Monday, September 12, 2011

UPDATED: Republican Debate at the Reagan Library

Every voter in America should watch these things, particularly this one where Rick "Galileo" Perry made his national debut. I haven't finished watching, but none of the Tea Party-supported candidates strikes me as anything less than sorta terrifying to have in the White House. I like intellectually curious people who can form opinions on their own but who rely on solid evidence to come to conclusions.

I like people who aggressively study things they don't know about, not politicians who talk about things they've merely heard of. I think a lot of the Republican field don't get why and how we got into the economic mess we're in, and thus they have no real clue how to get out of it. Instead they've subscribed to bogus notions that demonize unions, teachers, Obamacare, Medicare, and social programs in general, and lately Social Security as the cause of our ills. Instead, it's money politics and deep-pocket special interests, lack of effective regulation of the finance industry, expensive wars, worship of the rich as supposed "jobs creators," etc.

At this point, if I had to vote for someone in the primaries, it would be Huntsman or Romney. But if the election were held today, I'd have to vote for Obama over any of them.

Oh, and Ron Paul is clueless on public health. Despite being a physician (practicing when?) he apparently has no understanding of "herd immunity" and the importance of things like HPV vaccination. I have respect for Ron Paul's consistency and largely agree with him that it is desirable to have the states or private sector do much of what the Federal government does, but we probably wildly disagree about what those things are that the Feds do better because of scale, streamlining, and the cross-border nature of so many problems.

Where he and I might find common ground is on the need to get money out of politics so we don't have politicians beholden to corporations and special interests in order to get elected or re-elected, so we can drastically reduce their influence on our laws and policies.

I'm reminded why it's better to experience something firsthand than to just get the highlights from a news program. From the sound bites I'd heard, health care was hardly mentioned, but it was in fact a major issue in the Reagan Library debate.

On health care, frankly, the Republicans are a mix of gross hypocrisy and profound ignorance. Gross hypocrisy because they are all against Obamacare when in fact Obama's Affordable Care Act is made up of elements once supported by GOPers, before Obama started to praise them. Also, from the time when the GOP killed Hillarycare in 1993 and 1994, through the period when Republicans controlled the House and Senate and the Bush43 years, no healthcare reform was attempted. Even now, their major healthcare legislative push is the repeal of Obamacare, with nary a word of what they'd replace it with.

And then there's the profound ignorance, because worship of the free market has blinded most of the field — with the possible exceptions of Romney, Huntsman, and possibly Gingrich — to the market failure that is health economics. This is the kind of thing that necessitates individual mandates.

At least no one talked about America having the greatest health care in the world, or else I'd have to get into a long screed about my uncle's Alzheimer's condition forcing my aunt to go bankrupt, America's abysmally bad infant mortality rate, or the large number of uninsured people who clog up the Emergency Room for regular medical conditions because they can't afford regular doctor's visits.

They've now moved onto energy policy. It's quite brazen that they can say with a straight face that Obama is "strangling the American economy" by supposedly putting the kibosh on new efforts in oil, coal, and nuclear, when they fail to acknowledge things like the Gulf oil spill, the Yellowstone River spill, or the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

We've even got Bachmann saying (34:13) the Federal government should "pull back on all the regulatory restrictions" so we can create more jobs. Well, Ms Bachmann, what about all the jobs lost in the fishing, crab, tourism, and recreation industries when the Gulf oil spill happened? I'm sorry you think that protecting lives and the environment is such a nuisance. She still thinks $1.93 gas is merely a function of Obama policies and not, say, due to the Arab Spring.

Gingrich says (around 62:45) he agrees with Obama (!) on charter schools and gives him kudos for taking on the teacher unions in that regard. This reminds me of why I have considered supporting Gingrich in the first place: he is adept at seeing common ground and coming together for a grand compromise, à la the great budget agreement with Clinton back in the mid- to late 1990s. Gingrich also hit (around 67:00) a lot of the same things I feel about curbing illegal immigration (tough line on employers but also a humane approach to deportation). Bachmann ducked the question about what to do with the 11 million illegals once the border is secure.

I like Huntsman's pledge of no pledges (78:00).

And I'll have more on Ron Paul's HPV remarks (49:00) later. It went on for several minutes, with Bachmann and Santorum going on about parents' rights versus government's rights, when in fact it's about public health and saving lives versus parental rights (MSNBC has a piece on that, knocking her assertion, based on a voter coming up to her, that the HPV vaccination may cause mental retardation. Bachmann is an uninformed politico recounting the unvetted stories of random strangers, and she wants to use this knowledge base to propel herself into the White House.

Governor Rick Perry (around 45:00) calling Social Security a "lie" and a "Ponzi scheme"... wow. Just wow.

Governor Perry also (around 82:00) gave props to Obama for getting Osama bin Laden. But then he went and ruined the good impression I was getting by saying that spending wasn't creating even one job. This is patently false. We can see in the recent job numbers that strong job creation in the private sector is being offset by job losses in local governments because of budget cuts. It's the budget cuts that are causing us to have zero net job growth.  Perry, like so many other Obama critics, does not see as the possible outcomes of stimulus or no stimulus that we might have continued to hemorrhage jobs without the stimulus. They see lackluster job growth as a failure of the stimulus, when the absence of a stimulus and bailouts and what-not might have been far fewer jobs. Really, is that so hard to understand?

Bachmann complained that Obama's support of the rebels in Libya might lead to a global caliphate, part of the fantasy on the right that everyday Muslims and Islamists are interchangeable and fundamentally dangerous. This is another one of those things that irks me about the presidential candidates in the Republican field: the gross hypocrisy when it comes to things they oppose that Obama has done vis-à-vis what they supported that Bush43 and past Republicans have done.

Obama's actions in Libya have been a cake walk compared to what Bush43 has done in Iraq, and if there were any place we've gone into where those who would want a caliphate would rise up, it would be Iraq. But it's the same issue regarding raising the debt ceiling or having a budge deficit under Bush43 or Obama: when the former does it a lot, it's acceptable, but if the latter does it at all, it's the end of the world!

I think the most telling thing was Ron Paul saying he believed in the message of Ronald Reagan but not how it turned out. I think the same could be true with just about any of the Tea Party-supported candidates. I want a principled pragmatist, and just when I've been mulling voting Republican at the presidential level (I did vote to re-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger), the GOP has lurched so far to the right you can't see them because of the curvature of the Earth.

Finally, I thought the tribute to Ronald Reagan and the introduction to the Reagan Library (around 42:00), with the focus on the nonagenarian Nancy Reagan, who was in the audience, was a very nice touch. I need to visit that place the next time I'm in California.


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