TIMOTHY NOAH SEPTEMBER 22, 2011
Re: Republican debate
I've got a social engagement tonight and I know the copy desk doesn't like to work late. So here's my post-debate analysis. The debate will air on Fox News from 9 to 11 p.m., so please do not post before 11 p.m. Repeat: do not post before 11 p.m. We don't want to give readers the idea that the press knows what to say even before the candidates take the stage. God knows the public is cynical enough about politics and the media as it is.
PS Don't forget to have an intern watch so we can fill in the TKs before posting.
PPS Again, DO NOT POST BEFORE 11 P.M.!!!!!!!!!!!!!
ORLANDO, Fla.--The third time's the charm.
After turning in two debate performances so disappointing that they put his front-runner status at risk, Texas Gov. Rick Perry came back swinging tonight, repeatedly throwing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on the defensive on TK, TK, and Romney's signature issue, health care.
Perry was joined in his attacks by Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Rep. Newt Gingrich, who collectively portrayed Romney as a crypto-liberal too eager to accommodate the Democrats on tax increases and entitlements.
Social Security once again took center stage, as Perry forcefully denied that he had ever questioned the program's constitutionality. When Romney tried to press the issue, Perry deflected it by accusing Romney of adopting Democratic talking points. "George Romney wasn't the only member of this family to get brainwashed," Perry quipped, to cheers from the crowd. While Romney attempted to stutter a response Perry added, "TK."
Bachmann ramped up her attack that Perry engaged in "crony capitalism," saying his decision to require mandatory HPV vaccinations was part of a pattern of doing favors for political contributors and lobbyists. But Perry was ready this time, and deflected her by reminding the audience that Bachmann previously helped the Internal Revenue Service collect taxes that imposed higher marginal rates on job creators than on welfare mothers. Bachmann's allegiance to the Sixteenth Amendment, Perry said, was unconstitutional, and her residency north of the Mason-Dixon line "nothing less than treasonous." His non-responsiveness to the substance of Bachmann's accusations won him praise from political analysts across the ideological spectrum.
After treading lightly for several debates on the health care issue, the Republican contenders piled onto Romney for creating a state-level program that provided the blueprint for Obamacare and its "individual mandate" requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance. "The Supreme Court will overturn Obamacare," Perry predicted, "and then it will overturn Romneycare." Bachmann chimed in that the Massachusetts program has overseen "thousands of HPV vaccinations." When Romney answered that these remained voluntary in the Bay State, Bachmann replied, "It's still state socialism enabling fornication before and possibly even after marriage."
Addressing Romney witheringly as "Obromney," Perry boasted that his state denied health insurance to even more people than it executed. "Massachusetts won't impose the ultimate punishment on cold-blooded killers," Perry said, "or tell it straight to adolescent children that acne is a preexisting condition." Perry then contrasted this policy with that in Texas, where he said the high execution rate and low rate of health coverage were the cornerstone of his strategy to hold down unemployment.
Expectations for Perry in tonight's debate had fallen so low that it was logically impossible for him to emerge as anything other than the victor. He achieved that goal with aplomb. But by tarnishing Romney he makes him the underdog, and therefore the foreordained winner of the Oct. 11 debate in Hanover, N.H. Watch if you want to, but that's what's going to happen.