Romney’s Worst Debate

November 22nd, 2011 at 10:40 pm David Frum | 94 Comments |

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Tuesday was a bad night for Mitt Romney, maybe the very worst of any of these debates. It started badly with the joke about Mitt being his real first name, when it was not–and ended badly with a weak answer about “unexpected threats” that did not play at all to Romney’s strengths on international economics.

Romney joined a debate with Gingrich on immigration, and did not knock him down. He joined a debate with Jon Huntsman on Afghanistan, and again failed to emerge dominant. The gravitas gap between him and the other candidates is narrowing, as these new not Mitts meet Romney on much more equal terms than the previous not Mitts.

The most telling retorts of the evening belonged to Gingrich against Ron Paul. The biggest news of the night was made by Gingrich too, on immigration and the path to legalization.

Maybe most relevantly: this hall tonight–packed to the rafters with DC think tank establishment types–ought to have been effortless Mitt territory, and it was not. The people in this hall know well, all too well, Gingrich’s manifold flaws and weaknesses. Yet they warmed to him, ready to receive him back, not because they trust him, but because he excites them.

For the first time since Rick Perry’s abrupt fizzle, we can see the emergence of a genuine “establishment problem” for Romney–and that’s ominous for his hopes.

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94 Comments so far ↓

  • johnt1977

    David, when you say bad things about Romney’s performance it means that he achieved exactly what he wanted to in the debate. #nothistargetaudience

  • nuser

    He constantly whines about not apologizing for America. Some of these people didn’t come
    to hear that , they actually had the look of intelligence . Maybe they wanted to hear something other than talking points and campaigning.Huntsman did well.Hmm!

  • roubaix

    His joke had me on the floor …

  • anniemargret

    I agree with Romney’s decision about illegal immigration. It did not sound harsh, the way Bachmann does, but I agree that it is an enticement. For those that have been here the longest, a better path to citizenship must be opened. Less constraints, lessen the time to wait.

    But we cannot have illegals coming here as a matter of fact, with impunity. The companies that hire them must be heavily fined. Through attrition the problem can be corrected, but I would like to see a pathway for those that earn it. And the hatred that has emanated, the nativism that the GOP has embraced, is disgusting and not decent to a civilized society that is supposed to be the ‘the beacon of light in the world.’

    On this he was correct. I did not like, however, Romney’s scorn (and smug contempt) at Ron Paul’s intelligent and important remark about the US getting involved again -draining our troops, risking lives, and gutting our financial resources (and getting us ever deeper in a mire in the ME), & that we should “mind our business.” Kudos to Paul for that one.

    I agree totally with Paul that knee jerk support of Israel to attack Iran would not only be tremendously dangerous for that region, opening up a powder keg involving Russia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, a conflagration in the ME, etc…but the law of unintended consequences would leave this country reeling.

    We’re already reeling. Vote for one of these militarists and that’s what we are in store for.

    What in God’s name have the GOP learned from the last 10 years of wars? What did we gain, what did we lose? What are the real costs? Do they even *think?*

    Romney is doing the GWBush war dance….Gingrich, Perry, Romney, Santorum, Bachmann – all doing the Cheney fear-mongering war dance on the American public…again! Remember the ‘mushroom clouds over Cleveland?” I sure do. No one is going to play that game again without some real scrutiny.

    Huntsman and Paul are the only sane intelligent logical thinking candidates up there.

    The others can’t wait to play fast and loose – again! – and the USA is already drained, and they appear to want to drain it even more to the bottom of the barrel, for some macho image for America as the super-policeman of the world.

    Shame on them. How many more soldiers have to die for an ideology instead of reality?

    • Ray_Harwick

      The immigration stuff made me think of something. They were talking about the importance of attracting talented people to America in a kind of first-in-line way and I thought: Oh, so it’s about how much a person’s skills are valued. Then I wondered out loud to my husband if any of those people think the hands that pick lettuce, tomatoes, peaches and artichokes are valuable. It would be interesting to pose such a question framed in that way.

      Then there is the STARTLING notion that if an illegal immigrant was (among other things) ATTENDING CHURCH, Newt would count that as a pathway to citizenship.

      • anniemargret

        I had the same thought Ray. What in God’s name does ‘church’ have anything to do with illegal immigration, or any immigration for that matter? Catholics were once hated in the South in this country, and elsewhere, and so were Jews.

        I would have asked Gingrich just what ‘church’ is he relating to? Catholicism? Methodists? Baptists? Judaism?
        This religious talk is sickening from these GOP candidates – this country is great because of our multi-pluralism, not in spite of it.

        And also, so an immigrant is only going to be accepted in this country now if he can be a scientist, doctor, or math genius? Since when? My Italian ancestors were farmers and grocers and butchers and construction workers. They didn’t have college degrees, but they came to make sure their kids and grandkids did and more…. And who built those bridges and skyscrapers? CPAs? Who laid the pipelines, electricity wires, paved the roads? Ph.Ds in international relations?

        Very smug,very condescending remarks, I think from these so-called ‘presidential” candidates.

      • think4yourself

        I had the same thought when Gingrich said church. I really wanted a moderator to ask the following.

        “If they attended a synagogue instead of a church would that be okay?”

        If they attended a temple/stake would that be okay (not so subtle dig at Romney/Huntsman) :)

        “If they attended a mosque and had been in the country for 25 years with children and grandchildren, would that be okay?”

        If Gingrich answered no to the mosque I would ask if he felt that Constitutional protection for religion under the First Amendment only applied to Christianity.

    • nuser

      Maybe I have missed it , but has Huntsman spent much time bashing President Obama and his politics?

      • anniemargret

        He’s thrown some zingers at him, saying he failed in some areas, but I don’t hear the same viciousness and callous disregard that the others have for him, as if Obama has not achieved some really important things since he took office. I think that’s appalling in these presidential candidates. I don’t expect them to agree with all his policies, but they should have the tact and the decency to give him a few kudos, just to show some statesmanship to America.

