WASHINGTON -- We heard plenty of contradictions, distortions and untruths at the Republican candidates' tea party debate, but we heard shockingly little compassion -- and almost no acknowledgement that political and economic policy choices have a moral dimension.The lowest point of the evening -- and perhaps of the political season -- came when moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul a hypothetical question about a young man who elects not to purchase health insurance. The man has a medical crisis, goes into a coma and needs expensive care. "Who pays?" Blitzer...
As the GOP candidates jockey their way toward the presidential nomination, they continue to create new litmus tests for what makes a worthy pick. The top contenders have to loathe government. They have to hate health care reform. And most deny the reality of climate change.
Most of these benchmarks have their roots in ideological battles but that last one is different. It requires candidates to forgo reality as they disavow scientific evidence.
I wonder how they choose which science to accept and which to ignore. Is it alright to acknowledge that gravity exists and cigarettes cause cancer, but not okay to concede that man made climate change is making the Arctic is melt and extreme weather events are becoming the norm? When do you cross the line? When does the crazy start? Most importantly, should ignoring science disqualify you from being president?
Having a president who willfully disregards the scientific evidence of a looming threat is not in our national interest, to put it mildly. I don't think President Reagan would have gotten elected if he'd said he didn't trust the data showing the Soviet Union had an enormous stockpile of nuclear weapons. We don't need leaders who close their eyes to the facts.
But in this race, it's not about the facts; it's about speaking to the Tea Party crowd. And denying climate change offers candidates an irresistible trifecta. It allows them to belittle the science geeks and eggheads who might think they are smarter than ordinary folks. It gives them a chance to talk about government regulations -- in the form of limits on carbon emissions -- which gets their base all riled up. And it helps them keep the campaign donations from oil and coal companies rolling in.
Siding with the 3 percent of scientists who question climate change may play well with a small minority of hard-right voters, but it doesn't serve the rest of us. There has always been a place in American society for the fringe dwellers -- the religious zealots and the conspiracy theorists and the committed Luddites. But that place is not in the White House. Living in denial in the face of evidence isn't a sign of leadership -- it is a sign of delusion and it should disqualify you for serving as president.
There is also a healthy tradition of skepticism in America, but skepticism is not an excuse for inaction. It should be the beginning of a quest to find answers. If Representative Michele Bachman doubts the existence of climate change, she should travel to the Arctic in the company of researchers. If Governor Perry doubts that the globe is warming, he should walk the scarred plains of Texas with those who have studied the links between climate change, more frequent droughts, and intensified wildfires.
The fact that they don't journey to find the answers tells me they aren't skeptics at all: they are just closed-minded. They don't want to pursue new information or collect the facts on the ground. They want to stay within the confines of Tea Party ideology.
Casting doubt in and of itself shouldn't disqualify you from becoming the president of the United States. But willfully rejecting the facts, when the consequences of doing so will be devastating, should.
The Galleon insider trading case has made top headlines everywhere, but what hasn’t been as extensively covered is how U.S. lawmakers are excluded from the same insider trading rules that govern Wall Street.
Unbeknownst to many people, current insider trading laws do not apply to nonpublic information about current or upcoming congressional activity. But a reintroduced bill called the STOCK Act (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge) aims to change that. The bill was first introduced in 2006 by Rep. Louis Slaughter (D.-N.Y.). Under the proposed rule, government workers would be banned from stock, commodity or bond trading based upon their access to privileged information.
Given the U.S. government’s massive intervention in the financial system over the past several years, it is perplexing that rules governing the financial transactions of members of Congress aren’t already in place.
If passed, here’s what the STOCK Act would do:
- Prohibit members or employees of Congress from buying or selling stocks, bonds or commodities futures based on nonpublic information about pending or prospective legislative action.
- Prohibit those outside of Congress from buying or selling stocks, bonds, or commodities futures based on nonpublic information about pending or prospective legislative action if that information is obtained from a member or employee of Congress.
