over and I am thoroughly not impressed (which is as polite as I can be) by each and every one of these people. Except Ron Paul. I expect that kind of statement is going to be a recurring motif here. In his own answer, Paul decries the Federal Reserve.
Some woman asks about healthcare…but not about what reforms or replacement plans they would offer, oh no. That would be actual governing, and this post Obstruct-Obama, post TEA Party GOP isn’t about that anymore. They’re about empty conservative platitudes, stamping their feet and obstructionism even against their own ideas—anything to spit on Obama for its own sake. She wants to know only what their three step plan would be to repeal Obamacare—nothing else.
Bachmann will not rest until Obamacare is repealed and tells the questioner what I’m sure she already “knows” about how bad it is…but NOT how she will repeal it which was the whole damn question. [See, it’s not even just that I vehemently disagree with the post-’80s Republicans on policy…it’s that THEY HAVE NO POLICY. Even when their whole platform is “repeal everything Obama has ever done…implement Biblical Law…and fuck Liberals at all costs” they can’t even offer up comprehensive plans or timetables of how they’ll do that. It’s nothing but a temper tantrum and empty pandering to the base while both parties obey the same neoliberal “privatize everything” agenda.]
I liked seeing the moderator needle Romney about how similar Obamacare is to his own state’s healthcare plan from when he was governor. I will say in Romney’s favor that at least he offers some replacement plan, as vague and vacuous and unhelpful as it is, by saying healthcare should (of course!) be left to the states. If you’ll recall, that was his whole mantra for just about everything in the first general debate—leave it to the states. As long as Romney were to actually follow through on that promise, like say allow blue states to independently pool resources for their own public option plan for example, or not stamp out legal weed as another, I can accept this answer. I may not agree with it personally, but at least it’s a coherent ideologically consistent alternative plan which is more than I can say for a lot of these other answers.
Pawlenty folds like a wet noodle and dodges the question when he’s challenged to defend his attack on Romney in comparing Romney and Obama’s plans. Romney would be totally justified in calling Pawlenty out on his attack and spineless refusal to own up to it. Instead, he attacks Obama again and says “I can’t wait to debate him!” (He would regret those words in a year’s time when Obama outmaneuvered him to a degree then unseen in a Presidential debate.)
Addressing the TEA Party
The next question might end up being the most fascinating of the night when looking at this debate in a historical context. The questioner goes to great lengths to frame himself as a “mainstream Republican—not a libertarian Republican or TEA party rRepublican” then asks what the candidates will do to appeal to “mainstream Republicans” and not get pulled too far to one side or the other of the GOP’s numerous (and at this point disjointed) factions. Just the fact that a question like this even had to be asked says a lot about how astray the GOP had become since its Goldwater/Reagan reestablishment. I wonder what this guy must be thinking now post-Trump, when even ex-Republican presidents and Reagan’s family don’t recognize it anymore.
ASIDE: Just to emphasize how diverse the different groups in the party are, I wonder what is a “mainstream Republican” anyway? A Bush style neoconservative? A Reagan style neoliberal? A Pat Buchanan evangelical/social conservative? A traditional/pre-Reagan fiscal conservative in the vein of say, William F Buckley or Goldwater? The fact that I can’t even definitively ascertain what this guy means says a lot about the mushy conglomeration of agendas within the party. The Democrats, by contrast, have two clear wings—the Centrists/Third Way neoliberals and the Progressives/Fiscal Liberals. The difference is, the Republican factions typically agree on enough, or are tolerant of enough of their differences to consistently fall in line together where the Democratic divide is much more detrimental.
I don’t think Santorum even knows how to answer this question since he just blathers on about his record. When the moderator challenges him to say whether or not the TEA Party is a bad influence, he unequivocally says no it’s not. Like the questioner, I’d love to know what Santorum’s honest thoughts on the state of the Party are today.