        • medinnus

          I get the feeling that if you ask Huntsman which policies of Obama, and why they’ve failed, he’d actually have an answer, as opposed to the other candidates.

        • overshoot

          I don’t expect them to agree with all his policies, but they should have the tact and the decency to give him a few kudos, just to show some statesmanship to America.

          “Statesmanship” is like “bipartisanship:” it’s what losers want to keep from being crushed, and when they are crushed it’s what they use as an excuse to save face. It’s another word for “weakness.”

          This is 21st-century American politics: it’s not about policy, it’s about tribal warfare in a dying land. It’s about control of the last oases as they slowly dry up, and poisoning those you can’t control. The winner gets a little more time and the loser gets annihilated.

        • Traveler

          “it’s about tribal warfare in a dying land. It’s about control of the last oases as they slowly dry up, and poisoning those you can’t control.” Good one! Even better when you frame it as one tribe causing the land to die in the first place

      • roubaix

        Here’s a good place to see Huntsman speaking at length.

        At these events, he has more time to criticize Obama. I’ve seen the beginning chunk of “Jon Huntsman Town Hall Meeting” from a small NH conference room. In addition to citing Obama’s general lack of leadership (which he repeated again last night), IIRC he pans the decision to prioritize health care over the economy. He also gets anti-Obama questions from the room.

        • balconesfault

          IIRC he pans the decision to prioritize health care over the economy.

          Great. Another politician.

          He either really believes that this is what Obama did … in which case he’s far less intelligent than people say he is.

          Or he doesn’t believe it, and he’s willing to make stuff up in order to pander to the crowd.

        • nuser

          Thank you. Huntsman actually speaks of job innovation and many other useful ideas of rescuing the economy. Have only listened to half that segment, but bookmarked for when time
          to peruse is a little longer.

    • Ray_Harwick

      all doing the Cheney fear-mongering war dance on the American public…again!

      And, surprise! Two war criminals (Wolfowitz and Addington) asking the questions. And with the major presence of AEI Repeaters (as Mr. Frum so lovinging illustrated), I was thinking it might make David a little homesick. I’ll try to put the thought from my mind.

    • overshoot

      What in God’s name have the GOP learned from the last 10 years of wars?

      That they’re an incredibly useful tool for funneling money to their supporters and power to the Party.

      Bear in mind that over the long term the most effective way to build up the population of high-RWA followers is to have them grow up afraid and culturally isolated. In the short term, banging the drum about the hated “other” will get them to ignore their own interests to get in line behind the leadership. Without the RWA followership, the Republican Party is down to representing about one American in a thousand.

  • Ray_Harwick

    I agree that Romney wasn’t dominant but in terms of his campaign it’s not necessarily important that he wins; but that he doesn’t lose. He most certainly didn’t lose tonight.

    Who won? Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman scored a gaggle of KOs but, of course, Newt won the day by bringing the Tea and some not-embarassing answers. Cain joins Santorum and Bachmann in the Elephant Grave Yard.

    I really loved Paul’s and Huntsman’s clear-eyed sanity and I got that shiver up my leg on Huntsman’s final answer of the night about the United States being the place where the threat is most troubling because a weak country can’t do anything, even when we’re being threatened in every direction. It was a brilliant answer.

    • Traveler51

      + and kudos for both yours and Anniemargret’s assessments.

    • dugfromthearth

      No, he needs to win. 75% of the republicans do not want Romney. He only stays on top while the anti vote is divided among the others. But whenever one appears to be rising the anti vote forms around them. Romney’s big danger is Iowa. If an anti-romney wins Iowa, it is likely that the bulk of the anti vote will move to them, which could mean him losing everywhere.

      • Russnet

        If/when Romney gets the nomination, the percentage of Republicans who will vote for him over Obama will rise to about 90%. So his current 25% of support does not mean much.

        • Frumplestiltskin

          you make the fatal assumption that they will actually vote. Democrats lost in 2010 not because Dems or independents voted Republican, but because many stayed home.
          Because Romney is a Mormon I can easily see millions of Fundies and Evangelicals voting down ballot but not pulling the lever for Romney, maybe choosing a protest vote for President, say a strong anti-abortionist in one of the other parties.

  • anniemargret

    Of course if the GOP voters were smart – but they are not – they would be propping up Huntsman and Paul, not Romney, Gingrich, Bachmann. Santorum and Cain need the boot. Exit left they’re done. Bachmann, too – I can respect her command of the facts but her views are too right wing/wacky/religio to appeal to mainstream America.

    But no, Romney and Gingrich will slug it out to the end. And then I pity this country if either of them get the power behind the nuclear button. And Gingrich’s recent disgusting comment about the OWS protesters, that they should ‘get a job and take a bath’ will not go down well in the throats of the American public. After all, their parents are watching those ‘liberal kids’ out there.

    He needs a bath, a colonic one from the tip of his tongue to his brain-less answer. He is NOT presidential material.

    • Probabilistic

      I can respect her command of the facts but her views

      – CIA has outsourced its interrogation to ACLU. (She wants waterboarding , while ACLU is handing out tea and buttered English muffins)

    • overshoot

      And Gingrich’s recent disgusting comment about the OWS protesters, that they should ‘get a job and take a bath’ will not go down well in the throats of the American public.

      It’ll go down just fine with the 80% who are still employed and trying desperately to believe that it can’t happen to them. Which is more than enough to win elections.

      After all, their parents are watching those ‘liberal kids’ out there.

      Look again. A lot of those “liberal kids” are past 50.

      • CautiousProgressive

        I routinely hear young upper class D.C. professionals espouse support for OWS – but with the addendum that they personally are too busy going to work to go out and join the protest.

        Support for OWS extends well beyond the demographic of unemployed hippies.

        • He Loved Big Brother

          exactly. There is a strong undercurrent of support for OWS, and it has more substance and staying power than the teahadists. Not just the poor and the dispossessed, but a large part of the middle recognise that the rules of the game are rigged, and that the OWS is giving voice to their concerns

        • overshoot

          Note that personally I’m old enough to have been in demonstrations against the Vietnam war. I’m also pretty well off — not great, but not likely to starve either. Even Paul Ryan isn’t proposing doing away with Medicare for me, for instance.