- Prohibit members, employees, or persons with nonpublic information from disclosing information about any pending or prospective legislative action if they believe that information will be used to buy or sell stocks, bonds, or commodities futures.
- Require members of Congress and employees to report the purchase, sale, or exchange of any stock, bond, or commodities future in excess of $1,000 within 30 days. Members and employees who choose to place their stock holdings in blind trusts or mutual funds are exempt from this reporting requirement.
- Require firms that specialize in “political intelligence” and obtain their information directly from Congress to register with the House and Senate, much like lobbying firms are now required to do.
Here’s an example of the type of financial conduct that is currently legal that would be banned under the proposed STOCK Act: Congressman A learns that the chairman of the Appropriations Committee has decided to provide a multimillion dollar defense contract for Company B in the Defense Appropriations bill. This information has not been released to the public, but will almost certainly drive Company B’s stock price up when it becomes public knowledge. Congressman A buys stock in Company B and makes a huge profit.
Individual or professional investors who traded like Congressman A would most certainly be prosecuted, fined and perhaps jailed.
Thomas Newkirk, a former official with the SEC’s enforcement division, told the Wall Street Journal several years ago: “If a congressman learns that his committee is about to do something that would affect a company, he can go trade on that because he is not obligated to keep that information confidential…. He is not breaching a duty of confidentiality to anybody and therefore would not be liable for insider trading.”
Until the STOCK Act passes, double standards with insider trading rules governing the personal financial transactions of congressional members will continue to reign.
Republican presidential candidates Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum at the Sept. 12 debatesWolf Blitzer put a terrific question to Rep. Ron Paul at last night's CNN/Tea Party Express Republican debate in Tampa, Fla. What should happen, the moderator asked hypothetically, if a healthy 30-year-old man who can afford insurance chooses not to buy it""and then becomes catastrophically ill and needs intensive care for six months? When Dr. Paul ducked, fondly recalling the good old days...
It's easy to take unearned rights for granted. Most go about their daily lives without an inkling of a thought as to how fortunate we are to live at a time in which many of the hardest battles for justice have been bravely fought and largely won. Though vestiges of struggle continue, the big battles, those which shaped how the basic principles upon which we define what freedom, justice and equality would look like in this nation, have long since been resolved. And while the actualization of these ideals remain imperfect, at least most would agree with the assertion that freedom, democracy, and liberty are but the minimal privileges citizenship in this nation should bestow.
How ironic, those basic tenets of U.S. citizenship so freely given throughout the nation remain elusive in the lives of those who live within the confines of the capital city. No where else in this nation do citizens fail to have the right to elect local representatives who can make unilateral decisions regarding how to spend revenue collected from that locality. No where else in this nation do citizens elect Congressional representatives who get to Congress only to be denied the power of a Congressional vote. Nowhere else is that basic original tea party principle of "No Taxation Without Representation" so egregiously violated.
Not only an affront to what we as a nation purport to stand for, the implications of federal stewardship over the District of Columbia have been real and often damaging. Take for example the District's current crisis in the battle against HIV. Now home to the highest rate of infection in the nation, few know that for years, over the wishes of the duly-elected city council, a conservative Congress blocked the implementation of much-needed needle exchange programs. Even when such programs became commonplace in other urban areas, the needs of the citizens of the District fell victim to the federal political winds of the day.
The same could be said for more recent actions. One of the most egregious fall-outs from the 2010 Congressional elections was its swift action to deny full reproductive rights to poor women who reside within the District of Columbia. Women who did not and could not vote for or against those who had just stripped away the rights they would have otherwise enjoyed.
In the words of the man whose face now emerges upon the monuments that span the city's landscape, "None of us is free until all of us are free."
Now is the time to free DC.
Mediocre initial reviews led Harvey Weinstein to pull Toronto press screenings of his company's dark comedy satire, "Butter" and begin recutting the Jennifer Garner-starring film. Stung once by the media, it looks like Hollywood's ultimate campaigner is working to take back the message and use the power of the press to build buzz, not boos, for "Butter."
