Archive for category 2012 Election

Moving On

I’ll say it, so I can move on to more productive things. Okay. I’m disappointed.

There’s a ton of post-election analysis out there, but I don’t want to get in to that too much. I will say that I don’t think this is a sign that America is lost, or found, or anything. This does not mean that America has rejected conservative values or that Republicans will never win the White House again, any more than 2010 meant that America had rejected liberalism, or that 2006/08 meant that America had rejected conservatism, or that 2004 meant that America had rejected liberalism… hopefully you see my point. This is how it goes.

I also don’t think that this is a sign that Romney and the GOP went too far towards radical right-wing extremism, or anything of the sort. People are saying that the Republican party needs to give up on social issues, that Republicans lost because the party went hard-line and embraced people like Todd Akin. These people are wrong; the Republicans rejected Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, not the swing voters.

Romney carried Indiana by almost 11%, but Mourdock lost Indiana by over five points. Romney won Missouri by around 9%, and Akin lost the same state by over 15%. It was Republicans that voted against these guys. Commentators are claiming that the GOP needs to learn from this election that the “independent voters” will reject them unless they moderate on social issues. Nonsense. Mourdock’s opponent was a staunchly pro-life Democrat who even co-sponsored the controversial “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act” which defined the now-infamous term “forcible rape.” Indiana wanted a pro-life Senator. Mourdock wasn’t rejected for being pro-life, and he wasn’t rejected by the moderate swing voters. He was rejected by conservative Republicans for saying something deeply stupid which made us all look bad.

Which is my point. Romney didn’t lose because people rejected conservatism. Romney lost because people don’t know what conservatism is. Romney lost because a lot of people thought things about conservatives that aren’t true. Romney also lost because he said and did some very stupid things himself (I’m looking at you, DREAM act), but that’s not the central issue, because all politicians say stupid things here and there. President Obama successfully convinced a lot of groups that, if you’re a part of X group, you’re betraying people if you don’t vote Democrat. Women have to vote Democrat because Democrats care about women, and Republicans don’t. Same for various minority groups, ethnicities, industries. Young people think that Democrats “get” them and Republicans just don’t care about them. Whereas Romney and the Republicans didn’t talk to groups or ethnicities or genders as if we are all fighting each other. They preached a message of caring about, and doing what’s best for, all Americans–all of us together, since we’re all in this together–but people didn’t hear. America was unconvinced.

But where others see an obstacle, I see an opportunity. That’s the point of this blog. Conservatives have been awful at communicating why conservative policies help everyone, regardless of color or class, and far too many people really believe we’re all in groups and classes that have to fight and take from each other in order to get ahead.

So I’m working on a new series: Conservative Myth vs Fact. I want to take on these fallacies. I want to discuss like adults why the right sees things the way we do, things like public sector unions, taxing the rich, education reform, social security reform, and others. And I do hope for a real discussion. I know many of my readers disagree with my point of view, and I hope you will join in. If you have a specific topic in mind you’d like to bring up, post it in the comments here. And I look forward to the process.

Onward and upward!


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A Basic Conservative Look at Election Day

So, it turns out having a baby makes it a lot harder to blog regularly.

But fear not! For you have in front of you, just in time to share with your undecided voter friends, the 2012 Basic Conservative Election Overview!

The Current Situation

Shoddy journalism, political ads, debates, fact-checkers, fact-checker fact-checkers, and bloggers like me have all conspired to make the truth very slippery indeed this year. Many people believe many things that are simply not true. Some of those things are asserted as truth by the President and his challenger nonetheless, with the full, cynical knowledge that the majority of people listening won’t bother to check–and those that do are political nerds that have already made up their mind about who to vote for, and a few lies won’t change that.

So, depending on who you listen to, we’re currently experiencing an unending recession, or finally seeing the economy recover. If there’s been no recovery, it’s either because George W. Bush dug too deep a hole for us to climb out of in four years, or a huge expansion of government has put the brakes on the economy. The last four years (interestingly) have either seen massive government growth, or the most conservative, spendthrift administration since WWII.

The problem is, each of these statements generated responses saying “that’s not true, here’s the truth!” (That last one is one of my favorites.) And each of those responses generated responses. And each of those… you get the idea.

