First, a quick housekeeping note that I beam with pride in mentioning.
Yesterday my blog reached 100,000 hits. This was done in about 320 days, or 10 1/2 months. That averages 312.5 hits per day, although given how few hits I had when I started, my daily average is much higher. I had about as many hits yesterday as my entire first month, which was 20 days instead of 30. I remember looking excitedly at the counter the first few days, and was thrilled when my number of hits doubled from 10 to 20. Now I hope that the next 100,000 hits will come in less time. Nevertheless, from March 11th, 2007 to January 24th, 2008, hard work paid off. Heck, I even won the 2007 Bloggers Choice Award for Most Passionate Fan Base. That is humbling.
I hope my blog grows, and that I have not leveled off. I thank everybody who has supported me, and I hope to keep my commitment to writing quality columns, and being a place where conservatives find common sense and liberals find they will be treated fairly and respectfully even in disagreement. I look forward to raising the level of discourse.
Now back to business.
Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee debated in Florida. Fred Thompson was not there since he had dropped out. Unfortunately, Ron Paul was there. The debate was held at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. I go there whenever I go to Florida, so I am an honorary Owl.
The moderators were Tim Russert and Brian Williams, proving that Ron Paul would not be bringing up the dumbest issues of the evening. Paul Tash of the St. Petersburg Times was also asking questions.
The candidates were asked about President Bush’s stimulus package.
Mitt Romney wished the plan went further. He wants to increase FHA loans, and appreciated that President Bush proposed this.
John McCain would make the Bush tax cuts permanent and cut corporate income taxes. Only Japan has a higher rate among industrialized nations. People should be allowed to expense new investments in equipments.
Rudy Giuliani pointed out that we need to cut down on regulations. London could surpass NYC as the financial capital of the world. The stimulus package is ok, he would support it, but it is not aggressive enough. He also wants to reduce the capital gains tax. We are overregulating and oversuing, which means businesses go elsewhere.
When asked if he was weak on economic issues, McCain pointed out that he had support from Jack Kemp and Phil Gramm, and that he was at the forefront of the Reagan revolution.
Huckabee was asked if he trusted Romney as a tax cutter. Huckabee said that was for the voters to decide, and then discussed his own record, such as eliminating the marriage penalty. He felt that the stimulus package might benefit China more because the rebate checks will go to buy Chinese products. He also discussed infrastructure, including building more lanes to I-95, which 1/3 of the population travels on.
Romney conceded that everyone on stage wanted taxes and spending reduced. He met a 3 billion dollar shortfall in Massachusetts without raising taxes, and balanced the budget all four years. He pointed out that he supported the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, which McCain opposed at the time but now wants to make permanent.
McCain was asked if the fees Romney raised counted as raising taxes. He replied that the people that paid the fees felt that way. He again stated that he voted against the tax cuts because there were not offsetting spending cuts. Republicans lost Congress in 2006 because of out of control spending, and that if we had stopped spending, there would be even more tax cuts now.
Ron Paul was asked if government should have any role in stimulating the economy. He said there should be lower taxes, less regulations, and have sound monetary policy, rather than just print more money and expand the deficit. He pointed out that the “dollar is crashing.” He then stated that we are “spending money overseas on our empire.” He is Ron Paul on economics, but on the War he is back to being Rupaul again. He did state that he was against Sarbanes Oxley from the beginning, which is a very valid point.
Giuliani was asked if it was unamerican for U.S. financial services firms to seek money from foreign governments such as Saudi Arabia. He explained that unlike the blood money from Saudi Prince Alaweed, which he refused, private businesses have more latitude than governments. A different circumstance exists between a country, and one bigoted individual. He mentioned how America was scared of Japan in the 1980s, but that free trade works, and the global economy should be seen in terms of how much we can sell and invest in other nations.
Moderator Tim Russert asked why republicans should be trusted with an economic record that is seen as dismal in terms of higher deficits and gas prices.
