I'm a big fan of bloggers who "live blog" things, like debates. Unfortunately I don't particularly care to watch TV live, and while yesterday's debate was occurring (in the middle of the afternoon), I and most of America were working. But, 12 minutes into watching my recording of the December 12, 2007 Des Moines Register Republican Debate, I decided I wanted to blog along - so here's the result.
Once nice thing about faux-live blogging is the transcript is available, so I'm including that should you like to follow along, although I'll try to give enough context to each of my comments that you don't need to (the transcript's 27 pages long, so reading that plus my commentary would take a lot more time that I'm sure you want to commit).
Between her demeanor (obviously not captured in the transcript) and her subtle implications that the Republicans haven't been "spend[ing] lots of quality time in debates this campaign" I stopped being impressed with Carolyn Washburn right here (all of 71 words in).
So we aren't going to talk about Iraq or immigration. Great. From here I moved from being un-impressed to actively disliking the job Washburn was doing.
Let me just quote Dean Barnett from the Weekly Standard and then hopefully I can move away from talking about the moderator and get to the substance:
She did the impossible--she moderated the last Iowa debate between the Republican candidates before caucuses and yet saw to it that none of the candidates engaged each other. ... A personal aside to the Des Moines Register--"boring" is not synonymous with "serious."
... From the outset, Washburn announced that the candidates would not be discussing either Iraq or immigration. Swell! It's the biggest debate of the season, so let's take the two biggest issues off the table. For what it's worth, Washburn brought all the charm to her assignment of a latter-day Nurse Ratched.
At some point, the political parties will have to begin to wonder why they entrust such a critical part of our president-choosing process to people like Carolyn Washburn, people who obviously aren't up to the task.
Question 1 - Do you agree that the U.S. faces a tsunami of debt that is a great threat to our national security?[#]
It's not enough to make me join the Rudy camp, but Rudy says a lot I like in answering this. "We have to reduce government spending," "And then we have to reduce taxes", etc. And done carefully and with some moderation, I think his suggestion of not replacing positions created when federal employees retire using technology and improved efficiency could actually work. And his wrap up comment, "Islamic terrorism [is an issue of] national security [but] economic security is also very important" correctly addresses this rather absurd question. The national debt doesn't fly airplanes into buildings.
The "real deficit" is the trade deficit, eh? Is this Duncan Hunter or John "We need trade without trade-offs for America" Edwards talking? My advice to both of them is the same. Stop campaigning immediately and enroll in Economics 101. If you end the class with anything but an "A", please stop making proposals on economic (including trade) policy. Or, there's also option B. Start reading the excellent Cafe Hayek blog. Perhaps they could start with this post: "My Trade Deficit with Leviathan" or this one: "Wy We Trade". Oh, and don't "Should Americans Worry That Foreigners Hold Lots of Dollar Assets?.
"Energy independence" is ridiculous. America is not and I doubt will ever be "dependent on foreign oil." We get oil from abroad because it makes economic sense to do so. (See my alternative suggestion for Econ 101 (the above litany of posts from Cafe Hayek) above.) If every oil producing country stopped trade with me, umm, Alaska - hello?!. Plus, oil shale and all sorts of alternatives that become economical if oil prices increase. The best thing government can do? Not get involved. Again, I'm starting to wonder if this is the Republican debate or did people change parties?
Again, Cafe Hayek to the rescue for some perspective: Three Common Mistakes Regarding Debt Holdings. I'm in favor of lowering the national debt but only so we have less interest to pay so my taxes can go down. As for owing China money... let's suppose they try to screw with us. OK, we'll just not pay back that "good chunk" of $9MM we owe them. Not so scary stuff, is it? Thompson is right on about entitlements though and I'm glad someone has a plan for reforming Social Security, etc.
See my above comments on "energy independence" and apply them to McCain. Adapt them for food supply and military equipment, and apply those to the Huckster. Can I donate some money to these campaigns and earmark it for Econ 101 classes?
At least they all seem to want to cut spending...
Keyes - I liked you a lot in 2000 but this isn't a good start. That's a lot of words for a pretty empty answer.
Question 2 - What sacrifices would you ask Americans to make to lower the country's debt?[#]
Cut spending, empower the individual. At least someone is giving conservative answers tonight (but count me surprised that it's Giuliani!)
More liberty. Good. But in 2007,
Prevention based health care seems reasonable enough to consider. A better answer would have been to turn Medicare, etc. over to the private sector which is really good at coming up with cost savings measures, like, perhaps, prevention based health care.
Question 3 - What sacrifices would you ask Americans to make to lower the country's debt?[#]
Solid answer with actual suggestions. Also, bonus points giving an answer that marks this as yet another ridiculous question.
Meh. Also, I can't believe Tancado hasn't invoked the border yet.
More good stuff on the entitement programs, but Fred, you'd run a deficit for research and development?!? Yick. Allow me to defer to Tancredo's response to Huckabee on the NASA question at the YouTube debate.