          My kids, on the other hand, are in their 20s. Them I worry about. And even more so for the grandchildren I hope to have: what kind of wasteland will my generation be leaving them?

  • TJ Parker

    Looks like the race is down to Paul, Huntsman and Gingrich. Oh, and that other guy with the hair.

  • JakeP

    Just Google “newt gingrich RINO…” Here, I did it for you:

    Narrow it down to 24 hours for extra fun.

    When Republicans are calling Gingrich a RINO, it’s surely a sign of the apocolypse. He’s NEWT GINGRICH for chrissakes. He INVENTED Republicans.

    I think the word they are looking for is actually FINO.

  • Ray_Harwick

    The “establishment problem” looms Enormous for Romney, just as Mr. Frum says. After this debate, and with virtually the entire cast of Republican think tanks in attendance, my first thought was what on earth are we going to see coming out of Heritage and AEI tomorrow. Never mind that Cain’s panning the “no fly zone” had a reasonable smell to it, the Big Boys who call the shots are going to think Romney stunk up the place, Cain is history, and Huntsman is a commie for daring to diametrically opposse bombing the Middle East into the Stone Age.

    And the SHIVER I got from seeing Addington ask the question about Syria and the no-fly zone. It was like watching Dr. Strangelove starring Cheney with his finger on the red button asking Rick Perry for permission to launch.

  • Probabilistic

    Give these guys video games to quench their thirst for blowing sh*t up!

    The biggest national security threat not being discussed (sufficiently) in this year’s presidential debates is the the Republican Party.

  • Bohemian_Idol_Smasher

    Huntsman might have finally had his breakout moment tonight. His responses to both the moderators and his opponents were pitch perfect, and he will likely benefit from a rapidly faltering Mitt Romney. And a choice between Huntsman and Newt is one that almost totally belies serious and lengthy reflection. (Unless, of course, you are a Tea Bagger. Moderates and establishment types, however, should have no trouble here.)

    If Jon Huntsman can’t win a one-on-one race with Newt Gingrich, then today’s GOP is even more pathological and decadent than I thought, and they deserve to lose apocalyptically a la Walter Mondale or George McGovern.

  • overshoot

    It sure looks to me like Newt’s at least taught the rest some history: if you want to get out of a prolonged economic pit (and make sure the right people make a bundle) the best thing is the world is a big war.

    It’s the totally-acceptable justification for running a big deficit (partially offset by gutting social programs) and getting the country to line up and take orders. And best of all, there’s boatloads of money to be made.

  • Fart Carbuncle

    Isn’t it nice to vet the GOP candidates in full public view? Unlike Obama, who is getting yet another free ride and endorsment from the MSM.

    But give Obama credit for one world-historical achievement: He makes Carter look good.

    • medinnus

      Try and focus – I know its hard, and that there are several other Tea Bagger Kock worshipers who are vying for your job as Village Idiot, but this thread is about the pros and cons of the GOP candidates, not a place for you to pivot and turn it into one more mindless, factless attack on Obama.

      Personally, I don’t think the other applicants for your job have a chance.

    • Watusie

      Isn’t it nice that in 2007-2008 Obama was vetted in 25 – yes, twentyfive debates in full public view? (And that is not counting the three one-on-ones with John McCain).


    • Demosthenes

      I wonder how long until Smarg says something unfathomably offensive and gets banned again.

      • Southern Populist

        So Smarg got banned. You know that for sure? If true, IMO it’s not right given that FF tolerates rbottoms and his inflammatory excesses. Neither one bothers me. People are too sensitive.

        • balconesfault

          I suspect that FrumForum, in trying to promote a different kind of conservatism, might actually have a faster trigger on trying to purge commentors from the right who constantly revert to overt and vile racist and homophobic comments. They’re trying to make conservatism seem appealing to moderates and people with intelligence, and that wouldn’t be helped by letting this b0ard look like the comments pages at Red States.

      • sweatyb

        FC seems to have learned a lesson from Smarg’s experience. He’s very careful not to cross the line into outright bigotry with his trolling.

        • Graychin

          I thought that Smarg and Fart were the same person. And I wondered what someone has to do here to get banned. The mods here seem tolerant to a fault.

        • sweatyb

          Hard to prove that Smarg is Fart without server logs. There’s plenty of circumstantial evidence in the coincidence of Smarg’s disappearance and Fart’s emergence as well as the similarity in their trolling style.

          It’s tough to strike a balance with censorship, but I am ok with FF’s current policy which seems to be clearing out the spammers and the most offensive trolls.

        • WaStateUrbanGOPer

          I don’t know if Fart and Smarg are the same pathetic dittohead trolling in a filthy old terry cloth bathrobe, and I could really care less as long as he (or they) don’t do anything dangerous to others here, but I’m pretty positive Smarg got banned. I think he crossed the line of good taste way too many times to remain a member of this blog. Does anyone remember the FF News item about the ship full of Libyan refugees that sank in the Mediterranean, in which Smarg took to the comments section to denounce a drowned baby as a “parasite”? That comment alone was enough to get him eighty-sixed: it is, vis a vis Frum Forum’s list of “shalt nots” on display in small font below, “abusive” as well celebratory of “the death or illness of any person, public figure or otherwise.”

          That the editors allowed Smarg to continue posting here for several months after he made this outrageous remark was far, far too generous to that chauvinistic little creep. Whatever he said that finally burst their patience must have been truly awful.

        • Ray_Harwick

          Smarg = Fairy Hardcastle = Fart. His anti-gay offensiveness has never been matched.

        • ConnerMcMaub

          No way no how are they the same person. Google smargalicious and you will see smargy has an overwhelming obsession about race that leaks into every comment. His language is extreme. Fart Carbunkle talks about things other than race and his language is far more mainstream. This comment (the president wasn’t vetted because of MSM liberal bias) is just an often repeated talking point and isn’t even a personal attack much less a racist one. It’s easily disprovable so why not just make a counter point and not call Fart names. Or ignore him.