The film, which stars Jennifer Garner as an uptight, conservative Iowan woman looking to achieve glory at the state fair's annual butter carving competition, finally premiered Tuesday night at the Toronto International Film Festival. Playing on the picture's obvious jabs at Iowa's fervent Tea Party faction, Weinstein released a statement inviting/challenging Michele Bachmann -- to whom Garner's character is often compared -- and other major conservatives to help him premiere the film in the state in a few months.
Of course, instead of delivering the statement himself, he had one of the film's supporting stars, Olivia Wilde, give the prepared remarks:
In 20 years of coming to the Toronto Film Festival, I've never released a statement for a film. But I would like to take this moment to formally invite Republican Congresswoman from Minnesota and Republican presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann, to co-host with me the big premiere of 'Butter' in Iowa in a few months from now. I know Michele will already be in Iowa for the caucus, so we can save some money on airfare and travel.
I would of course be more than happy to fly in the other leading members of the Tea Party movement to make an entire day of it. We could take some math classes in the morning to help balance the budget, brush up on the Constitution in the afternoon, play some ping-pong and then maybe some verbal ping-pong on gay rights and women's rights (especially the right to choose).
But at night we can all go hand-in-hand to the premiere of 'Butter,' a fun and important film where we'll share some popcorn and laughs. These are the kind of bipartisan effort that makes America great.
I look forward to hearing from Michele and I'm particularly looking forward to those classes on the Constitution."
In other, more gentle news from the event, Garner stayed out of politics in favor of showing off her growing baby bump. Perhaps needing some energy, or just wanting reward herself, she told USA Today that despite her pregnancy, she indulged in some coffee bean treats earlier in the day.
"While I'm very good about caffeine, I am also not afraid once or twice a pregnancy to have a half-caf latte. Today is one of those days," she said.
In addition to the film, Garner recently announced that her production company will be developing a TV pilot called, "And the Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth," giving hope to all those fanboys who watched her in "Alias" and swooned.
Yesterday some prominent people signed a letter urging the so-called "Super Committee" to "go big" on cuts to the Federal budget. Many of these people would describe themselves as "moderate" and "centrist." Some would call themselves liberal. I've met a few of them casually, both Republicans and Democrats, and they seemed like very nice people.
They're nothing like the audience members at the Republican Presidential debate who shouted "yes!" when asked if society should let a young man die because he didn't buy health insurance. They're courteous and civilized, and were undoubtedly appalled by the shouts from the crowd.
That sort of thing isn't done in the salons or think tanks of Washington. You wouldn't catch anyone who signed that letter behaving that way.
But are they really all that different?
Donner, Party of Four
It's fair game to label today's Republicans as (in Terrance Heath's words) "Death's Own Party." The GOP earned that name when it filibustered disaster relief for flood and hurricane victims this week, as it did when it passed a budget that slashed funding for lifesaving weather warnings, police, and firefighters.
It's also reasonable to call the Tea Party's more blood-crazed members a "Cult of Death" funded by the ultra-rich, as William Rivers Pitt did after the debate. They cheered executions last week, and last night they let us know it's a death-penalty offense to make the wrong insurance purchasing decision, too.
These responses come from independent critical voices. It's different when powerful people, whether they're "moderate" Republicoans and self-described "centrist" Democrats, privately cluck over these Tea Partiers. These insiders are in a position to address their fears and explain what's been done to them, to channel their outrage constructively.
Instead they've formed a mob of their own, so they can urge leaders to "go big" with assaults on services that help average Americans - including those who follow the Tea Party.
That phrase is just one more reflection of these Orwellian times. "Go big" really means "go small." Small government. Small future. Small dreams.
The letter said "we urge you to 'go big' and develop a large-scale debt reduction package sufficient to stabilize the debt as a share of the economy." It called for going "well beyond" the Committee's $1.5 trillion goal for additional deficit reduction, and proposed "major reforms (a Beltway code word for "cuts) of entitlements" and "reforms" to the tax code (which typically means lower taxes that would increase the deficit.)
