I am somewhat late to this, but it is worth emphasizing just how depressing the intellectual content of the Republican Presidential debate was. I recognize that it is early in the game, and that the candidates will get better. I recognize that politicians are not exactly famous for their intellectual rigor, no matter which side of the partisan divide they are on. Still, it was more than a little appalling to read the transcript, and to find out that not only was Tim Pawlenty holding firm on his promise to give us 5% growth in GDP a year (how we are supposed to get that without spurring on an inflation problem that would have the Federal Reserve increase interest rates to slow growth down, I don’t know), but that Ron Paul was doubling and tripling down on the promise, and was telling us that we could get 10% or 15% growth without needing to turn the growth off, and without any inflation problem whatsoever. At long last, can we all now accept that Ron Paul has nothing useful whatsoever to say about fiscal policy, monetary policy, or the economy in general?
Equally depressing was the rush on the part of Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich to ostracize Muslim Americans. Loyalty oaths? Seriously? I can’t imagine why anyone in their right mind would want to give a community suspected of radicalization an excuse to be radicalized. I also can’t imagine why a Presidential candidate would promise to be fundamentally indecent to scores of perfectly decent Americans–not all Muslims are terrorists, you know. Robert George tried to warn Cain off of this path of argument; too bad that his sensible words went unheeded by both Cain and Gingrich. Kudos to Mitt Romney for trying to whistle a halt to this brand of nonsense, but one fears that his might be a lonely voice, and that by saying what he said, Romney may have just hurt himself politically.
And then there was this from Michele Bachmann on the issue of whether she would push for a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between a man and a woman, or whether she would leave the issue for states to decide:
BACHMANN: John, I do support a constitutional amendment on — on marriage between a man and a woman, but I would not be going into the states to overturn their state law.
The mind reels. To be sure, a lot of states offer more expansive liberties than those provided in the United States Constitution–and they are allowed to do so; they just aren’t allowed to cut back on Constitutional liberties–but the question was whether candidates would leave the issue of marriage to the states, or whether they would seek to regulate it via Constitutional amendment. Bachmann’s response to the question was, essentially, “yes.” And because John King, the debate moderator, was too busy asking stupid “this or that” questions–who really cares whether Tim Pawlenty prefers Coke or Pepsi, and how does either choice tell us what kind of President he would be?–he apparently did not have the presence of mind to call out Bachmann on her nonsensical reply, or to ask Ron Paul just how we were going to achieve 10-15% GDP growth until the end of time without an inflation problem.
Republican winner of the debate: Mitt Romney. Overall winner of the debate: Barack Obama.