[Welcome, Instapundit readers. My blog is undergoing refurbishment. You can comment, but they’ll be moderated, and expect your submission to time out. Don’t redo it. Just let it time out and then back up to the post with a couple clicks.]
This debate is only three or four miles from the house, but like the rest of you (if you’re watching at all) I’m watching it on the tube. I can’t get away from the NBC crew completely, but no reason I have to be in the same room with them. Plus, the booze is cheaper here, there’s no competition for the bandwidth or power with the rest of the press, and I can wear my pajamas.
So, in a few minutes, they’re off!
The announcer mispronounces “Boca Raton.” It’s not like baton, it’s a Spanish word (it means “rat”). It’s pronounced with a long “o.” Good thing he’s not after any local votes…
First question is to Romney, a softball right over the plate, about whether or not he agrees with the President’s economic plan. He sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, as would be expected from a businessman. Focusing on capital expenditures, etc. Not sure how it will sell to the general public, though. Wants to expand FHA and loosen requirements to help out homeowners.
Will McCain support the part of the economic stimulus plan that doesn’t make tax cuts permanent? Yes he will, though disappointed. Wants to not only make cuts permanent, but also to cut corporate income taxes. Worried that pork will be added. Happy to allow faster expensing of capital investments.
McCain is definitely trying to sound like a conservative on tax and fiscal policy.
Giuliani supports package, but doesn’t think it goes far enough. Wants a Dryer package that would be the biggest tax cut in American history. Wants to make America competitive with the rest of the world, reduce taxing, suing, etc. Major reductions in taxes, spending, regulations, specifically SOX. Doesn’t want London to take over as world’s financial capital from New York.
Now McCain is defending his economic knowledge, and citing Reagan, Feldstein, Kemp, etc. Still attempting to sound conservative economically.
Huckabee being asked if he trusts Romney as a tax cutter. Evading the issue, talking about budgets and surpluses. Talking about borrowing from the Chinese and worried that we’ll be stimulating their economy more than ours. Proposing expanding I-95 with American labor and materials (Bangor to Miami). Playing to the Florida audience, who want more lanes on it.
Romney says worked with Democrats to solve problems in Massachussetts without tax increases. Doesn’t take the bait on whether he trusts Huckabee and McCain on taxes.
McCain asked if he considers Romney’s “fees” equivalent to taxes. “I’m sure that the people who paid them think the are.” Still talking like a conservative on tax and spending. Wonder if anyone will bring up his rhetoric from 2001 about “tax cuts for the rich”?
Ron Paul worried about spending and printing too much money. Lower taxes, get rid of regulations, and devise monetary policy that “makes some sense.” Doesn’t think we should expect Fed to monetize more spending. Can’t afford to “maintain empire,” and says that every war has resulted in inflation.
Giuliani asked about turning down the Saudi check for the Twin Towers fund. Can’t get away from 911, but not his fault, because Russert asked. Talking about mutuality of interest when countries invest in the US. Talking about the fact that Japan wasn’t the danger we thought they were in the eighties. Have to be careful that there is no ulterior motive in investments but we need to think how much we can sell to the world.
Democrats have eighteen point advantage in confidence in dealing with economy according to Russert. Reads litany of statistics. Why should we trust Republicans.
McCain, says that Dems will increase spending, increase taxes, won’t restore stability of entitlements which are becoming unfunded in the future. Talking about “outrageous” $35B pork that could have paid for tax credits for every child in America. Will regain confidence of American people in being careful stewards of their money.
Huckabee: same question. “I wasn’t there in Washington at the time.” Can’t blame it all on Bush, was keeping America safe. He was the only one saying that the economy wasn’t doing great early on in debate season. Playing populist and friend of the “little guy” again. Talking about “trickle up” impact on the economy of low-paid workers.
Romney running on his record of accomplishment in Massachusetts, and running against Washington. Don’t live by high ethics, haven’t solved illegal immigration, haven’t solved oil problems, haven’t solved spending. “When Republicans act like Democrats, America loses.” Have to rein in entitlements costs.
Giuliani saying that he’s got experience turning an economy around in New York.
Ron Paul says that he doesn’t have to run from Washington, because he’s been fighting it from within. He’s never voted for a tax increase, and almost always votes against spending. Entering a new era with dollar and world economy.
Local questions coming up now.
McCain: Army on verge of breaking, and can’t sustain present spending. We cannot sustain our presence in Iraq.
