Tireless in our unstinting efforts to advance the cause of democracy, Calbuzz sat through the entire two hours of last night’s Charlie Rose-moderated Republican presidential roundtable debate — thereby doubling the size of the TV audience that saw the damn thing.
For reasons that remain elusive, the Washington Post partnered with Bloomberg TV to produce the event at Dartmouth, in Hanover, New Hampshire, which meant, among other things, that anyone who subscribes to Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, could only see it via the WashPost’s webcast.
Which is too bad, because it was a pretty entertaining night.
The winners: 1) Mitt Romney, who yet again outclassed the field, although he blundered by speaking in support of the Wall Street bailout while trashing the one for the auto companies (hello, Michigan!); 2)
Herb Herman Cain, because his now-famous “9-9-9 plan” was the focus of roughly, oh say, 86.7 percent of the debate, although his once friendly and funny manner seems recently to have veered seriously into arrogant self-regard territory; 3) Newt Gingrich, who had some great moments in the first and last half hours, but appeared to have gone out for a ham sandwich in between; 4) President Obama, who looks like George Washington compared to most of this crowd.
The losers: 1) Ron Paul’s warmly familiar presentation on the gold standard was visually disrupted by a fake eyebrow that someone applied crookedly onto his face; 2) Rick Santorum suffered anew from the fact that no one in America can help themselves from thinking about what the Google search of his name shows, the instant he opens his mouth; 3) Michele Bachmann finally descended into full SNL parody mode, complete with a new Sarah Palin ‘do; 4) Jon Huntsman once more seemed pretty stoned, and well pleased with himself for getting off a series of zingers that no one else in the hall realized were jokes.
Biggest loser: Rick Perry, who’s about one step away from looking like armadillo road kill out on US 277.
Let’s go to the tape for the 10 best moments:
Michele Bachmann accuses Herman Cain of being a spawn of Satan. The candidates, joined by the fabulous Bloomberg reporter Julianna Goldman, took turns demolishing Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan, employing the thoroughly unfair tactic of citing Actual Facts. Herb brazened it out, however, even when Huntsman snarked that he thought 9-9-9 was a “pizza price.” But Cain simply had no answer for Bachmann, who went all Book of Revelation on him by saying, “when you take the 9-9-9 plan and turn it upside down, the devil is in the details.” Yes, she actually said that.
Ronald Reagan calls for taxing the rich. Charlie Rose did a funny by playing an old speech tape of President Reagan saying that taxes should be raised on the wealthy because they don’t pay “their fair share.” But he screwed up by making only Perry respond to the clip, with Ranger Rick mumbling something about Reagan having lived a long time ago. The Gipper would stand zero chance of getting nominated by this electorate of Tea Party thugs.
Julianna Goldman tears Mitt Romney’s face off: The only one to lay a glove on Romney was the aforementioned Ms. Goldman, who asked His Mittness to explain what he would do as president to avert a world economic disaster if Greece defaults on its debt. Romney tried to shine her on with a pat on the head and a now, now, little girl, I don’t answer “hypotheticals,” but she quickly, um, bitch slapped him by noting that Greece is, you know, actually on the precipice of default, which he’d know if he ever tuned into Bloomberg TV, making him look like an utter fool.
The 12th time Rick Perry used the phrase “treasure trove.” The good news for Perry was that this time out, he didn’t tire and fade in the last half of the debate; the bad news was that he tired and faded from the start of the debate. The only thing he had to contribute to the group discussion was a couple of brief talking points about his alleged new jobs plan, which he said he’s not ready to reveal yet, but might be ready to in “the next three days,” which plan appears to be aimed at poking a whole bunch of new holes in the ground and in the ocean to retrieve what Perry kept calling the “treasure trove” of oil and natural gas Obama isn’t man enough to go after.
Newt Gingrich demands Barney Frank be sent to Stony Lonesome. The WashPost’s Karen Tumulty asked Bachmann why not a single Wall Street scumbag is in jail for tanking the nation’s economy, to which Ms. Needs An Exorcist responded that the financial meltdown was “all the federal government’s fault.” At which point Newt, who spent much of the evening smirking and leaning back in his chair with his hands crossed on his ample belly, bestirred himself to defend Bachmann’s honor by saying that the only ones who should be thrown in jail are Congressman Barney Frank and former Senator Chris Dodd, whose over-regulation of the financial system caused the whole thing. Yes, he actually said that.
Ron Paul buries Keynes and Greenspan. It’s a good thing we’ve heard Paul’s schtick before, because it was extremely distracting to watch the fake thick brown eyebrow dangling at a 45-degree angle off his real, right
left eyebrow (the left right one appeared to be firmly affixed in place). The only things that we clearly caught were his riff about the genius of Austrian economist Frederich Hayek compared to the failed ideas of John Maynard Keynes (yeah, why would we want to pump more money into a depressed economy, ferhevvinsakes?) and his opening of a large can of wuppass on Cain, who had just said he would want someone like Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve chief. “Alan Greenspan was a disaster,” hooted Paul, drawing some of the loudest applause of the night.
Ron Paul tells the truth. At one point, Paul pointed out that everyone else at the table was a major league panderer for trying to claim that everything wrong with the economy was Obama’s fault: “To say this is all in the last two years is misleading, and that’s why people” are so turned off by politics, he said. At which point, everyone acted like he’d just cut a fart, and Charley moved with dispatch on to the next question.
Rick Santorum blames single moms for the recession. The economy, and only the economy, was supposed to be the sole and exclusive topic of the debate, but a few minutes before it ended, Santorum (ee-yew!) could no longer contain his witch-burning alter ego, which had been bottled up all night, and started ranting that all of the nation’s financial woes can be traced to the “breakdown of the family” because apparently only single parent families are hurting financially while Mom and Dad Cleaver are doing just ducky.
Jon Huntsman plays the Mormon card. Because everyone had agreed that they wouldn’t talk about anything but economic issues, nobody could ask Romney what he thought about Perry’s evangelical minister pal trashing Mormonism as a “cult” and suggesting that Big Mitt doesn’t really believe in Jesus, which, of course, is the one thing Calbuzz really, really wanted to see. So class clown Huntsman decided to try to sneak it in the backdoor when his turn came to ask Romney a question, saying that because it was a debate about economics, “this won’t be about religion, Mitt,” then doing a little heh-heh kind of thing before looking mischievously at Perry (we’re not completely certain but he may actually have winked) to add, “sorry about that, Rick.” At which point, once again, nobody had the slightest idea what the hell Huntsman was talking about.
The pre-and post-game show. To our great surprise, Bloomberg did a terrific job with the production, apparently making an early move to play a serious role in the coverage of the 2012 election.
Network anchors Margaret Brennan and Tom Keene did a first-rate job of advancing and dissecting the debate (despite Keene’s incessant whining about being cold on their outdoor set; Yo, Tom! Next time bring a coat – it’s autumn in New England, dude), along with the color commentary of the smart and insightful political consultant Matthew Dowd; Goldman was by far the biggest star of the show, and Bloomberg put together a 40-person fact-checking team (!) from their newsroom and the Post that started calling the candidates on their lies moments after the debate ended, with a post called “Republican Candidates Stretch Truth in Debate Salvos.” Great stuff.