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Monday, January 23, 2012

GOP Debate Live Blog

Jan 23rd, 2012

10:00pm CST For all of Newt's chatter about being the "anti-establishment" candidate, his performance tonight was clearly geared to diffuse establishment concerns over his temperament. It's a big risk for him. The Newt as throat-slitter persona was what propelled him to such a huge victory in South Carolina and was girding his rising numbers in Florida. It will be interesting to see where those numbers go over the next few days.

Who knows what his SuperPACs and proxy fighters have planned. After all, tomorrow comes the tepid Romney tax return release which is bound to provide some fodder.

Santorum had a very good night. His composure was impeccable. Unfortunately, he is still insane. Particularly on issues of foreign policy, the man is simply dangerous.

Ron Paul proved, again, that it's unusual for a GOP contender not to beat the drums for perma-war.

As for Romney's performance, it was, above all else, just not very likable. He seems wildly unaware of how his own fortune, detachment from the ordinary citizen and, yes, Bain are going to be serious liabilities. He also forgets that while many Americans are opposed to Obama's policies, a huge majority basically does like the guy. His attacks were clumsy, ham-fisted and they drifted to the personal too often.

If he does get the eventual nomination, there's nearly no way he can win.

And that, as they say, is that.

9:33pm CST Romney has a family. Awwww. Romney was "in the private sector." Dude. Bain is going to gut him like a fish and he still... doesn't... get... it. Elect him 'cause he wrote a book about "principles." I think I am falling asleep.

Newt is reading his resume and reminds us that he talks "about big ideas." Like child-janitors.

9:29pm CST I have to admit, I expected more fireworks. Newt needs to be angrier to keep that base behind him. Despite an initial volley between him and Romney, it has been oddly restrained. If they agree with each other any more on bland, party-orthodoxy, I might throw in the towel.

9:25pm CST Would someone please tell these buffoons that the biggest strides in space "exploration" are actually being made, right now, here in our country, in the private sector? Romney says, 'Yeah. Sure. We should totally spend money we don't have now on articles of faith that we will recoup.' After all, he says it will "excite our young people."

9:21pm CST Oh Good Lord. Santorum is questioned on his repulsive exploitation of the Terry Schiavo affair. He tries to defend his shameful participation as simply acting as an "advocate" for her parents who were his constituents. The subject turns to do-not-resuscitate orders (she didn't have a living will). Newt compares the appeals processes available to death row inmates to the state intervening in a case like Schiavo's. Dirty politics. Ron Paul says it "was way out of proportion." He is to be commended for his cautious handling.

9:16pm CST Did Mitt Romney actually say Obama is neglecting "the space coast?"

9:14pm CST Romney is slipping badly. A multi-billionaire complaining about the President golfing is just silly. He says the President has no space plan, meaning a plan to spend ass-loads of money on NASA, and immediately condemns the President for allegedly spending ass-loads of money on health care.

9:09pm CST Both Gingrich and Romney are flirting with "English only" notions. In Florida. In 2012. That sound you hear is the Hispanic vote bailing on the GOP.

Nifty. More agreement on immigration=bad-and-scary from the two main players. Blah blah, E-verify. Blah blah, l;eave and come back. Blah blah... now would be a really good time to re-question Romney and crew on a potential super-wave of Cubans fleeing when the Castros are gone.

9:02pm CST Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times has joined Brian Williams as had Beth Reinhardt from The National Journal.

Nuts. Here comes the 'Iran is an existential threat if they get a bomb' malarkey from Santorum. Pakistan's intelligence services are basically allied with the actual Al Qaeda and they haven't used nukes.

When asked about the lingering economic devastation from the 2010 oil spill, what does Santorum go to? Keystone, Keystone, Keystone.

8:57pm CST The continued pronouncements by the hopefuls that Obama is somehow 'not strong' on Iran are hard to watch. We are now engaged, under this President, in a series of sanctions and covert actions harsher than any instituted since the fall of the Shah, for crying out loud. I think Williams is worse than bland or even overly deferential... he's letting these guys say anything they want without substantive challenge. Perhaps he afraid of being "John King-ed."

8:55pm CST Here comes Iran. Romney seems unaware that we actually DO currently have "an aircraft carrier in the Gulf." He implies that this President is undermining the military when we are spending more than 54 cents of every weapon dollar world-wide and the highest as a percentage of GDP since World War 2.

Newt makes sure to throw in an 'Obama is weak on Israel' jab.

Again, none of these candidates seem to understand that troop withdrawals in the Middle East have been negotiated with the leaders of those countries.

Wow. Ron Paul says the act of war has already happened and it was made by us in the form of our ongoing blockade.

8:48pm CST Williams moves to the discussion of Castro. What do you do as President, Mr. Romney if you get the call that says "Castro has died" and perhaps as many as half a million Cubans flood to our border. Romney's answer? Not one coherent response, but, he sure would be glad Castro was dead.

