Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fourth Republican Primary Debate (CA)

The fourth Republican primary debate was held Wednesday night in California at the Reagan Library. The full debate is now available on YouTube. Once again, Gary Johnson was not invited. This was the first debate with Rick Perry and without Tim Pawlenty, but otherwise had the same participants as the third debate.

Before watching this debate, I had very negative opinions of Paul and Gingrich and somewhat negative opinions of Bachmann, Romney and Huntsman. Santorum and Cain were slightly positive for me. I was basically neutral about Perry; he's done some good things but he's also done some bad things, and I've tried to keep an open mind about him until I was able to see him debate.

Once again, I've summarized and responded to each candidate's positions below, and I've scored each position positive, zero or negative based on my gut reaction to it.

Rick Santorum
  • Americans want "someone to get something done," then cites his own experience in government as evidence that he has gotten things done. He thinks Democrats in the Senate will vote to eliminate the corporate tax rate. (-1)
  • Rick Santorum refers to himself in the third person and points to welfare reform in the 90s as an example of how he wants to help the poor, and he would enact similar reforms for food stamps and housing assistance. (+1)
  • It was right to create the Department of Homeland Security because there was "no information sharing" between agencies with "conflicting authority." (+1)
  • Santorum says parental rights are more important than states' rights, and he says Perry could've had an opt-in for the HPV vaccine. (+1)
  • He's the son of immigrants, and immigration is great, but they need to come here legally. He doesn't want to talk about what to do with immigrants who are already here. (-1)
  • The problem with Libya was Obama's indecisiveness and confusion. He opposes the "isolationist" standpoint of Huntsman and Paul, and wants us to be "a force for good." Is it really isolationist to leave Afghanistan after ten years? (-1)

Newt Gingrich
  • Does Gingrich's forward for Perry's book mean that Gingrich supports Perry? "No, but that means if he wants to write another book, I'll write another forward." That's a good line, but then he complains that Obama hasn't come to the Reagan Library and talked to the candidates. Um... Gingrich does understand that this is a Republican debate, doesn't he? (-1)
  • Asked about the individual mandate and the Massachusetts/Texas comparison, Gingrich would rather debate the moderators. Again. And the news media. Again. Newt really doesn't understand the idea of a debate, does he? (-1)
  • We need the Department of Homeland Security because of the threat of WMDs. He said he helped design the DHS but it was implemented poorly and now needs reform. (0)
  • Charter schools is the one area Gingrich says he agrees with Obama. He wants a "Pell grant for K-12" so that every parent has school choice. (+1)
  • We need to have a legal guest worker program, make English the official language and make immigrants learn American history to become citizens. Well, Newt, we already have a guest worker program, and immigrants already are required to learn American history to become citizens-- they have to pass a test. Does he really not know these things? I'm starting to think Newt's running a joke campaign. (-2)
  • He would fire Bernanke tomorrow because he's been "the most inflationary" chair "in the history of the Fed." Does Gingrich know what "inflationary" means? Never mind that there have been months of actual deflation under Bernanke, does Gingrich not remember the double-digit inflation of 1979-81? (-2)
  • There are three good ways to increase revenue: job growth, drilling for oil and developing Alaska. (+1)

Michele Bachmann
  • What are the worst regulations holding back jobs? First is Obamacare, second is... well, she says she had two and never got to the second one. She got sidetracked talking about her foster children. (-1)
  • We shouldn't think "that the repeal bill will just come to our desk" and executive orders won't be enough. She completely sidesteps the question about Romney and the individual mandate, but what she says is still good. (+1)
  • We could create 1.2 million jobs by eliminating energy regulations, she says. The price of gas was $1.79 when Obama took office, and we should have a goal of lower energy prices. While I like what she says she wants to do, I think it's dangerous to set a specific price level as your goal. That's only one step away from an explicit price ceiling. (0)
  • It's wrong for "state or federal government" to require inoculations. There's a huge difference between most vaccines and the HPV vaccine, but you wouldn't know it listening to Bachmann. (-1)
  • In Mexico we're dealing with "narco-terrorists." Oh my. Not to build a fence is to yield our sovereignty to Mexico. (-1)
  • Reagan would agree with us on rejecting a 10:1 cuts-to-taxes deal, and her evidence is that he agreed to a 3:1 cuts-to-taxes deal while President. Right. (-1)
  • The US military has "maintained global order" and she doesn't want to cut the military's budget. Also, it was wrong to go into Libya. (-1)
  • She stands by her statement that she wants to drill for oil in the Everglades, but it would be done in a responsible way. Then she bashes Obama for awhile. (0)