So let’s take a look at….

The Current Situation (Really)

President Obama inherited a mess. There is no question. The US economy entered a recession in Dec. 2007, kicked off by the bursting housing bubble. Each side has attempted to place 100% of the blame for that on the other side–but there is blame enough to go around, as everyone had their role to play.

The President also came in to office with a plan. The job losses could be stopped with an $800 billion dollar stimulus–in fact, his administration released an analysis that stated that, with the stimulus, unemployment would never reach 8%, and by 2012, would return to below 6% (chart at right).

So in February of 2009, one of the first orders of business of the new Congress and new administration was to pass and sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

By October of 2009, unemployment had sailed past 10%. Just last month, we finally, mercifully dipped below 8% for the first time since 2009. Various people have updated the now-infamous chart to reflect what really happened (second chart).

We may not have gained much in the way of jobs from the stimulus. President Obama himself, a couple of years after signing the bill, joked that the shovel-ready jobs he promised were “not as shovel-ready as we expected.” Hilarious.

Many have argued that the stimulus, though it didn’t create many new jobs as hoped, saved millions from being lost–millions! It’s just that nobody can seem to agree on how many. That’s because it’s all speculative. Especially considering that in their rush to present all the jobs saved, the White House started counting people multiple times. From the linked article (emphasis added):

“…contract administrators employed by the state may oversee more than one stimulus project, meaning that they can be double or triple counted in stimulus employee counts.

For example, Bill Cass, NHDOT’s director of development, explained that one administrator is overseeing four projects, and has staff supporting him. Both the administrator and his staff would have been counted four times each in the report’s employment numbers.

All this to say, the stimulus gives new meaning to “overpromised and underdelivered.” Lots of people throw around lots of numbers, but there are a few things we can be certain of: 23 million people unemployed or underemployed. The left screams when you mention that number “because only 12 million or so are actually unemployed!” But this is a number that the government tracks–the two most useful BLS unemployment numbers are what’s known as the U3 (official rate), currently 7.9%, and the U6, which includes people who have given up looking for work, and people who are working part time only because they cannot find full time employment–currently 14.6%, which is where that 23 million number comes from. And I think those people are getting just as screwed by this economy as those in the 7.9%.

Another thing we can be sure of: the stimulus wasn’t the only thing that was supposed to improve the economy. Despite attempts to place the lack of recovery on the Tea Party and Republicans in Congress preventing the President from being able to get a single thing done, the President got pretty much everything he wanted in his first two years. The stimulus, the CARD act, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform act, an extension of current tax rates (2009 Obama: “You don’t raise taxes (on anyone) in a recession.”) and a boost to the stimulus, plus a few bills addressing housing and hiring incentives–all passed in 2009 and 2010, each one promising to turn the economy around. Obamacare is a series of posts all its own, but let’s at least mention it here, lest we forget that the President really did get everything he wanted.

And yet, as I said above, the official unemployment rate is still 7.9%, up from last month. The economy is still growing far too slowly to pull us out of our slump. And the anemic growth we have seen is itself slowing.

We were told that if we simply spent enough money, none of this would happen. We spent the money. We borrowed it from our children, spent it, and we will now hand them the bill. And yet there is no recovery.

Two Options

The President has tried. He did exactly what he campaigned on, and it has failed to produce results. This year, he’s campaigning on doing more of the same. More “investment,” which in government-speak, simply means stimulus. But we tried that. All it did was explode the deficit. So his solution is to continue spending like we have, and simply take a little more from those millionaires and billionaires. They can afford it, then we’re in the clear!

But the math does not work. Even if, like the President, you consider anyone making over $250,000 a year a millionaire, letting the “Bush tax cuts” expire on those tax brackets will bring in at most, according to official numbers, $80 billion next year. Our deficits are well over $1000 billion and have been ever since 2009. The President is arguing to cut our deficit by a few percent in words that imply that if we simply raise these taxes on the rich, the debt will be covered. It’s a lie. He’s simply arguing for more of the same.

