Friday, January 27, 2012

Florida Republican Debate

Earth to Stupid: we don't have the money!
Last night's Republican Debate at the University of North Florida, one of my favourite institutions, was interesting.  I was shocked to find out within minutes that Mitt Romney doesn't screen his own campaign ads.  Ron Paul sounded early in the debate like a 1960's peacenik - maybe he was one, and maybe that's what the U.S. needs more of.  Gingrich hit hard early as expected, but Romney was prepared for the attack on his investments when Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae were raised.  Ron Paul rose above the FM/FM dogfight, and instead would do away with both of them (and has been "trying to cut off their line of credit for ten years").  Santorum rightly castigated Newt/Mitt for their vicious personal attacks instead of addressing the issues.  (He had to or the whole evening would've been about the two frontrunners.)  Gingrich then tried to be magnanimous, and interestingly it was Romney who wouldn't let up.  Gingrich's optional flat tax rate sounded sensible.  Ron Paul sounded the Occupy Wall Street anthem; he wants to reward honest products - not Wall Street wizardry.  An audience question about the hobbling of NASA was well answered by Romney while Gingrich repeated his wacko promise to have a permanent manned US base on the moon within 9 years (that doesn't sound like budgetary restraint to me).  Santorum seemed to be the only one on the stage who disagreed with Ron Paul, perhaps because he's worried about who's next to get booted out of the race.  Ron Paul went on the attack only once, against Newt when latter claimed credit for 4 consecutive balanced budgets back then (Newt then conceded the definition of balanced budget needs to be revised).  The best healthcare suggestion was Santorum's "health savings account", basically self-insurance - an offshoot of direct reimbursement.  (I have a lot of experience in this area.  The problem with US healthcare is the insurance companies.  When you think about insurance, it is the perfect answer to catastrophic one-time events but a lousy answer to small recurring events like medical and dental care, but I digress ... )  Santorum was very aggressive on Romneycare, and actually made a lot of sense - Romney was back-pedalling pretty fast, a clue that he'll be shredded on this in November.  Santorum didn't let up (to his credit) but also showed a fatal character flaw: a short wick.  Ron Paul seemed the kindly old physician much of the time, almost to the point of looking nostalgic.  Santorum also looked strangely old-time with his black-and-white anti-communist rhetoric, and dogmatic approach to Cuba.  Ron Paul seems to think that if you respect other nations they will respect you and be less of a threat.  The U.S. has a lot of work to do in that area.  Gingrich and Romney agreed on Cuba.  On the Palestinian question: Romney answered well and so did Gingrich: no difference there.  In fact, there is very little difference between them on most issues.  Ron Paul said religion is a private matter, and is not as important as the oath of office.  Romney dodged the question and hid behind the constitution.  Gingrich is a religious wacko but I doubt he supports religious freedom for non-christians.  Santorum also referred to god-given rights (popular with southern religious crazies).  Needless to say, Ron Paul gets my (atheist) vote here.  Ron Paul's central message is freedom according to the constitution versus Obama's big government.  Can't argue with that.  Romney sounded too Wall Streetish IMHO.  Newt said he was running for his two grandchildren - nice touch, a real wordsmith this guy.  Santorum seemed to ignore the presence of Ron Paul twice in his final remarks - trying to marginalize his closest competitor, or was he treating Newt Romney as one and the same person?  All in all, a scary bunch except for Dr. Paul - the one without the trophy wife.