The Debate…

…but probably not the one you’re thinking of.  Yes, I watched the presidential debate because I am a glutton for punishment, but in my opinion it was rather meh compared to the debates leading up to the republican nomination.  Those were some good, snarky times, and the cast was ever so much more interesting.  So in honor of my dear, dear Ron Paul, the ever-robotic Bachmann, Newt’s inhuman level of smugness, and the bumbling but affable Perry (but never, never in honor of Santorum, for he sucketh much), I present a rundown of my thoughts on the republican candidates from a year ago.  They were good thoughts even if they aren’t timely, and they remind me of a time when politics seemed a comedy of errors rather than a straight up tragedy.  Let’s turn back the clock, shall we, and think on happier days.

Some Thoughts on the Republican Presidential Candidates–November 10, 2011

I am having way too much fun watching the Republican debates.  I think I’ve seen four so far, and I have thoroughly enjoyed myself with each and every one.  At our house it’s almost like a sporting event.  We laugh, clap, cheer, boo and rage before we dissect the candidates (metaphorically, of course) and rate them on a scale from Awesome (or more realistically, Least Awful) to Santorum.  Because he is just the WORST.  Seriously.

For the hubs and myself, we consider this to be a rollicking good time.  Edutainment at its best.  And because I am a generous soul, and also quite garrulous, if you haven’t noticed, I am choosing to make a present to you of my observations on the candidates so far.  No, no, you don’t have to thank me, but if you must, chocolate is a lovely form for gratitude to take.  I’m just saying.

Yesterday’s debate focused on the economy, and despite the fact that economics is mathy and therefore sleep-inducing (he’s not here, but I swear I can feel B’s disapproval) and that one of the moderators had one of the most obnoxious voices I have ever heard, I was not disappointed.  As much as I try to eschew all things numerical, even I must admit that jobs and the debt are probably kind of important topics for the future president to know about.  Personally, I’m allergic to money talk, despite B’s repeated efforts to teach me about credit default swaps and mortgage backed securities, so it all sounds a little like, “Blergh!  Banks are argh and must dribble dun-dee.  Greece!  Italy!  Cap the deficit!  Yaks!…Frodo Baggins?”  This could be why, when B explains to me about trade deficits, I usually wind up asking, “But what happens to all the elves?”  B is proof that love is indeed patient.

Anyway, here is my take on the candidates.  I am not truly enamored of anyone in particular, but I suppose it’s only fair to reveal upfront that politically, I lean strongly libertarian.  This does not, however, mean that I am biased–only that I am right 🙂

The Playahs

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Cain–He’s gotten a lot of media attention the past couple of weeks, both because of his surging popularity and because of the recent sexual harassment allegations brought against him.  I am not in a position to know how credible are the claims of misconduct, so until more facts come to light I’m going to withhold judgment.  What I like about Cain is that he has a great sense of humor and forthright delivery, which is all too rare among politicians.  But his 9-9-9 tax plan, which seems to be, not only the cornerstone, but the entire kit and kaboodle of his presidential strategy, does not seem altogether feasible, and I don’t know if he has any other ideas.  Although I agree with him that the tax code is too complex (and expensive) and that something simpler would be best, 9-9-9 is a pipe dream.  Unless Cain plans to hypnotize or do away with Congress, even as president I don’t see how he can count on such a drastic overhaul of the tax code.  And when his beloved plan stagnates and withers in some Senatorial committee, then what?  I don’t know, and I seriously wonder if he does either.

Edit: But after seeing this, I’d probably give him my vote.  Because it’s kinda amazing:

Bachmann–She rubs me the wrong way.  I’m not sure if it’s her Stepford demeanor or her annoying quirk of peppering her answers with statistics (I’d say you could make it a drinking game, but I don’t want to be responsible for any cases of alcohol poisoning) and anecdotes about mothers, but I just don’t like her.  Maybe I’m being overly critical, but I’m super bummed there isn’t a stronger female candidate running.  I will say she’s a step up from Palin, but that’s a dishearteningly low bar, at least imho.  I will give Bachmann kudos for advocating for some important health care reforms–like, for instance, ending state monopolies on health insurance (a topic near and dear to my heart)–but she, like most of the candidates, seems to be devoid of a cohesive political philosophy.  She’s all over the place on taxes (she thinks you should keep your money, but of course also give it to the government, and taxes need to be cut because they hurt the economy, except the payroll tax is good and necessary).   I just don’t think she brings any important or unique perspective to the table.  The most interesting thing about Bachmann is watching her bend over backwards not to criticize any of the other candidates.  Me thinks someone is aiming for the vice presidential slot.  Best of luck with that.

Perry–Oh, Perry, Perry, Perry.  The guy has a knack for sticking his foot in it.  The first few debates I saw I just thought he was a remarkably bad speaker.  But in yesterday’s debate he outdid himself.  You can watch it here if you’re sadistic enough.  I’m not.  I couldn’t bring myself to watch it yesterday.  I found the whole thing terribly uncomfortable.  Suffice it to say, Perry seems like a nice enough guy and…well, he just seems like a very nice man.  Let’s leave it at that.

