Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The CNN Presidential Debate

On June 13th, 2011 CNN hosted the second republican presidential debate of the 2012 election. John King was the moderator. Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachman, and Ron Paul attended the debate. Gary Jonson was not allowed to participate. He did not poll above 3 percent in enough polls to qualify. Polls this early only reflect name recognition, and the primary purpose of debates is to introduce candidates to voters. Gary Jonson was the governor of New Mexico, whereas Herman Cain has no political experience at all. The media should not be choosing winners and losers by excluding those who are relatively unknown from the national debates. Doing so amounts to serious journalistic malpractice.

The candidates were not allowed a formal introduction and were only given 30 seconds to answer most questions. This allowed for more questions, but resulted in shallower and less detailed answers. I believe that this rule didn’t give the candidates the time to fully express their stances on the key issues.  

Now, onto the candidates. Michelle Bachman is a walking contradiction. On whether she supports adopting an amendment to the US Constitution banning gay marriage she said, “I do support a constitutional amendment on-on marriage between a man and a woman, but I would not be going into the states to overturn their state law.” That’s what a constitutional amendment would do! You can’t say that marriage falls under the jurisdiction of the states and that the US federal Constitution should have an amendment banning gay marriage. Either marriage is a state issue or a federal issue; you can’t have it both ways.  

Many candidates expressed extreme positions. Gingrich supported defunding the National Labor Relations Board. He adopted this stance after the NLRB told Boeing that they couldn’t move a plant from Oregon to South Carolina to punish legal union activity at their Oregon plant.  Bachman reaffirmed her opposition to the EPA, the agency responsible for keeping our air and water clean. Cain expressed his support for eliminating the capital gains tax, a move that would almost exclusively benefit the rich. The capital gains tax is already lower than the standard income tax rate and needs to be raised, not lowered.

However, Romney took the prize for the most ridiculous position. He said that the federal government shouldn’t pay disaster relief to areas struck by flooding and tornadoes. He thinks that disaster relief should be the job of the states affected.  States cannot go into debt and are in an absolute fiscal crisis. He even suggested that disaster relief should be the job of private industry! I can’t wait for his explanation on how Target can make a profit off providing food, housing, and clothes to people without money.

John King asked Romney about disaster relief a second time to make sure his position was clear

KING: Including disaster relief, though? 

ROMNEY: We cannot -- we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we'll all be dead and gone before it's paid off. It makes no sense at all. 

No governor, what is immoral is denying disaster relief to those who just lost everything that they own to a tornado. It’s a testament to how idiotic the conversation over the budget has gotten that Romney is talking about denying disaster relief to Joplin. It makes no sense at all.

Foreign Policy, the most important topic in this race, was covered last. A voter asked if it was time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. Romney said that he would withdraw troops in accordance to the advice of generals and conditions on the ground, a position that is identical to the irresponsible policy of the Obama administration. Ron Paul supported bringing our troops home immediately.  Gingrich surprisingly seemed to share this position. [Emphasis Added].

GINGRICH: I think that we need to think fundamentally about reassessing our entire strategy in the region. I think that we should say to the generals we would like to figure out to get out as rapid as possible with the safety of the troops involved. And we had better find new and very different strategies because this is too big a problem for us to deal with the American ground forces in direct combat. 

We have got to have a totally new strategy for the region, because we don't today have the kind of intelligence we need to know even what we're doing. 

Let’s hope Gingrich holds this position longer than he opposed the Ryan plan for Medicare or supported the individual mandate to buy health insurance.

John King failed to get the rest of the candidates on record on Afghanistan, the most important issue of the 2012 campaign.

This debate provided so much material to cover that I couldn’t fit it all into one post. I will be writing another post factchecking some of the factual claims make during the debate in my next article.

Originally Posted June 14, 2011

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