Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Circus comes to town! The GOP Debate

I took a bullet for you all this morning by watching the Republican Presidential candidates debate in Simi Valley, California so that you don't have to.  But don’t expect me to do this every time...look at the schedule for these debates—still over a year before the election—it’s insane!  Although, if you close your eyes real tight and pretend that this is just a reality show, and that these people aren’t actually serious about running our country, it can be great fun, because they say the most remarkable things.

The only thing I’m certain of after the debate is that the candidates would have been united in their condemnation of the sign that hangs in my kitchen as an example of undue meddling in private life: ‘residents are reminded that frying and cooking oils are considered to be dangerous, as well as anti-social, and are therefore prohibited’. 

The debate developed an episodic quality, and I felt like a bemused visitor stumbling from one exhibit to another in a chamber of horrors, and my thoughts unfold accordingly...

One by one the candidates lined up to assail the idea that government can do anything right, that taxation should be fair, that we need economic regulation., and the President.  The Newt Who Would Be King summed it all up pretty well: “This is a President so committed to class warfare and so committed to bureaucratic socialism that he can’t create jobs!”  Really?  Are we thinking of the same guy, or did Gingrich just get beamed over from Cuba?  The one who just ordered the EPA to sacrifice people’s health so as not to inconvenience pollutes (a pithy post I read somewhere put it this way: Obama ozone decision based on cost-benefit analysis: protecting your life vs. keeping his job”)?  The one who extended the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy?  The one who let the pharmaceutical and insurance industries walk all over him when designing his healthcare plan?  Really?

Government, these people were all arguing, needed to be shrunk, battered, strangled, taken out of our lives.

But then Mitt Romney stepped up and criticised the idea that by stripping something down you automatically make it more effective.  A voice of sanity?  No, he was defending his time at Bain.  Jon Huntsman, moments after assailing Big Bad Government, remarked that we need  a President who “understands the fragility of the free market system”.  Do these people hear themselves? 

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Rick Perry, was there, doing the same shoulder-jiggle that W did.  Will people be put off by the similarities, I wonder?  If I close my eyes while listening to Perry, the similarities are eerie.  Confronted with the fact that Massachusetts is first in the nation where ensuring health coverage for its citizens compared with Texas’ 50th place, he said, “I’ll tell you what the people of Texas don’t want...”  Guess?  A healthcare plan like Massachusetts’.  But I’d guess that they probably do want healthcare...  Building on his oracular powers, Perry suggested that we wouldn’t have so many people uninsured if it wasn’t for the federal government...  Then he kind of trailed off, perhaps realising that he was talking himself into a corner.

Michelle Bachmann is doing that Sarah Palin thing where somebody asks her about foreign policy and she screams “Two-dollar gas!”  Or if the question is about the TSA, her answer is “Repeal Obamacare!”

Moderator Brian Williams gamely tried to keep the candidates focussed, asking them some good questions, not operating (like the FOX moderators) under the assumption that all of the candidates’ underlying principles deserve to be taken unquestioned.  But he must have felt like the ringmaster at a circus where all the elephants in musth, having caught the scent of a tax cut drifting over the California breezes, were loose, trumpeting and running in circles.

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Ron Paul, in case you hadn’t noticed, is all about liberty, but when pressed on how this wonderful idea will work in practise once we’ve turned the drug companies loose, unshackled the biggest polluters and let the rich set their own tax rates, he gets a little fuzzy. 

Rick Santorum (no, he’s not the one who quit the race...I made the same mistake) refers to himself in the third person.  He also explained how the social welfare system punishes people, which might be news to anyone on social security, medicare, food stamps, unemployment benefits, attending public school, studying at a state university, etc.  But heck, what do we all know.

Then, inexplicably, they all started arguing about the TSA.  If I heard correctly, Ron Paul accused TSA agents of “mauling” people.