Paul–I sort of want to squish him.  Gently, so that his septuagenarian bones come to no harm.  When I first heard Paul speak, I thought he was a little kooky.  Since then he has really won me over.  The guy is obviously very smart, and I appreciate that he constantly makes an effort to educate America on the nature of debt (all federal spending is debt) and inflation (it’s bad, I think.  I don’t really speak money).  He’s also the purest philosophically of all the candidates.  He wants a small federal government and more states’ rights.  Every other candidate talks about the need to slash entitlements and lower taxes, but they seem to have no clear bright-line on the limits of executive or federal power.  Paul, on the other hand, is a strict constructionist and wants the federal government limited solely to the powers granted it in the Constitution.  Personally, I like knowing where he stands and that he’s given a lot of thought to his philosophy of government.  Paul’s stances aren’t all truly libertarian, but I don’t get the sense he’s pandering for votes.  He believes what he believes, and that’s refreshing.  Paul’s weakness in the debates has been his tendency to give rambling, wandering answers.  What first I took for senility I now think is just his brain hyperlinking all over the place as he addresses the audience.  He’s sharp for sure, but his thoughts get away from him.  Yesterday he gave an answer about fixing health care that went something like “We need to get back to the doctor-patient relationship.  And as for housing…the mortgage crisis was caused by inflation.  End the Fed!”  I suddenly understood what B goes through whenever I talk about…anything.  I think Paul has a lot going for him, and I personally agree with him more often than not, but I don’t think he’d survive a general election.

Santorum–I find it very difficult to hear anything this man says because when I see his face I inevitably break into a snarl.  It’s almost Pavlovian.  I haven’t forgiven him for his truly terrible answer to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” soldier (and I haven’t forgiven any of the candidates for not speaking up when the audience booed one of our servicemen), and I just find his entire demeanor off-putting.  Santorum is the most aggressive and self-aggrandizing of all the candidates.  He’ll attack Perry or Romney like a rabid, yipping chihuahua and then toot his own horn like he’s Louis freakin’ Armstrong.  And do we really need our next president to be a tooting chihuahua?  I think not.

Huntsman–I have good friends who like Huntsman very much, but it always seems to me that he has an unfortunate face.  I don’t mean that he’s ugly or anything, but his expression is stuck on supercilious.  Look at his picture, and tell me I’m wrong.  I like some of Huntsman’s positions on defense, and he says a lot of the right things about the economy, but overall he just comes across as incredibly moderate.  And I think that’s purposeful.  I think Huntsman takes pride in being the reasonable, moderate candidate.  My problem with that is moderation doesn’t make a very good bedrock principle.  Equanimity is not the first thing I look for in a POTUS.  It’s all well and good for Huntsman to distance himself from crazy right-wingers, but his political philosophy shouldn’t be composed solely of what he is not.  From his statements, I can glean what he’s against, but I can’t, for the life of me, tell what he’s for.  And that’s a problem.  I’m certain Huntsman is an intelligent guy, and he has the most foreign policy experience of any of the candidates, but what he has to say comes out a garbled mess more often than not.  Hopefully, he’ll tighten up his talking points and cast a real vision for America in the next debate, although it may already be far too late.

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Romney–If I were a betting woman, which I am not for I am cowardly of heart, I would place my money on Romney for the nomination.  He’s the most polished of the candidates, he thinks on his feet, and overall, I’ve been rather impressed with his debate performances.  The issue with Romney is that he flip flops a bit (a lot), but B and I agree that he stacks up the best against Obama.  Obama shares Romney’s weaknesses (Obama/Romneycare, a penchant for coming across as a tad indecisive on certain issues) but Romney’s strengths outweigh Obama’s.  Both are smart, educated, eloquent men, but Romney has business credentials that may carry a lot of weight with voters who have lost faith in this president’s ability to fix the economy.  I’m not saying it will be a slam dunk by any means, but I definitely think Romney would be Obama’s most fearsome opponent out of the current crop of potentials.

Gingrich–The man is the godfather, for reals.  Love him or hate him, there is no denying that he’s possessed of a formidable intellect, and it’s incredibly entertaining to watch him insult the moderators and scoff at their questions (check it out here, here and here).  The first time I saw him debate I had an inkling that he was pulling strings behind the scenes to make sure all the candidates focused their attacks on Obama rather than each other.  Any attempt by the moderator to start a flame war was met with icy disdain and a smartass remark from Newt.  To begin with, I’m not even sure he was after the presidency so much as some kind of major Republican Party post.  I could be wrong, though.  (It’s rare, but it happens.)  Whatever his aims, his curmudgeonly grumpiness is something I really look forward to every debate.  If he didn’t have the political baggage of being Newt Gingrich, he might even be the one to beat.  Unfortunately, even being the man of a million ideas and a ready answer for every question cannot overcome his polarizing (and hypocritical) history in government.  Nevertheless, Gingrich is great fun to watch.  If I ruled the world, he would be invited to every debate for the rest of time just so he can sneer at people and make me laugh.

Edit: But I do think he’s probably evil.  Like Senator Palpatine kind of evil.

And there you have my rundown of the candidates so far.  If you get the chance, I highly recommend watching the debates on Youtube (just ignore the commenters–they are scary).  May they bring you as much joy and hilarity as they have brought me and mine.

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