        • nuser

          Where is his head on a stick?

      • nuser

        Smarg sounds more like ta ma de , you know the one in Bellevue computer room.

        • Traveler

          Definitely not. Ta ma de was originally Balsack, and was largely coherent and sensitive before he fell off the cliff. Far cry from Smarg. I have even seen a sensible post from Smarg, so it would not surprise me if he and FC are one and the same. He was spoofing instead for as long as he could get away with it. FC could be FH, as he also disappeared when FC arrived. (S)he is not nearly as argumentative. Certainly not the troll that they were. I only object when the posts are counterfactual BS statements.

    • Reflection Ephemeral

      This is false, of course.–perry-herman-cain

      October 17, 2011

      Rick Perry received the most favorable coverage of any candidate for president during the first five months of the race, but now Herman Cain is enjoying that distinction, according to a new survey which combines traditional research methods and computer algorithmic technology to code the level and tone of news coverage.

      Perry lost the mantle of the candidate enjoying the most favorable treatment to Herman Cain two weeks ago, after the Florida straw poll in which Cain scored a surprise victory. Meanwhile, though he has often led in the polls, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has received less coverage and less positive coverage than the shifting casts of frontrunners — and that remains true even now. He ranks second in the amount of attention received, and the tone of that narrative has been unwaveringly mixed.

      One man running for president has suffered the most unrelentingly negative treatment of all: Barack Obama. Though covered largely as president rather than a candidate, negative assessments of Obama have outweighed positive by a ratio of almost 4-to-1. The assessments of the president in the media were substantially more negative than positive in every one of the 23 weeks studied. In no week during these five months was more than 10% of the coverage about the President positive in tone.

  • LaLupa

    Newt outlined a sane approach to illegal immigration last night. And if the GOP insists on following the FAIR crowd, they will lose. And deserve to lose.

    • jamesj

      I must agree. I don’t like Gingrich in general. I don’t agree with his policy positions in general during this primary. I can’t believe people are even taking him seriously considering his past disgrace. But he voiced a wise and pragmatic stance on immigration policy and everyone else on stage pounced on him for it. Pretty sad.

    • Ray_Harwick

      Yeah, if you think church attendance is legitimate avenue to citizenship. I’ll bet there’s a couple million Muslims who would take his offer and be rejected.

  • Sinan

    The GOP is a party that runs around scared to death of everything. They want more bombs and soldiers because they are scared to death that reality will follow a movie script and Bruce Willis or John Wayne will not show up in time. They are scared to death of immigrants, socialists, atheists, intellectuals, liberals, Europeans, Chinese, Russians, gay people, Arabs, Moslems, Iranians and so on and so on. They want guns in their homes because they are scared to death of crime in the streets. They want guns in churches, bars, grocery stores, universities and Congress because they are in perpetual fear of someone killing them at any second. There is nothing to fear my droogies, nothing to fear….

    • Demosthenes

      I think you have “the GOP” confused with inbred tinfoil-hat xenophobia, which is fair up to a point, however I also think it doesn’t do justice to Mr. Frum’s vision of the Republican Party. Clearly Mitt Romney is a divisive figure within the GOP but I don’t think it’s either fair or accurate to claim that Mitt’s supporters, who have stuck with him through all the flavor-of-the-month candidates, “want guns in churches.”

      • balconesfault

        Well, I think the real point is that the GOP is actually cultivating this climate of fear. It’s pretty much what they depend on – voters who willing to vote against their best economic interests as long as the GOP will promise to protect them against all the big bad people outside and inside our borders.

        • Sinan

          That is my point. If you listen to the questions and answers then how can you escape the fear inherent in all of these policy positions? I want someone to ask them a simple question: How exactly is a terrorist going to explode a nuclear bomb in the USA? My bet is that in their minds is a scenario like True Lies where a bunch of terrorists broker a deal with some mad General in Pakistan, send the missile over in a container and then put a cell phone in it so they can turn it on from Mecca and blow up Manhattan. Would it be reasonable for the “Best news team on TV” to actually have an expert in nuclear bombs actually explain the feasibility of this on TV? Since we are spending trillions apparently trying to avoid this scenario, it might make sense to actually know the odds.

        • overshoot

          I think the real point is that the GOP is actually cultivating this climate of fear.

          For those who haven’t read Altemeyer’s popularization of his lifetime’s research:

          Agree or don’t, but IMHO you need to at least be familiar with the subject.

        • Demosthenes

          I am not going to dispute the outline of your point, particularly as regards foreign policy, because I largely agree. However, I have two comments in response.

          1) Without denying the fact that global warming is happening, or (for the purposes of this discussion) disputing that it is mainly or exclusively being driven by human activity, it is still true that dealing with global warming as a matter of policy does not necessitate ramping up the fear machine any more than it necessitates instituting a progressive wish-list.

          2) Our search for protection from fear transcends political boundaries. I would argue the fear we suffer from is only a symptom of the deeply interwoven spiritual and mental health crises currently afflicting American society. It doesn’t really have anything to do with party politics as such, and if it can be acknowledged that certain fear-mongering elements have found a ready home in the GOP, that is still not at all to say that Democrats are offering people refuge from fear (however much they might want to or even in fact believe that they are).

        • balconesfault

          First, there are scary things out there … and fear of consequences of action or inaction is a legitimate response.

          I would claim that the fundamental difference is that Dems are addressing issues where public policy has a real and necessary role. You cannot deal with climate change without a very coordinated governmental (and intergovernmental) strategy.

          On climate change one side of the political aisle is insistent that the problem either doesn’t exist, or that it is unsolvable, or that the costs of dealing with it are too high … and the other side wants to accept scientific consensus over whether the problem exists, and work with the scientific and engineering communities to come up with policy solutions, and to engage in a dialogue over whether the costs really are too high (versus the risks).

