I didn't have the stomach to liveblog last night's angry-white-man-distortion-fest. Sullivan, whether to his credit or as a sign that he really is a masochist, did so HERE. His takeaway:
"Maybe I've lost my mind after all these debates, or maybe I secretly want him to win (because he would finally expose all the insanity that has been building in this party and needs venting). But I thought Santorum was on form tonight. My sense is that he will not lose his current momentum after tonight. I didn't feel Newt tonight. Romney doesn't wear well. Paul was great and funny and human.
But there was a winner, it seems to me. He's in the White House."
Although nothing new was learned, the event did serve to reinforce two perceptions among the broader electorate. First, this GOP field is the most reactionary in decades. Second, they are willing to flatly lie repeatedly with the confidence that the base to which they are pandering will, for the most part, not fact check their statements.
On that score, both PoliticsUSA and The Washington Post have done so. We're not talking about fuzzy math here. We're talking about whoppers.
From right to left, reaction has been consistent.
Steve Benen echoes Sully:
"You could almost hear the smiles coming from Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago. In the 21st century, four far-right white wealthy guys, all of whom think they should be president, spent 15 minutes in a nationally-televised debate talking about access to birth control.
The GOP candidates might as well have put a banner over their heads reading, "Independents, please don't consider voting for us."
As does Teagan Goddard:
"The real winner tonight was President Obama. After 20 debates, his potential rivals have done wonders for his re-election chances."
Over at American Conservative, Rod Dreher liveblogged the thing and was clearly disgusted:
"Romney wants to expand the military. All of them do, except for Ron Paul. It drives me nuts, these guys. How the hell are we going to pay for it? Twenty percent of the federal budget goes to defense. But see, the Republicans are going to cut taxes too, haven’t you heard? How are we going to get spending under control if we don’t tackle defense too?"
Paul West thinks Santorum hurt himself:
"A strong performance by Santorum had the potential to reset the GOP nomination battle. Instead, he may have hurt himself with some conservative voters, who could have second thoughts about supporting him after video clips of the debate play out over the next day or two—particularly those in which he defends his votes for earmarked spending and apologizes for backing the No Child Left Behind education law."
I am not so sure. Turnout is seriously down in all of the primaries and caucuses. Were it not for the Paulies, it would likely be an even more dramatic decline from 2008. Outside of that libertarian bunch, Santorum is the only candidate they can trust to fight for their hardening Dominionism.
Andrew Sprung observes that there is no low to which they would not stoop:
"Romney says that Obama caved to the Russians -- in negotiating a treaty that six former secretaries of state and George H.W. Bush supported as a fit renewal of the START treaty. Santorum asserts that Obama could have made the Green Revolution in Iran a success, when the merest hint of concrete U.S. support for any group in Iran is toxic. Gingrich tells the audience "you live in a world of total warfare" at a time when a lower proportion of humans is dying by violence than ever before in human history. Santorum builds Iran into a global threat of supersoviet proportions. Gingrich justifies a preemptive Israeli strike on Iran -- with unstinting U.S. support -- purely on the basis of what Israelis might "think" Iran will do if it ever gets a nuclear weapon.
Gingrich, finally, always one to take the crown in demagoguery, delivers the coda: under Obama, "as long as you're an enemy of America you're safe." And Romney, outdone as usual in potency of demagogic phrasing but never behindhand in his will to smear and lie, immediately agrees.
Gingrich, Santorum, Romney. They are in different degrees and proportions liars, frauds and fearmongers (with an admixture, in Santorum's case, of sincere fanatic Islamophobia). One of them could be president. One of our two national political parties is degenerate. We are in peril."
If any of these buffoons was to win the general, indeed we would be. Not only are they to the right of the late Barry Goldwater (as I alluded to yesterday) they are also to the right of the current head of Israel's Mossad.
That's a version of crazy I have truly never seen in my lifetime.
Over at Business Insider, Joe Weisenthal was thoroughly incensed by the consistent anti-auto-bailout fantasies being peddled:
"In the GOP debate right now, everyone's talking about how bad a move the auto bailouts were.
In November 2008, Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed making this point, that if Detroit got bailed out, then the industry would be doomed.
This chart from Menzie Chinn puts that into perspective."
Susan Brooks Thistlewaite has a tremendous piece in the Washington Post which reminds the two self-declared Catholics, Gingrich and Santorum, about their faith's role in the advancement of Just War theory... and their betrayal of that contribution:
"Culture wars won the GOP Arizona debate, though actual war did come up. There was a chilling assumption among the majority of the GOP debaters that taking preemptive military action against Iran was a good idea. Culture wars by GOP candidates are being waged from their faith perspectives. But when it comes to actual war? Not so much.
From a faith perspective, what does it say especially about Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gingrich’s Catholic faith that they think a preemptive strike on a country that has not attacked us is justified?
As Catholics, they especially should recall that preemptive strikes, as against the presumed “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, were not morally justified according to both the U.S. Catholic Bishops, and the Vatican. Preemptive strikes do not satisfy the criteria of Just War; this is the position put forward forcefully and repeatedly by Pope John Paul II, who spoke out against the idea that attacking Iraq was justified as a “last resort” in preemption. I, and other Protestant leaders, strongly argued that “preemptive war” is not “Just War,” it’s just more war."
Politico's Roger Simon penned what may be the most entertaining and depressing critique of the entire spectacle:
"I am sick to death of the media’s scare tactics.
Which is why I nearly jumped out of my skin when CNN’s John King said during Wednesday night’s Republican debate, “One of these men could be president 11 months from now.”
It was enough to give one chills.
This was the 20th time the Republican hopefuls had debated, and they seemed to be looking for whole new ways to communicate.
How else could you explain the statement of front-runner Rick Santorum, who said at one point: “I voted for that. It was against the principles I believed in.”
See what I mean? Santorum was operating on a whole different level: Anybody can vote for the things he believes in. Anybody can vote for things that are principled.
But it takes a man of real courage to vote for things that he neither believes in nor believes are principled.
At another point, Santorum said, “I have a personal moral objection (to contraception), but I’ve voted for bills that included it, too.”
It was that kind of night. Everything had been said but not everybody had said it, and the 90-minute debate proved Einstein’s theory that time can actually slow down."
What we now have to choose from in the GOP field is a version of "small government" in the sense that every American would be on their own and fighting it out on declining wages in a country where corporations are people that you cannot sue in court mixed with a version of "big government" that would shove itself inside every bedroom, chat room, doctor's office and uterus within our borders.
If this is "conservatism?" Conservatism is dead.