Question 4 - Who in this country is paying more than a fair share of taxes relative to everyone else[#]
What happened to smart and likeable 2000 Keyes? I agree with him here, but it feels like he's lecturing me...
The Huckster supports the Fair Tax?! Who knew?! /sarcasm
I like the idea of the FairTax, but I don't think it would work. My thoughts line up pretty well with those of Dale Franks over the years over at Q&O if you're looking for additional commentary.
Yay. Some kind of interaction between candidates and some humor. Also, I'm right on with preserving the Bush tax cuts, and I think it's obnoxious that "five percent of Americans pay over half the income taxes in this country."
Inflation isn't a tax. And for low/middle class people with credit card debt, inflation works in the opposite way as a tax.
A lot of support for fair and/or flat taxes. Look at his example though - a "young couple that pays 1,450 bucks in taxes may pay $450 to their tax preparer." If all you are paying is $1,450 in taxes, your income would be well under $10,000/yr. If you are making $10,000 a year and paying $450 for tax preparation maybe you should re-examine your financial priorities.
Rudy. Fiscal conservative poster child. My amazement continues.
Free Statements 1[#]
This debate just went from odd/boring to goofy...
Fair enough, McCain has done a lot of great service for the US.
So, to make a Duncan Hunter, apparently you simply combine 2 parts Tom Tancredo, 1 part John Edwards, and 1 part John McCain.
Question 5 - What's your plan for keeping foreign markets open while protecting good-paying American jobs?[#]
So, he's for free trade where "free trade" means heavily regulated trade. Uh, ???
I have a feeling this is going to be another (disappointing) round of merchantilism.
"and that's by investing in education" ... yay! ... ", investing in technology and innovation," ... wonderful as long as we're talking about getting government out of the way so the private sector can do this ... "getting ourselves off of foreign oil," ... ugh ... "and making sure that the playing field we play on around the world is level" ... double ugh. Please refer back to my comments for question #1.
Reduce taxation, reduce red tape, and reduce litigation. Wow, nothing mercantilistic. Good stuff.
Question 6 - Should we alter trade policies with countries that commit human rights vioations?[#]
Is he talking about getting rid of subsidies the U.S. hands out or subsidies other governments hand out?
Question 7 - What changes should be made in NAFTA[#]
Wow. He continues to be a on a fiscal-conservative, free-trade roll.
Meh, but good enough.
Ah, the invocation of the border. And while doing a John "NAFTA has hurt workers and families while helping corporate insiders" Edwards impression.
Free Statements 2[#]
Umm... Math. Two candidates does not mean three statements?!
Ron Paul seems to always start strong ("The goal of all political action should be to preserve liberty.") but then proceed into a crazy-man rant.
Wow. That's hands down the best thing I've witnessed during the entire Thompson campaign. "Strong, consistent, common-sense conservative" - check. "But the most important issue facing our country, and will be for a long time, is national security and the safety of our people" - check. "I know the world we live in. I think I know what we need to do ... When our worst enemy is sitting down at the negotiating table thinking about what he can do to the United States of America, who do you want sitting on our side of the table representing you? That's probably the guy you ought to elect president." - OK, I'm actually moderately excited to vote for Thompson again.
Question 8 - Global Warming Hand Shows[#]
Good for Fred! Candidates should be given more than 30 seconds to answer something, and "hand shows" are even sillier than stifling responses to 30 seconds! Also... have you picked up on my previous comments about how poorly I think this debate is being moderated, or should I launch into that again?
Minus ten points to Giuliani and McCain.
Ugh. OK, the Pascal's wager thing is at least a new approach. But you're invoking "free trade" and "capitalism" when you are actually talking about government intervention which is the exact opposite. And "gree technology" won't be cheap, sir.
Also, in other news....
Minus another 10 to both McCain and Giuliani. And Giuliani was doing so well on fiscal stuff ... and then, kabbaam, "energy independence"... sigh.
Question 9 - What impact on the economy would be acceptable in order to reverse global warming and greenhouse gas emissions?[#]
More "reduce foreign oil" nonsense. Econ 101, people.
You. Are. Annoying. Again, I ask, what happened to 2000 Alan?!
Ha. :) Fred, you are doing well tonight. Unfortunately, it may be too little too late.
Question 10 - Are you willing to increase a bio-fuel mandate?[#]
Huck also gets minus 10. I'm all for what Huck and McCain are sort of suggesting ... being more environmentally minded, etc. Except there is one key stumbling block to this, which is that the reason we aren't doing most of this "going green" stuff NOW is that it's prohibitively expensive. If you want to make the entire government eco-friendly with all the energy it uses, good luck also trying to lower government spending. The two, in fact, are at odds with one another.
Also, in case you missed this from my commentary on McCain's answer - mandates are the opposite of finding free enterprise solutions (you know, the kind that work).
