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The best American Presidential debate so far was not a “debate”

Equal time for each candidate (no playing favourites), no audience to make animal noises, serious questions from people who are not media hacks (the A.G.s of three States – including the key States of Virginia and Florida) and no stupid stunts such as hand shows or video links to media plants.

Each candidate given time to express their opinions on serious matters – just that, nothing else. With even the order people spoke in determined by lot.

Not hard to think up – yet no previous debate did that.

And the “Candidates Forum” on Mike Huckabee’s show did do this. So a pat on the back due to former Governor Huckabee.

How did the candidates do?

Well Jon Huntsman did not show up (so he gets a fail) and Gary Johnson does not seem to have been invited (the one demerit that can be given to Huckabee), as for the rest……

Ron Paul showed his age (both in his thin voice and in the difficulty he had hearing what was said to him) – but he did advise people to read Bastiat’s “The Law” (perhaps the best reading advice any candidate has ever given). He also understood that the Welfare State is unsustainable (as well as being unconstitutional), but also that just waving a magic wand would not wish away the problem of the millions of people who have grown to depend on it – hence the need for transition programs. However, when questioned about terrorism he hinted (did not formally state – but hinted) that America being attacked was the fault of American policy overseas – and that is both vile and just plain wrong.

Governor Perry had some sensible ideas (on energy and on education) – but (as usual) was undermined by his inability, unless speaking from a prepared text, to speak in public (sorry but that is part of the skill set for a candidate).

Rick Santorum spoke with true passion about the things that really matter to him – the social issues (abortion and so on). This will appeal to those who share his passions – but, of course, turn everyone else away from him.

Michelle Bachmann had a lot of good things to say (and some less good) – but she also had that oft mocked (by Jon Stewart and co) fixed look in her eyes. I am certain there is something wrong with her sight – indeed I would not be astonished if it turned out she could not clearly see the people she was talking to. I know poor eyesight should not be relevant – but the look on someone’s face does matter. On budget issues Congresswomen Bachmann was good, on illegal immigration her hard line will alienate some people (especially as it is clear, from her whole manner, that everything she says is sincere – so when she says that eleven million people are going to be rounded up, that is exactly what she would do).

Governor Romney was the opposite – his look was perfect (straight at the people he was talking to – with a look of intelligent concern), his voice was perfect also – exactly the right pitch and so on. Content is not really his thing (deliberately so – as it would give the Obama people ammunition to fire at him in a general election, should he win the nomination), but his presentation was ideal. A very good performance.

That leaves Newton ‘Newt’ Gingrich.

The American Gothic (for that is what he is – an incredible mixture of good and bad in both policy and his personality). Speaker Gingrich’s personality is the opposite of mine – to him no position is unwinnable and he is certain that he is the person who can achieve victory. He could be surrounded by a legion of enemies – and be astonished at his good fortune in so many enemies falling into his grasp.

I should despise the man. After all on policy he is as mercurial as Romney (accept that Governor Romney adapts his positions to suit the audience he is trying to reach, the ultimate democrat, small “d” – whereas Gingrich is always restless, always seeking new ideas, even if they contradict some of his older ideas, and is not wildly interested in saying what he is expected to say as he has total confidence in his ability to convince people that he is right), and in personal conduct…..

Governor Romney appears to have no vices (none whatever), no human is without sin – but “Mitt” appears to be as close to being without sin as it is possible for a human being to be, even his changes of policy are a sincere effort to win the support of the voters, and he tends to keep specific promises he makes to voters if he wins an election. Whereas to list the personal failings of Speaker Gingrich would take quite some time – indeed there was so many things that Democrat attack dogs appear to be confused over what specifically to attack him about, especially as, under the normal rules of politics, a Republican who has committed adultery or taken money from Fannie Mae, or has used political connections for his own advantage in office (and on and on) should slink away in shame (for a Democrat to do these things, and much worse, is fine as far as the media are concerned – but Republicans are held to a different standard).

Yet Gingrich shows no shame whatever… …His inner conviction that he is the solution to the crises facing the United States and the world is total – everything else is a petty matter of which he may formally repent, but does not really interest him and he treats those who are interested in such things with contempt.

“So I have taken your money and seduced your wife. What of it? Do you not understand that I am dealing with vital matters of war upon which our very survival depends? If you can not understand this, you are beneath contempt. Now get you gone – before I have you thrown from the castle wall”.

Speaker Gingrich has never actually used these words – but he has come close to it. And complainers (even hard core evangelical Christians) tend to leave confused – even apologizing to him for their silly words.