McCain stated that democrats will raise taxes, spend more, and regulate more. They will not restore stability to government programs such as social security. He mentioned the 35 billion spent on pork barrel projects in the last 2 years, which could have been used for $1000 tax credit per child.
Huckabee said he was not there messing it up. He did say that he did not think the President messed things up, that he was busy trying to keep us safe. He also mentioned “trickle up economics,” and that had we listened to those at the bottom, we would have known bad economic times were coming.
Romney said he would not run on the republican record. He would run on his own record, and run away from the record of Washington. Both parties have failed for the last 30 years, and when republicans act like democrats, America loses. It was a good line.
Giuliani stated that he was the only one on stage that had turned around a government economy. He stated that the package in Congress that the Club for Growth supported was his plan.
Ron Paul said we were moving into a new era, and it was not a good one.
McCain was asked about an unsustainable economy and military, and how can we keep troops in Iraq. McCain shot back that no military general agreed with the question from a military standpoint, and then laced into Hillary Clinton’s Iraq position. We can have an American presence provided we reduce the American casualties. We have presences around the world. Hillary wants to “wave the white flag of surrender.”
Romney was quoted Barry McCaffrey, who said the U.S. Army was “too small and poorly resourced.” He was asked what to do, without a draft. Romney spoke of the “welcome home bill,” paying tuition for those that serve. The GI Bill has gotten old and needs to be updated in terms of funding. He then ripped the democrats for saying that they would not commit to winning in Iraq when asked if winning or getting out was more important. “It was audacious and arrogant for the democrats to say that they were responsible for the success in Iraq. General Petraeus gets the credit, not General Hillary Clinton.” The crowd clapped.
Each candidate was asked to say if the war was a good idea, worth the blood and treasure, and we should stay.
McCain pointed out that the war was right, but the Rumsfeld strategy was flawed. We are now on the right track. It was a good idea, not worth the failures, but worth it at the end of the day.
Giuliani pointed out that when the polls favored the war, so did Hillary. He was always for it. A stable Iraq is an ally of the USA.
Rupaul was against it. The crowd erupted in applause, which made me wonder how so many democrats made it into the theatre.
Huckabee said he supported the President, as did the democrats, and that we owe him thanks. Just because we did not find WMD does not mean they were not there. That was a fabulous point.
Romney said it was the right decision, and that he supported it then. It was not well managed and underprepared and underplanned. However President Bush and General Petraeus have turned it around. Democrats talk about the beginning, we have to talk about what we do now.
The candidates were then allowed to ask each other questions.
Romney asked Giuliani how trade can be level, where we compete with China but protect our economy. Giuliani stated that free trade reduces military hostilities. The rise of China is good. 20 or 30 million people coming out of poverty equals 20 or 30 million new customers. We can sell them health and information processes, and energy independence. We have to think like aggressive American entrepreneurs. We must substantially rebuild the military to make up for the damage Bill Clinton did.
McCain asked Huckabee about the FAIR Tax, and the criticism that a flat out sales tax would hurt lower income Americans more, and why people like it. Huckabee responded that people want the IRS abolished. The FAIR Tax encourages earning and saving. The regressive aspect is mistaken. The poor do ok because of a “prebate.” People under the poverty level get credits to make sure they do not get penalized. This hurts the “underground economy, such as drug dealers, prostitutes, pimps…and democrats.” The crowd laughed. It is transparent, as opposed to now where “everybody is working under the table.”
Huckabee was asked how a 30% sales tax would help the 93% of Americans only paying 15% now. Huckabee pointed out that when the embedded hidden taxes are included, the rate is 33%, not 15%. It was a solid question by Russert and an equally solid answer.
Rupaul asked McCain that was so convoluted that it took a moment to understand it. It dealt with who he would rely on regarding economics. McCain mentioned Kemp, Gramm, Warren Rudman and the Concord Coalition, among others.
Huckabee asked Romney about the Second Amendment, and Romney’s being ok with the Brady Law and the “so called” assault weapons ban. Romney stated that we do not need laws, but current laws should be enforced. He did state that the assault weapon’s ban initially was ok. At least I think he did. I honestly was not sure if he was for or against it at first. He was obviously uncomfortable. He stated it was a bill worked out between pro and anti gun lobbies, which is not entirely true. He stated that the current President would sign it. President Bush did not sign it.