Mandates. Incentives. They're both hooey. If the market doesn't see a point to innovating energy alternatives, having the government force money at something isn't going to make it work any better.
"I believe that the market is the best determinant of exactly how these problems should be addressed." Well, at lease one of the candidates up there gets it.
Free Statement 3[#]
In case there was any doubt, Huck clearly is the most likable candidate.
Question 11 - What educational standards does the U.S. need to adopt or improve?[#]
Competition. Vouchers. Rewarding good teachers. Check, check, check. Plus 10.
Choice. Local control. Check, check. Plus 10.
Reach for the stars, huh? At least he got choice in there. At the very end. Meh. At least he got a jab in at the NEA.
Question 12 - Does the Fed. Gov't need to exercise (more) influence over educational standards[#]
Pro-NCLB, huh? Ick!. Mitt, the correct answer was "my state did great [insert litany of gubernatorial achievements] and we should leave it to the states".
"First of all, the whole role of education is a state issue." Yay! "But I think the federal government can play a pivotal role" ... making me nervous, Huck. OK, you just want sharing of data and best practices. Fair enough.
Question 13 ... wait, nope, not yet...
Give it a rest, Alan. All you are doing is ranting. That's no helpful. I'm starting to be embarrassed that I liked you in 2000.
Question 13 - What's the biggest obstacle standing in the way of improving education?[#]
"Probably the federal government." He finally nailed one!
The NEA. Bold. And he's dead-right. Even worse than the Federal Government. Wow. Nailed this one. "Every time someone wants to inject a little choice into the equation for the benefit of the kids, inject a little freedom, inject a little competition ..., the NEA is there to oppose it, and bring in millions and millions of dollars to go on television ... and scare people and misrepresent the situation."
OK, Fred, I think you've secured my vote.
Yeah, whatever. Also, I'm not sure why he's going after Huckabee who made it clear the federal level would simply be an information resource for states. We'll see how Huckabee responds...
Nailed it. "I had executive experience longer than anyone on this stage running a government" - slick. "But if anyone doubts that the president ought not to use the bully pulpit to encourage the best practices, I would say the secondmost job of importance to the president, second to being commander in chief, is to be the communicator in chief." - oh how, after 8 years of GWB, I'll be so ready for this if Huckabee wins.
Well, that's nice that you agree with your fellow candidates, Mitt.
Question 14 - What do you believe you could accomplish in your first year[#]
Sounds good except for that pesky "energy independence" nonsense that keeps coming up...
When did China become on par with North Korea and Iran?!
Bring the troops home, huh? Swell. Your foreign policy would lead to disaster...
The Ramos / Compean comment is original, and I hope they are freed long before January 2009. And, I have to admit, I'm glad you've been part of the debates as it's kept illegal immigration as an important topic, and it should be.
Meh. You may be too much of a realist to answer this as passionately and idealistically as I might hope.
Solid except for "energy independent"... which rears it's ugly head yet again. And, "health insurance for every American" implies all sorts of government intervention I have no interest in seeing happen.
Overcome polarization. I like it.
Abortion, the FairTax, and the border, huh, Alan? At this point, Huck should start singing "everything you can do, I can do better."
Free Statements 4[#]
Why is he still getting to participate?
Individual Questions on Leadership (effectively "Question 15")[#]
The odd-ness continues...?
Solid answer to a charged question.
Give it a rest. Utterly non-unique "allegations" everyone is already aware of.
Pro-life now? Yes but also no. And the change here really just does still feel a little too expedient to me.
It will cost you my vote (for sure in the primary anyway) too, Rudy. You hold a position that makes absolutely no sense.
I find this videos kinda goofy, and was going to just sort of ignore them, but I really like what Huck just said in his about faith that means something.
Not overly inspiring, but as an evangelical, this sounds good by me, and I think should have broad appeal to Americans of whatever faith.
I wish Ron Paul hadn't utterly ignored the question. This has been a consistent problem for him while he's been in office. Quoting Dale Franks from Q&O:
I think the other thing about Ron Paul I dislike is that, he personifies the old-school libertarian tendency to make the perfect the enemy of the good. As the Club for Growth details in his voting record, Mr. Paul has voted against free trade agreements, school vouchers, tort reform, and has—gasp!—even done a bit of nosing around at the pork trough. In each case, these votes have been made because Mr. Paul has in mind more perfectly libertarian solutions. And if we can't have them, then, to him, that means we get nothing. To him, some imperfect progress towards more freedom in these areas is worse than no progress at all.
Question 16 - New Year's Resolutions[#]
Yay, I think this is his final turn to yap.
I heartily concur.
Well put, Mitt.
It's supposed to be for another candidate, but I can't criticize too much for a faith/husband/father resolution.
Classic Ron Paul. Start strong. Get crazy for the end.
OK. One last time. Econ 101. Comparative advantage. Hunter: get a clue.
Yay! America! :)