McCain knows of no military leader who says we can’t sustain ourselves in Iraq, including Petraeus. Attacking Clinton and saying that if we withdraw, Al Qaeda will have won. Proud to say that we have to abandon Rumsfeld strategy and do what we’re doing now. Proud of military, and don’t want us to raise the white flag as Senator Clinton does.
Romney: How do you maintain military without a draft? Talks about enrollment and retention in Mass National Guard. Thinks that people in military need full ride when they get home. Points out that Democrats’ answers in last debate indicated that getting out was more important than winning. He won’t walk away from Iraq until successful. How audacious of Dems to claim that they are responsible for success in Iraq. “due to General Petraeus, not General Clinton.”
Will they say that the war was a good idea, worth the price?
McCain says that it was worth getting rid of Saddam, and is attacking Rumsfeld. War is justified by threat of Saddam. Now on right track and if we withdraw Al Qaeda will be claiming victory and the world will believe them. Wants troops to return with honor.
Giuliani points out that when polls where in favor that Hillary was, and that when polls were against, she was against. He always supported it, and continues to.
Ron Paul has the expected answer.
Huckabee says that it’s easy to second guess a president, but says he should be admired for not governing by polls.
Romney supported and continues to support, but war was undermanaged and understaffed. Now on the right track, and making sure that Al Qaeda has no safe haven there from which to launch attacks against us. Democrats are just run and retreat, regardless of the problems.
[A couple minutes later]
Back from commercial break. Brian Williams can’t pronounce Boca Raton, either.
Question from Romney to Giuliani. China will be a tough competitor. How do we maintain jobs here and have trade done on a level playing field. Giulian says that China is a great opportunity and great caution for America. More we engage in trade more we get to know a country and less probability of military confrontation. Need to be careful about safety and security, but look at bringing millions of people out of poverty there every year as huge opportunity. They need energy and information processes more than we do. They need to buy what we have. We should increase the size of our military to repair the damage of Bill Clinton’s peace dividend with the 25-30% cuts.
Senator McCain asks Huckabee about Fair Tax. It’s a very popular idea with a groundswell. How to answer the criticism that a sales tax won’t cause low-income Americans to bear more of the burden of the government, and where is the resonance.
Huckabee: people would love the IRS to be abolished. We are penalized for productivity. Fair tax says we want you to be productive and work and profit. On the bottom end, the poor come out best of all because of pre-pay. No taxes on basic necessities of life. No more underground economy. “No more pimps, drug dealers…non-Republicans” avoiding taxes. Wants to put the IRS out of business.
Russert follows up with question about how the people who are only paying fifteen percent now benefit from a thirty-percent sales tax. Huckabee says that it’s only 23%, and that he’s not considering SSI and other taxes.
Ron Paul asks McCain if there would be more sunshine on who he would rely on for economic advice. Sorry, I missed the full question. I suspect that it had to do with the Tri-Lateral Commission.
Huckabee asking Romney if he supports Brady and “assault weapon” ban. Good question.
Romney says that he supports 2nd Amendment and hopes that the SCOTUS will find it an individual right. He also said that he would sign an assault weapons ban renewal, but doesn’t think it necessary. Doesn’t support any new legislation, and supports the right to bear arms.
Giuliani asking Romney (after talking about McCain’s position) if he supports National Catastrophic Fund for disaster insurance. Romney says that he does support a “back stop” for high-risk states, but doesn’t support Iowan’s subsidizing Massachusetts or Florida. Doesn’t explain how to square the circle.
McCain wants to address the issue, by spreading insurance across state lines, increasing the risk pool. House wanted a bill of $200B with no reform whatsoever. Confident that we can work with the insurance companies and don’t need a new federal bureaucracy.
Russert following up with a question about global warming and submerging Florida and why he opposes caps. Giuliani says that we need to go more nuclear, get hybrid vehicles, clean coal with carbon sequestration, incentives for new industries, biofuels. Project like putting a man on the moon to become energy independent. Caps will punish the American economy and let other countries off the hook.
McCain favors cap and trade (with Joe Lieberman–he’s forgetting again that he’s running for the Republican nomination, not the general election). Repeats one of the climate change canards: “Climate change is real, and can affect states like Florida because it has to do with violent weather as well.” “Suppose we are wrong, and hand our children a cleaner world.” There is no acknowledgement of the potential costs to the economy.
Russert asking Giuliani what happened to his race. Pretty blunt.
Giuliani compares himself to the Giants, and says he’s going to come back from behind.
I have to note that this has been a very mild discussion, really no harsh criticism from anyone.