          On terrorism … both sides of the aisle acknowledge that the problem exists, nobody is claiming that it is unsolvable, and while there certainly is a debate over resources and means, there is a firm commitment from both Dems and Republicans to protect the US from terrorist attacks.

          In fact, the problem with conservative scare mongering over terrorism and international threats (versus your perceived Progressive scare mongering over climate change) is that Conservatives are using scare mongering to short-circuit the political process, claiming that the immediate need for a response to the threat should trump actually forming a coherent and sustainable policy to address the threat.

          Progressives actually advocate a coherent and sustainable policy both for terrorism and international threats, and for climate change. There is no attempt to use the fear card to short circuit the political process – rather Progressives are trying to use fear to actually start a political process that has been buried under by money from those who profit via the status quo.

        • think4yourself

          Balcone – +1

  • Southern Populist

    Romney’s delivery was off last night. From the standpoint of substance however, he didn’t say anything new or inconsistent with his previous statements on these issues. He sounded like a war-mongering, interventionist lunatic which he is.

    I wish Ron Paul were 15 or 20 years younger.

    • balconesfault

      Ron Paul intellectual opposition to most of the GOP’s foreign policy stems, I believe, from his correct understanding that it is impossible to maintain the size of the military the GOP demands without the Federal Government being HUGE.

      The rest of the GOP just doesn’t understand this basic reality – or they do, and they decide to lie about it.

      That said, Paul will never really lead very many people, and a Ron Paul led government would never lead to a great America.

      • jamesj

        Ron Paul’s beliefs are actually internally consistent. That makes him an oddity in the modern Republican party. It also makes him very likeable. I don’t find his beliefs to be wise policy, so I don’t want to see him running the country. But when you compare him to a crop of candidates who are manifestly unwise AND who hold incoherent and contradictory beliefs Paul always comes away looking sincere.

        Part of the problem is that when Paul says something reasonable and pragmatic about foreign policy or when Gingrich says something reasonable and pragmatic about immigration policy, all of the other candidates on stage are willing to sell out in the blink of an eye and feed the crowd the red meat the crowd hungers for even though one suspects the candidates know better in their hearts and minds. That kind of irresponsible disregard for true statesmanship is a great way to win a primary in the modern Republican party, but it is a disaster from the standpoint of classical Conservativism and it is a disaster for the country in my opinion.

        Many of the candidates think the end justifies the means. They think they can gin up the right wing crowds with ignorance and fear-mongering and then when they get into office they’ll do the right thing. What they don’t realize is that the polarization of the American citizenry, the ignorance of the American citizenry, and the emotional fear-based impulses of the American citizenry due to their current sorry economic state are at the core of our problems. You can’t fan those flames without doing real harm to the country. Each step in that direction makes it more difficult to repair the country’s damaged state. These candidates are actively manufacturing a generation of irresponsible voters by giving them unhealthy feedback.

        Note how Obama stays at arm’s length from the reactionary OWS movement, once again showing his traditional Conservative feathers and once again being more mature than most modern right wing politicians (who jump at every opportunity to praise and support the reactionary Tea Party movement). Note how former president Clinton is promoting lower corporate tax rates recently instead of taking the easy road and feeding into popular anger pushing higher corporate tax rates. The contrast between the two modern political parties is just clear as day and I am astounded people aren’t picking up on what I’m seeing. Modern Republican voters are voting their emotional impulses from 30 years ago. They are not reassessing. They are not thinking.

        • balconesfault

          This is the conclusion I’ve come to as well. Much of the support for the GOP these days is at the purely tribal level … as if overtly supporting any Dem politician will result in immediate expulsion from the club, and thus like Frum you see Republicans going through all measures of contortions, even when being critical of current GOP policy or politicians, to avoid any implicit endorsement of the Dems.

  • The Newt We Knew and Loved: Why Newt Gingrich's Sensible Positions Will Come Back to Haunt Him - Forbes

    [...] But the problem with someone like me nodding along to a couple of points Newt Gingrich is making is that it almost certainly means that the GOP base will hate it, and that’s bad news for Gingrich, even if last night’s debate was Romney’s worst. [...]

    • FrancisofA

      As someone living outside of your borders, I am continually amazed at the bitter comments thrown at a candidate who shows some and the key word here is some compassion.
      I too sat and slowly started to nod in agreement with Newt and I am far from a Newt supporter.
      But dammit, he makes sense and his positions are thought out, logical and when compared with the rest of the rabble on that stage, seems why, almost presidential!
      Same thing happened to Obama in that debate – all of a sudden – he could be “seen” as a president.
      From my humble perch, I saw the same thing with Newt last night. He looked “presidential”. Romney certainly didn’t.

  • Stewardship

    Mitt just looked out of it last night. Dark circles under his eyes. Wonder if the same sinus crap that has KO’d my family over the last few weeks has him, too. It’s damn tough being a politician (or any kind of performer) with the need to be “on” every day.

    Having said that, his delivery whenever he answers a question, in debates or other venues, is so stuttering and clipped it is hard to follow. Compared to Huntsman’s smooth delivery, Mitt seems panicked.

    Still, I’d be very pleased to see this boil down to Romney and Huntsman going head-to-head. Bachman and Santorum need to just take their number (the waiting line for VP) and go home. Cain and Perry need to pick someone else to get behind, if they want a cabinet job. Paul….What is that song from the Sound of Music? “What do you do with a problem like Maria?” Paul…all the other candidates need to agree to appoint him Surgeon General or to the Fed board, and cut a deal with him to take a rest under the Liberty Tree till the primary sorts itself out.

    And then there is Newt. I’m sure he is dreaming of sugar plums now. He’ll hang around til the end.

    • balconesfault

      Bachman and Santorum need to just take their number (the waiting line for VP)

      Oh – either would be a true thing of beauty.

      Cain and Perry need to pick someone else to get behind, if they want a cabinet job.

      Cain wants a Fox News job, where he can bloviate without being actually held accountable.

      Perry most DEFINITELY does not want a cabinet job. It would require actually learning about something.