We have another option. Mitt Romney has spent his life finding ways to balance budgets and turn failures into successes. People attack Bain Capital because some of the companies they bought laid people off, or went out of business. Yes, that happened. Of course that happened. Romney and Bain specialized in buying failing companies and turning them around. Complaining about his record is like attacking an ER doctor for sometimes losing patients. Yes, by the numbers, maybe your pediatrician has never had someone die on the table–but I’d rather have a surgeon who’s dealt with messy situations before if I come in with a ruptured appendix. Romney’s record is phenomenal. Paul Ryan has passed budgets when the President could not–budgets that balance, and make the necessary changes to our bankrupt Social Security and Medicare systems to keep them afloat.

These are men with solid records and a serious plan to fix our mess. President Obama wants to keep doing what we’re doing–what has failed for four years so far–but he’ll get those evil millionaires.

There is only one serious option. This Tuesday, vote Republican.


For those of you that live in states where your vote for President “won’t matter,” or don’t think local races make a difference, please remember that spending bills originate in the House–and historically this has had more of an impact on the government’s spending and debt than the President. I made an embarrassingly low-quality chart to demonstrate:

This is the difference between voting Democrat and voting Republican. This is what you need to remember. The left and the media will yell that Mitt Romney doesn’t care about the poor, or the 47% that won’t vote for him (though they were okay with candidate Obama dismissing anyone that wouldn’t support him in 2008 as bitterly clinging to guns, or religion, or racism).  The left and the media will try to convince you Republicans want to ban contraception (they don’t), that Republicans are racist (re-read your history), that Republicans are pro-rape (don’t get me started)–but this chart is the difference. If Senator Obama was right four years ago that borrowing trillions to finance irresponsible spending is unpatriotic (he was), then this chart is all you need to know.


One final note. There were a couple of lies in the recent weeks and during the debates that I didn’t get a chance to write up, but I can’t let pass. One is President Obama’s continued assertion that he’s cut taxes on small businesses and the middle class–18 times, lots of tax cuts, tax cuts for everyone! Unfortunately, the cuts he’s referring to are generally negligible and/or already expired. In fact, he’s put on the books a myriad of tax hikes on small businesses and the middle class–he just made sure they didn’t kick in until 2014, long after it would affect his re-election. And the left has long attempted to conflate “not raising taxes” with “cutting taxes”.

The second lie that I can’t help but comment on came from Vice President Biden during his debate. He looked America in the eye and told a flat-out lie on par with calling the sky yellow. I will quote directly from the USCCB response.

“…the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:

“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”

This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.”

I put this fully in the category I mentioned at the top of my article–a bald-faced lie told with the full understanding of the truth and the cynical knowledge that the only people that will bother to check won’t change their vote over it. Our Vice President represents everything that we all know is wrong with politics and politicians today and deserves the support and vote of absolutely no one this Tuesday.

Alright. Nothing left to do now but vote. I hope you will, too.

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Real Leadership

The last few days have seen the Republican nominees and all-stars enter full attack mode. And the Great American Pastime of arguing, fact-checking, and commentary has moved into its final stretch–with the conventions, we start our engines for the playoff season, and I’m excited to see the contenders enter the ring.

In addition to giving bloggers like me an opportunity to badly mix metaphors, this is also a good moment to comment on the left-wing responses to some of the RNC speeches.

What I’ve heard and read from the left in the last few days can be divided into two categories: arguments centered on Romney and Ryan, and arguments centered on President Obama. The arguments I’ve heard about Romney and Ryan have been predictable; their speeches were nothing but lies and distortions (and also racist!), they only want to help the rich, yadda yadda yadda. More on that in a further post. But it’s the arguments about Obama’s record that I want to talk about here.

Romney and Ryan have reasonably spent a fair amount of time highlighting the President’s failed record. Almost four years now–a full term–and unemployment has yet to come back below 8%, we still have 23 million people unemployed or underemployed, and his first term will have added nearly $6 trillion in debt.

I think it’s fair to point those things out. So what has been the response?

Republicans are mean.

Seriously! I still hear, after almost four years of failure, that it’s all the mean Republicans’ fault. Obama wanted to fix the economy, but Bush left him such a mess, and he’s NEVER been able to get any of his plans through those mean Republicans in Congress that block him at every turn! They even admit they want him to fail, and that’s just mean!

