After I wrote my last debate article, I received the following comment from a reader suggesting I put in more of my own opinion.
“Forgive me for being blunt,” he wrote, “but that was a very long regurgitation of last night’s events without a summation or full opinion on your part. I was waiting for it and was disappointed.”
Duly noted and although my job is to write about the debates, I will also make sure to put in my own two cents every now and then.
Debate #6 was sponsored by Google and took place in Orlando, Florida, airing on Fox News (which meant I didn’t have to un-block any channels this time).
All the usuals were there, including Gary Johnson. I personally thought he was out of the running but apparently he’s now above one percent in the latest five national polls so he’s still in the mix.
Following are the candidates in order of how well I think they did. Just to remind you, this is only my opinion based on what I watched and without reading any other commentary, seeing ‘opinion polls’ or anything else.
Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House: After covering the last five debates, I have to say Mr. Gingrich has impressed me more than anyone else. Like most people, I basically wrote him off at the very beginning when his campaign staff jumped ship. But from the start he never wavered for one moment; he just kept pushing and that’s a great sign of the type of leader he is. He has solid, viable ideas for getting America back in business and his common-sense approach to problems is something most of the other candidates are lacking.
Tonight, he once again hit the ground running with his first question in which he gave one of the best ideas I’ve heard from any politician regarding unemployment benefits.
“I think unemployment compensation should be tied directly to a training program. If you don’t have a job and you need help, in order for us to give you the help you should sign up for a business-led training program so that 99 weeks becomes an investment in human capital, giving us the best-trained workforce in the world so you can get a job. But I believe it’s fundamentally wrong to give people money for 99 weeks for nothing.” (applause)
Gingrich got another thunderous round of applause even when he wasn’t directly asked a question. Megyn Kelly, asking Mitt Romney whether he believed Obama was a socialist or not, said when Speaker Gingrich was asked the same question he answered, “Sure, of course he is.”
Megyn Kelly asked him, “How can you possibly slash spending by 40%?” which Gingrich classically answered, “Well, by the way you’ve described the question you can’t. If you assume Washington remains the way Washington is right now, it’s all hopeless we might as well all buy Greek bonds and go down together.” (laughter and applause)
Again, Mr. Gingrich received one of the biggest applauses of the evening—including from all the candidates– when he was asked about what’s needed to recover jobs in America.
“32 years ago we were in the same place. We had a failing president; he gave a speech on malaise. People wrote about the presidency being too big, nobody could do it. The Soviet Union was in offense. And a leader came along. He said, ‘When your brother-in-law’s unemployed it’s a recession. When you’re unemployed, it’s a depression. When Jimmy Carter’s unemployed, it’s recovery.” (laughter and applause) Nothing will turn America around more than election night when Barack Obama loses decisively.”
Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania Senator: Yep, I’ve chosen Rick Santorum as second. Believe me, I’m as shocked as anyone—but he did a really great job.
Santorum went up a few notches in my book in the last debates when he alone challenged Rep. Paul’s comments about the U.S. being responsible for 9/11. Santorum has done pretty well in all the debates.
Santorum spoke especially passionately about allowing troops in Iraq and Afghanistan the support they need and follow general’s advice—not Obama’s.
One of the video questions came from a gay soldier in Iraq who wanted to know if any of the candidates would try to overturn “the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers” (to a few boos).
“Any type of sexual activity has no place in the military and the fact that they’re making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege in removing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ tries to inject social policy into the military and the military’s job is to do one thing—that is to defend our country. We need to give the military, which is all volunteer, the ability to do so in a way that is most efficient in protecting our men and women in uniform and I believe this undermines that ability,” Santorum said.
The ending of Santorum’s answer was drowned out with cheers and applause.
Kelly responded by asking what Santorum would do, if elected President, with an ‘outed’ soldier like the one in the video.
“I think what we’re doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now and that’s tragic. I would just say that going forward we would reinstate that policy if Rick Santorum was president. Period. The policy would be reinstituted and as far as people who were already in, I would not throw them out because of the policy of this administration but we would move forward in conformity of what was happening which was sex is not an issue. It should not be an issue—keep it to yourself, whether you’re a heterosexual or a homosexual.” (applause)
When asked about how America can recover, Santorum said, “President Obama is the new King George III who believes in things being dictated on high. We need to replace him with someone who believes in the American people again.” (applause)
Herman Cain, businessman: Mr. Cain won the first debate hands-down—but he has been disappearing more and more with each continuing debate. He always has a great sound-bite, including in the last debate when he said, “I’ve been told by some people, ‘well you can’t get that done’. I say, why? Well, because you don’t know how Washington works. Yes I do—it doesn’t!” With each debate, I keep hoping he’ll have some of the refreshing magic from debate #1.