But The Newt stepped in, spying a conspiracy: “the news media” is trying to get Republicans to fight each other to protect Obama and his socialist program.  Methinks that the media are trying to get Republicans to fight each other because it makes good copy, but what do I know?  This was clearly The Newt’s bid for a Reaganesque 11th Commandment moment. 

The correct response from the moderator would have been, “I was under the impression that this was about what’s best for the country, not the Republican Party?” but poor Brian Williams was too busy trying to avoid being run through by Rick Perry’s tusk, smashed by Michele Bachmann’s trunk, or trampled beneath Herman Cain’s charge.

He did manage to ask Perry what, given that white households possess twenty times the median wealth of black households, he would do to address that?  Perry answered another question (Perhaps his relationship with ‘the blacks’ is even worse than Donald Trump’s, and this is a sensitive subject?).  He started rambling about  the oppression of small businessmen and –women.  To hear the Republican Party talk, you’d think that the poor in this country consist of middle-income people who have enough money to run a business and employ other people.  I understand that small business owners are facing hard times, but anyone who thinks that they are the economic floor of our country has never been to an inner city...or Oak Run, California for that matter.

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Random fun fact.  The Newt's Wikipedia page identifies him as a "dinosaur enthusiast".  No joke.  I'm pretty sure that being enthusiastic about creatures that lived before the world was supposed to be created violates GOP policy.

The Republicans are always quoting other people...it seems that none of them have any ideas of their own.  Their favourite is some guy named Ronald Reagan, who judging by the praise each and every one of them heaps on him, must have given that Jesus Christ character a run for his money where world historical significance is concerned...

Mitt Romney said we need real jobs instead of Green jobs.

Ron Paul said the minimum wage oppresses poor people.

Mitt Romney said Rick Perry is unelectable.

Rick Perry referred to white people as ‘Anglos’.

Herman Cain invoked the Chilean Model.  Something to do with a gent called Pinochet, perhaps?

Ron Paul suggested we end the wars in the Middle East by cutting off AC to the Green Zone.

Rick Perry suggested that I would sleep better if we had a Balanced Budget Amendment.  I’d sleep better if Rick Perry was a little less unbalanced.

Pawlenty...I mean Santorum (they look so much alike) started talking about Ronald Reagan melting like the Wicked Witch of the West.  Seriously.  This apparently had something to do with Libya.

Huntsman declared, “We can’t run from science!”  His colleagues looked at him quizzically...they weren’t running from it, they were turning a petroleum-powered bazooka on it.

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I was reeling, wondering if I had got water in my ear while showering.   It was left to Rick Perry to bring us back to earth.  “You can either have reasons or you can have results!” he declared in a swat at Jon Huntsman, who was trying to introduce a little too much of the former for Perry’s liking.  “Maybe”, the swaggering Governor continued, “it’s time to have some provocative language in this country again and say things like ‘Let’s get America working again!’”

Education came up.  Bachmann (surprise!) wants the private sector involved.  Perry’s state is amongst the worst.  He pointed out that the large number of immigrants pose unique challenges for educators.  The solution: cut!   Newt Gingrich wants Vouchers through the back door (he’s calling them K-12 Pell Grants—wait, isn’t that more government?), and argues that private schools provide more discipline (I suspect this has to do with parental molly-coddling...teachers at my mother’s middle school were told last year that they couldn’t ask kids who threw trash on the ground in the lunch room to pick it up because parents had complained that their children were being victimised). 

Rick Perry jumped up, with something to say.  “I hate cancer!”  More of that bold provocative language!

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Next up, immigration.  Huntsman was critical of The Newt’s “fortress security mentality”.  But the other candidates all agreed that you have to start with border security.  They are hell-bent on a militant response, and totally unwilling to consider addressing the push factors that are involved when people migrate to the United States. 

