The day began and ended with a shocker.
Texas Governor Rick Perry withdrew from the GOP Presidential race in the morning and threw his support behind former Speaker Newt Gingrich, even after learning, with the rest of the country, that Gingrich’s ex-wife had given ABC News what many in the press were calling an “explosive” interview about the end of their marriage 13 years ago.
Amidst these politics of personal destruction against Gingrich, the four remaining GOP Presidential Candidates took the stage. I was hoping that CNN, which hosted the debate, would show restraint and ask serious questions facing the country—namely how to cut a $16-trillion destructive debt, and NOT whether Newt Gingrich asked, over a decade ago, if he wanted his then wife #2, Marianne, to have an “open” marriage. Whatever that means.
No such luck. CNN couldn’t even spare us from what I call their pro-basketball opening montage: thumping music that makes me feel as though I’m at a Chicago Bulls game. As the music pounds, the flashy graphics fill the TV screen and the camera makes exaggerated camera moves across the stage–all while the announcer introduces each candidate as they walk onto the stage.
After a group of handsomely uniformed cadets from The Citadel led the audience in a dignified and beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, CNN moderator, John King, proceeded to open the Presidential Debate with a tawdry question:
KING: And Mr. Speaker, I want to start with that this evening. As you know, your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview with “The Washington Post.” And this story has now gone viral on the Internet.
In it, she says that you came to her in 1999, at a time when you were having an affair. She says you asked her, sir, to enter into an open marriage.
Would you like to take some time to respond to that?
GINGRICH: No, but I will.
GINGRICH: I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.
KING: Is that all you want to say, sir?
GINGRICH: Let me finish.
GINGRICH: Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question for a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.
My — my two daughters — my two daughters wrote the head of ABC and made the point that it was wrong, that they should pull it, and I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.
KING: As you noted, Mr. Speaker, this story did not come from our network. As you also know, it is a subject of conversation on the campaign. I’m not — I get your point. I take your point.
GINGRICH: John — John, it was repeated by your network. You chose to start the debate with it. Don’t try to blame somebody else. You and your staff chose to start this debate with it.
Let me be quite clear. Let me be quite clear. The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period said the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren’t interested because they would like to attack any Republican. They’re attacking the governor. They’re attacking me. I’m sure they’ll presently get around to Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul.
I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans.
And that was just the beginning of an otherwise revealing and helpful two-hour debate. Here are the salient points that hit me:
CRONY CAPITALISM VS. TRUE CAPITALISM
MITT ROMNEY: He scored on many fronts. But the main one came when it seemed he learned a bit from Sarah Palin. King asked him about Bain, and Romney redirected him to one of the real problems facing the country–crony capitalism:
ROMNEY: So let’s go back and talk about first what you do to get the economy going. And of course we’ve spoken time and again about our tax code that’s out of alignment with other nations. We’ve spoken about the fact that regulation is overwhelming us, that we need to take care of our energy resources and become energy secure. We have to open up markets. And we have to crack down on China when they cheat. But I’d like to talk about something else that President Obama has been doing. He’s been practicing crony capitalism. And if you want to get America going again…
… you’ve got to stop the spread of crony capitalism. He gives General Motors to the UAW. He takes $500 million and sticks it into Solyndra. He — he stacks the labor stooges on the NLRB so they can say no to Boeing and take care of their friends in the labor movement.
You go across the country with regards to energy because he has to bow to the most extreme members of the environmental movement. He turns down the Keystone Pipeline, which would bring energy and jobs to America.
This — this president is the biggest impediment to job growth in this country. And we have to replace Barack Obama to get America working again.
As Gov. Palin has said, these primaries and debates are good for the vetting process. But they are also vital for us to highlight and proclain all the destructive policies of the Obama administration. Romney did that time and again in the debate. And then went on to defend capitalism.
ROMNEY: …let me tell you, I know we’re going to get attacked from the left, from Barack Obama, on capitalism. I know that people are going to say, oh, you should only practice it this way or that way and think they know better than the private market.