Right off the bat Mr. Cain got applause for his ‘999’ plan (9% business flat tax, 9% personal income tax and 9% national sales tax). Cain compared his plan to Romney’s saying, “He’s still hooked to the same tax code. That dog won’t hunt.” (applause)
When asked which department he would eliminate in the Federal government, he said “I would start with EPA and start all over. It’s out of control,” he said to loud applause.
Cain spoke about his recent trip to Israel. “I made it clear that if you mess with Israel, you’re messing with the United States of America. We will stand solidly behind Israel,” he said to applause.
One of the most outstanding arguments against Obamacare came from Cain, who in 2006 survived stage 4 cancer of the colon and liver. He said within a 9 month period he was able to get the care and treatment he needed to survive—but he had been told by his surgeons and doctors that under Obamacare, having to suspend any of those treatments, he would have died.
“I’m here, five years cancer-free because I could do it on my timetable and not on a bureaucrat’s time table. This is the reason I think so many people are objecting to Obamacare because we need to get bureaucrats out of the business of trying to micromanage healthcare in this nation.” (wild applause)
Tonight, I believe Mr. Cain jumped back in the game. He has some really sound ideas, knows how to express them and is quick and sharp with his answers—and he NEVER runs overtime, which to me means he understands the importance of rules, deadlines and budgeting time. Great man.
Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts: Romney did pretty well in the last debates, somehow dodging all the bullets aimed at Perry. While Perry was accused of almost killing children with vaccinations, Romney wasn’t challenged much at all about basically creating the blueprints for Obamacare.
He also danced around Megyn Kelly’s question as to whether Obama is a socialist or not.
“What President Obama is a big-spending liberal and he takes his political inspiration from Europe and from the socialist democrats in Europe,” he said. For some reason, as part of his answer he added, “I only spent four years as a governor; I didn’t inhale.” Odd.
Romney was applauded when he spoke against what was called “Governor Perry’s Texas Dream Act.”
“It’s an argument I just can’t follow,” he said. “I don’t see how it is if you’re an illegal alien you get an in-state tuition discount…Four years of college almost $100,000 discount if you’re an illegal alien to go to the University of Texas. If you’re a United States citizen from any one of the other 49 states you have to pay $100,000 more. That kind of magnet draws people into this country to get that education, to get that $100,000 break.”
Perry’s response drew a mixture of cheers and boos.
“If you say that we should not educate children who have come into their state for no other reason, by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart. We need to educate those children because they will become a drag on our society. I think that’s what Texans wanted to do; out of 180 members of the Texas legislature when this issue came up, only 4 dissenting votes. This was a state issue, Texans voted on it and I still support it greatly.”
Rick Santorum made a good point that people aren’t saying children of illegals shouldn’t be allowed to go to college, but that government shouldn’t subsidize them and give them ‘preferential treatment’ as an illegal in this country. He then talked over Perry, who was trying to explain that Texas needed ‘boots on the ground’ instead of a fence.
“Is it working? Is it working?” Santorum said.
Romney was also very strong in defending Israel and chided Obama for “throwing her under the bus.”
Overall, he stood his ground and was never stumped by any of the questions. I’m still not a big Romney fan, still have questions—but he’s starting to answer them succinctly.
Rick Perry, Governor of Texas: In the last debates, I thought Perry was actually winning the debates until Michelle Bachmann leveled her crony capitalism accusations at him. He put up a very weak defense and after that he sort of fizzled out.
Despite all, basically the only two candidates everyone in the media talks about are Perry and Romney. For weeks there’s been a back and forth media frenzy with Romney questioning Perry’s stance on states-controlled Social Security and as soon as the questioning started, the two candidates began what Perry referred to as ‘badminton’.
“It’s not the first time Mitt’s been wrong on some issues,” Perry said. “What we said was the state employees and the state retirees, they being able to go off of the current system onto one that the states would operate themselves. As a matter of fact in Massachusetts, his home state, almost 96% of the people who are on that program, retirees and state people, are off of the Social Security option.”
Romney countered by saying Perry has stated differently in his book, but didn’t have any quotes or references to back it up.
Perry countered that by talking about Romney’s book, saying his economic advisor said Romneycare was ‘an absolute bust’ and ‘absolutely what Obamacare was all about.’ However Perry not only quoted a section in Romney’s hard-cover book but Perry also mentioned that the quote had been taken out of the paperback version.
“So speaking of not getting it straight in your book, sir, that would be a good one to quote,” Perry said to applause.
Romney responded, “What I actually said… This is a state plan for a state; it is not a national plan.’ It’s fine for you to retreat from your own words in your own book, but please don’t try and make me retreat from the words that I wrote in my book. I stand by what I wrote, I believe in what I did and I believe the people in this country can read my book and see exactly what it is.” (applause)
It went on like that all evening between Perry and Romney—so much so it’s actually getting difficult to tell who’s who anymore.