Giuliani asked Romney about the difficulty of people obtaining property insurance. McCain is against an emergency fund as a backstop, while Giuliani supports it. Romney stated that he, like Giuliani, did support it. Romney stated that people in one state should not subsidize people in other states, but that in high risk areas a fund was necessary. When Giuliani pointed out that Romney’s plan involves mandates, and that Romney was against mandates, Romney was flustered. He said, “That is another question, I’ll come back to it.”
McCain said the issue can be addressed regionally, insurance should be spread across state lines. The bill that came through Congress was a bad bill. He stated “we can work together,” but did not say how.
Russert turned into Al Gore and asked Giuliani why he was against a cap on greenhouse gases, which would destroy Florida. Giuliani mentioned nuclear power, and pointed out that we have more coal reserves in the USA than Saudi Arabia has oil. We should look at liquid natural gas. “Caps are negative incentives that would destroy the U.S. economy, as China and India would release more greenhouse gases. We must solve it as a world problem, not just a United States problem.”
McCain says he is in favor of capping trade, not greenhouse gases. A global agreement must include China and India. Climate change is real. McCain then said one thing that was awful, that if there was no climate change problem, meaning if we were wrong, it would still be ok if we did something because our kids would have a cleaner world. While he did say this was better than being right and doing nothing, no, it is not. It means wasting money and crippling industry on a fruitless cause. If we are wrong, and the climate change people are wrong, spending one dollar would be a dollar squandered. Insisting they are right is one thing. Stying that it is irrelevant if they are wrong is foolish.
Giuliani was asked why he has cratered in the polls. He stated that he will surprise everybody just like the New York Giants did. All the candidates are good, but he will win the nomination.
McCain was asked how he could unite the party when so many conservatives are troubled by him. He stated that he was proud of his record, including voting for justices Alito and Roberts. He stated that he won a majority of republicans in New Hampshire, which is debatable. He stated that the main issue was the War, which he is conservative on. He also mentioned climate change for some reason again, and then mentioned his support for Israel. However, he then went after Rumsfeld again, as well as Jack Abramoff. He would “put his country above his party every single time, but I am a proud republican.”
Romney was asked how he would run against Bill and Hillary Clinton. Romney joked that he “can’t imagine Bill Clinton back in the White House with nothing to do.” The crowd laughed. He stated that Bill is not the issue, Hillary is the candidate, and she is wrong on issues from taxes to health care to the War in Iraq. “She is exactly what is broken in Washington. She is Washington to the core.”
Romney was then asked by Russert how much of his own money he spent on television commercials in Florida. It was an obnoxious question, and Romney refused to give in to the stupidity. Romney stated that he will disclose it by law on the required day, and not a minute earlier, saying, “You’ll just have to wait, Tim.”He then made what could be seen as a gaffe by saying, “I’m not concerned about the voters, I am concerned about the other guys on the stage.” He then went on by saying that divulging his resources could affect his competitive advantage. From a strategy standpoint it makes sense, but one should never say they are unconcerned about the voters. Yes, it would be taken out of context, but he allowed it. He then stated he has raised more than the other candidates, not including his own money. He contributed less personal wealth than John Corzine, Steve Forbes or Michael Bloomberg. Nobody owns him, he is not beholden. He made it clear that he earned his money, and running for President is putting it to good use.
Romney was then again asked about his Mormon faith, and the poll showing 44% of Americans would not support a Mormon. Romney refused to believe the American people would make an issue of it. He then blasted Hillary again, saying that the race was about freedom, not religion.
Rupaul was asked about his statement wanting to abolish social security. Rupaul stuck to his guns, to his credit. He still wants to abolish it, but not all at once. He went back to being Ron Paul again on that answer, albeit temporarily. The program is a failure, and never should have been created. The benefits will never keep up with costs.