Bachmann spins a bullshit yarn about how the TEA Party is made up of disaffected Democrats. Yeah, sure. That’s why it started as a Ron Paul offshoot libertarian movement, that’s why it’s funded by the Koch brothers, and that’s why they vehemently hate anything remotely liberal for its own sake. You can tell by the questioner’s almost crestfallen face that he’s not buying this crap for a second. In fact, she says a lot things (appealing to libertarians for example) that he specifically listed as being worried about. I actually feel really sorry for the man who asked this question, as he’s clearly distraught over what’s happened to his party and here he’s seeing one by one as these candidates kiss the asses of the very fringe he’s wary of.
I don’t think any of the three candidates who weighed in on his question offered up anything close to a satisfactory answer. Similar to Gary Hart’s closing statement in that 1988 Democratic Primary, I think this may be one of the great overlooked moments in the history of US political debates—the night an old Republican faithful watched his party die right before his eyes.
Next question is a total non-starter. “How do you plan to return manufacturing jobs to the US?” They don’t. Next question. But for real though, let’s see them try to answer. Watch them find some ridiculous way to pin this on Obama as well.
Pawlenty mirrors a lot of Trump’s future talking points about other countries taking advantage of us. To be fair there is some truth in that, but it doesn’t solve the problem and it doesn’t explain why manufacturing left America. Then he says we need to cut manufacturing costs…and pivots to Obamacare (drink!).
Santorum says cut taxes (drink!). You could (and people have) make a bingo game out of the annoying talking points they look to plug at any possible opportunity, whether it answers the question or not, and especially when they have no real plan to offer of their own. Like clockwork, anytime they’re asked about their own strategy, they just tangent to something Reagan said or tell us the Free Market (TM) will magically solve the problem. While I disagree with many traditionally conservative ideals, that’s not the issue in this case. The issue is that these people, most of them, have zero policy proposals or vision of the future. It’s just shitting on the status quo for its own sake because someone else happens to be in power.
More Debate Format Nonsense
I hate these “this or that” questions the moderator asks them after commercial breaks. I like the idea behind it, in theory, of getting to know the candidates’ personalities a little better. You know, putting politics aside for a minute, who are you as a person, what do you enjoy, who do you admire, what’s your story? That’s why I always liked the “who’s your hero” question whenever it comes up—sadly politicians always answer in the most pandering, bullshit way (“my dad…and policemen…and teachers…and firefighters…and army men…”) rather than name one singular person that inspired them as a child and why. Here though, seeing whether the candidates prefer Leno or Conan is a fucking joke. Who the hell cares? What if you as a viewer don’t watch either (me), don’t judge people by what late night TV they watch (Me) and think late night TV preference is an absolutely crazy way to pick the leader of our country (ME)? How about something more universal like “what’s your favorite book?” or “what was your favorite subject in grade school?” or something like that? Why is every debate so deeply, terribly flawed? Why are the voters, and the media, so pridefully stupid that we dumb down our elections to such an embarrassing degree? It’s inexcusable.
Newt is completely full of shit saying that the Free Market (TM)(drink!) would have gotten us moon bases by now but NASA has been a complete waste. Newt…what company…in the ’70s through ’00s was gonna throw millions if not billions of dollars at moon missions with no foreseeable return on investment? Yeah, now we have Elon Musk planning a Mars mission but he’s a rare case, and this is only after the decades of research and innovation at NASA have made such a hugely ambitious project possible by taking on all the risks and costs of R&D for 50 years to pave the way. Just saying “hey, corporations…go to the moon!!!” is a non-starter because no company is going to bankrupt themselves doing something so crazy if there’s no guaranteed quarterly profit to justify the endeavor to their shareholders. Even if they did try, they could be sued by their shareholders for not maximizing profits according to case precedent. This guy, man…either he’s delusional or else pandering to his base so hardcore he’s feeding them outright ludicrous shit regardless of the consequences—I’m not sure which is scarier.