So I support Romney and oppose Gingrich? Errrr – Romney has all the passion of a mass produced table. Gingrich is a leader – someone who plans and works for the deaths of the enemy. Even his desire for money is a personal one, he holds the Federal government machine (with its hundreds of thousands of dependants and so many millions of dependants) in total contempt and has done his whole life – money that goes to it (rather than to him personally – as just reward for his victories…. at least that is how he sees the matter) is utterly wasted in his eyes. And, of course, he is correct about that.

Governor Romney is what he says he is – a businessman who want to please the customers (the voters) and would do his best to carry on pleasing them.

Speaker Gingrich cares about the war – the real one.

This was made clear even in the summation that candidates made at the end of the Forum.

Everyone else said about how they wanted people to be happy and so on.

Gingrich said something different….

“Join with me and we destroy Barack Obama and his Saul Alinsky radicalism”…

It was not the promise of prosperity.

It was a summons to war. But unlike making the Middle East fluffy (or anything absurd like that) it was a summons to a war that is worth fighting – indeed a war that must be fought because the left are already fighting it.

The left claim that Gingrich is like Richard Nixon, an absurd comparison. Nixon was a weak man full of Quaker doubt (he even sweated when lying – astonishing for a politician), who spent his time aping the policies of the left (they like welfare state spending – I will spend more, and I will introduce price controls and go and crawl to Mao and ……) in a desperate effort to win the approval of people he knew despised him (as if their opinion mattered).

Gingrich reminded me of someone else: Alexander Borgia in the latest BBC series on the Borgias.

Under all the vices is total sincerity – an utter conviction in the rightness of the cause and need to destroy (totally destroy) the enemy. And the intelligence to plan their destruction.

How could I fail to warm to that?

31 comments to The best American Presidential debate so far was not a “debate”

  • carol42

    I totally agree with this post, I watched the debate with great interest as I have a deep interest in US politics and have been alarmed about what Obama and his cohorts are doing. I have been increasingly impressed with Gingrich and the man he reminds me of is Churchill; another man with a chequered history, brilliant but erratic, maybe could not have been elected or chosen as PM at any other time but the right man for the time. I think too that Newt Gingrich is the right man for the conditions this time, I don’t think we need a bland Romney who would manage decline but Newt’s call to arms in exactly what America needs now and I don’t remember his past being as bad as is painted, much contradicted by his ex wife and daughter, he did not have Clinton impeached for his affair but for lying to Congress and he was a successful Speaker much maligned with much more to come I am sure but I don’t think he or many Americans will care. Sometimes the right man comes along at the right time and I pray American voters will see that.

  • chuck

    Yes, a fighter is what I want. Newt wasn’t my first pick, but of the fighters out there — Palin and Christie come to mind — only Newt remains. I think Romney would make a fine staff officer, but I don’t think he is the man to put in charge.

  • Alex M.

    Ron Paul was the most liberty-oriented candidate, his record speaks for itself.

  • Richard Thomas

    I have little doubt that it will be Romney. Policy and principle wise, he is perhaps the worst of the candidates but America just can’t help itself when it comes to voting for the person that they think will win instead of the person that best fits their world view.

  • steve

    Despite any flaws, Dr. Paul is the only one that seems to recognize or care as the case may be that America is becominghas become a police state. I would rather lose a war then continue down this path.

  • lucklucky

    Had fun reading the text.

    What sorry spectacle. Ron Paul is someone that would have let the Nazis or Communists take over the world, the others are more or less in Socialist Right…and there is someone even worse in White House…
    And all of them must have some sort of madness to want to be American President.

  • Gary Johnson is the only acceptable candidate from either of the two parties. Best case scenario – he runs on the Libertarian ticket instead, gets a surprisingly large share of the vote (I’d be happy with 5%), and Romney wins the national election. He’ll be a mediocre president, but better than the current one, and the free market contingent will finally have a real podium on the stage. Well, one can dream…

  • Paul Marks

    Of course my post was partly tongue in cheek.

    Congressman Paul can actually hear most of what is said to him (although the reedy voice and so on is just as described).

    And I do not really think that Speaker Gingrich is like Alexander Borgia – having people poisoned and so on. But the mental attitude, the focus on the big things (solving problems that deperately need to be solved) and lack of interest in the everday matters of personal conduct, is there.

    Speaker Gingrich claims that his favourate Founder is George Washington – but Washington was actually obsessed with matters of personal conduct and virtue.

    In reality N.G. is much more like Ben Franklin – a man who fathered an illegitimate child, and had no hesitation in cutting off anyone (including his own kin) who took the other side in the great political struggle of his time.

    But, and now here is heresy, the United States might have done better with more influence from Franklin.

