Yeah, I know, I’m a little late in writing about my visit to the extraordinary Herman Cain – Newt Gingrich Lincoln/Douglas debate put on by the Texas Patriots PAC. Most of the media and bloggers that attended have already reported so you probably already know much of what happened. Or didn’t for that matter. But hey, it was a beautiful day yesterday and I didn’t feel like spending it inside. No other excuse but better late than never, right? We’ll see about that.
First off, it was, as most things are that this PAC puts on, first class, held at the fabulous The Woodlands Resort and Conference Center. And it should have been first class for the price of the tickets but it is important to remember that this was a fundraiser and the money raised will be used by the PAC to help candidates that agree with their mission to get elected to office. Here is their mission statement (as stated in a handout we received):
Our mission is to organize, educate and inform citizens regarding public policy, and to support the election of local, state and federal candidates who share our conservative values.
The handout then listed these three beliefs:
· Constitutionally limited government
· Fiscal responsibility
· Free markets
You can find an extended version online by clicking here.
I also must mention that I was a guest of TexasGOPVote.com and thank them for the opportunity. TexasGOPVote.com sponsored the bloggers room and I was but one of many that they invited. They have already recapped much of the debate on their website, including posting video and transcripts of most of the two candidate’s remarks. In addition, they have posted video of the questions that the candidates took in the blogger room: Newt Gingrich here and Herman Cain here. A big thank you to TexasGOPVote.com head John Stautner for the invite and to TexasGOPVote.com blogger Bob Price for making me feel welcome at the event.
Now, on to the big debate! Well, as you have probably read elsewhere or deduced from the title of this post, it wasn’t a debate at all. It very well could have been but these two candidates are friendly and share most of the same views on the subject at hand, which was entitlement reform. There were two moderators, KSEV radio host /Americans for Prosperity-Texas’ Ben Struesand, and Iowa Congressman Steve King.
The evening started with a rather long (read boring) presentation from Rep. King. By the time he was finished, most of the crowd was yawning. It was informative, at least for the first five minutes and 10 slides but c’mon, the stars were sitting on the stage, let ‘em go already! Basically, the congressman recapped our current debt problem and showed where we would be In the future if something doesn’t change and change quickly. He specifically mentioned Rep. Paul Ryan’s effort to balance the budget and finally we got to the candidates.
And like I said, it wasn’t a debate but it was fun and interesting. One of the comments I heard from the crowd was along the lines of “it sure is nice to hear from a couple of guys that love America and like us!” These two clearly have a deep love for America and want to be at the helm to change it.
Some of the memorable lines from Speaker Gingrich:
· If we do nothing, we will be like Greece.
· We waste 70 – 120 billion a year on Medicare fraud – would American Express accept that?
· Common sense doesn’t count in Washington, D.C.
· I’m the only Speaker in modern times to actually balance a budget.
· The Congressional Budget Office is a dishonest institution and we should abolish it.
· Let’s start with the idea that if you haven’t earned your pay, why should we pay you?
· Three things he learned in business:
o Set big goals with tight deadlines
o Delegate frequently
o Have no experts in the room
· We have a totally dishonest President.
· This President is about as candid as Bernie Madoff.
Some of Herman Cain’s memorable lines:
· $6 billion to rollout Medicare, estimated $12 billion for 1990 – actual was $107 billion.
· We need to have “loser pays” tort reform.
· Let’s stop letting the AARP get away with scare tactics. (re means testing)
· Defined….uh, Newt, you go first. (re defined benefits vs subsidized premiums)
· Chile figured this out 30 years ago. (re privatizing social security, click here for overview)
· Um…Newt you take this one first.
· Too many people in the media are downright dishonest.
Characteristically, Newt dominated the debate. For an optimal Lincoln/Douglas style debate, you need two people with opposing views. The only reference to an opposing view came when Newt said that he would resist the temptation to discuss Cain’s 9-9-9 / 9-0-9 plan because it wasn’t within the scope of the debate. The President of the Texas Patriots PAC, Julie Turner, indicated that they want to produce more of these style forums. It would be very interesting to see Rick Perry and Mitt Romney go at it. Or Ron Paul and anyone. This particular one was a coup because of Cain’s current rise in the polls but it probably served as more of an educational experience for Cain and the audience than anything else.
And that isn’t a bad thing. If you listen to Newt, you will learn an awful lot about government and potential solutions. Whether they are realistic or not is for another day but he is obviously the candidate with the most experience given his prior term as Speaker of the House. And you also got a chance to see Cain’s version of populism, which at this point is shallow in depth and detail but long on speaking plainly and appealing to broad themes that attract tea party voters. One enthusiastic attendee shouted “Rock me like a Herman-Cain”, obviously a reference to the Scorpion’s Rock You Like a Hurricane from 1984 (ooh, ominous, I just caught the 1984 implication).
Opinion time, so if you don’t like that, tune out now.
Neither of these guys will be the nominee of the Republican Party. Newt simply has too many ethical challenges to overcome. Not only his multiple marital affairs (and Callista is a lovely woman but the circumstances of their marriage will come out in the course of the campaign) but also the financial scandals in his waning days as Speaker. Yes there is and should be forgiveness but there is too much on his plate for the voters in the Republican Party. And there is nothing wrong with that and is indeed a good thing. Character matters. In my opinion, of course.
As for Cain, remember the last time we elected a President that had no experience or understanding of policy? Yeah, that one. As Cain would say, how’s that working for you? Mr. Cain is a nice man and a good speaker. That’s it. He appeals to a certain lizard part of our brain in that we know what he’s talking about even if he can’t articulate it. Well, that isn’t good enough. Add to that the debacle from the charges that he sexually harassed a couple of women. It doesn’t matter if he thinks he was innocent – his company paid two women to go away. And his lack of frankness about it is disturbing – there is no possible way that he didn’t remember two formal charges against him. None. Especially given that the Politico reporter gave the campaign a heads up a week in advance. Add to that his charge that the Rick Perry campaign leaked it because one of the guys in their camp was told about it in 2004 when he worked for Cain’s Senate campaign in Georgia. All of a sudden the timeline shrinks from 12 years to 7 years and was relevant in a previous campaign. Now add his interview with Sean Hannity last week in which he sounded much like Bill Clinton trying to define is. Your mileage may vary but I flat out do not believe him when he says he forgot about it and didn’t know about a settlement (excuse me, an agreement).
So there you have it. A very successful event for all: lots of funds raised for the PAC, lots of books sold for each candidate, lots of information gleaned by the crowd. Can't beat that with a stick.