Even if the government tried to intervene for the purpose of stimulating companies into doing such a thing, it would go against what he and the other candidates said earlier about government interference in business being a fallacy and ultimately detrimental. If the government encouraged businesses to launch rockets and a Challenger or Apollo 13 disaster happened it would be used as Exhibit A by these same imbeciles as such an example of government meddling in business leading to detrimental outcomes. And the real kicker is, this whole answer is in response to a point raised by the moderator about Obama cutting the space program and thus relying on Russia to launch astronauts up to the ISS. You’d think cutting NASA’s funding would be exactly what these chuckleheads would want and applaud. But again, if Obama does it, it’s automatically bad and must be condemned from the mountaintops even if it’s exactly what they say they would have done anyway.
Pawlenty gives a more reasonable answer and slightly rebukes Gingrich by saying he doesn’t believe in cutting the space program. This leads Gingrich to get super offended and accuse Pawlenty of mischaracterizing him…but that’s literally exactly what he just said, cut the space program and let private businesses magically handle the obscene costs.
Romney tries to jump in here, and begins to go off on the same pompous spiel about “Democrats think that the government knows better than business—and they’re wrong!” But, hilariously, the moderator (whom I suspect knew exactly what Romney was going to say since it’s been repeated ad nauseum thus far and he’s probably just as sick of this endless lecture as I am) cuts Romney off to bring on a new questioner.
This whole segment on NASA has to be a new low point for the debate and for the GOP’s ridiculous cult of the Private Sector. Not that the private sector doesn’t do some things better and more efficiently than government, it absolutely does and I don’t want to be misunderstood as advocating for more government in this or that. But when you’re really gonna take it to the extreme and tell such a baldfaced lie, that we’d have a moon colony by now if only that pesky government would just leave the private sector alone, is just so fundamentally ignorant or shameless that I hardly know how to respond to it. I’m sure the same private sector that’s polluting the planet to the point of no return, helping to spread drug-resistant super bugs, and actively lobbying against net neutrality would solve ALL our problems if there was just no government whatsoever! Nevermind that government, as flawed as it can often be, has stimulated new industries via technological breakthroughs it’s funded.
Government Bad, Redux
This other questioner comes in, and like the other guy asking about the balance of the party, he looks positively distraught as he asks what these jokers will do to help the homeowners who now owe more than their house is worth, or the people who can’t get a home while so many are seized by the banks.
Pawlenty’s response? Less government of course! And then just a big rambling spiel about “get the economy moving again!” and even has the gall to blame labor unions!!! He doesn’t answer the question AT ALL just the usual bullshit right-wing bingo card talking points. It takes a lot of nerve to get up on stage after the repeal of glass steagall helped caused the collapse and tell someone who (I presume) is suffering from the housing industry bubble a vacuous yarn about how the free market (TM)(drink!) will solve it if we just cut even more regulation. Pawlenty ought to be ashamed of himself. This clearly doesn’t help the guy out in any way whatsoever.
I’ve bizarrely lost respect for Ron Paul watching this debate. I get that he’s a libertarian and again, as a Left-Libertarian myself, I would appreciate the government and national discourse moving in that direction. I’d much prefer a genuine fiscal conservative without any of the neocon warmongering or social conservative morality policing than what the Republican Party of Reagan and now Trump represents. But in the previous cycle Ron Paul seemed to be a lot of more an unrepentant critic of his own party’s bullshit, particularly how they strayed from traditional fiscal conservatism. This time around, he’s largely spewing the same bullshit talking points about “government bad, business good” as the others, but with an extra emphasis on the Federal Reserve. Maybe this is just a bad debate for him, it feels like he’s one of the crowd this time rather than the voice of reason.
In this answer, where the moderator asks if there are any programs the government should do, Paul gives the stereotypical Republican platitudes about how ALL government intervention is bad and how the Private Sector will magically solve all of our problems if we just cut taxes even more for the rich. Frankly I’m sick of it, even coming from someone slightly less annoying or reprehensible than the others on stage. Like, even as someone with some modern-liberal tendencies myself, I could name some areas where big government is bad and where less is more. Why is it so hard for those on the right to even give an inch and admit that there are certain beneficial programs or public works projects like say, Eisenhower’s highway system, that government can provide? I’m not saying we get a Soviet Commissar to install five year programs to transition farmer into steel producers, but is it so crazy to say the profit motive should have no place in prisons, healthcare or (less stringently) utilities?
