Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Republican debate

It takes the kind of strong stomach which I don't have to watch what passes for "presidential caliber" Republicans "debate" each other -- especially in front of an audience of TeaScreamers.

I watched pieces of it until my gorge started to rise. I switched to the Patriots NFL season opener, only to have my digestive track further insulted by the inane commentary of the ESPN announcers, falling all over each other as they sucked up to Brady and Belichick and any player that they happened to like on any particular play.

I soon clicked off the Tube and read a few chapters in a wonderful book of interconnected and moving short stories called "The Imperfectionists" (Tom Rachman).

My wife, who has a somewhat stronger stomach than mine later pointed out some interesting pieces of the Republican debate that I missed. For example, from the CNN transcript here is Ron Paul on militarism and Al-Qaeda:

PAUL: First thing I would like to do is make sure that you understand there's a difference between military spending and defense spending. I'm tired of all the militarism that we are involved in. And we're wasting this money in getting us involved. And I agree, we are still in danger, but most of the danger comes by our lack of wisdom on how we run our foreign policy.

So I would say there's a lot of room to cut on the military, but not on the defense. You can slash the military spending. We don't need to be building airplanes that were used in World War II -- we're always fighting the last war.

But we're under great threat, because we occupy so many countries.

We're in 130 countries. We have 900 bases around the world. We're going broke.

The purpose of al Qaeda was to attack us, invite us over there, where they can target us. And they have been doing it. They have more attacks against us and the American interests per month than occurred in all the years before 9/11, but we're there occupying their land. And if we think that we can do that and not have retaliation, we're kidding ourselves. We have to be honest with ourselves. What would we do if another country, say, China, did to us what we do to all those countries over there?

 Can it be? Some actual sense in this debate? There was some applause after these remarks, mostly (I think) because Ron Paul went on to say we needn't take on the responsibility to be "policeman of the world", and to talk about how George Bush won on a platform decrying "nation-buliding."

But then frothy Rick Santorum, one of the lowest-watt of the low-watters, attacked Ron Paul on the above statement, which resulted in this exchange.

SANTORUM: We should have -- we are not being attacked and we were not attacked because of our actions. We were attacked, as Newt talked about, because we have a civilization that is antithetical to the civilization of the jihadists. And they want to kill us because of who we are and what we stand for. And we stand for American exceptionalism, we stand for freedom and opportunity for everybody around the world, and I am not ashamed to do that.


BLITZER: Thirty second, Mr. Paul.

PAUL: As long as this country follows that idea, we're going to be under a lot of danger. This whole idea that the whole Muslim world is responsible for this, and they're attacking us because we're free and prosperous, that is just not true.

Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda have been explicit -- they have been explicit, and they wrote and said that we attacked America because you had bases on our holy land in Saudi Arabia, you do not give Palestinians fair treatment, and you have been bombing --


PAUL: I didn't say that. I'm trying to get you to understand what the motive was behind the bombing, at the same time we had been bombing and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis for 10 years.

Would you be annoyed? If you're not annoyed, then there's some problem.


Clearly the TeaScreamers knew what they wanted to hear, and it wasn't what Ron Paul was telling them. I wonder if it ever occurred to these folks that Al-Qaeda has not attacked other western, non-Islamic democracies such as Canada and France, whose presence in Islamic territories is minimal. Sure Osama and Al-Qaeda represent Islamic extremism, but they were also somewhat descriminating in their choice of target. If the branch of Christian extremism and "American exceptionalism" represented by the Screamers were to take over our policies we could expect to be the target of a lot more violence, and not just from Al-Qaeda.

Finally, there's Bachmann commenting on Perry's executive order making HPV immunizations mandatory for Texas girls:

BACHMANN: I just wanted to add that we cannot forget that in the midst of this executive order there is a big drug company that made millions of dollars because of this mandate. We can't deny that...


BLITZER: What are you suggesting?

BACHMANN: What I'm saying is that it's wrong for a drug company, because the governor's former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company. The drug company gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor, and this is just flat-out wrong. The question is, is it about life, or was it about millions of dollars and potentially billions for a drug company?

BLITZER: All right. I'll let Senator Santorum hold off for a second.

You've got to response to that.

PERRY: Yes, sir. The company was Merck, and it was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them. I raise about $30 million. And if you're saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended. 

A lot of us are reminded of an old joke, often attributed to G.B. Shaw or Winston Churchill, about the woman to agrees that she would sleep with some man who offered her $ 1 million. When he lowers his offer to a few dollars she says "Of course not, what kind of a woman do you think I am?" and he responds "We've established that, we're just haggling over the price." In any case, does anyone actually believe that $5000 was all that Merck gave to Perry? 

(The Washington Spectator, a muckraking newsletter, has had some recent articles about financial support for Rick Perry. )

Even CNN, by the way, has pointed out a few of the almost universal factual errors in what these candidates had to say. One of the biggest was Perry's claim that Pres Obama's stimulus program created "0 jobs". This is totally false; ironically, as even Michele Bachmann said, thousands of the Texas jobs that Perry takes credit for resulted from Federal money and were public-sector jobs. Of course, Bachmann's attacks on Obama's healthcare plan are no more factual either -- including her claim that the plan would penalize the Medicare program.

But why go on? There was nothing in the debate that was much related to reality, and certainly nothing useful or constructive. It was all posturing for the discerning and knowledgeable group of TeaScreamers in the audience -- the ones who think that a person without the ability to pay medical bills should simply be allowed to die.

Just nice, plain, hometown  folks, most of whom seem to have taken some kind of Christ into what passes for their hearts -- I don't know what they've taken into their brains. They'll be a major factor in who gets the Republican nomination, which seems just about right, come to think of it.

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