    George Washington was concerned with the great moral struggle within himself. For example his struggle to find the moral strength to free his slaves – a struggle he eventually won, although (like Aristotle) he only freed his slaves in his will.

    Ben Franklin was far less concerned with his own personal conduct – indeed he used every trick in the political book. But then Franklin did not die a slave owner – indeed he campaigned against slavery (in a political way – not just as a matter of moral character).

    Franklin would have had no hesitation to do such things as use money from the sale of public lands to bribe (sorry “compenstate”) slave owners for freeing their slaves (and so on).

    What! Criminals (slave keepers – for “slavery” is a series of common law crimes, false imprisonment, assault to make people work for you for nothing, and…. on and on) being rewarded for their crimes!

    Franklin would have had no problem with that – because his eyes were on the major question. The institution of slavery and its threat to the long term future of the Republic.

  • Franklin would have had no problem with that – because his eyes were on the major question. The institution of slavery and its threat to the long term future of the Republic.

    …and possibly on the fate of the actual individuals in question – i.e. the slaves themselves?

  • Mary Contrary

    That was a really entertaining and well-written post. Bravo!

  • John B

    Gingrich sounds like what is needed. Although one has to beware the point where truth gives way to untruth (as it did with Thatcher in some places.)

    Palin would have been the best. I suppose that’s why they had to make her “unelectable” (an opinion I do not share but they managed to convince most conservatives of it).

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Keep in mind that the Tea Party movement is more concerned with the Congress than the presidency: so long as it controls Congress, who’s President is fairly unimportant. The charge against Romney is that as a member of the establishment he’d work against TPM control of Congress, whereas Gingrich (based on his 1994 Contract With America) would support it. And Gingrich would be a better candidate than Romney because he is inclined – and able – to fight media bias, where Romney would temporise instead.

  • Laird

    I see that Herman Cain is going to endorse Gingrich. That should be interesting.

    Notwithstanding Gingrich’s brilliance (and he really is quite intelligent, unlike that faux genius Obama, who is an over-credentialled mediocrity), and his deep knowledge of American history, I don’t believe that Gingrich has a proper appreciation for the distinction between federal and state powers. I don’t see him as a strong 10th Amendment advocate. Once he gets one of his trademark brilliant ideas he seems not to overly care whether it’s an appropriate area for the application of federal powers, as long as he can get it implemented. I don’t doubt that he would be a better president than Romney (let alone the feckless Obama; nearly anyone would be an improvement over him), but I worry that in his heart he’s still a big-government statist. I would be very surprised to see any serious governmental shrinkage on his watch.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Alisa – that is true. The torment of the individual slaves was in Franlin’s mind.

    Even in the seal he designed for the United States (tragically this design was not chosen) he deliberatly choose a design of the Hebrew slaves escaping from Egypt.

    As for the Tenth Amendment….

    Both Ron Paul and Rick Perry would be better on it (indeed so would Michelle Bachmann) – but they are not going to beat Romney.

    Indeed, most likely, no one will beat Romney – at least not in New Hampshire.

    In Iowa Gingrich has no “ground game” worth speaking of.

    And a good ground game is vital for a caucus State.

    Michelle Bachmann has one.

    So does Ron Paul.

    So does Rick Perry.

    Even Rick Santorum has one.

    but Newton Gingrich?

    Nothing I have noticed.

    If he does well in Iowa it will violate all the rules of politics. Someone like me would just give up at this point.

    But then Gingrich does not believe these rules apply to him.

  • Excellent blog Paul.

    Newt’s twenty-first century contract with America(Link) very much underscores Laird’s point on (non-)shrinking the federal state.

    In a pretty unexceptional, indeed in many ways laudable, speech he goes off on a ramble about how America ought to concentrate on brain science, and particularly Alzheimer’s research, in order to ‘save’ vast amounts of money and make a fortune selling cures to the world.

    Maybe, at his age, he feels the march of time, but FFS Newt, you need to free industry to make these choices, not indulge in the Solyndra model of how the Feds pick winners.

  • John K

    I have a feeling Romney will be chosen. He looks presidential and won’t frighten the horses. The bottom line is that he will beat Obama, and any of the others may well not. Newt has far too much baggage. It is vital that Obama lose the election, if he wins he will be able to appoint at least one more of his Marxist chums to the Supreme Court, perhaps more than one, cementing Marxism at the heart of the American body politic for a generation.

  • Color me depressed, no matter what or who.

  • My personal choice is Bachman because I think she’s the only legitimate small government conservative in the race, though I don’t agree with some of her positions, such as the border fence which I think would turn into the boondoggle to beat all boondoggles. And there are other things, but I still find her preferable, since Palin isn’t running.