Again, even the moderator seems to be getting sick of hearing this crap for the millionth time from all these people. By this point, he sounds drained, has a slightly dead look in the eyes, and keeps needling the candidates to try to get them to admit even just ONE function the government can do better than business. (Or even just sing a new song for one answer at least.) He somewhat succeeds when he asks Cain about the FDA and its role regulating food safety. Cain tries to say we should streamline the FDA and that’ll somehow lead to better consumer protection, but the moderator isn’t having it and asks for a direct yes or no answer. Cain replies that yes, the FDA should regulate food safety. But he immediately pivots to housing so he can save face and talk about how bad the federal government is there.
Then Romney is asked about FEMA and hurricane relief, and goes into a big spiel about how he’d cut more government programs than he’d actually save. The moderator presses him about disaster relief specifically but Romney refuses to answer. So absolutely frustrating. This should be a straightforward yes or no answer. I don’t care how anti-liberal, pro-business you are. What point is there for a government if not to protect its people against a big disaster? I’m willing to bet that had we gotten an answer out of old Mitt it would have been some inane babbling about how the private sector would, out of the goodness of its heart and through the magic of lower taxes, provide full relief for the victims of natural disasters because sure it would—when it fits an asinine narrative these clowns want to push. Imagine Coca-Cola or Walmart footing the bill for rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina when the former can’t be bothered to clean its own environmental footprint and the latter’s employees’ livelihoods are subsidized by food stamps from the big bad federal government.
The next “this or that” question is, I’m not joking, “American Idol or Dancing with the Stars?” Oh, my god. It’s like Idiocracy unironically come to life. Seriously, the media and left-wing commentators are pinning it all on Trump but if you actually take the time to go back and watch our history, you’ll see he’s just the last link in the increasingly embarrassing chain that is modern American political discourse. And seriously, why are all these “this or that” rounds about TV shows? I think that really says a lot about our culture where this is how we’re supposed to relate to our officials. Not by what books they’ve read, (don’t want to alienate their pridefully ignorant base, I guess), what other countries they admire or maybe would most want to visit or something potentially illuminating. No…what brain-numbing reality TV show do you watch? This is the state of our country, folks. It’s no wonder a washed up B-list movie actor is the propped up icon of this party…or that they nominated a blustering reality TV star in the very next primary.
They get a doctor in who’s paid into Medicare and worried he won’t get his money’s worth. Again, we get a lot of runaround talk about how the system is broken but no specific assurances or plans to fix it are presented, except Paul Ryan’s voucher idea which is wildly unpopular. Same thing when another guy comes in and asks a direct question to Cain—will you raise the retirement age for Social Security? And Cain gives another shameless deflection, listing some obscure examples like Chile without giving a specific, unambiguous answer. Finally he says “No…Congress might do it, but that’s another matter…” But he has to pressed by the questioner to even offer that much.
Debts and Budgets
We go to the debt ceiling and Romney blames Obama for not being a “leader” and says if Obama would just magically slash the budget/size of the government, Congress wouldn’t need to raise the debt ceiling. Because it’s not like Congress has power of the purse or anything. And it’s not like if Obama did magically cut a bunch of agencies or whatever it is Mr. Romney expects him to do overnight that the Republicans wouldn’t then hammer him for any fallout that happens. I can just see the attack ads: “he put thousands out of work!!!”/”he cut the FDA and kids got food poisoning!!!”/”He cut TSA and a bomb went off on a plane!!”
At this point, I’m getting so sick and tired of hearing this same crap again and again that I’m debating whether to turn this off. I mean for real, you have Romney blaming Obama for something the President has NO control over. Even the lady who asked this question doesn’t seem to buy this blame game crap, because she then asks what will happen if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, and Romney fires back “what happens if we keep spending money we don’t have?” And he continues to just shit on Obama without directly answering the woman’s question or offering a real plan. This was before the government did in fact shut down due to spiteful Republicans like Romney and Ted Cruz throwing a massive hissy-fit about Obamacare, putting over 700,000 people out of work indefinitely while Cruz read Green Eggs and Ham on the Senate floor. So, there’s your answer, lady. There’s the consequences which big tough Mitt was too chickenshit to admit to. What happens? People like you get screwed over because the Republicans don’t feel like compromising. [Mitt doesn’t seem too concerned about the Trump administration running up unprecedented deficits and federal debt either, but hey, he’s a Republican so it’s all good in that case.]