The signatories proposed to "restore Americans' faith in the political system" - by imposing cuts that most Americans in both parties oppose. Now that would be a trick ...
Who are they?
Many of the signers are the usual suspects, professionals from both parties who have pushed the same anti-government agenda for decades. They're functionaries and hired academic guns who have long benefited from the pro-austerity largesse of right-wing billionaire Pete Peterson and like-minded plutocrats. They're Democrats like Erskine Bowles and Alice Rivlin and like-minded Republicans like Alan Simpson (whose public outbursts make the worst Tea Party dustup look like a meeting of the Emily Post Fan Club) .
The list also includes some of the "bipartisan" architects of today's economic crisis, people like Robert Rubin. Rubin pushed for the deregulation that crashed the economy, joined the worst of the bloated and incompetent banks and made hundreds of millions, and is now pushing to have middle and lower-income America foot the bill for what he has wrought.
There were one or two disappointments like economist Laura Tyson, who's attaching herself to a document that any reasonable economist knows is a recipe for economic disaster. It calls for the same austerity that's decimating Europe and unraveling the social contract which built its postwar prosperity.
The austerity approach pushed in this letter has already shattered investor confidence in the US economy, driving down the stock markets and making them surge up and down like the paroxysmal double-takes of a vaudeville clown. And now they want us to "go big" with it.
And yet none of them, with the probable exception of Simpson, would ever shout anything crude about death in a public place.
Death in Private Places
That's ironic, since people will surely die as a result of the policies they're advocating. Somewhere between 35,000 and 50,000 Americans die each year because they don't have health insurance. If the President listens to the people who signed this letter, as many people believe he will, he'll propose raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67.
One study showed that Medicare reduces mortality for its members by about 13% per year, and lowers the number of days spent in the hospital by about the same percentage. So the austerity economics these people are proposing will lead to death.
It's true that they're not shouting in public places. They're whispering their opinions in the ears of the powerful. You can decide for yourself which form of behavior is more obscene.
Hating the Victim
We're seeing it all across Washington: The demonization of the victim. It's in the public hatred for underwater homeowners, which began at the first Tea Party rally (on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange) and now reaches to the highest halls of power in both parties, where we told that helping struggling homeowners would be "rewarding the undeseverving."
(Funny - the word "undeserving" wasn't mentioned when both parties rescued Wall Street's megabanks. Rescuing homeowners, many of whom were persuaded to take out bloated loans by those same banks, would help stimulate the economy in a way those bankers have yet to do.)
We saw it in the question that stirred the bloodlust last night, too. Here's what Wolf Blitzer asked:
"You're a physician, Ron Paul... Let me ask you this hypothetical question: A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I'm not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I'm healthy, I don't need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it.
Who's going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?
The spin in that question encapsulates the Beltway bias: A "healthy" thirty-year-old "makes a good living" (which is unusual, with youth unemployment at 25%) but cavalierly decides not to spend "200 or 300" dollars. That's the common insiders' picture of the uninsured American as the villain of the piece.
Blitzer didn't ask this, more realistic question:
"The father in a family of four lost his job, so his wife is working double shifts without health insurance to pay the bills. Premiums would cost at least $14,000 per year (let's say $7500 under the new law) for insurance that still sticks them with big out-of-pocket costs. They couldn't come up with the money to pay United Healthcare, and then he had this accident ..."
That's the kind of real-life scenario that doesn't get portrayed much on television these days.
Now let's change it again, in one detail: The man is 66 years old. The "go big" crowd is urging the President to exclude that man from Medicare, making him even more unemployable and his insurance even more unaffordable. And he's much more susceptible to life-threatening questions.
We'll ask the question again: How different are the people who signed the letter from the audience at the debate?
We're told we can disagree without being disagreeable. I hope so.
I've met Tea Party members, and I understand their fear and their anger. I think it's very misdirected, and at times very ugly. But I understand it. And as I've said, I've met a couple of the people who signed that letter, too. We had pleasant chats. If we meet again, that chat may be pleasant too.
