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Jewish World Review
Sept. 13, 2011
14 Elul, 5771
Republicans lash out ---- at each other
A Republican presidential debate became a race to the bottom Monday night as candidates attacked each other for treason, lack of manliness, trying to prevent cervical cancer, and even - - gasp - - letting campaign contributions affect their judgment.
When Michele Bachmann, trying to claw her way back up in the polls, bashed Texas Gov. Rick Perry for taking money from a drug company in return for a favorable executive order, Perry was dismissive.
The drug company had given him only $5,000 out of the $30 million he had raised, Perry said. “If you’re suggesting I can be bought for 5,000, I’m offended,” he scoffed.
Right. It would take much more than that.
At the last Republican debate only five days ago, Perry complained that he felt like he had become a “piñata.” Monday night, at the CNN/Tea Party Express debate in Tampa, Perry must have felt like he was inside a kettle drum with the other candidates jumping up and down on it.
Even moderate, measured, calm and collected Jon Huntsman, who is so far back in the polls he might as well be running in an alternate universe, decided that climbing on Perry was his staircase to heaven.
Perry, like two other border-state governors before him, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, is a relative moderate on immigration and Perry said during the debate that building a fence along the entire border with Mexico is impractical.
Huntsman pounced. “For Rick to say we can’t secure the border is pretty much a treasonous statement,” he said.
Huntsman probably meant this as a backhanded joke. Earlier in the year Perry had said that if the Federal Reserve Board printed more money, it would be “almost treacherous, or treasonous in my opinion.”
But Huntsman laid an egg with the audience, which sat in stunned silence. It was a Perry crowd, anyway. If the polls are to be believed, much of the Republican Party is a Perry crowd.
A CNN/Opinion Research Poll completed on Sunday, showed Perry at 30 percent, Mitt Romney at 18 percent, Sarah Palin (who currently is not running) at 15 percent and Ron Paul at 12 percent. The rest of the pack (can you name them? sure you can) including U.S. Rep. Bachmann, is in low single digits.
But while Romney believes he ultimately will win the nomination by persuading primary voters he is more electable than Perry, he can’t afford to let Perry get too far ahead of him. So Monday night, Romney directly attacked Perry on his greatest claim to fame, that Perry dramatically has improved the economy of Texas.
“I think Gov. Perry would agree with me that if you’re dealt four aces, that doesn’t make you a great poker player,” Romney said in a dry tone. (The four aces are the energy resources of Texas, the lack of a state income tax, the lack of right-to-work laws, and the presence of a Republican-controlled legislature.)
Perry was not amused. The two men were next to each other on the stage once again (and probably will be in every future debate) and Perry glared up an inch or so at Romney.
“Mitt, you were doin’ pretty good until you got to poker,” Perry said through teeth that were almost clenched. It seemed to be a macho thing with Perry, as if Romney was an effete northeasterner who couldn’t possibly play poker like a Texan, who could hold his cards, chew tobacco, spit on the floor and devise job-creating legislation all at the same time.
“I think we ought to have a conversation,” Perry said, leaving some to wonder if he were inviting Romney out into the alley for a good beating.
“We’re having it right now, governor,” Romney replied, stopping just short of an actual sneer. “You’re running for president.”
The audience in the hall was with Perry, but Romney was playing to the much larger TV audience. Or at least that part of the TV audience that was not watching pro football, Miss Universe or the finale of “Bachelor Pad.”
The two also had an extended exchange over Social Security. At the last debate, Perry called it a “Ponzi scheme” and refused to withdraw that characterization Monday night. Romney disagreed, saying that it was a program that had benefitted the American people for decades.
Perry got the worst of the exchange, and you could see Romney’s satisfaction. But Perry doesn’t seem to care that he might not be Romney’s intellectual equal. The smartest guy often does not win the race in presidential politics and Romney has yet to convince the public that he has a real heart beating inside his impeccable suits.
One person who probably didn’t watch the debate was sitting in the White House. “I didn’t watch my own debates, much less somebody else’s,” Obama told NBC’s Brian Williams in an interview that aired Monday.
But Obama did weigh in on his idea of government compared to the Republican idea of government. “I think having Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid programs that provide a social safety net for people, that is a vital role for our government,” Obama said. “It’s not enough for us to just leave that to local charities.”
So that’s the difference between me and those Republicans, Obama was saying. Vote for me and secure your old age. Vote for the Republicans and line up for private soup kitchens.
And if Obama can get the 2012 campaign to be about that, he has a real chance.
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