Bottom line on Thursday night’s big Florida debate: All four Republican wannabes agree that patriotic Cuban refugees should self-deport to the moon to build an English-speaking, manufacturing-based lunar economy free of government regulation. Some quick thoughts about the event:
1-Mitt Romney won, as his new debate coach helped him to his strongest performance to date. He landed a couple of hard punches square on Newt Gingrich’s snout, as when he demanded an apology after skewing a “repulsive” (although true) TV ad attacking him as “anti-immigrant,” and finally grew a pair in defending his personal wealth. It didn’t hurt that Team Mitt managed to start the day with an orchestrated, full-bore print attack on the Grinch.
2-Gingrich screwed the pooch. When he wasn’t vainly trying to defend his new proposal to colonize the moon to make it the 51st state, he was yammering about his nitwit position on immigration by accusing Romney of being against grandmothers. And he looked an utter fool when Romney pointed out that his own investment portfolio includes mutual funds invested in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, one minute after Newt went all high horse about Mittens buying stock in the mortgage giants. (Gingrich photo by Shutterstock)
3-Rick Santorum put on the best performance of the debate. Not that it matters, but he was articulate, factual and persuasive on issues from underwater mortgages to Puerto Rican statehood, and his sustained take-down of Romney on health care was masterful. In the end, however, any votes his flagging campaign wins will come out of Newt’s hide, so the net effect of his good night was to help Mitt.
4-Ron Paul got off the best line of the night. With Cuba politics front and center in Florida, he was asked how he would respond as president if contacted by Raul Castro: “I’d ask him why he was calling,” Uncle Ron responded, his only answer of the night that didn’t mention the Fed or the gold standard.
5-Wolf Blitzer showed John King how it’s done. The Wolfman finally pushed back on Newt’s same old cheap trick of attacking the moderator, refusing to be bullied when Gingrich tried to duck a question about trash-talking he’d done earlier in the week about Romney’s offshore investments. Blitzer took a little booing from the audience for his trouble but in the end came out ahead in the exchange.
Calbuzz sez: Newt’s post-South Carolina momentum had already stopped in Florida and last night didn’t do anything to help him get it restarted.
In other news: We’re still trying to catch our breath from the huge fit of projectile snorking that struck us upon hearing Romney declare in Monday’s debate that the cure for the nation’s immigration ills is “self-deportation.”
Yeah, yeah, we get that the idea is some kind of a variation on a theme of Mittens’ call to “turn off the magnets” to illegal immigration (a phrase first used by California’s own Steve “The Commish” Poizner in the 2010 governor’s race and doubtless implanted in the CPU of Robot Romney by the inestimable Stuart Stevens, strategist to the stars). But Mitt’s head-scratching explanation, after blurting it out in the middle of the debate, not only drew mockery from Gingrich but brickbats from Fox News ferhevvinsake.
In miring himself ever more steadily and deeply in the tar pit of immigration, Romney reminds us of no one so much as his BFF Meg Whitman, another 2010 vet, who tried to win election by blowharding her way to the GOP nomination for governor with a hard-line stance on the issue before desperately trying to get back on the center in the general.
Like eMeg, Mitt’s failure to articulate a serious proposal for a path to citizenship, on which he doubled down Thursday night, all but ensures he’ll keep the Republicans’ Prop. 187 jinx with Latino voters intact for another cycle; you know you’re in trouble when even Gingrich sounds more reasonable on the topic.
A spine of steel: Sadly for Mitt, immigration is just one of many ways his juggernaut resembles eMeg’s Evil Empire, as Calbuzz cartoonist Tom Meyer doodles today.
For starters, there’s their shared, fundamentally flawed premise that voters are just pining for a Wall Street-fueled zillionaire to take over the government. Add to that the ease with which, without blinking, they air ads and peddle charges that are simply and demonstrably not true, not to mention the distaste and distrust with which the GOP right-wing base view their candidacies. Throw in the awkwardness with which they both deal with personal finance disclosures and revelations, plus their unerring abilities to change stances on key issues in a jiffy, and it’s hard to tell where Her Megness ends and Mittens begins.
Secret memo to Mitt: Don’t make the biggest eMeg mistake of all – contact us immediately to set up dinner with Calbuzz. Call now – before it’s too late!
Final thoughts on SOTU: That was one politically adept speech President Obama delivered the other night. It was about 25 minutes too long for our taste, but as Bill Clinton proved in 1994, voters are willing to hang in with a State of the Union address, even if media ADD starts kicking in a the 15 minute mark. The Calbuzz 10-second analysis:
1-I killed Bin Laden.
2-I saved GM.
3-Can’t we all just get along?
4-Fuck the Republicans.
5-Did I mention I killed Bin Laden?
Pugnacious if not defiant, Obama touched all the bases in framing the 2012 campaign: he clearly defined the race as being about fairness, not the deficit, introduced a bunch of Actual Facts about the economy after months of unhinged Republican attacks and dismissed warmongering assaults on his foreign policy as the ranting of people “who don’t know what they’re talking about.” Did you know he killed Bin Laden?
That said, we did have a few bones to pick.
His turd-in-the-punchbowl joke about “spilled milk,” of course, was breathtakingly stupid and astonishingly ill timed. It broke his momentum and rhythm while undercutting any claim to seriousness he might have staked in co-opting the GOP on the issue of government over-regulation. Jon Stewart nailed it by showing Michelle Obama’s facial reaction, which just screamed, “I TOLD you it’s not funny.”
More substantively, we were troubled by the last few grafs, in which Obama tried to make the case that American politics should reflect the disciplined values of Navy SEALS – “This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs” – which left us wondering if his second term would find us all donning those brown North Korean military visor caps and lining up to parade Dear Leader, a point that also piqued Andrew Sullivan:
This notion that a country, a democracy, should have the same attitude as troops fighting a war is preposterous and slightly creepy. Yes, we should put aside our differences to get important things done, put aside ideology to focus on solving problems. But we are not a military and the president is not our commander. He is our president. We have every right to argue with one another and to distrust one another at times. The whole idea of getting each other’s backs in a boisterous democracy is deeply undemocratic. I do not want to be a citizen trained like a member of the Navy SEALs. Nor should anyone. This isn’t Sparta. It’s America.
And at least for the tiny percentage of Calbuzz staffers who weren’t founding members of Venceremos, the sheer scope and number of expanded government proposals, programs and tax breaks Obama set forth put us in surprised agreement with some reflexively conservative critics:
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
Little Pulitzer of the week: Nice piece of Investigative Punditry by Joel Fox for his smart essay raising the question of what form of baying-at-the-moon madness overtook Speaker John Perez and Senate leader Darrel Steinberg to make them file a lawsuit challenging Prop. 25 on behalf of poor defenseless and put-upon legislators who didn’t get paid when they couldn’t manage to pass a budget on time.
“Fundamentally an issue of separation of powers,” indeed.