Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fireworks in the Desert -- Does It Matter That Only Romney is Credible?, Another Dictator Dead

The GOP Clash Demonstrates One Thing: There Are Very Few Serious Candidates
The saying in political circles these days is that Herman Cain peaked one hour before the start of the CNN Republican debate this past weekend.  Clearly, Cain did not give a great account of himself.  He managed to make, what is ostensibly a very simple tax plan (9% income tax, 9% corporate tax, 9% national sales tax) into a very confusing topic for the viewer and drew fire from all sides at the start of the debate.  Some of the criticism was, frankly, odd for a Republican forum.  Michele Bachmann criticized the plan as being to regressive: she is right, but this is the first time that I've heard the Tea Party advocate argue the virtues of a progressive tax system.  Romney criticized it as double taxation, pointing out that Nevada residents would have to pay their own state sales tax in addition to the national tax.  He is also right, but his point is sort of beside the point.  We pay multiple taxes at almost every level now.  Income is taxed with SSI taxes and income taxes at both the federal and state level.  We already have federal taxes on things like gasoline, alcohol, tobacco and firearms that are in addition to state-level sales taxes.

I was on one level very surprised to see the GOP candidates so roundly dismiss what is a pretty GOP idea -- a flatter tax code and a shift away from income-based taxes to consumption-based taxes.  I guess everyone shoots for the front-runner of the week.

Cain did himself absolutely no favors in the debate, mumbling on about Apples and Oranges, rather than focusing the debate on the simplicity of his plan and the complexity of the existing plan.  He also was completely backed into a corner, trying to continue to argue that this plan won't make taxes go up on lower-income Americans, when it is obvious on face that it will (a point Rick Santorum and Rick Perry made at great length.)  Of course, Rick Perry is now turning around and promotion a flat income tax designed to "broaden the tax base", which is exactly the same thing, but never we mind that.

Just when it looked like Cain was going to be completely cooked and roasted, Romney and Perry turned on each other in a series of exchanges that, in a less civil day, might have ended in a fist fight.  Perry accused Romney of hiring illegal immigrants (he hired a landscaping company which employed illegals, hardly a first) and Romney fumbled completely by stating that of course he asked the lawn company to fire them since he was running for public office, seemingly implying that he wouldn't have cared otherwise.  Perry kept pointing his finger at Romney.  Romney kept chiding Perry for interrupting him, even begging moderator Anderson Cooper to intervene at one point. 

In total, it was the worst showing for the GOP field as they looked like a bunch of bickering school children.  Romney clearly had his worst performance, losing his cool in a way I had not seen in previous debates.  Cain looked like an utterly unserious front-runner.  Perry looked like a guy who has lost all momentum and is just trying to gin up controversy to keep himself relevant.  If there was a winner, it was Newt Gingrich, whose professorial, intelligent responses played a lot better against this backdrop than they had in previous debates.

In spite of Romney's poor performance, it is abundantly clear to me that he is the only credible candidate in the field.

Cain?  If the anchor to your campaign is a tax plan and you can't explain it, you are in big trouble.  People might forgive some of the downright ignorant things Cain has said on foreign policy, his utterly confusing responses to questions about social issues and his borderline racist comments about Muslims if he was rock solid on economic policy.  But Cain would be a train wreck in a general election campaign.

Perry?  The more that even Republican hear him speak, the less they like him.  Does anyone really think this is the guy to bring down Barack Obama?

Gingrich?  He WOULD be credible -- if he didn't carry so much baggage.  He's a smart guy and a great debater.  He explains his positions in a clear, well thought out manner.  But if he ever became a serious threat in the polls, his sketchy personal past and long history in Washington would be a club over the head of his poll numbers.

Bachmann?  Please.  Crazy doesn't win general elections.

Santorum?  If the lynchpin of your campaign is that you've won in a swing state and the reason you aren't in office is that you lost re-election in that swing state by 18%, you aren't starting in a great place.  Besides, he comes off horribly bitter.  Nobody takes him seriously.

Paul?  His loyalists love him, but the day the GOP nominates an anti-war, pro-drug and prostitution legalization, pro-gay marriage (sort of) libertarian, I'm investing in snow plow dealerships in hell.

Huntsman?  Is he still running?  Regrettably, Jon Huntsman is a very serious and well qualified candidate.  He just can't get the GOP to pay attention to him.

All of which leaves Romney as the guy with the most credibility.

The key question is whether that will matter to the GOP in this nomination cycle.  It didn't matter when they nominated Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, Joe Miller in Alaska and Sharon Angle in Nevada in 2010.  Do they want to win or do they want a Tea Party loyalist?  We shall see.

Qaddafi Dead
The death of Libyan Dictator Muammar Qaddafi (or Gaddafi if you like that spelling) is good news to the world.  Qaddafi was an awful dictator, hated by his people and well known for making crazy and offensive UN speeches that delegates would walk out of.

You can criticize President Obama at great length on many domestic topics, but to the surprise of many, he has been a rock-solid leader on foreign policy.

The GOP can say all they want that he bows too much or isn't strong enough, but the facts tell a different story.

Osama Bin Laden is dead.  So are scores of Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership.
Muammar Qaddafi is dead.
The Iraq War is essentially over with the last US troops leaving in the next couple of months.
Our position in Afghanistan is strengthened (albeit we still need an exit strategy.)
We have a new, comprehensive, nuclear weapons reduction treaty.
We have new free trade deals spanning the globe.

Did President Bush have 1/10th this amount of accomplishment in 8 years?

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