Mitt Romney
  • Criticizing him as a "buy-out specialist" is "not terribly accurate" and even though Massachusetts was 47th in the country in job creation under Mitt, he claims to have created more jobs in Massachusetts than Obama has in the entire country. He also says he helped create "tens of thousands" of jobs while at Bain Capital. (+1)
  • He says private sector experience is "critical" if you want to "reshape and update America's economy." Hm. I don't think most Republicans are looking for a President to use government to "reshape and update" the economy. (-1)
  • Perry taking credit for Texas' lack of income tax, right-to-work law, oil reserves and general conservatism is "like Al Gore saying he invented the internet." Massachusetts' unemployment rate was below the national average for three out of Mitt's four years, he says. (+1)
  • On his first day as President, he would grant an Obamacare waiver to all 50 states because its "a bad law." Then he goes on to defend the individual mandate in Massachusetts. Apparently the individual mandate was not one of the bad parts in Obamacare. (-1)
  • Can a President do anything about gas prices? He can "make sure we stop sending about $500 billion a year outside our country, in many cases to nations that are not real friendly with ours." Wasn't that one of McCain's favorite talking points? Romney isn't going to promise gas below $2/gallon, but he does promise that "we can become energy secure." (+1)
  • You can't say Social Security is a failure "to tens of millions of Americans who live on Social Security." I would say the fact that tens of millions of Americans do live on the program is itself a failure. "Under no circumstances would I ever say, by any measure, it's a failure." (-2)
  • On the HPV vaccine, Perry "went about it in the wrong way" but "his heart was in the right place." (-1)
  • What would make the border secure? A fence and more agents, and somehow "turn off the magnet" of businesses that hire illegal immigrants. (-1)
  • Is he a member of the Tea Party? Basically no, but he agrees with what they think. (0)
  • "We have a crisis in confidence in part because we have an absence of leadership." Obama is "over his head." He wants to "change" a lot of policies, but keeps this answer at only the vaguest of levels. (0)
  • Taxes should be "part of the American experience" so he's not concerned about raising taxes on the 47% of Americans who pay no income tax. (-1)
  • On the other hand, he goes on to propose no taxes on money that is saved by those earning less than $200,000. I like that idea. (+1)
  • He would not reappoint Bernanke, and then talks about a plan he proposed in Nevada apparently. (0)

Rick Perry
  • Perry says he created a million jobs in Texas while the rest of America lost two-and-a-half million. Regarding whether those jobs were low-paying or not, it's "a little bit hypocritical" for anyone to criticize any job creation at this point in America. (+1)
  • Texas created more jobs in the last three months than Massachusetts did in four years under Romney. Romney is right to point out the differences between the states. While this is a good talking point for Perry, it's a bit of a cheap shot. (0)
  • Romneycare was "a great opportunity" for the rest of the country in the sense that it let us see that an individual mandate would not work. (+1)
  • Asked to defend why Texas has the worst percentage of uninsured, he says Medicaid should be block-granted and his wife is a nurse. (-1)
  • "Let me just respond to the last, um, individual..." What...? Does Perry not know who his fellow candidates are? It's clear from the rest of his answer that he was talking about Santorum. Too bad for Perry there's nothing else in his answer to help him recover from that. (-1)
  • He has a good answer in response to Paul's accusation that he supported Hillarycare, and turns it around on how Paul left the party during the 80s because of Reagan. I don't know whether I like Perry's policies, but I definitely like his style. (+1)
  • Those on Social Security now have nothing to worry about, but we still need to transition out of the program for the younger generations. Social Security is "a monstrous lie" and "a Ponzi scheme." (+2)
  • He doesn't know "what's more strong for parental rights" than having an opt-out provision in the HPV vaccination requirement. How about an opt-in? (-1)
  • He stands by the educations cuts he made in Texas, and says something about being next to Mexico. (0)
  • What would make the border secure? Boots on the ground, and... predator drones? You're kidding me. He wants to fly predator drones in active missions over American soil. (-1)
  • He would not have agreed to a 10:1 cuts-to-taxes ratio as was asked of everyone else in the last debate. He wants a balanced budget amendment. (-1)
  • Asked about Bush's military policies, he stumbles for a bit, tips his hat to Obama and the Navy SEALs for getting bin Laden, and then talks about Keynesian economics. He's also glad that Obama kept Gitmo open. (0)
  • We should not put American troops at risk unless there is a "clear reason that American interests are at stake" and "a clear exit strategy." (+2)
  • It's "nonsense" to put the American economy "in jeopardy" with climate change legislation. I don't agree with Perry on the science side of it, but I do agree that we should oppose carbon taxes and the like. (+1)
  • Asked about executions in Texas and whether any of them could have been innocent, he says Texas has a "thoughtful," "clear," process to lead to executions. I don't agree, but as governor of a state that frequently uses the death penalty, he didn't really have any other option here, and he handled it pretty well. (0)