But as long as we're talking, let's talk honestly. The shouters and haters are disturbing, and we face a terrible threat from the big-money financiers stoking their fears. But it's easy for civilized people in the corridors of power to look down on the shouting rabble. Easy - and cheap.
I worry just as much about the ones who are welcome in the salons of both parties, the ones who are heard at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. They're the powerful ones. They're the quiet ones. While we're looking at the loudmouthed shouters on television, they're the ones who are killing us softly.
The CNN/Tea Party Express Debate leaves liberals like myself in a precarious position: while many of us are upset with the Democratic Party up to and including President Obama and have not been shy in making that upset known, if that upset or criticism causes any one of the eight people onstage Monday, September 12, 2011 to be elected to the White House then we will have let despots win.
Each of the eight candidates on stage in Tampa, FL in an event sponsored by and filled with Tea Party loyalists, at some point or another in the evening made it clear that Poor America, Middle America, Thinking America was not welcomed at their table and must, in fact, be defeated. The audience had vitriolic members in it, people that would yell
"Yes!" when asked if a man that needs six months of intensive care to recover should have his bills covered or die... the answer was clearly heard in the crowd, yes, die. And no one denounced it. No one chastised the audience. Not any of the eight, or moderator Wolf Blitzer; no one.
Some of these people are truly evil or severely misguided and uneducated about America, how it works and what its core and real values actually are.
As I sat listening, I couldn't help but remember my interview with David Holthouse from MediaMatters.org, who went undercover with the skinhead movement. He told me about American Third Position, a3p, a white nationalist movement (read legitimized skinhead lobby) that is operating within the Tea Party and how no one has denounced them or refused to take their money, playing it off as the tea party is comprised of local groups and what those groups on their own do is their own business; plausible deniability at its best. Could some of that money have sponsored this debate? Or any of the groups that were in the audience? Who are these people? And why are Republicans pandering to them and CNN legitimizing them? In all fairness, the syndicator of my radio show takes ads from a3p, and should I ever hear one I use my freedom of speech to remind people who they are, what they stand for and how racism under any catchy title is still racism.
Perry, Bachmann, Romney, Paul, Cain, Santorum and Huntsman all made it clear that anything that protects the environment, like the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency (started by Republican Richard Nixon), or inhibits business, read regulation, was bad, that corporate taxes were too high and health care reform, dubbed Obamacare, was the cause of all the nation's woes. There should be no Dream Act or anything but deportation and fences to solve immigration and as for health care if you can't afford to buy it you simply shouldn't have any and yes, in the words of the audience, die.
And yet I have to be careful about what I say about them? I must not be too harsh, too divisive. As a non-conservative I must have productive rhetoric, non judgmental, no name calling. But they can say an American should die without health care and that's all right. America's, and especially liberal's outrage is so often misplaced.
The fact is that audience members and candidates alike repeatedly proved to be un-American in their views, their ideas, their plans and schemes and in their tone. Corporate America was and is the only America they seem to care about and the audience is too dense to know it. They use catch phrases like regulation reform, tort reform, personal responsibility... each meaning something totally different to the candidates than the audience.
Personal responsibility simply means it's your fault you are poor, uninsured, without food or a job or cash. As 15.1% of people live in poverty now, the largest number since 1983, each of them is responsible for getting themselves in the mess and should get themselves out without things like food stamps, Medicare, Social Security, unemployment insurance. You are responsible for your safety net, not government, so stop looking for help from it. It's annoying to the candidates, it takes the focus away from pleasing their corporate masters.
Smaller government? Only small minds preach for small government. A more streamlined, efficient government is one thing, but we're a big country with millions of people and that takes lots of government. And these decriers of big government don't really mean it. Republicans grew the government more than anyone with the Department of Homeland Security, and according to Professor John Mueller from Ohio State University when I spoke to him recently, it's a total waste of money. His new book Terror, Security and Money: Balancing the Risks Benefits and Costs of Homeland Security does cost analysis for the war on terror, particularly the DHS, and finds it's a total waste of money given the benefit. According to his book, we stand a one in 3.5 million chance of being attacked or killed by terrorists, and given the risk, the cost of protection is way out of line. The DHS cost us $t70 billion or more but no one talked of abolishing it. But the EPA, that must go, it's a job killer and too expensive.