      Paul…all the other candidates need to agree to appoint him Surgeon General or to the Fed board, and cut a deal with him to take a rest under the Liberty Tree till the primary sorts itself out.

      It is embarrassing, particularly for Romney, but also even for Huntsman, to have someone on the stage who oozes intellectual consistency, isn’t it?

      • overshoot

        Perry most DEFINITELY does not want a cabinet job. It would require actually learning about something.

        I read somewhere that Cabinet officers actually have to work, too.

  • armstp

    “…Romney’s strengths on international economics.”

    What exact strengths would that be?

    His threats to China? Putting new tarriffs on China, as Romney has threatened, hardly fits the conservative free trade narrative. What does Wal-Mart, a notorious Republican company, say about new tariffs on many of the Chinese goods they sell in the U.S.? A trade war with China does not sound too smart to me, given that the Chinese hold many financial cards.

    However, fear-not, as I suspect Romney will flip-flop with regard to his current “tough” stand on China.

    If he is so strong in “international economics”, why has he said practically zero on what he believes needs to be done in Europe, other than the U.S. must do absolutely nothing.

    And ever lower taxes is not a solution to increase the U.S.’s competitiveness in world markets. If we invest zero dollars in the future or think government can do nothing, as Romney believes, the U.S. will just become increasingly less competitive relative to other economies. That is not a strong international economic plan for the U.S. by Romney.

    I would argue that Romney is actually a complete idiot when it comes to “international economics”.

  • icarusr

    In ye olde countrie there is a saying, “liars are forgetful” – wait long enough, and they will trip themselves up.

    Romney’s latest “pants on fire” ad against Obama was merely the cherry on top of a political career that, at least in the past five years, has been marked by two core characteristics: an overwheening desire to win the Presidency for its own sake; and a surreal detachment from any “facts” as they are understood in normal parlance. To serve the latter, Romney has been trying to create an alternative reality that accommodates, at any given time, any given position he needs to adopt to win the moment.

    (Now, for all the insults that one can heap upon Tea-Partiers, this much can be said: they are not taken in by the Chameleon-on-the-Charles; they have not been charmed, which is to say they refuse to be conned. That they seek, and dispense with, alternative does not demonstrate fickleness of mind, but consistency of purpose and a keen nose for BS.)

    As the Wise Men of Ye Olde Countrie recognised, it takes enormous mental energy to maintain a lie; imagine the discipline required to be Romney – with an entire worldview based on lies (what Frum calls merely political cynicism). Try it: “If it’s Tuesday at 430, I must be in Ohio and for union rights; but at 830 I have to revert to anti-unionism is Tennessee.” See how long you can hold out without tripping yourself, getting intellectually drawn and exhausted. And he has been doing that for five years now.

    Well, the common folk saw through all that long ago; now the establishment is rethinking its support for Romnobot-the-Lying-Machine. This Transformer has twisted himself into so many shapes, it does not even know which plant it should be on. For him, the end is nigh.

  • Oldskool

    Mittens has less charisma than Al Gore had in his debates. And the frowny face he gave Wolf when someone disagreed was priceless. If I were Obama’s camp, I’d be more worried about Huntsman.

  • lilmanny

    For whatever reason, maybe it’s just a gut feeling that only I have, but I felt as if something fundamental broke in the Romney campaign last night. Something seemed out of sorts and the guy’s unlikability just came reeking through. It was as if you were in you were about to become intimate with a person and the lights came on, and ugh, they were somehow uglier than you thought. Maybe the un-Mitts are wearing on him, maybe it was that his not-so-pandering alter ego Huntsman had an incredible debate. Whatever it was, it was not good for Romney.

    PS – Hunstman is dead. We love him, which explains his death, but the fact is that he has zero shot. He’s all in in NH and can’t break double digits. Accept it.

  • LFC

    George HW Bush was the last powerful Republican with any real foreign policy chops. Since then, they’ve been a flip-flopping disaster.

    The Flip: GOP leaders tore into Clinton in the 1990s because he wanted more money in the budget for anti-terrorism measures including the hiring and training of more Arabic translators. They shot down the Omnibus Anti-Terrorism Act, much of which has since been enacted AFTER we were attacked on 9/11. The instant GW was in office the Justice Dept. dropped terrorism off its list of priorities. EPIC FAIL!

    The Flop: The 9/11 attacks occur and GOP leaders simultaneously wet their panties and start screaming for blood. Bush lets bin Laden get away, starts but doesn’t finish the war in Afghanistan, runs off and disastrously prosecutes the warn in Iraq, starts torturing left and right, and ends up with an “eh” record of bagging the to AQ people. Through all his failures, the rest of the GOP leadership backs him to the hilt. TOO MANY EPIC FAILS TO LIST!

    The Flip: Obama is elected and puts some brains into the fight against AQ. In 2-1/2 years he captures or kills vastly more top AQ people than Bush did in 7 years. He makes an attempt to salvage the situation in Afghanistan left by his predecessor. The GOP screams that he’s doing everything wrong, apparently because things were done so well under George W. GOP sneering is rampant because Obama actually understands the value of diplomacy. HUGE SUCCESSES, BUT THE GOP CAN’T STAND TO GIVE OBAMA EVEN A SCRAP OF CREDIT.

    I take that back. Most, if not all, of the GOP foreign policy positions have simply been flops. I see no improvements now.

    • balconesfault

      Excellent summation.

      I still continue to believe that had 9/11 happened while Al Gore was President, the GOP led House would have relatively quickly pushed for impeachment proceedings. And whether that would have been fair or not … the fact is that anyone who looks at what the Justice Department was up to from Jan 2001 to September 2001 cannot walk away with the impression “these guys were taking the threat of Al Qaeda seriously” (except perhaps for Ashcroft’s personal decision to not fly commercial airlines).

      The GOP has only barely scratched the surface of being critical of how Bush decided to invade Iraq, and how he ran his wars in the Middle East.

