Post Debate Thoughts

I made a semi-serious New Year’s Resolution not to discuss or even read about the presidential campaign until Labor Day.  I didn’t quite live up to that resolution, but I have managed to steer clear of the discussion far more than I would have thought possible.  So tonight was the first of the presidential debates that I have seen.  Below are my thoughts on how each of the candidates fared.

One general comment: the debate moderators were horrendous.  It seemed that about half of the questions were addressed to Rick Perry, and just about less than half to Mitt Romney.  In fact the first ten minutes were essentially just a sparring match between the two.  The most embarrassing part of the evening was when they trotted out a newscaster from Telemundo just to ask a question about immigration.  Just awful.

Newt Gingrich:  I just can’t quit you.  Seriously, Newt tonight reminded me why I so admired him over a decade ago.  His responses were eloquent, he was forceful, and he was simply spot on when it came to policy.  His admonition to the moderators that this shouldn’t be an attempt to have Republicans squabbling was impressive though a bit forced as well.  Still, I have to give the man credit for an impressive performance.

Mitt Romney:  He’s a good debater.  That’s all there is to it.  He didn’t stumble, nor did he make any particular insightful comments.  However, his disgusting bit of demagoguery on the social security issue – where he essentially implied that Rick Perry was going to crawl into senior’s bedrooms and steal their social security checks – was reprehensible.  His adviser continuing to attack after the debate only adds fuel to the fire.  I’ve never been one to suggest that I wouldn’t vote for Mitt were he the nominee, but things like this force me to reconsider.

Rick Perry: He stumbled badly on the global warming question – not that he was wrong, he just responded poorly.  He also stumbled on a few other questions, but generally was able to recover quickly.  Oddly enough his best answer came on an issue where he was supposed to be at his weakest: immigration.  Not a strong performance by any measure, but nothing that will do irreparable harm.

Rick Santorum:  I have to admit I was mildly disappointed with Santorum.  As I said I haven’t seen the other debates, but I’ve heard highlights of Santorum’s responses, and he’s been good.  He wasn’t as strong here, though he still gave good responses on the few questions where he was allowed to actually talk.  His response to Brian Williams’ “You’re a Catholic but also a Republican, so why do you hate the poor?” question was as good a response as I’ve ever seen.  His categorization of opponents of the Libyan escapade as isolationists was one of the low points of the debate, however.

Michelle Bachmann:  I have been critical of her before, and had very low expectations.  I have to admit she was pretty good.  She expressed a lot more detailed knowledge of the issues than I’d come to expect of her, and she offered more than platitudes.  A good showing.

Jon Hunstman:  Zzzzzzz.  Oh I’m sorry, I nodded off there.  For the guy who’s been painted as the smartest guy in the room he was actually the vaguest and least substantial of the candidates on the stage.  He offered nothing but platitudes – seriously, Michelle Bachmann offered more substance than Hunstman.  This has nothing to do with ideology.  He was simply a bore, and a bore with nothing to say.

Herman Cain: I’ve also been very critical for some of the remarks that Cain has made in the past, but he was very good tonight.  In fact he may have been the most impressive person on that stage other than Gingrich.  He displayed much greater understanding of the issues than he has in the past, and most of ideas were common sensical. A pleasant surprise.

Ron Paul: He turned the immigration discussion into an attack on the war on drugs.  Okay.   He then suggested that the proposed border fence was a way to keep Americans in – you know, just in case we all had a hankering to run south of the border in case we wanted to improve our lot in life.  No, seriously, he said that.  And he meant it.  As more than one commenter (including my wife) has suggested, he’s the crazy uncle you have to endure at Thanksgiving dinner.

All in all, I think most of the candidates did very well.

26 Responses to Post Debate Thoughts

  • The debate was good compared to the CNN “deep dish or thin trust” debate. Substantive questions focusing on the candidates of consequence.