Yes, government of a nation of 309 million should be grand in its scope. And they want it to be, but only for their almost villainous causes. It's fine to expand government to deport undocumented workers, to build huge fences, deploy national guard to the borders, to do whatever it takes to stop the Brown people from coming in and taking good American jobs and sucking off the American government nipple to bankrupt our medical services, social services, school districts and more. Naturally the corporations benefit ting from this cheap labor go unscathed. But oh yes, it's THEIR fault our economy is partly in the mess it is in, according to the eight candidates at this "debate." And while there is no truth to their claim, truth was not a factor in this arena. Only things that could get good applause lines and go unchallenged by the "moderator."
In fact, so many egregious things were said by each that all that can be concluded from the event is that these people really, truly do not like America as it is today, do not like Americans as they are today, do not understand the very documents they pro port to follow (Michelle Bachmann and the rest get the Declaration, the Constitution including the Bill of Rights so wrong so often they can't have actually ever read them) and really have nothing but contempt for anyone not like them, or attached to a LLC or corporation.
So when does the press treat them like the subversives they are? When does the press stop legitimizing these people and their views, and the hateful views of their acolytes? The Republican Party is no longer a credible political party, it is a party of war criminals, of corporatists, Evangelical zealots and oligarchs; at least at the top. It's the party of millionaires and do-not-cares; obstructionists to anything not of their own design. A party willing to take a country hostage and negotiate like terrorists: give us this or we'll end unemployment extensions at Christmas; give us that or we'll cause the United States to default for the first time in 235 years.
As for the Tea Party, it is a well-funded creation of the Right with members that are downright dangerous to America. They are fringe hate groups, both of them. And if anyone wants to take me task for writing it or saying it, I can back it up with countless hateful statements made by either party and its members, from the "Die!" heard during this particular debate, to statements from each and every person on that stage that evening. These people are blatant in their contempt and disregard for the rank in file Americans and their seditionist rhetoric is reaching a fever pitch.
Shame on CNN for legitimizing this bigotry, this hatred, this Anti-American movement in the name of free speech, and shame on America for living in the past. The Republican party once might have been a legitimate second party, but now it should be broken up like any mafia ring. And as for the Tea Party, it and its members should be seen in the same light as any other fringe element (insert your comparisons here) hell bent on promoting their extremist agenda. And if you aren't any of these things but find yourself in one of those organizations, get out. The Republican Party abandoned those in it that were true to the principles of its founder, Abraham Lincoln. And the Tea Party is staying true to its founder's principles (The Koch Brothers); protect the wealthy by manipulating the uneducated poor.
Yes, I am upset with Democrats and don't see that party or its members as beacons of hope living up to their mandate or charter, their core principles either. Obama is a disappointment along with Pelosi and the rest. I do wish Obama had a primary challenger so he would have to mix it up in a debate or two and we could hear more ideas from the progressive side.
But that being said, the upset with that party pales by comparison to the absolute need to keep any of the eight people on that stage and their followers far, far away from the White House and any kind of legislative power. The Democrats may be weak and spineless at times, but at least they don't want to give the country over to those that would truly harm it and aren't blatant in their contempt for many Americans not like them, Americans like you and I.
To hear Karel's daily radio show go to http://www.thekarelshow.com M-F 3pm to 6pm PST, weekends on KGO AM 810 San Francisco 7pm to 10pm and in iTunes. To read more columns get the book Shouting at Windmills: BS from Bush to Obama available at Amazon.com and CreateSpace https://www.createspace.com/3512223
Texas Gov. Rick Perry may not have won over many new supporters from the Tea Party ranks after Monday night's presidential debate in Tampa, Fla. If Perry lost points with some in the audience, his closest rival, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, was not gaining many either.
