Republicans Ignore China, Eurocrisis in Debate on Foreign Affairs
The 11th Republican debate last night was supposed to
focus on foreign affairs, but hardly a word was said about the
two most important topics in foreign affairs at the moment:
the crisis with the euro and its possible effect on the U.S.
and the inexorable rise of China and its effect on jobs in the U.S.
But substance is almost irrelevant in debates. It is all about
style and showmanship. Remember how George H.W. Bush's candidacy
was sunk in 1992 when he once glanced at his watch for 500 milliseconds
during a debate? The pundits pounced on him and said he was too nervous
to be President. As if time management is irrelevant to Presidents.
In this light, newly minted front runner wannabee Newt Gingrich did fairly well
in the debate. He actually knows more about foreign policy than any of
the other candidates, possibly save Jon Huntsman, who nobody seems to take
seriously (mostly because he is emphasizing content over style). Gingrich
was poised and confident, and gave clear answers to the questions posed by
the scholars from the conservative Heritage Foundation. At the other end
of the spectrum was Herman Cain, who couldn't even remember the name of the
moderator, CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
The candidates were farther apart this time than they usually are. Ron
Paul's isolationism stood in contrast to the other candidates' bent for
interventionism. They also differed on immigration policy, with Gingrich
clearly stating that if an illegal immigrant has been in the U.S. for 25
years, has three kids, two grandkids, has been paying taxes and obeying
the law and goes to church, he shouldn't be deported.. While this view is exactly
the same as the one espoused by Bush 43 (except that Bush
didn't make going to church a requirement for becoming a citizen), it is not popular with the Republican
base, which wants to deport all illegals, the sooner the better. That this
would be a legal and logistical nightmare (assuming the government could
find them all and they didn't all sue the government in federal court)
doesn't bother the base. Gingrich did say that recent illegal immigrants
who had no ties to the country should be deported immediately.
However, unlike some of his opponents, he didn't call for digging a moat around
the U.S. and filling it with alligators, probably because he is smart enough to
realize that alligators would not do well in the Arizona desert and this would
make the animal-rights activists all antsy.
world of zero tolerance for any deviation from the party line, in theory
Gingrich should be punished for his sin of not hating all illegal immigrants,
but the nonRomney crowd is beginning
to realize that potential candidates are getting thin on the ground
so maybe they have to go easy on the few that are left.
Also, foreign policy--even counting immigration--is not the
hottest topic at the moment. Polls in the next week will no doubt shed some light
on how well Gingrich did with likely primary voters.
Mitt Romney turned in his usual competent performance. He praised Israel
and avoided making any mistakes. That's probably all he needed to do. His
strategy in the debates is to look presidential and avoid making any mistakes
while waiting for his opponents to self-destruct.
One note about Romney, however, is that
say he is gearing up
to fight in the Iowa caucuses. It's a big gamble for him. If he manages to
eke out a win with 20% of the vote in a seven-person fight, the media will
declare him to the be the nominee and the show will be over. On the other hand,
if he gets 20% and somebody else gets 21%, the media will say he is toast. If
he doesn't compete in Iowa and loses he can shrug it off but if he spends anywhere
near the $10 million that he spent in 2007 and can't show results, it will look bad.
He actually has a chance there. About 60% of the typical Republican caucusgoers are
evangelicals and he is unlikely to get any of their votes, but if he can get a decent
majority of the other 40%, that could be enough to win in a badly fragmented field.
Of course, if the evangelicals could settle on a single candidate instead of splitting
their votes among five or six candidates, that candidate would win easily.
There is some movement
in that direction, but supporters of the weaker candidates, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Ron Paul in particular,
are going to protest mightily when their candidates are thrown under the bus.
In reality though, the only two viable candidates against the Romney juggernaut are
Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, but not everyone wants to hear that.
Romney's Extended Family Could be a Problem
While everyone thinks Mitt Romney's family to be picture perfect, it is not quite
what it appears, as discussed by a
To start with, Romney's sister, Jane Romney, is an outspoken Democrat who would like a role in
Romney's campaign, something he is not keen on. She also had a bitter divorce from the
nephew of the President of the Mormon Church. One of Romney's brothers, George Romney, has
been divorced twice and the timing of his second marriage relative to the birth of the first child in
that marriage has upset people. Finally, three of Romney's sons have used in vitro fertilization
(which pro-life activists strongly oppose) and one used a surrogate mother.
While Gingrich's baggage is well known, these new relevations could put Romney in the awkward
position of having to either defend or reject the behavior of his close relatives.
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