So I’d just like to remind us all of something.

Despite the way the left talks today, Obama had large majorities in both houses of Congress for the first two years of his Presidency. During that time he got everything he wanted passed. Stimulus, Dodd-Frank, Obamacare–multiple major, far-reaching works of legislative overhaul.

People talk as if the President has never been able to pass a bill. “Of course the economy hasn’t turned around,” they say, “Congress won’t let a single one of the President’s ideas through!” The facts contradict this. Americans have extraordinarily short memories. Every one of the President’s ideas got through.

Finally, after having two years of carte blanche to pass anything he wanted, the American people recoiled at what they saw the Democrats doing, and responded with their votes. Obama himself referred to it as an electoral “shellacking.” Since then, the fact that he’s had any opposition in Congress at all has been the central excuse of the left for our economic situation.

And still, the stimulus WAS passed, and we still sailed beyond 10% unemployment. Dodd-Frank was passed, and the housing market has yet to rebound. The President’s policies aren’t some vague “what-if” that may have fixed our problems. President Obama’s policies are in place and we are seeing their effects in our economy’s failure to grow.

The position of President of the United States used to be referred to as the “leader of the free world.” I haven’t heard that term used in years. I don’t think people see this President as a leader at all.

So instead of a President that blames every problem on someone else, I think we need a leader that can work with whatever difficult situation he’s dealt. Someone that has been able to work with a hostile legislature and still get things done. A leader that has been able to step into existing failures and turn them into successes. If we can find one, I want a leader that’s been so amazingly good at turning failures around, maybe he’s even sheepish about how much money he made doing it.

That’s not about being mean. That’s getting things done. Let’s get things done, America.

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It’s Primary Day

It’s Primary day in Illinois. You wouldn’t know it from the weather. We’re used to headlines along the lines of “Voter Turnout Low Due To Blizzard,” but I guess we’ve been using too many incandescent light bulbs around here.

However, this year the beautiful, sunny weather reflects my excitement about the election, and my hope for a bright, sunny future just over the horizon.

Get ready to cue the groans and complaints from my liberal friends, my “true conservative” friends, and my Paulbot friends, but gosh darnit, I’m excited to cast my vote for Mitt Romney today.

I understand that Rick Santorum has a more conservative record. I know you’re worried about Romney’s moderate past. I am too. But let’s look at a few facts. When Ronald Reagan ran for President, he was a former Democrat, former union boss, a governor that had signed the most radically permissive pro-abortion bill in US history.

People change. Reagan did. Mitt Romney has spoken about his changes of heart. And, he will have a very different climate in which to govern as President next year than he did as Governor of a very liberal state years ago. Not only will he be representing all Americans both red and blue, rather than only deep-blue Massachusetts, but after the budget explosion of the last three years and the Tea Party response, he will have very little room to break deficit-cutting promises. And after spending months campaigning on a platform of waiving and repealing Obamacare, he will have neither room to flip nor flop on that issue.

Now, a word about Santorum. Yes, his record is cleaner, and I agree with much of what he says. This morning I listened to WLS-AM in Chicago while host and commentator Dan Proft said that in a primary, we should support whomever we believe would be the best standard-bearer for the party; in his opinion, Santorum. But “best standard-bearer” does not necessarily mean, nor is it restricted to, “agrees with my opinions most closely.” In fact, despite my generally liking and agreeing with him, there is no doubt in my mind that Santorum would be a disastrous representative of the conservative movement. Santorum is far too easily painted as a crazy extremist, and it’s not all the media’s fault.

Sure, the contraception debate has been a made-up issue, but instead of refusing to engage, Santorum takes the bait and talks about how he feels about birth control. Appending a quick “but as a Republican, I don’t want a government program to deal with this” at the end doesn’t help with the public perception. The sound bites are already recorded, and now Republicans want to ban the pill in the minds of every voter that only reads headlines. Now he’s talking, all on his own, about wanting to outlaw pornography. He gets caught up talking about gays and women in the military. It doesn’t matter how you feel about these issues. They are not what we need to be talking about right now. With unbelievable deficits, massive unemployment, and a floundering recovery, we need someone who will focus completely on jobs and the economy. Someone with successful executive experience in both the private and public sector. Someone exactly like Mitt Romney.

