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CNN Debate, Ugly Republicans, the Candidates and the Crowd

Caricatures: GOP Presidential Debate Participants September 2011

Caricatures: GOP Presidential Debate Participants September 2011 by DonkeyHotey

It is fair to say that just about anyone who is reading this is a dyed-in-the-wool political junkie. Which means that you are also likely to have watched last nights Republican Goat Rodeo, er, Debate.

Sadly the people who need to be watching these debates are the very ones who would never consider it, the so called independent voters. They are the ones that every candidate wants to sway, but they rarely pay enough attention when it matters, namely during the nominating process.

Last night saw some seriously deranged thinking on display and it is exactly this kind of thinking that people should be aware of. By this time next year the candidate from the Republican Party will be set and they will have pivoted to the center to try to clean up their acts.

It is only at this time of the election cycle that we see both who the candidates and the base of a party really are. Last night there were applause lines for letting someone who makes a bad choice not to have insurance (even though he could) die. Yeah, that is who the Republican “Tea Party” base is.

These are the same yahoo’s who cheered about Gov. Perry’s record of executing more than 240 people in his tenure as governor. Even though Cameron Willingham was one of them and there is a preponderance of evidence that he did not kill anyone. One wonders how Perry sleeps at night.

But it is not just the cheers that show off who the Republicans are. They actually booed Rep. Ron Paul for his insistence that our military adventurism in the Middle East makes it more likely that we will be attacked by Muslims. As much as I dislike the elder Paul I will give him full marks for not falling into the reflexive Islamaphobia of the Republican base.

If the crowd was appalling the candidates vying for their votes were not much better. Gov. Rick Perry was the piñata for the rest of the field and did not do a very good job of defending against that. It might be that he was still dealing with back pain from his recent surgery (which is no joke) because the first thing Liz said (beyond “you have to be kidding you are going to make me watch this?!?”) was “why is Perry so stiff?”.

That is probably going to be the spin from the Perry campaign; if the CW starts to come back that he lost this debate. He was in pain and you haven’t seen the real Rick Perry yet. The problem there is you only get so many chances to make a good impression on the voting public, even the rabid radical reactionary Republican base.

What struck me about Perry’s performance was that he seemed to have the most plastic smile in the room. That is saying a lot when you have both Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann on stage with you.

There was something going on behind Perry’s eyes that, to this political junkie, looked very much like panic. It seemed like he was waking up to find that running for president was not the cake walk his advisors had promised and that he knew he was coming across badly.

For all that I don’t think that we saw anything last night that changes the state of play for the Republican nomination. There were the 6 dwarves and Romney and Perry. Romney took some good shots at Perry, especially his asking about the massive flip-flop Perry has made on Social Security.

In a question that was obviously written by his staff (Mittens is just not that good off the cuff to give a “have you stopped beating your wife yet?” question) the former Massachusetts Governor asked if Perry “continues to believe that Social Security should not be a federal program … or does he retreat from that view.”

It is not often that a person who is known to blow with every wind like Romney gets to make a charge of flip flopping (though he never said those words, again, staff prep) on his major opponent. Good attacks like that combined with the super deep pockets of his campaign might be enough for Mittens to regain the front runner spot.

There were other candidates there, of course, but none of them really has a chance of winning the nomination. But every good Goat Rodeo has to have its clowns.

Rep Michele Bachmann – Looked frazzled and tired. Usually she is so carefully put together it was kind of shocking. She got in her outrage moment by saying she was offended by Perry using an executive order to make girls get the HPV vaccination.

Herman Cain – Made himself irrelevant from the start by introducing himself as the only one up there who was not a politician. It might seem like a good move for the primaries but I think the American public has had enough of ill prepared legislators.

Rick Santorum – I am at a loss to understand what he is doing, except maybe an extended audition for a Fox “News” slot.

Newt Gingrich – Doing the usual Newt shtick, pretend intellectual.

Rep. Ron Paul – While he might have a different ideas than the others and be willing to stand up for them in the face of boo’s he has an optics problem. He is much shorter than all the other candidates and obviously much older. The combination alone would be deadly even if he had the same talking points as the rest.

Jon Huntsman – Poor Jon, he can’t seem to get a break one way or the other. For all his trying to sound like the sane Republican in the room, one of the first things he said was his support for the Ryan budget during the Social Security kerfuffle. Apperantly he missed the part where that nearly sunk the Republican Party with voters earlier this year.

Add in Romney and Perry and there you have it, your 2011 All Pro Goat Rodeo crew!

Here is hoping that a few more of the people who will vote but don’t seem to care enough about politics will tune in and see just who and what the Republican Party and its base really are all about. 14 months is a long time for things to disappear down the memory hole, so there is every chance that the ugliness of the Republican base and their candidates will get a nice coat of paint by then.

The floor is yours.

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Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for