Romney wants a fence!  Or a technologically approved system to keep track of people.  Basically the same thing, right...?  Everyone had nasty things to say about employers, universities and sanctuary cities for encouraging immigrants.  The Newt wants immigrants to learn English.  I want Michele Bachmann to learn English.  The Newt wants immigrants to learn U.S. history (the Texan kind: substitute ‘expansionism’ for ‘imperialism’, ‘states rights’ for ‘slavery’, missionaries for labour, Jerry Falwell for Malcolm X).  I want The Newt to learn U.S. history. 

Bachmann wants us to understand that we’re dealing with narco-terrorists.  The moderator asked her, assuming we have a fence, what do we do with the eleven million people who are living here illegally?  Bachmann patiently explained that we are dealing with narco-terrorists and are yielding our sovereignty to another nation.  Bemused, he asked her to answer his question.  “It depends...” she said, and no, she wasn’t going to tell us what it depended on.  Ron Paul said something to the effect that a fence would keep Americans in when they wanted to flee.  I have to admit that I could be misrepresenting his words, because I honestly couldn’t understand what he was talking about.  What would we be fleeing?  A Paul Presidency? 

Huntsman stepped back in, asking his rivals to remember that immigration, at the end of the day, is “an issue that revolves around real human beings”. 

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Brian Williams apparently thought that he hadn’t given Rick Perry enough chances to prove his insanity, because he took him back to what has probably been one of the most surreal political moments I’ve ever seen.  I’ve ranted about this before, but in the last Republican debate, the candidates were given the choice of a deal whereby they could have ten dollars of tax cuts and one dollar of spending increases.  All of them said they would turn down the deal.  Perry agreed.  Bachmann piped up: “Ronald Reagan would join us!”

Williams asked Huntsman if he would join his rivals in signing a pledge to not raise taxes.  Huntsman said no, that a pledge of that kind “diminishes the political discussion and jeopardises your ability to govern once you get there”.

If Obama wins re-election, he should appoint Huntsman his secretary of state (because he’s not going to win the Republican nomination, which is a pity).  He would be less hawkish than Hillary Clinton, seems like a very intelligent person, and has a far better understanding than most people in the Obama administration of the degree to which our actions and behaviour are responsible for the challenges we face.

Bachmann and Perry are probably the worst non-answerers...

Asked about whether, in opposing intervention in Libya, she was backing away from the Bush Doctrine, Bachmann said, “If you look at the biggest issue in the Middle East, it’s a nuclear Iran...”  Apparently unaware of a little issue called Palestine.  Pressed on answering the question, she resorted to total gibberish, in a positively Palinesque response, babbling about the global caliphate, radical Islam, defending freedom.  

Perry was asked about his relationship to science.  “The idea”, he said, “that we would put America [sic] economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that is not settled yet is nonsense.  Asking us to cut back in areas that would have monstrous economic impacts on this country is not good economics and is not good science”.  Bachmann has a novel twist on the science question.  Climate Change is a political agenda rather than a scientific one, because science would point towards, well, uhm, I don’t even want to speculate.

The sickest moment came near the end.  Brian Williams noted that Perry, as governor of Texas, has presided over the execution of more people than any other governor in recent times.  Before he’d even completed his question, the audience broke into wild applause.  Perry responded, talking about how murderers must face the “ultimate punishment”.  A visibly shaken Williams, gamely, and to his very great credit, asked, “What do you make of that dynamic just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?”  “I think Americans understand justice”, Perry answered, drawing yet another round of applause.

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Well, after all that, I needed a break, so at 9 I headed off to the Zoology Library to read about actual elephants.  Fulbright scholar, Irven Buss, who was in Uganda during the 1960s, has some pictures of elephants in musth in his book, and let me tell you, they are not creatures to be tangled with!

1 comment:

  1. Whoa wait a minute
    They prevent frying and cooking oil? Forget being over reaching regulation, isn't that unpatriotic? In the British sense. Without frying the entirety of English cuisine is reduced to raw potatoes..and..well more raw potatoes.
    Does the queen know about this?

    ReplyDelete