Allowing the debate to shift to pornography and birth control will drive an entire generation away from the GOP, and we cannot let that happen. But by focusing on jobs and the economy, by supporting Mitt Romney, we will not only win in November, but we can win converts to the conservative cause.

And that’s why I’m excited to support him today, and I hope you will all do the same.

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Why I’m Looking Forward to a Romney Presidency

A few months ago, I wrote the following about candidate Romney in a debate analysis: “I’m just… not yet convinced that he’s anything more than a slick-talking empty suit. Governor Romney, prove to me that you’re more than that.”

Early in the primary race, with a huge field of candidates coming and going on a weekly basis, it was hard to look too closely at any of them. Attention was, by necessity, unfocused. Any day could bring someone new to the race, a candidacy-shattering “oops” in a debate, or some new headline about the antics of Donald Trump. Many were holding out hope and following popular conservatives that never ended up entering. And debates had so many people on stage, even frontrunners only got a scant few minutes of total speaking time.

At that time, I felt that Governor Romney came across as simply a politician, albeit one that tended to say things I agreed with. As he emerged as the leader, I hoped desperately to see him demonstrate that he was more than a presidential head of hair and well-rehearsed talking points. I wanted to see his knowledge and understanding of the economy put to the test. I wanted to see him respond to the kind of unfair attacks that would occur in a general election. I wanted to see passion and vision–because a President that can lead us out of our current mess will need a focused vision of where to go, and passion enough to sell it to the American public.

Over the past month, the smaller field has allowed greater focus and a deeper message to be communicated. As sound bites have become interviews and debates have become, well, actual debates, we’ve seen him demonstrate a deep, thorough, and immediate understanding of the American economy. We’ve seen that he doesn’t get riled up easily, even when pushed, unlike his main competition. Though some see Newt’s fire-and-brimstone attacks on, oh, everyone around him, as a huge selling point, it would only serve to turn off the huge numbers of voters that pay more attention to personality than policy. Whereas Romney’s cool, calculating approach to apparently every damn thing he does in his life is exactly what we need to keep from scaring away the independents that will–I’m sorry, it’s just math–WILL decide this election, because they decide every election.

So this is why I think he’ll make a great President. The one topic that gets Romney fired up is business itself. He has real passion when he starts talking about the free market and how business provides a path out of poverty for us all, and frankly, that should be a beautiful thing to all of us, after three years of a President who speaks with pride about keeping his boot on the neck of industries. We desperately need a President who can explain to the public why business is good for us, why wealth and profit are healthy and good. We need a President who demonstrates a passion for and history of promoting business. We need a President with a demonstrated ability to save what can be saved, eliminate what needs to be eliminated, and turn failures into successes. Our biggest problems today aren’t the debate over legalizing pot or gay marriage. We’re not going to get anywhere trying to reinstate the gold standard. Our priorities ought to be readily apparent. Our economy is a mess and our government is broke. We need a turnaround artist. This is exactly what Mitt Romney has specialized in.

The rest of the remaining field has impressed me in various ways. Up until the last few weeks, I was strongly favoring Newt. I’ve always been impressed by his intellect and historical perspective, and I can be swayed by intelligent debate. I’ll admit, I do still love the idea of a Newt/Obama debate. His conservative history is checkered, but so is everyone else’s, and I found it hard to argue with his list of accomplishments. But the last month has reminded me of why he quickly lost the support of his own party in the 90s, and shown that while he’s a heavy hitter, he’s so unfocused that he misses far more often than he connects. His attacks on Romney’s record with Bain Capital showed that he either completely misunderstands capitalism, or is willing to say things he knows are patently untrue as long as he thinks he can personally gain from doing so. His long history of conservative crusades and his more recent robo-calls falsely claiming that Romney forced elderly Holocaust survivors to eat non-Kosher food make the latter seem more likely, but either way, these attacks show that he would be a completely inappropriate choice to communicate a conservative, pro-business message to America.

