Universal Translator

Friday, September 23, 2011

Imagining a Better Republican Debate

I didn't watch it myself, but I followed a couple of sites that were liveblogging.

(1) I understand that Ron Paul was asked whether he truly opposed a fence along the Mexican border because it might prevent Americans from leaving the country and he said that absolutely was the reason he opposed the fence. Ron Paul . . . doubling down on the Crazy! That makes me so happy.

Seriously, do these people think there is only one way into the country? What do they suppose Canada is, the Fifty-First State? What about our coastline, which is 12,380 miles long (if you believe the America-hating CIA) or else 95,471 miles long (if you believe those Poindexters over at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Hhmmm . . . y'know, that does seem like a fairly big discrepancy, but our own federal government came up with both numbers so I'm sure they must both be correct.

(2) And speaking of "securing the border," can't we just once have moderators who will ask some follow-up questions to explore exactly what this fence fetish demonstrates about the Republican Party? I mean, last night's debate was held in Florida -- can you imagine what it would have looked like if the questions and answers had been at all honest and consistent?
"Governor Romney, you've come out very strongly in favor of building a fence along the border with Mexico. But a great deal of illegal immigration runs through Florida. Do you also favor encircling Florida's coastline with a big fence?"

"Why, no, Chris -- that would block our ocean views and beaches and destroy Florida's tourist industry. We can't have that."

"So chasing tourist dollars, in your view, is more important than protecting Americans from illegal immigrants?"

"Now, now, I didn't say that, I just said I wouldn't build a fence. Ahh . . . probably what I'd do is order the construction of gun emplacements every five miles or so, and set up a naval blockade to prevent any illegal immigrants from sneaking ashore. The big guns would only add to Florida's scenic charms, and anybody trying to make it into Florida would get shot out of the water."

(Republican audience breaks into cheers and applause.)

"And you'd be willing to do that even if it meant preventing anybody from leaving Cuba and coming to America to join the rest of their family?"

(Thinking of the all-important conservative Cuban-American vote, and sweating a little). "Well, now, I didn't say that either. Uhhmmm. . . . Probably what I'd do, I'd task some high-tech spy satellites to remain over Florida and the Caribbean 24/7 so we could know which boats held brave Cubans fleeing the oppressive Castro regime, and which boats contained dirty, filthy poor people just trying to take advantage of good ol' Uncle Sam."

"So . . . no Haitians then?"

(Relieved to be back on familiar ground - it never hurts you in the Republican polls to bash black people - Romney replies in his best patrician voice) "Certainly not - no Haitians."

"Thank you, Governor Romney. Turning now to Congresswoman Bachmann, Congresswoman you've also been a staunch advocate of a border fence with Mexico. But you hail from Minnesota, which is a border state itself. Are you also in favor of building a fence along the Canadian border, which is - let's face it - much longer than the one we share with Mexico?"

"No, Chris, I am not. Our problem is with the illegal immigrants sneaking across from Mexico. Canada has an education system that turns out students who leave American students in the dust, health care for all its citizens, better infrastructure, much better and faster internet speeds, a higher median household income, and according to a recent Wall Street Journal study Canadians are the second-happiest, most satisfied people in the world, right behind the Danes -- America doesn't even rank in the top ten. So, no, Chris, I don't think we need to spend all that money to secure the Canadian border -- the fact is Canadians don't want to move to America." (Breaks off to stare vacantly for a moment, listening to what she's just said.) "But that's their loss, Chris, because America is the best country in the world."

(Pavlovian trained Republican audience breaks into chant: "USA! USA! USA!")

"Thank you, Congresswoman that's an . . . impressive explanation of your position. So am I right --"

"And you'd better not try to build a fence between us and Canada, either! It sounds like a lot of Americans might wanna move there! Maybe someday soon."

"Yes, thank you Congressman Paul. Getting back to what I was trying to ask just a moment ago - and this question is for the entire panel -- so is it really just the Mexicans everyone here is concerned with?"

(Panel nods, as one.)

"And the Haitians, too."

(Panel nods, as one, again).

"Yes, and the Haitians too -- thank you, Governor Romney."

(3) I haven't checked the news or any websites this morning, but last night the sense I got from the commenters I was reading is that Perry looked unsure, unfocused and unsteady - that Romney cleaned his clock. But these commenters were all posting on the liberal sites that I most commonly frequent, so I'm a little wary of ascribing too much predictive power to these views.

I remember watching Gore and Bush II during the 2000 presidential debates and after every one I thought Gore was the clear winner. He had an obviously greater command of the facts, had clearly thought through the consequences of his policy decisions, and of the two candidates he was definitely the guy I'd want in charge if something terrible happened -- like, say, I dunno . . . the worst terrorist strike in American history. Bush just put on a goofy smirk and an aw-shucks attitude and looked offended that anybody might not think he was ready to be president.

And after every debate I listened to pundits and looked at polls and it seemed to me these people had watched something else entirely. Bush was 'confident,' 'down-home,' a 'natural leader,' and Gore was 'wonky, stiff, stuffy.'

So I'll be interested to see if Perry suffers the kind of set-back in the GOP polls that his described performance from last night would seem to warrant. Lord knows I'm not the target audience here, nor are any of the people whose comments I was reading last night; if Perry's approval ratings actually go up that'll highlight even more the vast differences that exist between the people facing each other over America's modern political chasm.

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