      The GOP isn’t anywhere NEAR being able to shine a critical eye on how Bush and Cheney ran the US Anti-terrorism operations in the months prior to 2001, and they’ll scream like stuck pigs anytime anyone brings that topic up.

      • overshoot

        I still continue to believe that had 9/11 happened while Al Gore was President, the GOP led House would have relatively quickly pushed for impeachment proceedings.

        What leads you to think that they’d have waited that long?

    • Sinan

      This type of post is why I come here. In fact, most of all the posts in this thread are excellent. Why is being rational now considered a political defect?

      • LFC

        It’s not. It’s only viewed as a defect by the Republican Party. As many commenters have quoted on FF, “reality has a left-wing bias.” It shouldn’t be so, but it is.

  • PracticalGirl

    Interesting thoughts, Mr. Frum.

    I’d be more interested, though, in your analysis of Romney’s first campaign ad attacking President Obama by using a parsed quote from then candidate Obama who was in turn only quoting his opponent. I think you were at CNN yesterday when the firestorm over this hit. I assume you heard it called “a new low” in campaign ads by Blitzer. I wonder if you saw John King excoriate both the ad and Romney for using it, demonstrating what “Romney Rules” would sound like, how they would fold back against Romeny himself, if parts of his speeches were clipped and misused.

    Romney’s campaign said that they INTENTIONALLY misquoted the President. Yet that ad is nowhere to be found on Romney’s website, now exposed for the fraud that it is. Sleazy, dirty and, unfortunately, exactly what we’ve come to expect out of the GOP, what nobody likes. Misleading, misquoting negative propaganda.

    What about it? You have bemoaned your party’s nasty tactics, and yet your favored candidate was the first to pull the nastiest of all tactics on the national stage. How can you reconcile your strong suppport of a guy who embodies the very worst of that which you so passionately fight against?

    • overshoot

      It’s interesting how the POG seems not to understand that Citizens United is very much a two-edged sword. I’m looking forward to all sorts of spots next year featuring the POG nominee saying things in the current primary contest or even earlier (for those who actually have a record) that will be as popular as a habenero enema.

      All presented by nominally pro-POG groups with anonymous funding.

  • think4yourself

    I only saw smattering of the debate but came away with the impression that I have no idea who the eventual GOP nominee will be.

    Romney has everything needed to win the nomination, except of course he can’t tell the truth and even his friends know it.

    Santorum looked pretty good, which means nothing because he cannot win.

    Bachmann did not look good but it doesn’t matter because she cannot win (when a show you’re a guest on introduces you with a song titled “Lyin Assed Bitch”, it’s never a good sign for your candidacy).

    Cain – Flash to splash in 60 seconds.

    Perry. The only guy who should be challenging Romney ’cause he’s got all the advantages. If he could only take his foot out of his mouth (no fly zone for Syria – really?).

    Huntman. Is there a Huntsman in the room? No money, little name ID and enough good ideas that GOP primary voters are turned off. Besides which he worked for that Anti-Colonial Kenyan.

    Paul. The only candidate on stage true to his convictions who articulates them clearly. Unfortunately he is in the GOP primary, not the Libertarian primary (I think he would be the strongest independent candidate and would pull from GOP, Libertarians, OWS folks, Dems who want to gut the military and pot smokers around the nation).

    Gingrich. Surging now (that was before he showed he had a heart). Being a softy for wetback grandparents (sorry for the slur) won’t go over well with the primary voters. He also doesn’t have a chance when the rest of the candidates really start to attack his personal failings (can’t imagine true Evangelicals excited about pulling the lever for a serial adulterer).

    So now what? Romney’s fading but all the choices are bad.

    I wonder if Christie is reconsidering?

  • Brittanicus

    Immigration is a highly volatile issue and no matter what the two parties say it will have equal ranking with the jobs and the economy. This was illustrated on CNN cable when former Speaker Newt Gingrich stated for the record, that people who had been here at least twenty five years, with roots could in some way become a legitimate member of this society, but with no path to citizenship–and those who came here in the last 5 years would not be accepted and would be eventually deported. The only problem I see with this as many others in the GOP race to become President simply did not entertain this, because others will see this as soft on immigration enforcement, and a ‘magnet’ for others to arrive in even larger numbers. It’s a complex state of affairs and the only avenue, I see for long term illegal residents, no matter if they are paying taxes, without a criminal background, have children or as Newt said ‘going to church, is to file papers and then leave the country and wait in line like every other potential immigrant. Otherwise is greatly unfair to honest people, who have waited patiently years for a visa in other countries.

    For the other illegal aliens who have no support, especially those who are in the welfare system, they must depart under their own means or eventually be deported. With the potential inception of the ‘Legal Workforce Act’ getting any job nationwide, will grow even more difficult for illegal migrants and immigrants. Businesses are under the growing pressure of being caught, with a chance of a large fines, loss of business assets and even prison. With an estimated 22 million Americans unemployed, many given-up, should add a urgency to enacting E-Verify. But as the candidates informed Moderator Wolf Blitzer, in last night’s debate, the border fence must be secured initially as that to me means the 2006 Secure Fence Act. Texas Governor Rick Perry added to the commentary a need for ‘Boots on the ground’ Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, whom Gingrich had overtaken in the polls, jumped on the prospect in distancing himself from the former congressman.

    So far the Mandatory E-Verify Congressional bill has been ignored, accurately as the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli bill had been–that GOP nominating candidate Gingrich expressed. Newt Gingrich is very well versed in immigration history; he and other supporters of the bill were promised certain regulations that were watered down. Gingrich added, “We were going to get two things in return,” he said. “We were going to get control of the border and we were going to get a guest worker program with employer enforcement. We got neither.”

    So the giant magnet for cheap labor is still obvious, because the politicians had obviously colluded with the business lobbyists, not enforcing the 1986 Immigration Control and Reform Act. This type of reply will not go down well with Conservatives, specifically the millions of TEA PARTY members-a growing force of voters in thousands of nationwide branches. The Liberal Progressive, including their compatriots in the media, has tried to undermine the voting power of the TEA PARTY, moderate Democrats, and uncountable numbers voters in every political party. The disillusionment for the present administration has drawn the regular American out of their morass; unknown numbers who have never voted before. Not just white citizens but, but black people, Hispanics, Orientals and all racial majorities.