    Newt and Santorum need to smile. Romney merely held his ground. Perry did not help himself but he didn’t falter badly either. Huntsman finally distinguished himself but he needs to hire some marketing consultants and polish his presentation. Bachmann needed to demolish Perry but she didn’t. Her time is up. Why is Cain up there? Ron Paul had a couple moments but he also had a couple completely incoherent moments.

    All in all, no big movements in the standings except for the end of Bachmann. That leaves Perry as frontrunner with Romney close behind and Huntsman as the long-shot.

  • Huntsman? Please. The guy is at 2% in the polls, and that support is all coming from Democrats and the media. He didn’t help himself tonight with his smug, eyebrow cocking ingratiating of himself to people who’d never dream of voting for him over Obama.

    And just another one of my periodic reminders that I will NEVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, EVER vote for Mitt Romney. If he somehow manages to win the nomination, I will not support him in the General Election. And before any of the “anybody but Obama” crowd asks the question, no, I would not support Romney even if I knew for a certainty that my vote would be the difference in his defeating Obama.

  • This is a Perry-Romney race currently, which Romney is doomed to lose. Gingrich now is running a campaign for a cabinet position which he probably will get. Bachmann is probably hoping currently for Veep but that is not going to happen. Huntsman has a great future as being a “reasonable Republican” and can be counted on to be trotted out by the Lamestream Press in future forums where they need a Republican to agree with Democrats and give a show fake balance. Santorum’s campaign won’t survive Iowa. Like Bachmann he is hoping for Veep, but the best he and Bachmann will get is a cabinet position. Cain is a shoe-in to be Secretary of Commerce in the next Republican administration. Ron Paul: a mixture of ignorance and ideology with a crazed cult of followers. The only question for Paul is whether he goes third party next year and I suspect he will. If he does he will take more votes from Obama than the Republican nominee and end up with about three percent.

    If Palin gets in it becomes a Palin-Perry race and that is what has the Perry campaign concerned. Other than major gaffes and Palin entering, Perry is the prohibitive front runner.

  • I didn’t watch it last night, I can’t stand Brian Williams.

    “Huntsman has a great future as being a “reasonable Republican” and can be counted on to be trotted out by the Lamestream Press in future forums where they need a Republican to agree with Democrats and give a show fake balance.”

    They do this quite often. They also like to trot out liberal Catholics to bash the church.

  • I watched the Brewers lose to the Cardinals, 2-0. Nyjer Morgan got thrown out in the 9th for jawing at the pitcher and Albert Pujols ran across the field, almost sparking a donnybrook. It was apparently more exciting and impactful than the dull political debate I missed especially if you’re a cheesehead.

  • Uh oh, those Cards are only 8.5 back now. The Brewers better beware.

  • Paul, two words: 1964 Phillies.

  • Lowest point in the debate was when the crowd cheered when Williams said Perry had overseen 240-250 executions as governor. Sad.

  • Why aren’t more people getting behind Santorum? I haven’t followed everything around the debates and presidential campaigns but what I’ve seen I’ve been impressed with. Is it that he is too conservative on the social issues? Not strong enough in economic/foreign affairs issues? Combination? What is he missing?

  • I am not sorry that I didn’t my waste time.

    Anybody but Obama.

  • Huntsman has a shot at Secretary of State or if Obama wins, he’ll be the 2016 frontrunner. The veep will be Marco Rubio.

  • Lowest point in the debate was when the crowd cheered when Williams said Perry had overseen 240-250 executions as governor.

    A state as populous as Texas has likely seen about 15,000 homicides during the 10 years he has held the position.

  • Why are so many people pro-Santorum? Didn’t he betray the pro-life and conservative position a few years back when he spported Arlen Spector over a pro-life candidate?

  • Art:

    We won’t get into a discussion of how all those executions didn’t stop all those homicides. Your argument is self-defeating. Countries and states with no capital punishment have lower homicide rates than those with capital punishment.