Williams asks about McCain’s mother’s quote that the party will have to “hold its nose” to vote for her son. How will he get the support of Republicans? Says that most Republicans are concerned about radical Islamic extremists and that he’ll defend the nation. Conservative Republicans are as concerned about climate change as he is. What planet has he been living on? Talking about when he’s willing to go after Republicans when he has to do so to put his country above his party.
Romney: how will you run against the team of Hillary and Bill Clinton? Want to elect a president on the basis of the candidate, not her husband. She wants to raise taxes, give everyone health insurance by the government, get out of Iraq as fast as we can. She is Washington to the core, and has been there too long, as has Bill Clinton. Going to do it the Ronald Reagan way of pulling social, economic and national security conservatives. The first time that Reagan’s name came up in this debate. Won’t report how much of his wealth he’s spending until he’s legally required to do so. Claims he’s raised more money than any other Republican in this race, and he feels obligated to put in his own to match his donors. Though he didn’t raise as much as Jon Corzine.
Will a Mormon president have trouble raising support in the country? Romney doesn’t believe that the American people are going to base their vote on a man’s church. Believes that the Founders didn’t intend a religious test, and believes that Americans agree. Hillary takes her inspiration from old Europe, he takes his from a young and vibrant America.
Ron Paul thinks that Social Security should be abolished. Is he still in favor? Yes, but not overnight. Need to get the young people out. He’ll take care of all the elderly, but save money by stopping all the expenditure overseas. Doesn’t want taxes on their benefits, wants to secure the trust fund, protecting it from general revenues. It’s a failure, doesn’t work, is going to bankrupt the country. Government should have never been involved, and there’s not way that benefits are going to keep up. His plan has a better chance than any other one.
Huckabee: what will he do to save Social Security: Wants to comment on Mitt’s money in his own campaign. Offers a solution that if he’s president, Mitt can have more money to pass on to his sons. In response to the SS question, talking up Fair Tax. Taking a “can do” attitude in response to Russert’s question about how unlikely the Fair Tax is.
Will Romney do for Social Security what Reagan did in 1983? “No, I don’t want to raise taxes.” It has a double whammy. You slow down the economy and more people lose work. Three other ways to solve the problem. Personal accounts for something that does better than government bonds. Calculate the benefits based on the price index rather than wage index. And change age of eligibility. Need to work to come up with a compromise. But doesn’t want to scare anyone–nothing will change for anyone in or near retirement, but we have to do something about the thirty and forty year olds.
Why is Giuliani’s campaign airing an ad in Spanish. Core of his plan is to stop immigration at the border, regardless of language of ads. Have to teach new behavior, which means identify yourself, like other countries. At the end of the day, to be a citizen, you have to speak English.
Why a special policy for “dry-foot” Cubans? Presumption in immigration law that Cubans are fleeing political persecution. Exception has been around for decades, and is justified by Castro’s history.
Question for Huckabee. Does he agree with Chuck Norris that McCain is too old? Only agreed with Norris because he was standing next to him. He doesn’t think that Senator McCain lacks the vigor and capacity to be president, uses McCain’s mother as a vibrant example. Not an issue for him, even if it is for Chuck, but he’s far enough away from him he disagrees. McCain threatens (jokingly) to send Sly Stallone after Chuck.
New York Times has endorsed McCain in the New York primary. How will he defend himself? Says that he never did anything that the New York Times suggested, which is why he’s a conservative, and shows true compassion.
Romney changes positions with the wind the NYT opposes him. Romney says that he’s not in politics to please the New York Times. Defending his record on pro-life positions, taxes, and Second Amendment.
Is McCain’s temper an issue? This was one from the LA Times. He doesn’t think that he would have the support of his colleagues if that was the case. Saying that he’s proud of Giuliani, and that all of the people on the stage with him are great Americans.
In response to someone’s comment that Huckabee’s faith “gives him a queasy feeling.” Huckabee’s response is that that’s his problem, not Huck’s. Have to respect people of all faiths, including no faith.
Concern that Ron Paul won’t stick to his party and will run with another party. His concern is that his opponents aren’t sticking by their party and its principles. Dances around the question, saying that he doesn’t intend to run independently, but he wants them to worry that he will. Not a matter of him leaving the party, they need to welcome people to a party that’s becoming smaller. Can’t be “too strict with the Constitution.” Need a big tent of people who believe in the Constitution. He gets the last word.
I’ll be gathering my overall thoughts, but they’ll probably be over at Pajamas Media a little later.