My view is capitalism works. Free enterprise works. And I…
… and I find it — I find it, kind of, strange, on a stage like this with Republicans, having to describe how private equity and venture capital work and how they’re successful and how they create jobs.
But let me tell you the answer. We started a number of businesses. Four in particular created 120,000 jobs as of today. We started them years ago. They’ve grown well beyond the time I was there, to 120,000 people that have employed by those enterprises.
There are others we’ve been with, some of which have lost jobs. People have evaluated that since — well, since I ran four years ago, when I ran for governor. And those that have been documented to lost jobs lost about 10,000 jobs.
So 120,000 less 10,000 means that we created something over 100,000 jobs. And there’s some, by the way, that were businesses we acquired that grew and became more successful like Domino’s Pizza and a company called Duane Reade and others.
I’m very proud of the fact that throughout my career, I have worked to try and build enterprises, hopefully to return money to investors. There’s nothing wrong with profit, by the way. That profit –
ROMNEY: That profit went to pension funds, to charities. It went to a wide array of institutions. A lot of people benefited from that. And by the way, as enterprises become more profitable, they can hire more people.
I’m someone who believes in free enterprise. I think Adam Smith was right. And I’m going to stand and defend capitalism across this country, throughout this campaign. I know we’re going to get hit hard from President Obama, but we’re going to stuff it down his throat and point out it is capitalism and freedom that makes America strong.
FREEDOM & THE DESTRUCTIVE NATIONAL DEBT
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX): Another benefit to these debates and primaries is having intelligent conversations about solutions to the vital problems the US must confront. Ron Paul kept bringing the discussion back to substance–like freedom and the destructive national debt.
PAUL: But if you understand liberty, it’s equal for everybody; it benefits everybody, so if you have a protection of liberty, which is the purpose of the Constitution, protection of individual liberty, and that means you protect the private property rights system. And if you do that, that benefits everybody.
And this is what we have to do, is convince people that we can bring people together with the understanding of what those — those beliefs were that made America great. And it is freedom. It isn’t this continued spending money and debt. This is the reason — we’re in a mountain of debt and we have to deal with it. We really never even got around to talking about that tonight.
And one of my very modest proposals…
My modest proposal is in the first year, cut $1 trillion out of the budget to get started…
… because the debt bubble is a great burden. It’s a burden to all of us, and as I mentioned earlier, these programs are going to go down if we don’t get our budget under control. And we have to be willing to look at overseas spending and all of the entitlement system here in the country.
ALL VOICES NEEDED
We need all the voices that are up on the stage—from the young-ish Rick Santorum, to the elderly Ron Paul. Even though Paul may strike some as quirky and whiny, his voice is needed.
RICK SANTORUM: While he struggled to find an edge, Santorum is the only one who appealed to Reagan Democrats.
SANTORUM: We need to show that we’re the party, we’re the movement that’s going to get those Reagan Democrats, those conservative Democrats, all throughout the states that we need to win to win this election, to sign up with us, and we’ll put them back to work.
WORK & HEALTHCARE FOR YOUTH:
And speaking of work, Gingrich was quick enough to invite the youth of America to join the Republicans, promising them work. Because while Obama promises to keep them on their parents’ health insurance up to age 26, the GOP will work to create jobs so they can get their own health insurance.
GINGRICH: The American people are frightened of bureaucratic centralized medicine. They deeply distrust Washington and the pressure will be to repeal it. And a lot of what Governor Romney has said I think is actually a pretty good, sound step for part of the replacement. I would always repeal all of it because I so deeply distrust the congressional staffs that I would not want them to be able to pick and choose which things they cut.
But let me make one observation. He raised a good example. Why is President Obama for young people being allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance until 26? Because he can’t get any jobs for them to go out and buy their own insurance.
I mean I have — I have an offer — I have an offer to the parents of America: Elect us and your kids will be able to move out because they’ll have work.
As Gov. Palin has said time and again: anyone on that stage would be better than the occupant currently in the White House.