The moderator doesnt seem satisfied with this answer either, because he then challenges the candidates: “what is your price tag? What would you cut? What does it take for you to not default?” It saddens me that only Bachmann speaks up, and she also gives a ridiculous deflection about how Obama has failed as a leader without answering the question. Why is it so hard to just say something to the effect of: “I would cut these agencies and reduce the budget for those functions of government by half,”?
Seriously, with all the big talk up here about how evil government is and how small it should be, you’d think these people would know right off the bat exactly where the waste is and what functions are unnecessary. What I’m seeing here is they want to have it both ways. Talk a big talk about slashing the FDA and implying through their non-answers that they’d be open to cutting FEMA. Spin tall tales about how the Free Market (TM) would’ve gotten us a terraformed Mars by now if only that pesky NASA wasn’t getting in the way. But then when push comes to shove and you’re asked what exactly is so important to cut…they waffle. They have no plan for government streamlining (government has grown under EVERY president after all, including Reagan’s tenure). Or else they do, but ear losing the votes of the employees and dependents of the agencies or programs they want to cut so they keep coy. Which, I might add, is feckless, cowardly and irresponsible–the voters deserve to know exactly what they’re getting, indeed, that’s the entire point of a goddamned debate.
As if on cue, they’re asked about religion and then jerk each other off about how religious they are. (Drink!) Cain is then challenged about his position that he wouldn’t appoint a Muslim to his administration. He gets needlessly pissy about the phrasing of the question “what I said was, I wouldn’t feel comfortable appointing one, not that I wouldnt!” (Oh wow, huge difference!) He then goes on to reiterate that all Muslims apparently want to kill us and this is why he doesn’t “feel comfortable” with a Muslim in his administration.
Romney gives his only decent moment of the debate where he defends Muslims and says America should treat people of all religions equally…and then Gingrich just HAS to come in and ruin it by drudging up an example of some Muslim immigrant who tried to set off a car bomb. Obviously this stuff happens, and I think we should do more to talk about it too. As someone in the LGBT community myself, I was disgusted that the Democrats first priority after the Orlando shooting was not to empathize with us on the worst hate crime against LGBTs in our history. Instead they seemed more concerned with reminding us that it’s “not all Muslims!!” as if we didn’t know that, or that was the most important thing to take from the tragedy. However, there’s a time and a place to bring that kinda thing up. And here, when you are talking about hiring people and trying to fend off accusations that your party, or your party’s potential nominee, might discriminate based on religion…is this really the best time to chime in with that crap, Newt? Like, for real? You just couldn’t keep your mouth shut for one night and let Romney’s surprisingly moving answer be the final word on the subject? Plus, it’s not like we hold white people’s collective feet to the fire every time a white guy shoots a place up.
The next “this or that” question? Mild or spicy wings. Just…uhh…let’s move on. I mean do I really even need to spell out why that’s a stupid, vacuous, insulting waste of time to ask at a PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE???
Less than 30 minutes left, thank God. When Romney slips in that the Bruins are apparently winning, the audience cheers and the moderator, who I swear is also getting more and more annoyed at this spectacle as am I, cheekily shoots him down with “yeah, that’s an audience pleaser…ok, moving on.”
