Monday, June 13, 2011

The GOP's Breakfast Club

"At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in the room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul." ~Billy Madison


As I wrote this, the Boston Bruins were up 5-1 over the Vancouver Canucks and went on to tie the Stanley Cup Championship series 3-3. America may have lost in the GOP Presidential debate Monday, but at least it's winning at hockey.

While America was the loser, it was hard for me to pick a clear winner in the debate, but I'm going with Herman Cain and Mitt Romney. Rather than blogging a play-by-play analysis of the cacophony of "pro-life" this and "cut corporate taxes" that which was the first large-scale GOP debate in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election, I just want to highlight some standout moments. Here they are, chronologically.

I'll start with the candidate with whom I'm best acquainted, former PA Senator Rick Santorum. I've met and worked with Santorum politically in the past. I think Washington Post's Jonathan Bernstein put it best when he said Santorum's "only plausible role in these proceedings is to be as shrill and abrasive on the various social issues as possible." (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/on-with-the-show-the-gop-kicks-off-2012/2011/05/06/AFHGBQ8F_blog.html)

Santorum certainly played his roll well tonight. The debate started at 8PM and when I flipped to CNN at 8:07, the first statement I heard out of anyone's mouth was Santorum dropping the importance of his pro-life agenda in response to a question about the economy. Way to stay on point.

Michele Bachmann was up next and she didn't bother answering the question at all. Instead, she took the moment to announce that she officially filed the papers to run for President. I wanted to be offended at her lack of respect toward addressing the issues affecting the American people, but honestly, it's best she doesn't talk.

Then there was Tim Pawlenty. Who?? Exactly. Unless you're a political insider or citizen of Minnesota, you probably have no clue who Pawlenty is, nor would you after having seen his lackluster performance in the debate.

"T-Paw" missed a crucial opportunity to really define and establish himself as a candidate when he chose to tuck tail rather than take current GOP frontrunner, former Gov Mitt Romney, to task about Romney's advocacy of universal healthcare in Massachusetts. On Fox Sunday, Pawlenty knocked what he called "Obamneycare"; a hybrid of "Obamacare" and "Romney". People don't know who Pawlenty is, and if he wants to make a name for himself he needs to make, and stand behind, his bold statements, or he is going to be swallowed by the more recognizable names in the field.

Back to Bachmann, who unfortunately decided she was now going to answer some questions, she asserted that the Tea Party is made up of "disaffected Democrats", and paused for emphasis, before adding on a litany of political party types who make up, what I can only assume, is the other 99.99% of the Tea Party.

She then graced the American people with her economic panacea. Her big job creation plan? "Kill the EPA", or, as she so cleverly named it, the "Job Killing Organization." But then this got me thinking that, while she may not make a very good President, or even a passable Hill intern, she'd be a great pirate. Just think about all the pirate-y names: Blackbeard. Treasure Cove. Dead Man's Bay. Those are all both scary AND seemingly self-explanatory, eliminating that whole need for an A to B logical thought process like in high school when your math teacher would ask you to "show your work" solving a problem. Why? Sounds scary, therefore is scary. No explanation needed. Shipwreck Island. Boom.

Back to Santorum, this time trying to fake a blue-collar empathy to appear more sympathetic on the issue of jobs. "I represented the Steel Valley of Pittsburgh when I was in Congress.” ...Okay no, no you didn't. You didn't even live in Pennsylvania when you were our Senator. You and your wife and 19 kids and counting picked up and moved to Virginia where you home schooled your children with help from cyber schools while the good people of Pittsburgh footed the bill. (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06146/693291-192.stm)

Not only did Santorum not represent the interests of his Pennsylvania constituents, which is why we voted him out of office, he couldn't even pretend to care enough about the state to live or keep his family there. His audacity in still standing up there, years after this issue, and insisting he's was a Pittsburgh boy while he was in Congress was a slap in the face to the people of Pennsylvania. Elephants never forget. And neither do donkeys. And Pennsylvania will not look kindly on Santorum come voting day.

The candidates were also asked a completely random selection of pop-culture "this or that" questions periodically before cutting to commercial breaks. Ron Paul picked Blackberry over iPhone... Hands down best answer to any question I heard all night. Though to be fair, I'm sure it is at least in part due to the fact that Paul has no clue how to use an iPhone., and it is entirely possible he thought he was choosing a fruit over one of those new-fangled contraptions the kids use nowadays.

When addressing protecting medicare and social security for retirees, Pawlenty said, "We want to keep our word to ppl we made promises to." What, except union workers expecting their pensions?

At some point, the proceedings devolved into a debate of who could oppress gay people more.

Santorum, on the issue of prayer and faith: "All of our ideas are allowed in and tolerated."
Santorum, on abortion: "All life" should have "respect" and "dignity".

His comments are of course in stark contrast to the point of absurdity as he juxtapositioned them with statements that gay marriage should be constitutionally banned and that gays should be banned from the military through the reinstatement of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Sadly, every single member of the GOP field agreed with him on the issue of a constitutional ban on gay marriage (even Newt Gingrich, who I can only assume is, however, okay with marriage between one man and three women in rapid succession) and in the reinstatement of DADT, which of course framed as gays as likely to exhibit "military misconduct" which should be frowned upon... every single member of the field except for one...

Enter Herman Cain.

Herman Cain was the only member of the GOP who seemed to express any true tolerance toward the gay community at all, saying the issue of gay marriage should be left up to the states rather than be banned through a constitutional amendment, and that he would not pursue the reinstatement of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Herman Cain dug himself into a hole, however, bungling a chance to retract earlier statements he made about refusing to appoint a Muslim to his cabinet.

It is, one would think, truly hard to top such a seemingly offensive remark. Never fear, Newt is here.

Gingrich came to Cain's rescue by out-bigoting him, essentially endorsing McCarthyism... yes, that happened. #goodoldfashionedwitchhunt

As far as the depth of foreign policy experience possessed by this esteemed panel, my favorite comment was by Pawlenty who called Iraq, a "shining example of success in the middle east." ...if Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house, it should be immediately apparent that Pawlenty cannot see Iraq from his.

So, at the end of the day, we've got God's crusader, that dumb tea party one with the crazy eyes (no, not the one who thinks masturbation is a sin, the other one), that guy who says anything he says is inaccurate, the Mormon yankee boy who brought his state universal healthcare who now TOTALLY opposes universal healthcare, the crazy old man, what's-his-name, and the pizza shop owner guy / token minority.

With a field like that, it's no wonder we got a debate like this. Bang up job, candidates.