Huckabee was asked how he would save social security. He first stated that Romney had five wonderful sons, and the solution for all would be to elect Huckabee President so he could make America better, and let Romney leave his wealth to his sons so everybody wins. The crowd liked the joke. I did not. He went back to the FAIR Tax as a funding system for the social security. Yet when pressed that the FAIR Tax was unlikely to pass, Huckabee refused to concede that point. He offered feel good rhetoric of us being “can do people,” but that is a copout.
Romney was asked if he would do for social security what Reagan did in 1983, in terms of raising payroll taxes and the retirement age. Romney said he would not raise taxes, which would be the worst idea. It takes money from people, slowing down the economy, putting people out of work. The solutions are to sit down with the democrats and compromise on personal accounts, recalculate wealthier Americans in terms of benefits, and raise retirement age. Of course the democrats will refuse to compromise, making his first pillar pure fantasy.
Giuliani was asked why he was airing an ad in Spanish if all immigrants should learn English. Giuliani stated that English was vital, but that learning additional languages on top of that is positive. We can stop illegal immigration, have tamper proof ID cards, and “teach new behavior.” Additional languages are great for America, but English is a must.
Giuliani was then asked why Cubans can stay, but not Mexicans or others. Giuliani responded that the Cuba policy goes back to the 1960s, and that Castro is the longest serving dictator, and a murderer. Other cultures have to prove persecution, with Cuba it is already proven.
Huckabee was asked about Chuck Norris’s comments about McCain being too old. Huckabee handled this one well. He stated that he did not disagree at the time, “because he was standing next to him.” The crowd laughed. Huckabee then stated that McCain has the rigor to be President. We can pick on him for other things, but not that.
McCain made the crowd laugh by stating that now that he has the endorsement from Sylvester Stallone, he was sending Sly to beat up Chuck. He also stated that he was proud to have the endorsement of Norman Schwarzkopf.
Giuliani was asked about the Jayson Blair Times supporting McCain in the republican primary, and their vicious editorial attacking him. Giuliani nailed this one. He stated that in eight years as Mayor, he did nothing the paper liked, and if the paper did like him, it meant he would not be seen as a conservative republican. The crowd applauded. He pointed out that welfare reform is not mean. It is real compassion.
Romney was asked about his “changing positions with the wind.” He was pointed out that the Jayson Blair Times rated Romney as the “most disliked of the five (remaining republican candidates). Romney stated that he did not care about their opinion. He said that “to understand where he stands, look at his record as Governor.”
McCain was asked about his temper, and if it was an impediment. McCain replied, “I don’t.” The crowd laughed. He stated that he had close and warm friendships across the aisle and in his own party. He called Giuliani an American hero, and how he united America after 9/11. He respected all of his fellow candidates, and “will respect them after the campaign as well.” The remarks were very gracious and sincere, and echo previous positive comments Giuliani made about McCain. It is easy to be warm and fuzzy when one is seen as winning. Time will tell if McCain shifts if he falls behind.
Huckabee was asked about his faith making others uncomfortable. He said that he would never use government to push his faith, but he would not run from it, because it defines him. We should respect people who do not have a faith at all. People do not need to share his faith to share his love of America, but if they hate him for having faith than they are not a good American. It was a solid answer.
Rupaul was asked if he would form a 3rd party and hurt republicans. He stated that he had no intention of leaving, but it was the other candidates deserting the party principles. He then stated that leaving might “keep them on their toes.” It was not a complete disavowal.
It was also an appropriate ending in the sense that the entire debate was worthless.
From a strategy standpoint, I cannot tell who won. None of the candidates were thrilling, and none were a disaster. Rupaul does not count since he is an afterthought.
Usually a tie is helpful for the frontrunner, but at this point I cannot tell who that actually is. Some say Rudy Giuliani is slipping, but the polls do not factor in the large number of absentee ballots that have already voted, many from Jewish New York snow birds. Virtually every nominee has been in front and written off, often within days of each other.
Nothing is certain, and this debate settled nothing. It was a four way draw.