Gay marriage is brought up. Oh boy. Would Bachmann overturn New Hampshire’s same sex marriage laws? Well…surprisingly…she says no. She says it’s not the business of a President to interfere with state laws. Damn. Color me surprised. I actually respect her for putting states rights above bigotry. They then go down the line to see where everyone else stands. Cain says leave it to the states. Pawlenty wants a Constitutional amendment banning it. Ron Paul says government should have no part in marriage…but says it should happen in a church…So what if you’re not religious? That pretty much makes it impossible for gays to get married by default. Not to mention it ignores the legal benefits of marriage. So…yeah, another chink in the Ron Paul armor; he’s not willing to unapologetically stand by his Libertarian principles anymore for fear of alienating himself from the base. Romney wants a constitutional amendment banning it too. He literally JUST earned a modicum of respect from me and already it’s gone. Discrimination based on religion isn’t cool but based on whom you love is perfectly fine. Gingrich and Santorum also support Constitutional Amendments.
As a final kick in the stones of decency, that surprising moment of genuine small government principles from Bachmann vanishes immediately after the others have answered. She feels the need to clarify for everyone that “I do support a constitutional amendment however I would not go into the states to overturn their laws.” Umm…that’s exactly what you’d be doing by pushing for a Constitutional amendment, Michele. Another fantastic example of either malicious doublespeak or dangerous ignorance of how our government works, right there. I’m curious whether she blanked out in her first answer, or bet that Republicans would value states rights over morality policing and after the rest of the crowd went the other way she realized she’d chose wrong. Either way, it’s pretty much a disqualifying five minute flip flop.
Like with the earlier: “slash the budget!!!” “what exactly would you cut?” “Obama needs to be a leader and decide!!!” exchange, these people want to have their cake and eat it too. Appeal to the fiscal conservatives while not alienating the votes of government employees. And here, appeal to states rights by “respecting” their laws….until we come in with a Constitutional Amendment and take it away to appeal to the evangelicals! Santorum even goes a step beyond by saying gays should be outright banned from military service. I’m glad this anti-LGBT chest-beating didn’t continue from there. Who knows how far it would have gone if they stayed on the topic.
The next question tries to pit Santorum and Romney against each other by asking the former if the latter’s conversion to being pro-life was sincere. And how does he respond? He dodges it and talks about his own sincerity. Michele Bachmann is asked if shes pro-abortion in cases or health for the mother, rape or incest and AGAIN rather than directly answer, she goes on a rambling spiel where she says the phrases “I stand for life” and “I am pro life” no less than 5 times each without just saying YES or NO. She is without a doubt the worst person on stage in terms of wanting to have it both ways on every issue. Honestly, I think if you persistently refuse to answer direct policy questions like this you should be ejected from the debate, or you cannot voice your opinion on another topic unless you first go back and answer the previous question.
It just keeps on going too. This poor immigrant woman asks what they’ll do to prevent illegal immigrants from taking advantage of our healthcare and welfare systems, and Pawlenty chastises her, saying that people who come here shouldn’t be coming for welfare or healthcare in the first place, but for “freedom” and how he’s going to cut those programs anyway. Just couldn’t help himself, I guess. It’s literally to the point of self-parody here. Like, this setup alone, without any exaggeration, would make a perfect SNL skit or scene from a Will Ferrell movie lampooning obtuse politicians.
And my god, at this point I’ve lost most if not all respect for Ron Paul too. Because he’s asked by the moderator if a 5 year old child of illegals came in to the emergency room should she be treated. And rather than give a direct answer, he goes off on a spiel about how in the old days, people didn’t rely on government for everything. The moderator justifiably presses him for a direct answer. [Are you noticing a pattern at this point?] Ron Paul then begins to twist the question by saying the Catholic Church shouldn’t be penalized for helping illegals. Hey Ron…the question was SHOULD A FIVE YEAR OLD GIRL GET TREATED AT THE EMERGENCY ROOM EVEN IF SHE’S ILLEGAL—YES OR NO. If no, at least have the decency to own your answer and let the voters know what they’re getting. Why is that so hard to do? I believe he wants to say no, but is smart enough to realize how heartless that is and how bad it’d play to the voters at large, so he dodges. Yeah. Literally within 3 hours of watching these debates back to back, this guy earned my respect and lost it. He’s just as slippery and fake as the others, the only difference is, he at least has the balls to go after the FED and military industrial complex when he attacks “big government” where the others want to solely focus on cutting welfare and healthcare. Ron does too of course, but at least he’s consistent and not afraid to go after the big agencies either.
