The New Hampshire GOP primary debate: shining shows despite moderator's juvenile ploys
If you watched the GOP primary candidate debate Monday night, held at St. Anslem College in Manchester, New Hampshire, and was expecting CNN to treat the contenders with something less than a total commitment to professionalism then you weren’t disappointed.
CNN’s John King moderated the event and got in a good sprinkling of liberal insinuations before all was said and done. Although he managed to consistently interrupt responses, the hopeful contenders stood their ground and refused to be tripped up.
If viewers also expected a shark frenzy of attacks against Mitt Romney from his rivals you were sorely disappointed.
Appearing on stage were seven hope-to-be candidates: former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, former PA senator, Rick Santorum, Minnesota Rep Michele Bachman, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, TX rep Ron Paul, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and business man and radio host, Herman Cain.
There was an atmosphere of decided and rare coalition among the seven, and no one tried to grandstand. It was apparent these Republican hopefuls are focusing their campaign attention to the core issues that Republicans, Independents, Tea Party members and conservatives in general are concerned about: employment, the economy and national defense.
Tim Pawlenty could have scored an easy advantage when asked about his remarks concerning the failed state health care legislation Mitt Romney signed off on while serving as governor of Mass.
Backtrack: in March Pawlenty had made a comment to Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday, “Well, you don't have to take my word for it. You can take President Obama's word for it. President Obama said that he designed Obamacare after Romneycare and basically made it Obamneycare. And so, we now have the same features — essentially the same features. The president's own words is that he patterned in large measure Obamacare after what happened in Massachusetts. And what I don't understand is they both continue to defend it.”
When questioned at the debate about this remark Pawlenty softened his tone, claiming the phrase was only coined from the President’s own concession that Obamacare was modeled in part on the Massachusetts health care plan.
Such concession to partisan cordiality left Pawlenty looking pretty much like a wimp. He did shine, however, when speaking with avid support of right-to-work legislation.
Former Mass. Governor Romney had some shining moments, too, and deftly brought back his responses to King's questions in context of voter concerns. His reiteration of his desire to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a State-centrist program was delivered with usual suave assuredness. He also reminded voters of Obama’s infuriating overplay of delegating responsibilities. Of all the candidates he was the most vocally anti-Obama. But considering his historic plunge into socialistic water with the Mass health care fiasco, the progressive Romney may have been more convincing if he’d come up with an emphasis on ground-breaking ideas than concentrating on Obama bashing.
Social conservative Rick Santorum did not deter from his views and was fair in his criticisms of Obama’s foreign policies..
“Our enemies no longer respect us,” he said, “our friends no longer trust us.”
Santorum momentarily ceded from his usual ideological views when he delivered one very notable common sense answer. When addressing the question about a return to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy for the military, which was repealed by Obama, Santorum concluded, “The job of the United States military is to protect and defend the people of this country," he said. "It is not for social experimentation. It should be repealed.”
Whether you agree with his pious values or not this reply sounded to have thought behind it.
As always, Rep. Ron Paul was consistent in his pro-Constitution platform. He succinctly summoned up the key elements of his strategy for stimulating economic growth for the country. He articulated rational reasons for his desire to keep the U.S. out of middle-eastern conflicts. While one may worry how a President Paul would deal with a direct attack on the U.S. he was convincing in his arguments that this country has nothing to gain by meddling in the ongoing unrest in parts of the world that have been hostile to us. His one iffy moment came when talking about the housing crisis. Paul blamed the market woe on the Federal Reserve and went on to suggest that the market be allowed to fail as any other business instead of investing in more federal support programs..
“As long as we do what we're doing in Washington it's going to last another 10 years," Paul contended.
As painful a proposal as this may sound, he could very well be right.
Former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrinch, debated impressively, especially in light of the recent departure of his campaign staff and his reversal on previous clouts against Paul Ryan’s budget plan. He spoke informatively regarding national defense. In regard to a blatantly loaded scenario-question regarding illegal immigrants Gingrich responded with realism.
More than any of the other hopefuls Gingrich addressed the threat of terrorism the U.S. faces. Gingrinch showed he can still strike a positive mark with mainstream Republicans and won points for camaraderie toward the other contenders on stage.. It is still to be seen if Tea Party members and Independents who remember Gingrich’s past snarky comments toward them will be able to see his present self-possession as anything more than technique.
Of all the hopefuls on stage MN congresswoman and Tea Party leader Michele Bachman gave the most sparkling performance. She showed her knowledge on every issue and accentuated her platforms with honestly empathetic feelings toward the wide range of national concerns. When questioned by one member of the attending audience, she looked the man straight in the eyes and addressed him several times by name. Bachman also presented a strong stance regarding foreign policies.
On the subject of job creation Bachman was clear, “What we need to do is: today the United States has the second highest corporate tax rate in the world. I’m a former federal tax lawyer. I’ve seen the devastation. We’ve got to bring that tax rate down substantially so that we’re among the lowest in the industrialized world. ”
She went on to blast spending waste in the Fed when she said, “Here's the other thing. Every time the liberals get into office, they pass an omnibus bill of big spending projects. What we need to do is pass the mother of all repeal bills, but it's the repeal bill that will get a job killing regulations. And I would begin with the EPA, because there is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the job-killing organization of America.”
So well put.
The only cloud over Bachman’s otherwise wonderful performance came on abortion. She alluded to a view she is against abortion in matters of rape, incest and when termination can save the mother’s life. For women who otherwise like Bachman, she may need to rethink this opinion. There are women who have children and family they have to think about if a medically problematic pregnancy risks her life, and for whom this weighty question doesn’t just affect them but the children already born and needing Mom in their lives.
Despite what appeared to be a strident attempt on the part of CNN to luster-down the aura of charismatic Herman Cain, the Godfather’s Pizza CEO showed he wasn’t going to be a door mat. In responding to the charge that he had claimed in one interview that’d he’d not accept a Muslim in his administration Cain aptly corrected that misrepresentation. Cain reiterated the original question and his original comment, that he would be uncomfortable to consider a Muslim in his administration. He further clarified the matter by saying, “You have peaceful Muslims and you have militant Muslims - those that are trying to kill us. And so when I said I wouldn't be comfortable I was thinking about the ones trying to kill us.”
Cain went on to point out his confirmed resistance to Sharia law, “I do not believe in Sharia law in American courts. I believe in American laws in American courts, period.” He concluded talking about what expectations would be implemented in his administration hiring by “it doesn't apply to other religions, because we don't have the same threat that we have from that particular one.”
John King’s attempt at trip Cain up with a contorted fact reminded me a lot of the not-forgotten NPR firing of Juan Williams. And as much as religious intolerance goes against the American grain, when you consider the umpteen incidents of Muslim radicals abusing the freedoms of this country to implement their agenda, Cain’s prudence is justified.
Cain also responded with crystalline reason when questioned on the economy. Of all the candidates, his experience in the world of business is most impressive, and he did not flinch once on stage in concisely detailing his strategy for getting this country back on the road to economic stability.
“This economy is stalled--it's like a train on the track with no engine,” Cain pointed out. He maintained that in lowering taxes and making other tax breaks permanent will, “to put the right fuel in the engine, which is the private sector.”
Final verdicts from this debate watcher:
Most surprising turnabout: Newt Gingrich
Most Lost in the Ivory-tower: Rick Santorum
Most Hollywoodish: Mitt Romney
Most Personable: Michele Bachman
Most consistent: Ron Paul
Most persuasive on common sense strategies: Herman Cain
Most refreshing from politics as usual: Herman Cain
Least impressive presentation: Tim Pawlenty
Overall Winner: a tie with Bachman and Cain