The American voting public had another opportunity to view the candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination in a nationally-televised debate, as they responded to a variety of questions posed to them by what the majority of those same candidates believe to be two major players of the "lame-stream media." In fact, in a rare display of Republican solidarity former Speaker of the House Nute Gingrinch took it upon himself to chastise the debate moderators for attempting to pit the present candidates against one another.
Apparently the former Speaker fails to understand and/or appreciate the simple fact that he and his fellow candidates are attempting to secure the Republican presidential nomination; differences between the various candidates is primarily what will influence voters to make a choice for the respective candidate that they choose to support. Without there being some sort of "winnowing of the chaff," so to speak, it's difficult to understand how voters will differeniate between the candidates. Whether the former Speaker likes to admit it or not, not all of the candidates on the stage this evening will be able to run for and possibly win the presidency. And even the least educated American understands that only one person takes the oath of office come January 2013.
but, let's set Mr. Gingrinch' opinions to the side for the moment. It seems apropos to consider some of the "highlights" (although the reality of what was said in many respects would be more aptly deemed to be 'lowlights') of the debate.
In much of the network punditry that followed the debate much of the discussion centered on who won. A loose concensus seemed to agree that Rick Perry, the current Governor of Texas and the latest entrant into the contest, had the most to prove during this debate. He also had the most, potentially, to lose, in that many potential Republican voters no doubt sought to make an initial judgement on whether or not his candidacy is real and viable. He did not disappoint his supporters; he stuck to all of the rhetoric on which he has thus far based his entire political life and success. That's all well and good. Unfortunately for Mr. Perry, the people who are most likely to support him as the Republican candidate for President are not the only people expected to cast a vote in November 2012. While Perry's 'stick-to-it-ed-ness' to what he has said in the past (not really something that should be a challenge to most sane, reasonably intelligent people) is seen and believed to be laudable in the eyes of some, his almost-rote reiteration of the uber-partisan, myopic views that have been the foundation of his tenure as Texas' governor (and what he feels qualifies him to run the entire country) do little to calm the fears that many have that Perry is just another wingnut from the Tea Party. If anything, Perry's performance solidified his position as the most viable Republican candidate that has also essentially fully embraced the agenda of the Tea Party movement.
Governor Perry seems to believe that the majority of programs that are currently the purview of the federal government would be better created, instituted and managed at the state-level. In some situations that may well be true. Medicaid is actually one instance where states do manage to fairly effectively provide health insurance coverage to the poor and disadvantaged in their respective locales. Admittedly, the money for the program is provided to the states by the federal government. But the states themselves are responsible for administering the program and actually delivering the services expected to those who qualify for them. But it would be a mistake to think that for some reason the states' success at administering Medicaid would similarly translate to their being able to adequately create, fund, administer and maintain all of the various programs and policies that the federal government is currently responsible for.
Similarly, if voters are to believe Michele Bachman, if the Environmental Protection Agency was abolished we would immediately see gasoline selling for less than $2.00 per gallon. Of course, she does not illuminate the reality of what our environment might be like if no standardized environmental regulation existed. In fact, in a demonstration of just how unrealistic her positions are, Bachman has gone on the record stating she feels it would be "just fine" if oil companies were allowed to drill for oil in the middle and throughout the entire Florida Everglades. Not to completely ignore how many voters might be a bit concerned about there being unregulated oil production in the Everglades, Bachman offered a fairly anemic reassurance that such production would be done in an "environmentally responsible" manner. She, like the overwhelming majority of the other Republican presidential candidates, believes that if the oil companies were relieved of having to abide by federal environmental regulations that they, themselves (the oil companies), would be able to better manage and protect the environment than the EPA does today. Perhaps Ms. Bachman might want to review the historical record on how, despite the fact that regulation does currently exist, tar balls continue to wash-up on the respective shores of the Gulf states, all largely the result of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil production debacle. If such a horrific calamity can occur despite there being, according to the Minnesota Republican, too much oppressive regulation, imagine how well (or not) the environment will fair with little or no regulation? In one of the more ironic realities on this particular topic, one of the most specific reasons why the explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico is because George W. Bush-era EPA rules allowed the oil companies to be responsible for the safety of their own operations.
Former Utah Governor John Huntsman provided the most reasoned, sane-sounding performance in tonight's debate. Unfortunately, his rather staid and unremarkable performance will not result in his receiving any significant bump in popularity. His appearing to be of above-average intelligence does not provide him any great advantage over the other candidates. As President Obama has learned, being and acting intelligent provides little (or no) currency with many American voters. The fact that the Republican front-runner was a C student in college is a pretty clear indication that many voters are more interested in whether or not a candidate "looks" or "acts" "presidential", as opposed to whether or not they have more than a couple of brain cells to rub together. It's difficult to pin-down exactly when it became a "bad thing" to be smart and run for president. But it certainly seems that the candidate that least exudes intelligence, best displays bravado and hubris, is at a clear advantage.
If voters take anything from tonight's debate, it should be that the overwhelming majority of the Republican presidential candidates are spectacular examples of hypocrisy, ignorance and just plain meanness. If what was 'on display' tonight is supposed to be the Republican savior of the American Dream, this country is in some real trouble.