Sorry, but this one was not only hard to watch but is hard to write about.  I’m personally quite disappointed in almost all the candidates tonight for allowing themselves to, at times, look and sound ridiculous.   I’m especially hoping they haven’t put off any potential voters who aren’t able to see past their politician-like behavior.

Right off the bat they went after the man who’s ahead in the polls, Herman Cain and his “999” plan—just as they did Governor Perry when he was ahead.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Rep. Ron Paul why he had called Cain’s 999 plan “dangerous”.

“It raises revenues,” Paul said, “and the worst part about it is it’s regressive.  A lot of people that aren’t paying any taxes, and I like that, I don’t think we should even things up by raising taxes.”

Cain said, “None of my distinguished colleagues who have attacked me up here tonight understand the plan.  They’re wrong about it being a value added tax.  We simply remove the hidden taxes that are in goods and services that are in our plan and replace it with a single rate 9%.”

Newt Gingrich was the first to come to Cain’s defense.

“Herman Cain deserves a lot of credit,” he said.  “He’s had the courage to go out and take a specific, very big idea at the right level and he has us at least talking about something that matters as opposed to the junk that all too often is masquerading as politics in this country.”  (applause)

After the initial Cain attacks, it was business as usual.  For a while.

Michelle Bachmann said she wants to go back to Reagan’s economic plan and throw out the tax code.

“I want to flatten the tax for all of Americans.  Simplify that tax for Americans and that creates job growth and that’s what we need,” Bachmann said.  “We need to repeal Obamacare (applause).  Repeal the jobs and destruction act known as Dodd-Frank.  President Obama’s plan has been a plan for destruction of this economy.”

(Just an observation, but whenever the candidates are fishing for applause all they have to do is throw in the phrase, ‘I’m going to repeal Obamacare.’  They’re all guilty of it and it works every time…)

Governor Rick Perry talked about his own plan in which he’s promising 1.2 million jobs by resuming drilling in Texas.

“We don’t have to wait on OPEC anymore,” Perry said.  “We don’t have to let them hold us hostage.  America’s got the energy—let’s have American energy independence.”  (applause)

And then it started getting ugly, very ugly.

For the first time in any of the debates, all the candidates went full-throttle on Mitt Romney regarding Romneycare.

“You just don’t have credibility when you talk about repealing Obamacare,” Santorum said.  “Your plan was the basis for Obamacare.  Your consultants helped to craft Obamacare and to sit and say that you’re going to repeal it, you have no track record on that that we can trust that you’re going to do that.”

Romney tried to defend his position but Santorum started talking over him–ultimately (and somewhat childishly) saying, “You’re out of time, you’re out of time” which prompted boos from the audience.

When Santorum finally stopped talking, Romney got to finish his statement (with the dual-screen showing Santorum rolling his eyes the entire time).  He ended with the usual applause-catcher, that if elected president he would repeal Obamacare.

Next Newt Gingrich also went after Romneycare but he did so in the most logical, straight-forward way I’ve ever heard.  I’m writing his entire statement because it is awesome (and he didn’t resort to the childish behavior Santorum did, either—AND he got applause without having to say anything about ‘repealing Obamacare’).

“The Boston Herald today reported that the state of Massachusetts is fining a local small business $3000 because their $750 a month insurance plan is inadequate according to the bureaucrats in Boston.  There’s a fundamental difference between trying to solve the problems of this country from the top down, and trying to create environments in which doctors and patients and families solve the problem from the bottom up.  Your plan, ultimately, philosophically is not Obamacare—that’s not a fair charge.  But your plan essentially is one more big government bureaucratic high-cost system which candidly could not have been done by any other state because no other state had a Medicaid program as lavish as yours and no other state got as much money under the Bush administration for this experiment.  So there’s a lot of big government behind Romneycare.   Not as much as Obamacare, but a heck of a lot more than your campaign is admitting.”  (applause)

 Michelle Bachmann jumped into the mix adding, “Even the Obama administration chose to reject part of Obamacare…When even the Obama administration wants to repeal this bill, I think we’re gonna win this thing!  We’re gonna repeal it, and I will!”  (Applause, of course…)

And then Governor Perry—who has obviously been doing a little detective work—tried to drop a BOMB on Mitt Romney, claiming Romney had personally hired illegal aliens (twice).