Ron Paul
  • Does he support a federal role for safety regulations or air traffic control? No, he doesn't, but he wouldn't end these programs right away. Government regulations that are necessary, he thinks can be done at the state level, and the current interpretation of the Commerce Clause is "outrageous." (+1)
  • Asked a follow-up about regulation, Paul stumbles around blaming bureaucrats and lobbyists for something-or-other, then gets back on point and says "the consumers of America are smart enough" that they don't need the "federal government hounding them" with regulations. (0)
  • Getting rid of the minimum wage would "absolutely" create more jobs. The minimum wage is just another mandate like the individual mandate. "I can get you a gallon of gasoline for a dime." Because a silver dime is worth $3.50. Whaaaat.... I'm not even going to bother describing the myriad ways Ron Paul is wrong. (-2)
  • He agreed with Reagan's message, but not with the huge deficits of the 80s. (+1)
  • Asked about Perry's conservative credentials, Paul says something about him being a social misfit, or maybe the HPV vaccine itself is a social misfit, I'm not really sure. Then he finds his footing and says as President, he would not use executive orders to write laws. (+1)
  • The airlines would be better at security than the TSA, and 9/11 happened because the government told pilots not to resist and that they couldn't have guns. (0)
  • We never should've had FEMA. He'll tell you what he'd do instead, but he'd rather talk about air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan. (-1)
  • We need to remove the incentive for illegal immigration by not requiring free health care and education for illegals. We're killing thousands with the drug war, and the border fence is designed to keep us in. Now I don't like the idea of a border fence any more than Paul does, but he went full-on conspiracy theorist with this answer. (-1)
  • School lunch programs are fine at the local level, but the national welfare state is unconstitutional. He resists "this whole idea that there's something wrong with people who don't lavish out free stuff from the federal government somehow aren't compassionate enough." (+1)

Herman Cain
  • Cain outlines his 999 plan. He wants to throw out the current tax code, and replace it with a 9% personal income tax, a 9% national sales tax and a 9% corporate income tax. "If 10% is good enough for God, 9% ought to be good enough for the federal government." I'm undecided on whether I like the 999 plan overall, but Cain sure knows how to sell it. (+1)
  • "An individual mandate to buy something is not constitutional." He worked with Gingrich against Hillarycare, now he's fighting Obamacare and running against Romneycare. He wants "patient-centered, market-driven reforms", tort reform, HSAs and association health plans. (+2)
  • With the moderators going back and forth between Perry and Romney, Cain edges himself in. For Social Security, he advocates the Chilean model, based on personal retirement accounts. (+2)
  • Let's fix FEMA and DHS rather than eliminate them, but get rid of the TSA because the federal government isn't good at micromanaging. (+1)
  • Cain repeats his four-point plan on immigration that he's laid out at every debate so far. At least he's consistent. (0)
  • Cain talks about his 999 plan again, and says the government shouldn't be picking winners and losers. (+1)

Jon Huntsman
  • A recession "is not the time… to enter a trade war." He talks about Reagan and how he knows Mandarin and how Americans are optimistic; then he points out that Utah was #1 in job creation when he was governor. When he gets down to making his points, I like the points that he makes, but he spends a lot of time blustering. (0)
  • Is it ever appropriate for government, federal or state, to force people to buy health insurance? "Absolutely not" and also he has seven kids. He says health care reform in Utah covered more uninsured than in Texas (which isn't difficult since the moderator already pointed out that Texas has the most uninsured). He wants to do nationally what they did in Utah, based on expanding the marketplace and harmonizing medical records. (+1)
  • Is it realistic to promise $2 gas? "Of course not." That's good, but then he careens off into talk about leadership and teleprompters. Then he says that according to the Milken Institute, the actual price per gallon of gas that we pay is $13, when you include troop deployments and sea lane costs. Whoa, hold on. Could that be true? The short answer is no, not really. The long answer is at the linked blog post, giving Huntsman the distinction of becoming the first candidate in the 2012 race to require a separate blog post to debunk something he said in a debate. (-3)
  • He wants to fix homeland security, but he'd rather complain about how the debate isn't talking about jobs. (-1)
  • Immigration is a human issue, and our legal immigration system is broken. He says Vancouver is the fastest-growing real estate market in the world "because they allow immigrants in legally." This makes me wonder whether Huntsman knows that Canadian immigration policy is set at the national level. But more importantly, he says the legal immigration system in the US is broken and fails to tell us anything about how he would fix it (other than focusing on it). (-1)
  • He wants everyone to take a pledge not to take any pledges. Oy. (-1)
  • Brings the troops in Afghanistan home. Then he talks about fixing "our core" whatever that means. Still, I like that he wants to bring the troops home. (+1)
  • Huntsman seems to agree with the moderator that some of his opponents are "anti-science" but refuses to name names. "We can't run from science. We can't run from mainstream conservative philosophy." He believes in climate change and in evolution. (0)
This was definitely the most lopsided of debates so far. I tried to keep track of how many questions each candidate got. Although I may have missed some, Perry got at least 17, while Santorum, Gingrich and Cain only got five each. Romney got 12, while Paul, Bachmann and Huntsman all got 8. Since Perry was the new guy, it makes sense to get a few extra questions, but there's no reason at all why any candidate should get more than three times as many questions as others.

