No Ashes for Newtie

Today is Ash Wednesday besides being Republican debate day.  I had expected to tune in to the debate and see Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum with ashes on their foreheads.  But Newtie has said he won’t get ashes this year.

Given that only one of our presidents so far has been Catholic (and he was assassinated!), I think it’s important that both the Catholics remaining in the race show that they are comfortable in their faith and thus in their own skins.  I’m disappointed in Newt for avoiding this outward symbol of his Catholicism during a national debate.  It seems cowardly to me.


Mitt Lies About Inheritance

In tonight’s debate, Mitt said that he did not receive an inheritance from his parents.

But he told C-Span in 2006 that he did receive an inheritance when his father, George Romney, died, and he chose to donate it to Brigham Young University.  Just because you’re so rich that you give your inheritance away doesn’t mean you didn’t receive an inheritance.

He has also spoken of having to support himself when he was in graduate school at Harvard by selling stocks from his trust fund.

Newt’s Night

I thought Newt Gingrich dominated tonight’s debate on national security.  He made a lot of good points, especially pointing out things that I would guess most Americans don’t know, but should, like the fact that Pashtuns don’t care whether they live in Afghanistan or Pakistan, they think of themselves as Pashtuns.  He’s certainly done his homework on these issues over the decades, and it showed.  Tonight’s topic and his recent rise in the polls combined to create a perfect moment for him, and he seized it.

Mitt Romney sort of blended in among the other candidates, whereas he’s dominated in the past.  In previous debates, the proverbial Martian wandering into the room would have figured out that Mitt was the frontrunner.  Not so tonight.  About ten minutes from the end, Mitt desperately pulled out all his talking points and recited them.  They sounded off point and canned.

There was a moment when Rick Perry’s upper lip was perspiring like Richard Nixon’s.  Not the guy you want to be compared with in a debate.  Perry wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t good enough to move up.

Herman Cain continues to prove that he doesn’t belong on the stage.

Ron Paul continues to prove that he’s not a Republican.

Jon Huntsman is both knowledgeable and thoughtful, but this forum of eight people on stage doesn’t allow his nuance and grasp of detail to come through.  He does better sitting down one-on-one with Charlie Rose.  A Republican debate on national security calls for a certain level of bombast that he’s just not willing to provide.  Newt, on the other hand, is Mr. Bombast.  Huntsman had a good moment when he said sanctions won’t work against Iran, which is true.

Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann each made some decent points, but again, Santorum’s candidacy never took off, and Bachmann’s candidacy has fallen and can’t get up.

And finally, Ed Meese is still alive!  Who knew?

Herman Cain Doesn’t Belong on That Stage

Watching Herman Cain on stage tonight among the other candidates was as if I were on a stage with astrophysicists.

When he says he would consult commanders on the ground, he is saying he has no clue, no foundational information to work with, no analysis he’s done, no conclusions he’s reached from reading and briefings.

It is painful to watch him run out the clock by repeating the question and speaking very slowly to have to say as little as possible before the moderator rescues him.

All the other candidates were speaking fast because, agree with them or not, they all had stuff they wanted to say, points they wanted to make, before the moderator cut them off.

Cain was the verbal turtle, on stage with a bunch of hares.  He jumped out as the “Which one of these is not like the others?”

The Republican Foreign Policy Debate

The gap in knowledge and intelligence between Herman Cain and Jon Huntsman is like the entire history of human evolution.  They are like bookends.

Huntsman was right both that Gen. Kayani is in charge and that the ISI is part of the military, so those who were talking about all these power centers and competing actors in Pakistan are wrong.


Another Republican Debate Tonight

Live from South Carolina, it’s Saturday Night!

Yes, there’s another Republican debate tonight at 8 EST on CBS.  I know, you’re thrilled to0 because it’s been an eternity since the last one — four whole days. Imagine all the twists and turns in Mitt Romney’s policy since then.

We all remember three exciting moments from the last one.  One, Newtie was grumpy about being asked to fix health care in a minute, when the man has devoted three decades of his life (when he wasn’t having illicit sex or shopping at Tiffany’s) to health care.  Two, the audience booed when Herman Cain was asked if he had maybe, perhaps, a slight “character” problem.  And, three, um, oh, three, some guy from Texas…, three, oh, um.  Sorry.  Oops.

This one is focused on foreign policy.  For Herman Cain, that includes women’s rights.

If Rick Perry stumbled during a debate on the economy, I don’t expect him to come roaring back in one on foreign affairs, although I’m sure he knows more than Cain.  Grade-school children know more than Cain.

Ron Paul will be playing left field.  Or perhaps will be outside the ball park completely.

Michele Bachmann will say some really scary, but false, things she read on World Net Daily.  Unlike Sarah Palin, Michele does read, it’s just that she reads only crazy things that confirm her imaginary world view.

Newtie will be so annoyed that he has only a minute to answer that he will waste thirty seconds complaining.

Rick Santorum will tell us that faith and family are the answer to all foreign policy questions.  More Christians, fewer Muslims!

Jon Huntsman actually knows this stuff, but he’s to the left of Obama on Afghanistan, so he won’t move his poll numbers tonight.  The people who agree with him are already dancing with Ron Paul.

Mitt’s op-ed on Iran was so awful that I’m giving him his own post, up in a few minutes.

Rick Perry Makes Pretty Good Lemonade

When Rick Perry began his presidential campaign, he seemed arrogant, and it was a turn-off to many voters, especially because it reminded them of Bush 43.

In the wake of his “oops” at the debate on Wednesday, he is making fun of himself and coming across as much more humble, likeable, and genuine.

With nothing to lose and nowhere to go but up, Perry is relaxed and loose, without making us wonder if he’s drunk like at that New Hampshire speech.

He’s got something of the Hubert Humphrey “Happy Warrior” about him.

His campaign reacted immediately and nimbly to defuse a disaster.  It was excellent crisis management to put him in the Spin Room right after the debate, on the morning shows on Thursday, and on David Letterman to do the Top 10 List.  The campaign web site put up a poll asking, “What part of the Federal government would you like to forget about the most?”

Perry looks like a good sport and his campaign team looks very deft.  Humor, humility, and self-deprecation are the perfect weapons for a charm offensive.

One “Oops” Leads to Another

Gail Collins has a column in the NYT today about the Republican Debate that doesn’t mention Rick Perry’s minute-long, unsuccessful search of his brain for the elusive third department he would eliminate.

It reads as if Collins became bored part-way through and decided to do a little online shopping or go to the movies instead.

I suspect the truth is that Collins was on deadline and had to hit Send before Perry hit the skids.

So you can imagine Collins shouting “energy, energy, energy” at her TV, knowing that if Perry messed up, he would take her down with him.  They may have said “Oops” at exactly the same moment, although she probably said some words you won’t see in the NYT.

I like Collins.  She mentions Mitt Romney’s tying his Irish Setter to the roof of his car for a long drive to Canada as often as Herman Cain mentions 9-9-9, but I never tire of the Saga of Seamus.

But if your deadline falls before the end of the debate, you should write about something else, so a candidate’s embarrassment won’t lead to yours.