(Flashbacks of the Meg Whitman campaign…)

There was a mixture of boos and applause while Romney laughed a strange, awkward kind of laugh.

“Rick,” he said while still chuckling, “I don’t think I’ve ever hired an illegal in my life and so I’m looking forward to finding your facts on that.”

Perry tried to respond prompting Romney to loudly say, “I’m speaking!  I’m speaking!”

They spoke over each other until the audience booed.  Anderson Cooper looked GLEEFUL, watching the GOP implode…

Sigh.

“This has been a tough couple of debates for Rick and I understand that and so you’re gonna get testy,” Romney snidely said.

Perry responded, “You stood here in front of the American people and did not tell the truth that you had illegals working on your property and then the newspaper came to you and brought it to your attention and you still, a year later, had those individuals working for you.”

Romney’s response was that he had hired a lawn company that had illegal immigrants working for them (twice).  He then said that as president he would set up an e-verify system to avoid that, which Perry opposes.

Cooper asked Herman Cain about his recent comments that the US-Mexico border should be lined with electric fences.  Cain said he was “mostly joking”{ but he did believe that our US Border Patrol should have whatever resources needed to protect our country.

“And here’s another one of these bold ideas by the non-politician up here.  Empower the states to do what the federal government is not doing in terms of enforcing those [immigration] laws,” Cain said to thunderous applause.

“Is it possible to build a fence across the entire border?” Anderson Cooper asked Governor Perry.

“Sure, you can build a fence,” Perry said, “but it takes anywhere between 10-15 years and $30 billion.  There’s a better way and that’s to build a virtual defense zone..along that border which is not unlike what Herman’s talking about.  You can do it with strategic fencing in the obvious places where it matters.”

Cooper asked Michelle Bachmann the same question.

“I think the person who really has a problem with illegal immigration in the country is President Obama.  It’s his uncle and his aunt who are illegal aliens who’ve been allowed to stay in this country despite the fact that they’re illegal.” (laughter and applause)

She went on to discount Perry’s claim that building a fence is too expensive, explaining that the illegal alien problem costs the US $113 billion.

“For every household of American citizens it costs us $1000 a year,” Bachmann said.  “We are robbing the households of Americans who can’t afford that.  I will build a fence, I will enforce English as the official language of the United States government and every person who comes into this country will have to agree that they will not receive taxpayer subsidized benefits of any American citizen.” (applause)

“For someone that’s been in the United States Congress to lecture me on the issues that are going on on that border is not right” Perry added, an obvious dig at Bachmann.

Romney jumped in to remind people that Perry allows illegal aliens college education in Texas.

Perry restated his claim that Romney once hired illegal yard workers.  The crowd booed.  So did I.

This is really getting tiresome.

When asked how the housing crisis can be fixed, instead of offering a solution Rick Santorum instead called out Romney, Perry and Herman Cain for voting for TARP (or parts of it).  I waited for him to answer the question about how he would fix it—he didn’t.

Cain defended himself by saying, “We were in a crisis at the end of 2008 with this potential financial meltdown.  I supported the concept of TARP but then when this administration used discretion and did a whole lot of things that the American people didn’t like I was then against it.”

“In terms of what we need to do,” Cain said, “we need to get government out of the way.  It starts with making sure we can boost this economy and reform Dodd-Frank and a lot of these regulations that have gotten in the way.”

Michelle Bachmann then rose to a much higher level when she started speaking from her heart about women and families who are losing their homes.

“I just want to say one thing to moms all across America tonight,” Bachmann said.  “This is a real issue, it’s gotta be solved.  President Obama has failed you on this issue of housing and foreclosures.  I will not fail you on this issue; I will turn this country around, we will turn this economy around, we will create jobs.  That’s how you hold on to your house.  Hold on, moms out there.  It’s not too late.”