Newt is equating the fight against "the Soviet Empire" with the increasingly loosening island nation. He makes a dig about Obama being "infatuated with the Arab Spring" but not caring about a "Cuban Spring."

Ron Paul demonstrates why so many independents and liberals like Ron Paul. "It's not 1962 anymore and we don't have to use force and intimidation."

Santorum adheres to the more than 60 year failure of isolating the island and makes the wild claim that they are "working with the Jihadists." Seriously.

8:43pm CST The absolute orthodoxy that Fannie and Freddie caused the crisis makes my blood boil. Santorum piles it right on. He is doing some damage control from his very poor appearances last week talking to underwater homeowners. His proposals are pretty surprising. Sounds like a LOT more federal relief than he was for only days ago. Ron Paul, in the Florida milieu, basically says government has no role. Even he insists the entire crisis was "government created." Anyone who actually knows what the major investment firms did with credit default swaps know it to be certifiable horseshit.

Poor Paul. He concedes that a lot of folks made a lot of money off those very swaps but... it's still the government's fault. And the Fed. And blah, blah, blah.

Only Romney seems to understand the importance of at least appearing to offer relief in one of the state's worst hit by the housing crisis.

Newt, in nearly the same breath, says that Dodd-Frank is bad for allowing banks to get even bigger AND that the banking industry is "over-regulated."

8:35pm CST Brian Williams has been pretty good with the exception of his questions for Ron Paul. The acrimony is thick. It really is the Mitt and Newt show. That said, Santorum is looking more controlled and well thought than any of the other three. Perhaps it's a sign of the apocalypse.

8:32pm CST Romney is looking snarkier and set himself up for a perfect Newt attack. It's unseemly for a man worth nine figures to hammer another man for earning seven.

Newt's pissed. I find it ugly. I have a feeling the base doesn't. They are really responding to the meanness.

Wow. This has turned into a fairly vicious back and forth regarding the meaning of public service, the influence of lobbying and the nature of wealth.

8:26 pm CST Romney is still in denial about what people are going to think about the way he made his money at Bain. It's not "free enterprise" or "success" that people are appalled by; it's the tactics that got him there.

Santorum is proud to point out that he hasn't attacked Romney over Bain. Then very cleverly draws a distinction between "constructive capitalism and destructive capitalism." His End game? Slamming Romney on his support for the bailout.

Still no mention of the Cayman Islands tax haven.

8:23 pm CST Ron Paul says he has no plans to run as a third party candidate. When asked whether he would support Gingrich as nominee he jokes that Newt is talking about "gold" and the "fed" but foreign policy is a problem.

Williams asks why Romney is only releasing a single year's tax returns tomorrow (which every honest pundit from left to right calls bullshit). Romney doesn't seem to think that this is a problem. He's delusional. Oh, right eliminate taxes on dividends and capital gains so that everyone working at Wal-Mart can really get their portfolio in order. Or something. Wow. "I don't think the American people want a President who pays more in taxes than they owe." Which brings us back to his plan to essentially eliminate every dollar in taxes that he actually pays at all.

Oh Goody. Newt joins in on zero-taxes for capital gains. Once again, these folks are so far removed from the opinions of the general electorate and they don't realize it. At all.

8:16 pm CST Brian Williams moves to Ron Paul with a smugness I probably should have expected. He basically just asked Paul if he actually takes himself seriously. Wow.

8:15 pm CST Romney lays into the ethics charges from the former Speaker's tenure in Congress. Newt says Mitt is a terrible "historian" because after all, he's a "historian." There it is again... "historian." I think Newt should not be so glib about the charges. The public records don't jibe with him being "exonerated" any more than the $300,000 fine he had to pay.

Santorum, to his credit, is the first person to actually talk about "manufacturing." Yup, 13 minutes in and he makes the first mention of jobs. His reference to "Reagan Democrats" is actually a very smart way to address the "electability issue."

8:08 pm CST Romney already looks like a different candidate than the one who fumbled last Thursday. He keeps using the word "turnaround." Dissing Newt for the Pelosi moment and then pivoting right into support for the Ryan Plan, however, seems a little fast and loose.

True to form, anything said about Newt that Newt doesn't like he calls a "falsehood." Then he says he won't address any charges because their beneath him and , besides, has a website for that.

Here comes Newt with the Freddie Mac charge. It's very dangerous territory.

8:05 pm CST Brian Williams comes right out of the gate asking Newt about his "electability." Newt, ever the modest man, immediately compares himself to Reagan. Newt takes credit for pretty much the whole of what went right in the 1990s.

7:55 pm CST Another one. No, really. It's like they think they're potato chips and simply can't stop.

Mitt's running scared. Newt still thinks "grandiosity" isn't a pejorative. Santorum is still a Dominionist loon. And Paul? Gosh, Ron Paul will either be thoughtfully angry-grandpa... or simply angry-grandpa... here they come.

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