Summing my gut reactions for each candidate, Cain was the clear winner with +7. The only other candidate with a positive score was Perry with +3. Both Santorum and Paul got 0, while Romney got -3. Bachmann, Gingrich and Huntsman tied for last place with -4 each.

Herman Cain was great this time. Almost every time he opened his mouth he was right on target. He didn't have any flubs in this debate and almost everything he said was exactly what I wanted to hear. Not only is he right on policy, but his style and poise were very Presidential this time. If the election were today, I would vote for Cain. It's really a shame that he's doing so poorly in all the polls.

I was impressed with Rick Perry. This is the first time I've really paid attention to him, and he did really well. He wasn't afraid to go on the offensive, which is exactly what I want to see. I absolutely loved that back-and-forth between Perry and Romney. Policy-wise, I definitely don't like the whole Gardasil thing, and there were a couple other points Perry made that I disagreed with. Even so, I love that he's willing to tackle Social Security in an honest way. I'm most nervous about the fact that he's governor of Texas. In a Perry-Obama race, Perry will be painted as the reincarnation of George W. Bush, which will make it very hard for him to win.

Rick Santorum felt like something of a non-entity in this debate. He only got five questions, and none of them mattered all that much. He also seemed to be scowling every time the camera focused on him. Ron Paul did surprisingly well. He stayed mostly on topic and managed to avoid having too many paranoid rants, If it weren't for his comments about silver dimes and the border fence, he actually would've scored positive.

For the first time, Mitt Romney was actually on the defensive this time, and I don't think he handled it well. He fought back against Perry, but later defended Perry too. He's no longer above the fray like he wants to be, but he still clearly wants to stay above the fray. But more importantly, he said, about Social Security, "Under no circumstances would I ever say, by any measure, it's a failure." Social Security is already in the red, and the next President will be forced to deal with it. When they do, I want a President who will be honest about what needs to be done. In this debate, Romney made clear that he would not be that President.

Almost everything Michele Bachmann said was wrong. Actually, that goes for Newt Gingrich too. The difference is that Bachmann's mistakes were errors in policy (she keeps trying to answer "both"). Newt's mistakes were errors in fact. Not to mention, his continued campaign against the media just gets more annoying every time he does it. After eight years of the horrible relationship between Bush and the media, do we really need a candidate who is actively antagonistic towards the media?

And then there's Jon Huntsman. He actually made some good points, and I like his overall approach better in this debate than in the last one. Still, that line about $13 gas is more than I can take.


    1. Your breakdown on how they answered was about the same as mine (though you offered up considerably more detail than I did this time). However, your summary was quite different. I wonder how much of this was based upon my use of the transcripts and your use of the video? (Also, I had far less time to devote to the debate this time.) Perry just didn't come across that strong to me when I read his remarks, and while Cain did well he did not make much of an impression in the twenty or so lines of text he used out of 28 or so pages in the NY Times transcript.
      As always, it is interesting to see how others viewed the debate. Thanks for the post.

    2. I haven't watched any debates thus far, thanks for the detailed information and analysis. One question.. do you disagree with Paul that lowering or eliminating minimum wage would create jobs, or did you just say that bullet point was wrong because of the way he rambles about monetary theory? (I do know local coin shops that are paying 30x for pre-1964 silver coins, although I'm not sure that the reality of that is that strongly connected with Paul's borderline-conspiracy views about inflation and all that)

    3. Thanks for the comments. Watching the video of the debate might've had something to do with my interpretation. Both Cain and Perry seem to have a certain confidence that other candidates lack, especially Santorum in this debate.

      Joshua, I actually agree that lowering or eliminating the minimum wage would create jobs. But the line about gas for a silver dime was too much for me. Silver dimes now are collectors' items, not currency. I might as well calculate the price of gas in Furby's or baseball cards. Besides, even if a metal-backed currency would've had 30x less inflation, it doesn't mean it would have 30x more real value. Prices would be 30x lower, but so would wages. A ten-cent gallon of gas isn't such a good deal to someone making 70 cents an hour.