Michelle Bachmann, Minnesota Representative: Michelle had been one of my personal top picks until the last debates. Like many others, I was more than a little put off in the way Bachmann went after Perry regarding the vaccine issue. While I want the candidates to challenge each other—and even get into heated arguments if necessary– throwing out unsubstantiated rumors and innuendos are not the way to do it. If you’re going to accuse someone of taking ‘millions of dollars’ from a drug company, please have a few facts to back up those accusations. Again, just my opinion.
Bachmann was called on her statement about the HPV vaccine when she was asked, “Do you stand by your statement that the HPV vaccine is potentially dangerous and if not, should you be more careful when talking about public health issues?”
She basically stood by her previous statement saying, “Governor Perry made a decision where he gave parental rights to a big drug company. That big drug company gave him campaign contributions and hired his former Chief of Staff to lobby him to benefit the big drug company. That’s what was wrong with that picture.” (applause)
Perry responded by mentioning a young girl who had stage 4 cervical cancer who had lobbied for the bill, adding “As a governor, I will always err on the side of life.” (applause)
Regarding immigration reform, I loved how Bachmann immediately went to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s defense while also offering a little dig to Perry’s stance from the last debates.
“The federal government has failed the American people and has failed the states. It’s reprehensible that President Obama has sued the state of Arizona and the governor of Arizona for trying to protect the people of Arizona.” (applause) “I would build a fence on every southern border, on every mile, on every yard, on every foot, on every inch of the southern border. Not only build it but then also have sufficient border security and enforce the laws that are on the books with the ICE agents, with our border security and I would not allow tax-payer funded benefits for illegal aliens or for their children. That’s a magnet for illegal aliens to come into the United States of America.” (applause)
Ron Paul, Texas Representative: Paul was jeered and booed when he accused the U.S. for being responsible for 9/11. “This whole idea that the whole Muslim world is responsible for this and they’re attacking us because we’re free and prosperous is just not true.” They booed even louder when he added, “We have been bombing and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis for 10 years. Would you be annoyed?”
A commentator also challenged Paul on a statement he made about building immigration walls. Paul had said, “Think about those fences maybe being used against us, keeping us in.”
“Do you know a lot of Americans who would want to take their money and flee the United States of America?” (laughter)
There are a few candidates that I really don’t understand why they’re still in the race. Former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson is one of them, although he did have one of the funniest lines of the evening.
When asked about jobs creation, Johnson said, “My next-door-neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than the current administration.” The crowd went wild.
Former Governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman is the other question mark candidate for me. In my humble opinion, it’s time for both to bow out now.
My favorite question of the night was, “If you had to choose a running mate from one of the other candidates who would it be and why?”
Libertarian Gary Johnson chose Libertarian Ron Paul; Rick Santorum chose Newt Gingrich; Rick Perry said, “If you could take Herman Cain and mate him up with Newt Gingrich, I think you would have a couple of really interesting guys to work with.” (laughter)
Jon Huntsman said, “I’m tempted to say that when all is said and done, the two guys standing in the middle here, Romney and Perry, aren’t gonna be around because they’re gonna bludgeon each other to death.” (laughter)
Huntsman then chose Herman Cain, saying a combination of his tax policy and Cain’s 999 plans would be ‘most compatible’.
Herman Cain said, “This is a game; I’ll play the game.” (laughter) “If Governor Romney would throw out his job’s growth plan and replace it with ‘999’ he has a shot,” Cain said to laughter and applause. “If he does not, I would probably go with Speaker Gingrich who I have the greatest admiration with in all seriousness because of his history and because of his depth of knowledge. I could go on because I have respect for everybody up here, but it’s a game.”
Gingrich refused to answer, giving a perfectly ‘Gingrich-y’ answer.
“I’m going to disappoint those in the audience who want this to be a Hollywood game. I don’t have any idea who I would pick as the vice-presidential nominee. What I do know is it would have to be someone who I felt was capable of being the president of the United States and that would be the first criteria. These are all good friends of mine and I couldn’t imagine hurting any of their feelings by choosing one tonight.”
After that, it seems the ‘Gingrich precedent’ was set and Ron Paul, Michelle Bachmann and Mitt Romney basically gave the same answer, although Romney added, “These people could all fill that position and any one of them would be a better president than what we have now.” (applause) “We all have differing opinions on different issues but one thing’s for sure, we all agree that President Obama needs to be former president Obama and we’re going to make sure that happens!” (applause)
So on to the next debate—and I’m making a prediction right here tonight that there will probably be a new candidate in the mix next time.