Cooper next moved on to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“Herman Cain, I gotta ask you,” Cooper said.  “You said, ‘don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich blame yourselves’.”  (It seemed that when Cooper read the quote he was a little disgusted…)  “That was two weeks ago, the movement has grown—do you still say that?”

“Yes I do still say that and here’s why,” Cain said to thunderous applause.  “They might be frustrated with Wall Street and the bankers but they’re directing their anger at the wrong place.  Wall Street didn’t put in failed economic policies; Wall Street didn’t spend a trillion dollars that didn’t do any good; Wall Street isn’t going around the country trying to sell another $50 billion.  They ought to be out in front of the White House taking out their frustrations, so I do stand by that!”  (Biggest applause of the night by far.)

Ron Paul, who has come out in support of the Occupy movement, sympathized with the protesters.

“I think, uh, Mr. Cain has blamed the victims.  There’s a lot of people that are victims of this business cycle.  We can’t blame the victims but we also have to point, I’d go to Washington as well as Wall Street but I’d go over to the Federal Reserve.”  (applause)

After a commercial break, all the stops were pulled out and for the first time, Anderson Cooper brought up Mitt Romney’s Mormonism.  He read a question from a viewer who referenced a pastor who had called Mormonism “a cult” (to which the audience booed loudly.)

“Should voters pay attention to a candidate’s religion?” Anderson asked.  (I just know liberals are LOVING this debate…)

Newt Gingrich was, as always, profound.

“The question is, does faith matter?  Absolutely.  How can you have a country which is founded on truths which begins, ‘We are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights’?  How can you have the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which says, ‘Religion, morality and knowledge being important, education matters?’  That’s the order–religion, morality and knowledge.  I happen to think that none of us should rush in judgment of others in the way they approach God and I think that all of us up here would agree.”  (applause)

He added, “I frankly would be really worried if somebody assured me that nothing in their faith would affect their judgments because then I would wonder, ‘how can you have judgment if you have no faith?’  And how can I trust you with power if you don’t pray?”  (applause)

Michelle Bachmann was very strong regarding military, reminding people that not only were we recently almost attacked on American soil by Iran but that Obama has now added yet another military dispute—4 in all—while cutting $500 billion in defense spending.

Next, Gingrich gave the most no-holds-barred response of the night regarding the “Supercommittee” and military budgeting.

“Now if you wanna understand how totally broken Washington is, look at this entire model of a Supercommittee, which has now got a magic number to achieve and if it doesn’t achieve the magic number then we’ll all have to shoot ourselves in the head so when they come back with a really dumb idea to merely cut off our right leg, we’ll all be grateful that they’re only semi-stupid instead of being totally stupid!”  (LOUD applause)  “The fact is, to say I’m gonna put the security of the United States up against an arbitrary budget number is suicidally stupid.”  (applause)

Another great moment was when Herman Cain compared his work experience with Romney’s who he said was more “Wall Street than Main Street” and that he had done everything from running small businesses to sweeping parking lots.  He said if he were the Republican nominee, “It’s gonna be the problem solver who fixes stuff versus the president who hasn’t fixed anything in this country.”  (applause)

Michelle Bachmann was definitely the Cheerleader of the debate.

“The good news is the cake is baked!  Barack Obama will be a one-term president.  There’s no question about that.  Now the question is, we need to listen to Ronald Reagan who said ‘no pastels, bold colors’.  I am the most different person from Barack Obama than anyone on this stage.  We can’t settle in this race.”

 

Finally, Gingrich once again said aloud what I’ve been thinking the entire night and chastised not only the other candidates but also liberal Cooper.

 

“Maximizing bickering is probably not the road to the White House (applause), and the techniques you’ve used maximizes, going back and forth over and over again.”

 

My pick for winner of the night was, by far, Herman Cain with Newt Gingrich and Michelle Bachmann close behind.  The others, to quote Newt, acted like a bunch of bickering politicians—and I swear I can hear all the liberals down the road from me high-fiving and laughing like hyenas…