    On the other hand, Newt brings a lot to the table, as the post elucidates brilliantly. I could also add that Democrats would find it a hard sell telling the voters that Gingrich is a moron, or feeble minded, which is their usual charge against Republican candidates going all the way back to Eishenhower.

    In the final analysis, I will vote for whoever the GOP nominates. If they nominate a spoiled ham sandwich its got my vote.

  • PeterT

    Great post. Thanks Paul.

    Is this debate online anywhere?

  • Michael Lorrey

    Romneybot is sinking in the polls in both Iowa and NH. Paul is in 2nd behind Gingrich in Iowa, and tied for 2nd in NH with Gingrich. I have always enjoyed Gingrich’s gutsiness when he was in congress, but I feel he sold out and betrayed his conservative principles. Appearing in an AGW ad with Nancy Pelosi was the final straw for me. Ron Paul is also the only GOP candidate in recent polls who isn’t losing to Obama…

  • Lan Di

    Bachmann claims farm subsidies.

    How can a woman who sponges off the biggest welfare scam in the US claim to be in favour of small government?

    How can a woman who thinks government should promote marriage claim to be an advocate of small government?

    Michelle wants the government to interfere in people’s sex lives.

  • Midwesterner

    Lan Di,

    Speaking from experience, if you own farm land in the US (at least back in the eighties) you have three choices. One, collect the subsidies because the subsidy driven market price for crops is too low to make the land pay the cost of ownership. Two, rent the land to somebody who will collect the subsidies so they can pay enough rent for the land owner to pay the cost of ownership. Three, sell the land to someone who will do one of the above.

    It should come as no surprise to you or most others here that the farm subsidy program is nothing more than an extortion racket to force people to submit to absurdly micromanaging and usually capricious rules that they would not submit to otherwise. By offering the subsidy, a few farmers who accept it drive down the market value of the crops and force everybody to accept it or stop farming. If they tried to rule by brute authority, their would be a mass rebellion. So they divide and conquer.

    Don’t worry too much about ag subsidies or any other entitlements. The totalitarians have miscalculated. When they achieve the final crash of the dollar into worthlessness to create a crisis/opportunity to grab total all encompassing authority, they have simultaneously lost the use subsidies for their divide and conquer campaign to compel obedience from productive people. They will also have lost the means to bribe state governments and the means to pay the National regulators referred to in the Decl. of Ind. “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.” Being basically self serving people, those swarms of regulators won’t work for money that can’t purchase anything.

    It will come down to a battle between net producers and net consumers. In that context, ‘sustainability’ has a nice ring to it.

  • Laird

    To add to Midwesterner’s response to Lan Di, I would also add that I have no problem with anyone accepting a general governmental benefit even though he simultaneously opposes the existence of that benefit. Why pointlessly disadvantage yourself with respect to everyone else? I don’t eschew the use of public roads even though I think they should all be private; I sent my son to public schools even though I think there should be complete separation of education and state; I take advantage of the home mortgage interest deduction when I file my taxes even though I think it’s an irrational subsidy to homeowners; and when the time comes I will cash the Social Security checks even though I understand that it’s an unsustainable Ponzi scheme. So what? I’ll continue to argue against all of those things, and if and when any are eliminated I will happily forgo the benefit, but not until everyone else does, too. I’m just not that into cutting off my nose to spite my face, and I don’t expect it of others, either (not even politicians). And if you think that constitutes hypocrisy, well, I’m comfortable for you to feel that way.

  • Paul,
    When you’re good you are very good. That was drier than the Gobi Desert. My personal suspicion is that Mitt will get the nod. Simply for the reasons John K says. Now the big question is can he beat Obama. I don’t know. The problem with Mitt is last time around he couldn’t even beat McCain. Yeah, he’s squeaky clean and has nice teeth and hair and all but isn’t that kinda a minimum requirement? I don’t see him energising the Republican vote. And what clear red water is there between him and Obama? It’s not like he has much of a leg to stand on over health care “reforms” is it?

    Of course Gary Johnson is my preferred candidate but that got nowhere despite his excellent performance as governor of NM. As Joshua says it would be great if he ran as a Libertarian and got somewhere. That is the only chink of light. Gingrich is just not electable. Neither are Perry or Bachmann. Quite simply much of the GOP has reversed itself up a cul-de-sac on moral issues that are just not vote winners. Reagan understood this despite being a conservative Christian. He knew at an almost visceral level that the economy and rebuilding the military were absolute priorities. Hence the brilliant slogan, “A recession is when your neighbour loses his job, a depression is when you do and a recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.”

  • Paul Marks

    On the social issues…..