    On private land along the borders are hidden cameras placed there by concerned ranchers and property owners. The mind-set of the Democratic agenda is to expel that fewer aliens are crossing the border? The camera’s lens show a different story as the trails are still full of both hundreds of illegal groups daily, with the packed (mules) of drug migrant recruitment. There is no slowdown, as being recorded through this equipment. The border is still full of vast stretched of open land, barring a few rusty strands of barbed wire that has been there for decades. What all the prospective presidential candidates impressed on the audience was that the ‘Fence is not secured’ and without the House and Senate being integrated fully with the new fresh-faced TEA PARTY policymakers—it never will. Our immigration laws remain broken because of the undying influence of the thousands of lobbyists who jamb the halls of Congress.

    The TEA PARTY is not just about stopping illegal immigration Amnesty, but halting the further encroachment of the bloated government on citizen’s lives. It is a protector of our Constitution from Liberal Extremists, reinventing our tax code that is fair to everybody, with no exemptions. Drilling for our own oil for US consumers and for other countries needs of which America has the largest reservoirs in the world of oil and could reduce the 15 trillion dollar deficit. Returning Department of the federal government, which should be in the hands of individual states? Cut thousands of mostly groundless regulations, thus industry is not suffocated from creating jobs.


    Legal Workforce Act (H.R.2885) that would require 100% of businesses to utilize E-Verify for all new hires within 2 years. The bill would also require all federal, state, and local agencies as well as federal and state contractors, sub-contractors to use E-Verify within 6 months. The Legal Workforce Act could open up jobs currently held by the approximate 8 million plus illegal aliens. I do agree with the larger populace of this nation that we should be attracting the cream at the top of highly skilled people, whose occupations is in Science, Math and computer technology and other highly specialized trades. What we must stop is those who come here to gain access to public entitlements. We have already become a free HMO medical care, to the world’s poor and a free schooling system for unknown numbers of children of illegal alien parents that courts make us use our taxes to incur. Where are we going to find the money to pay for these unfunded mandates, that if Obama’s health care for the majority is found constitution-the funding will spiral upwards even more?


    Firstly there is strong support for E-Verify law, The Legal Workforce Act, bill number H.R.2885, as just 35 co-sponsors are needed to bring this to the House floor. . Those American not working and want a job should get into action and phone 202-224-3121 in Washington and demand ‘ The Legal Workforce Act’ bill be passed. As an addition, you can go to the website of NumbersUSA and freely fax your House Representatives. All politicians, especially who are in the new TEA PARTY leadership will be held accountable in coming elections. The majority of those politicians in Washington have their own site on the web, so everybody with access to a computer can write an E-mail.

    The Legal Workforce Act, E-Verify will prosecute businesses with harsh fine and prison for hiring foreign nationals. .NumbersUSA has all the facts and a free faxing system to contact the House to bring H.R. 2885, to the floor of the House.

    • overshoot

      What is it with randomly capitalized words?/

    • fgtayl01

      So the answer is more government regulation of small business. More hoops to jump through to hire AMERICANS (just felt like capitalizing). A birth certificate and a social security card won’t cut it anymore.

      E-Verify exists today for federal employees and federal contractors. It’s a nightmare to work with. It can’t be standardized because each state (state rights) layers they’re own variation and restrictions to use.

      I had an 20 year employee whose family has been in America since before the Civil War. He’s retired military. He has a top secret clearance and works for the DOD.

      He had to take unpaid leave because the passport he tried to use for E-Verify had expired 2 months earlier. He waited for a renewed passport, which he had to pay for even though he has no travel plans.

      Fortunately an old passport is enough documentation to get a new passport. It just isn’t enough for E-Verify.

  • balconesfault

    Drilling for our own oil for US consumers and for other countries needs of which America has the largest reservoirs in the world of oil and could reduce the 15 trillion dollar deficit.

    Yeah, because no oil companies are drilling for domestic oil now.

  • Stewardship

    Having the quiet hours of Thanksgiving morning to sip coffee and think about the world this morning, I’ve arrived at a conclusion. My vote is a mirror of my own character.

    If either Romney or Gingrich is our party’s nominee, I cannot vote for them. They both are flip-floppers of the highest magnitude. While Romney has lived an exemplary personal life as a husband and father, his public character is non-existent; he’s willing to say anything to get elected. Newt’s character is flawed on both sides of the coin.

    My golden retriever has deeper thoughts than a few of the other candidates. Santorum is probably the one member of the field I would vote for, if he was our party’s nominee (which he will not be) even he and I don’t agree on so many topics.

    Too bad Pawlenty and Christie checked their “character” at the door to jump on the first train out of the station. Some combination of Pawlenty, Christie, Huntsman, Giuliani, Bloomberg….could create history on the No Labels label this year.

    • nhthinker
      Stewardship // Nov 4, 2011 at 1:45 pm
      [blockquote] But, with every other candidate taking then relinquishing the lead, and several conservative media outlets now promoting Huntsman as the conservatively consistent option to Romney, I think we’ll see him on solid ground in New Hampshire by month end.

      Again, I don’t have any problems with Mitt. Either one is fine with me.

      Are there two different “Stewardship”s posting here, or only one that is flip-flopper on his opinion of Mitt?

  • Why Newt Gingrich’s Sensible Positions Will Come Back to Haunt Him | My Blog

    [...] But the problem with someone like me nodding along to a couple of points Newt Gingrich is making is that it almost certainly means that the GOP base will hate it, and that’s bad news for Gingrich, even if last night’s debate was Romney’s worst. [...]

  • lizerdmonk

    None of this matters none of these turkeys will beat Obama there just not serious candidates and the GOP should be embarrassed that this is the best they can do against a weak President. They deserve to lose on all counts and the party will have to get serious about listening to what the people really want not what they think they should want.