Santorum has virtually reinvented himself in the last few weeks, and I like the new Rick. In the past, he’s been petulant and condescending. Now, he’s smiling, confident, and he’s almost completely lost his disdainful smirk. However, his message is still almost exclusively focused on social issues, and frankly, it’s the economy, stupid. When it comes to the social issues, I disagree with him as often as I agree. He’s uncompromising, and only other uncompromising people actually respect that–and few Americans are truly uncompromising. He cannot win in a general election, and I therefore cannot support him.

Paul has also impressed me recently, which is refreshing. I don’t believe for a minute that he’s backed off any of his foreign policy ideas (he’s never changed his mind on anything in his life, why start now?), but he’s stopped really talking about them, and focused on the small-government, economic liberty message that all conservatives can get behind. I’m thrilled that he’s successfully brought that message to the public–Republicans coast to coast are talking about the Austrian school and auditing the Fed. It’s a wonderful thing. I also think his idea that Iran is no threat is insane and would lead to disastrous policy decisions along the lines of Neville Chamberlain in the 30s, and I’m also quite uncomfortable with a President that winks and nudges 9/11 truthers to keep a lock on the pro-grassy knoll voters. That said, I hope he keeps fighting so strongly for what he believes in, because he has personally shifted the public discourse in amazing ways.

Romney’s record is not without blemish. Nobody’s is. Romneycare was a bad idea. Newt supported it, along with cap and trade. Santorum voted against right-to-work laws, and his social views scare a lot of people off. Paul, well, I’ve already gone there. But let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Let’s remember that our nominee will be up against a candidate with a deeply flawed record as well: lawsuits preventing Boeing from hiring thousands, raids against Gibson guitar factories, blocking the Keystone pipeline, not to mention the regulatory messes of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, and constant attacks on anyone that has managed to do too well for themselves and employ too many people. We have an anti-business, anti-success President, and we need a pro-business, pro-success candidate to show the country the deepest differences between conservatives and liberals.

For that, I will happily and enthusiastically support and vote for Mitt Romney.

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New Year’s Resolutions for America

As Americans are making their resolutions, here’s what I’d like to see the country do this year.

One: America ought to resolve to pay more attention to what’s happening. We, as a country, tend to get excited about fads and pay no attention to substance. And so, we end up with elected leaders that woo us with nebulous, undefined promises of hope and change. We end up allowing really frightening things to occur quietly, like the recent fully-bipartisan passage of the NDAA. We get caught up in cults of personality, on all sides–with Barack Obama most obviously, but don’t ignore the same halo of messianic destiny imagined by supporters of, in the past, Sarah Palin, and currently, Ron Paul. We must pay better attention, and we must hold our elected officials accountable for what they say and do.

Two: America needs a broad change in direction. We found ourselves in a mess a few years ago, and as a country, agreed to have the government try to control it, to fix the economy through stimulus, regulation, and redistribution. The government has now stepped into (and in some cases, taken over) broad swaths of the private economy, instituted new, far-reaching regulations, and spent almost five trillion dollars ($5,000,000,000,000) it didn’t have in only three years. The effect of all of this has been a complete lack of recovery. This year we need to resolve to move the country in the other direction. We tried big-government solutions, and they have failed, as they have failed in the past. Today, we need free market, pro-business, small government solutions. That means we need to elect real conservatives this year, leaders that have pledged to undo the regulations, shrink the government, and allow businesses to flourish and hire.

Three: Finally, America should resolve to stick together. It’s so easy–especially in an election year–to feel like our political adversaries are enemies to be destroyed, or that anyone who disagrees with us must be deeply evil, or a blithering idiot, or whatever. Today, those who seek to divide the country have extra help from the White House and groups dedicated to an Occupation. People seeking power want to convince us that we are all up against each other; that if your neighbor has things you don’t have, he must have taken them unfairly. America must resolve to stand firm against these ideas. At the end of the day, there is far more that unites us than divides us. Never forget the conservative wisdom that we all rise or fall together.

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CNN National Security Debate

I just barely made it home in time for tonight’s GOP debate. I would have made more of an effort, but I didn’t know there was a GOP debate tonight–I’ve stopped paying attention to the schedule since there’s one every week.