I’ve had enough. I’m sorry but I’ve just reached my limit. There was about 15 minutes left, I made it 1 hour and thirty minutes in and I think that’s at a point where I can honestly say I tried.
This. Was. Terrible. The only debate that was as aggravating to watch was 2004’s Democratic primary. The 1988 and 1996 GOP Primaries were pretty hard to sit through too, but I think this takes the cake. Why? Because NOBODY GAVE A STRAIGHT ANSWER TO EVEN A SINGLE QUESTION. Seriously, I know politics is a crooked game and there’s a lot of pandering and legalese going on. But not a single candidate gave a direct answer to anything they were asked, and in the one or two cases they did like Bachmann on gay rights, they immediately backtracked. Say what you will about Trump but at least he was upfront about his prejudices and wasn’t afraid to own cruel policy positions. From the get go, from his campaign announcement speech, we knew the crux of his worldview and he hasn’t wavered from it. (Though he did lie about LGBT support, but I digress.)
Nobody offered any worthwhile policy discussion at all. Just a lot of empty platitudes about cutting the budget (but not saying what they’d cut), the private sector will fix all our problems including colonizing the Moon (but then not saying how it will solve the housing crisis or specific issues facing the world today), Obama is not a leader because he won’t slash the budget (even though Congress has power of the purse and it’s not Obama’s job to hack and slash in fear of threats). I even lost almost all respect I gained for Ron Paul watching this sorry performance. He went from the voice of reason calling out the neocons to a blathering old man dodging hard questions, screwing over gays, and spouting the same empty platitudes about the Free Market (TM). It’s a return to the tropes seen in the 1988, 1996 and 2000 GOP fields after 2008 was a promising step in the right direction (in some small ways at least). This time though, it was amped up to 11.
I would say this is the absolute nadir of the GOP primaries, in some respects, even worse than 2016. At least Trump, for all his severe faults as a person and a candidate, shook things up. At least he was FUNNY and made it an entertaining shit show rather than an insufferable one as this was. As deplorable as Trump may be, I don’t think he can be blamed for turning the primary debates into a farce as he’s been accused of doing. On the GOP side, they were already a mockery for quite some time. I could maybe see how a Republican could defend ’96 and ’00, but I’m adamant that anyone who could look me in the eye and say this ’12 debate was an honest, productive and/or worthwhile discussion of policy is either lying through their teeth or out of their mind. You could see the frustration, hurt and in some cases disbelief in the audience members’ faces at times. The moderator himself seemed to be in disbelief as he tried to get SOMETHING resembling a real answer out of these people.
It’s no wonder the GOP voters came to hate the establishment—even their own establishment—and not trust them to provide real answers come 2016. If the other 2012 debates were anything like this sorry spectacle, I don’t think they got ANY worthwhile answers at any point during the entire primary. I can absolutely see why a guy like Trump, offering direct answers (if even untrue and ridiculous ones) would be successful against a field like this. I can absolutely see why people would laugh and be amused by his insults—the GOP themselves were doing the same thing, Trump just did it better, and did it to the rightist elites like Jeb Bush. The whole time watching this absurd shitshow, I was begging for a Trump or Mike Gravel to come in and call out the shenanigans for the bullshit we all know it was. Having a brash oaf like Trump riffing on the pathetic charade the next time around must have been a welcome change, the same way Joel and the Bots provide relief during a bad movie with their own jokes and insults.
I’d go as far to say that Trump himself did not kill the GOP—the GOP died here in 2012 with Obama bashing and the TEA Party, and he was just the rot setting in. I might even go one further and say every single person on this stage was just as pathetic a candidate as Trump has proven to be. Now, was Mitt Romney the best of the bunch after all? I don’t know. I honestly cannot say. These 7 candidates are borderline indistinguishable in my eyes. They’re literally 7 pieces of the same person. Every single person on this stage who created this atrocity of a debate should be ashamed of themselves, with the exception of the moderator (in a welcome surprise–they’re usually terrible) for trying to get some kind of substantial discussion going.