    Most Americans are actually pro life (although you would not know that by following the msm or Hollywood). That is why Gary Johnson sunk himself in the first debate (virutally the only debate he was invited to) he came out as “pro choice” seeming to
    not understand that virtually everyone in that room (the Republican Primary and Caucus voters) defines “pro choice ” as “baby killer”.

    Americans (and not just Republicans) certainly do not believe that nine judges should be able to MAKE UP a right to abortion and impose it on 50 different States (Roe V Wade is an outrage – even from a pro abortion point of view). What Gary Johnson should have done is PASSIONATELY denounce Roe V Wade – that would have deflected any further questions (“I am running for Federal office and the Federal government should have NOTHING to do with this – should have been his line, again PASSIONATELY expressed).

    However, most Americans do not believe in a Constitutional Amendment imposing a pro life (anti abortion) point of view on all 50 States either.

    So, farewell, Rick Santorum and others of this position also.

    As for Gary Johnson.

    If he runs as a libertarian (under a first-past-the-post election system) he just helps Obama.

    It is a brutal as that.

    On Bachmann and farm subsidies.

    It is like Ron Paul on Pork.

    He carefully writes in lots of Pork for his District – and then votes against the general Bill (knowing it will pass).

    It is called “life”.

    One opposes wild spending – and then (in order to live) tries to get some of for oneself (and for ones voters).

    Otherwise one would be starving in the streets (for how can a unsubsdized farm compete against subsdized ones… and……). One certainly would not be in Congress – because the farmers (and so on) would just vote for someone else.

    One can still work for the PRINCIPLE to be changed (as both Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann do) – but till it is, one must live in the world as it is.

    Or be a mountain man – till one is hunted down by the FBI and the AFT.

    On Mitt Romney….

    To be fair to Mitt the thing he had passed in Mass (although vile) was actually NOT like “The Affordable Care Act” (Obamacare).

    Obamacare is an Act thousands of pages long – full of detailed regulations and powers (for administrators) DESIGNED to bankrupt real private care and push people into “private” care financed by the governnment.

    If people really want to know who worked out Obamacare I will tell them – and it was not Mitt Romney.

    However, that is a LONG argument.

    Romneycare and Obamacare LOOK the same.

    And that is what matters.

    And, I repeat, Romneycare was vile – even though it was (and is) different from Obamacare.

  • Gingrich interviewed by Glenn Beck: not good.

  • Lan Di

    (comment deleted as it is a blogroach posting under a different name)

  • Paul Marks


    If I was an Iowa voter I think I would examine the polls (the Iowa polls – national ones are almost meaningless) just before the Caucus events.

    If Michele Bachmann is doing well I would support her (as Glenn Beck would).

    If Ron Paul is doing well – then I would support him.

    By the way “doing well” means “has a real chance of wining”.

    But if it is Gingrich verus Romney – then I would support Gingrich.

    Same goes for New Hampshire – and onwards.

  • Paul Marks


    Same as the others.

    First show me a poll (a State poll) where he has a real chance of winning – then he should be considered in the contest in that State.

  • Ben

    “So I have taken your money and seduced your wife. What of it? Do you not understand that I am dealing with vital matters of war upon which our very survival depends? If you can not understand this, you are beneath contempt. Now get you gone – before I have you thrown from the castle wall”.

    (…)[But] Gingrich is a leader – someone who plans and works for the deaths of the enemy.

    Yes, more than a leader, like Caesar, he is a ruler at heart. He despises our enemies but he also despises us. It would be no better to be enslaved by him than by the enemy.

    Here’s a new one:


  • Paul Marks

    Well “push back” from the legislative and executive branches is as old as the Republic – and there is no divine right of unelected judged (the Founders and the Founding generation distrusted judges).

    HOWEVER, the question is not just a matter of “push back”, but on what PRINCIPLES?

    And Ben is quite correct – Newton Gingrich has not explained on what CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLES he and Congress would proceed. Indeed he despises such “lawyer talk” and, instead, talks vaguely of court judgements that are against the American way of life.

    “It would be no better tlo be enlsaved by him than by the enemy”.

    I doubt Gingrich has a clear “end state” in mind. Barack Obama (and the rest of educated left) do have clear end state in mind – full collectivism (although, in their minds, it would be collectivism with a smiley face).

    With Gingrich – who knows? It would be a wild ride – and the final destination might be freedom (even if that is not the intention of Gingrich). At least he would not bow to “enlightened” opinion.

    However, the “smart money” is still on Mitt Romney.

    Actually I think Romney is a nice man – who might make a good President in good times (say the 1950s).

    Is the sort of man needed for times that are comming? Unlikely – but we shall have to see.