However, I’m glad I caught it. For those who missed, tonight’s debate focused on national security–in my mind, the second-most-important issue of this election (after the economy), and arguably, what should be the first priority of every President.

Some important issues came up tonight. Finally, the candidates had some real, strong disagreements. On economic issues, most of this field is generally on the same page, and so debates have been less debate-y and more focused on attempts to appear more conservative than everyone else, and/or maligning each others’ conservative cred. But I already knew that any one of them would be infinitely better equipped to handle the economy than our current President. So tonight we got to see where they really disagree, and that’s great.

For those interested, my thoughts on the candidates after tonight’s performance follow, in the order they were standing:

Santorum – Didn’t get much time to speak tonight, and sadly, that’s perfectly appropriate. We’re rounding the final curves in the primary race, and Santorum has failed to generate any appreciable interest at any point, in a volatile and vulnerable field. I appreciate his strongly conservative social and economic views, I share most of them. Not all, but most. I like that he was the only one tonight that didn’t hedge and clearly stated that, of course, some TSA profiling makes sense. But it’s time to bow out at this point and allow better focus on those with a chance to win.

Paul – After hearing Dr. Paul talk about economic issues in the last debate, I had warmed up to him. He’s so very often right on the economy, and he doesn’t care what anybody thinks about anything he says. Tonight reminded me why I can never support him for President. He seems to think that if America would just leave the world alone, the world would leave us alone too. He thinks Iran is no threat to anyone. He thinks the Taliban got a bad rap and the greatest threat to America is America overreacting to things. This is what happens when you hang out with 9/11 truthers.

Perry – Came across to me as unnecessarily aggressive. I hated when people accused President Bush of this, but when I was hearing Perry talk tonight about military strikes and no-fly zones, the phrase “cowboy diplomacy” kept popping into my head.

Romney – Had some great, well-rehearsed answers, just like the last debate. Absolutely right in his answer on the terribly important difference between dealing with crime and dealing with war; if a battalion of Nazis had come ashore in 1943, we wouldn’t have had the police arrest them and send them before a civilian court. Hence the difference between common criminals and those in Guantanamo. If we’re electing someone who is good at saying the right things, Romney is hard to beat. I’m still not sold on his conservative cred (there, now I’m doing it), but he keeps saying things I like to hear, and that kind of thing can wear you down. I’m just… not yet convinced that he’s anything more than a slick-talking empty suit. Governor Romney, prove to me that you’re more than that.

Cain – Clearly had very little to say. We all already knew this was his weakest area, tonight was a demonstration of that. It’s fine to fall back on the point that the President has expert advice available, but it’s also extremely salient to point out that, all else being equal, I’m much more comfortable with a Commander in Chief that’s extremely well-informed and personally knowledgeable on foreign policy and national security.

Gingrich – As always, he’s the smartest guy in the room, and it shows. On every question, he gave the sense that, whatever it is we’re going to do, his priority is to do it right or not at all. I really enjoyed his answer to Dr. Paul’s criticism about McVeigh–we don’t want a government that says, “If you blow up a major city, we’re sure going to get you!” We want a system that will stop terrorists before they strike. Newt also took a very courageous stand as the only candidate tonight that wasn’t willing to support mass deportation of 12 million illegal immigrants. He’s right. We need to be discerning. Someone that gets brought here at 3 years old, that grows up, loves this country and wants to serve in the military–that person should get a fast track to citizenship. Politics tends to be black-and-white, but I really appreciated the fact that he was the only one willing to point out that there are shades of grey in this issue. I’m feeling more and more strongly attracted to the idea of a President Gingrich.

Bachmann – I like Representative Bachmann. But I think it’s a bad sign that my first thought on her performance tonight was, “I’m pleased that she didn’t do anything embarrassing.” She made some good points here and there (as when pointing out to Dr. Paul that using privacy standards that assume people only use wired phones makes no sense in an age of disposable cell phones and internet), but seemed to have a hard time staying on topic. She came across tonight as not being quite prepared.

Huntsman – Frankly had no business even being at tonight’s event. Barely registers on any polls. Thinks living in China for a while gives him expertise on how to deal with the Middle East. Answers questions on the economy and national security by talking about the “trust deficit.” It’s time for Huntsman to go.

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