WASHINGTON -- Two things happened in Monday night's CNN-Tea Party debate. The dynamics of the Republican race became clear: it's Rick Perry against the field. And the contest's central theme became just as clear: let's dismantle as much as we can of the federal government's role.
We are in the midst of a great national unraveling, a slow-motion secession fostered by fear, anger, $15 trillion in debt and the ineffectual yet conceptually ambitious presidency of Barack Obama.
The GOP grassroots response -- the Tea Party response -- is, however unrealistic and impractical, to try to dismember the federal government except when its largesse was created by Republicans or when it is failing to fully protect the borders.
Questioned repeatedly about the wisdom of their policies, the three current and former governors on the stage -- Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman -- claimed the mantle of state's rights to defend their actions. Perry defended his support for in-state tuition for undocumented college students in Texas; Huntsman defended his support for driver's licenses for illegals in Utah; and Romney defended his health care plan in Massachusetts.
In defending his tuition policy, Perry even made it sound as though he was doing so because of Texas' long history with Mexico -- as though the Lone Star State still had its own foreign policy.
The contenders for the most part supported a scaled-back military presence in the world -- a presence that itself is an extensive and expensive source of federal power. They called for limiting the role of the Federal Reserve itself, not just its current chairman.
And even when Perry's foes purported to disagree with him on Social Security -- he calls it an unconstitutional invasion of state's rights -- they were careful not to defend the program (let alone Medicare) with anything other than the most cautious language. They reluctantly -- almost woefully -- made an exception for the prescription drug benefit -- a trillion dollar program championed by former President George W. Bush.
The man who made the federal government's role the center of the campaign is also the man who was the center of attention in the debate: Rick Perry.
He has his story about the 10th Amendment and he is sticking to it. An all-but-forgotten part of the Bill of Rights until recently, it has become the organizing principle of the GOP race this year. When Perry mentioned the federal government during the debate, he used the word "they." It was "they" -- the feds -- who were disregarding their duty to protect the border with Mexico.
Think about it: the federal government is "they."
Is that the way most Americans regard it?
The GOP nomination, it seems, is going to go to the candidate who most forcefully makes the case for his or her antagonism to the federal government.
It will be up to President Obama not only to make the case for his own re-election, but for the role of the federal government itself.
It has been a long time -- since the 1920s -- that anyone has really had to do that. Perry threw down the challenge.
And as he makes the case, he is increasingly under attack from his rivals. At one time or another, almost all of them -- led by Romney and Bachmann -- turned their fire on him.
He held his ground for the most part. He hadn't debated much, if at all, in recent years in Texas. He has a decent knack for it and he relishes the punch and -- even more -- the counterpunch.
Perhaps the president should suggest that, if Texas is so cool and successful and powerful, Perry himself should secure the border from Brownsville to El Paso.
Perry once talked about secession. Was he joking?
The paranoid interpretation of Barack Obama’s presidency would be that he’s a plant from the libertarian Cato Institute slyly working to discredit government.
Could the Tea Party have devised a more diabolical scheme than a liberal president delivering a passionate speech plugging an enormous jobs program that won’t work and doing it in grandiose terms that identify it with the historic liberal agenda?
About half of the Obama jobs package is an extension and augmentation of an already-existing temporary payroll-tax cut. At best, preserving the cut avoids the pain of its lapse. It does put more money in the pockets of workers and, at the margins, reduces the cost of hiring for employers. But a lot of the money will be saved, not spent, by strapped workers, and employers will hire based on market conditions, not a tiny boost from government.
Keep reading this post . . .
Eight Republican presidential candidates are facing off in the Sunshine State on Monday night.
CNN and the Tea Party Express are sponsoring the two-hour forum. The Following GOP contenders are taking part in the event: U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
A new CNN/ORC poll shows Perry running ahead of rival Republican candidates vying for the White House in 2012. The Texas governor made his debut on the presidential debate stage in California's first GOP primary debate of the election season last week.
Below, a live blog of the latest developments to unfold in Monday night's debate in Florida.