    The most grizzly thing was not that all these executions took place but that this audience cheered that he oversaw all of these executions.

  • We won’t get into a discussion of how all those executions didn’t stop all those homicides. Your argument is self-defeating. Countries and states with no capital punishment have lower homicide rates than those with capital punishment.

    Of course, it could be in part because other states have fewer homicides that they are more in the mood to coddle murderers.

    Though I agree that it’s unseemly to cheer executions, however necessary they may seem.

  • When they stick the needle into Major Hasan there will be a big collective fist pump in our house.

  • Joe/Darwin:

    Will you both be in your pews during the Mass for the forgiveness of sins this Sunday shaking your heads and saying “bullshit”? I don’t believe Christ wants us to be selective in our forgiveness.

  • “Whoever sheds human blood, by man shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.
    Genesis 9:5-7

  • Eva,

    Of course not. The Church has never held that justice and forgiveness are mutually exclusive, and I most certainly do not. Even John Paul II, an anti-capital punishment pope if there ever was one, stated clearly that the use of the death penalty was necessary and just in other times and places than our own. That doesn’t mean that forgiveness was, to use your word, “bullshit” in past societies.

    I’m not here to make a full-throated defense of capital punishment as it’s currently used in the US, because I don’t think it’s necessarily used justly or effectively. However, I do think that anti-capital punishment advocates in the US generally spend most of their time either mawkishly sympathizing with murderers over their victims or else making very poor arguments.

    The claim that capital punishment “doesn’t work” because countries that don’t have capital punishment have lower homicide rates is a poor argument. For instance: capital punishment was virtually non existent in the US (due to supreme court intervention) from 1966 to 1980. That same period marked an increase in murder and other violent crimes, which then began to fall as executions increased. (It fell the fastest in the ’90s, the period when executions were at their highest.)

    A whole lot of other things changed during those periods. I would tend to think that capital punishment was not instrumental in driving down the murder rate — because it’s used so infrequently compared to the number of murders. But it would certainly seem to run against the notion that outlawing capital punishment reduces murder.

  • We won’t get into a discussion of how all those executions didn’t stop all those homicides.

    My point, eva, was that the State of Texas does not appear to be executing people with abandon.

  • I would like to see an entirely different debating format. We lend up learning as much if not more about the moderators and questioners than about any of the candidates. The candidates should question each other rather than having the press decide what issues should be addressed and which ignored. Values are evident in the questions raised, not just in the answers.

  • I didn’t get to watch because I had to go to a catechism meeting…
    but I prayed for Rick Santorum.
    He said he supported A Specter as part of an effort to make sure we had good Supreme Court appointments Santorum later apologized I also really like Gingrich– I hope one of those two will at least be VP

  • What’s so terrible about applauding Gov Perry for saying Texas executed 234 murderers? I live on the outskirts of Peoria, Il where one shooting or murder, on the average, occurs once a month. I would applaud our dimwit Govenor Quinn, if he would lift the moratorium on the death penalty. And maybe some of those folks who were applauding lost a friend or a loved one to a murderer.

  • eva,

    Judge not . .

    A noted theologian penned the following, “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    The noted theologian that wrote the above is now Pope Benedict XVI

  • Pius XII speaks for me on the death penalty:

    “Even in the case of the death penalty the State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life. Rather public authority limits itself to depriving the offender of the good of life in expiation for his guilt, after he, through his crime, deprived himself of his own right to life.”

    There is a world of difference between forgiving someone for sins and trangressions and arguing that therefore they should not pay the earthly penalty for their crimes. That some Catholics are apparently incapable of understanding this is all part of the moral chaos of the modern world.

    The late Cardinal Dulles gives a good overview of the history of the teachings of the Church in reference to the death penalty:

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/08/catholicism-amp-capital-punishment-21

  • Weird I had a completely different takeaway from the debate. Maybe because I have not seen any of the candidates speak prior to last night.

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