1:59pm (All times Mountain, most likely): Just waiting for CNBC to start their broadcast. But I’ve got my first martini half in me already. And please try not to refresh this page more than every two or three minutes. I can’t post much faster than that, and my server can’t handle much more than that. Be kind to us both.
2:01pm Today’s debate focuses on the economy, but what everyone will really be watching is Fred Thompson’s debate debut, and on Ron Paul’s newly-fat wallet.
2:03pm Thompson says we’re not heading towards recession, but he gave no actual numbers, and he froze up halfway through on the R word. Then he segued in (along with a covering cough) into some generalities about overspending. Followup question: But people THINK we’re going into recession, you idiot! (I’ve paraphrased) What will you do??? HUH?
The moderator just saved Fred’s bacon, by sounding more like a b-tch than he sounded out of his depth.
2:05pm Compare and contrast with Mitt Romney, who sounds smoother than a smoothie smoothed over with fine-grit sandpaper.
2:07pm Chris Matthews got in a question, delivered to Rudy Giuliani — who sounds quite patient (and pretty honest), explaining to Matthews that the President doesn’t actually control or predict the economy. So far, Mitt and Rudy have made me forget Fred.
2:09pm Ron Paul takes a simple question about the time, and explains how to build a watch. He’s going on about inflation — at near-record lows — and how it’s the real inflation causing the recession poor people are already in, and how the gold standard will save us, and Masonites are running the Federal Reserve with their zombie pirate enforcers. Or something.
2:11pm When McCain talks health care for the elderly, he reminds me that he’s, well, one of the elderly. He looks tired. Bravo to McCain for supporting the SCHIP veto, and attacking the tax code.
2:13pm Huckabee got in the first laugh — “Nothing’s gonna stop [Americans] from spending money.” Who showed him my Amex statement?
2:15pm Duncan Hunter claims that 1.8 million jobs have moved to China. And he’s tying that in to IEDs, somehow, and the decline of the US steel industry. Has he forgotten we make more steel than ever, but with fewer people — freeing them up to do cooler stuff than smelt iron?
2:17pm Good on Fred T for coming back swinging in defense of free trade, although he did throw in the unnecessary “and fair” modifier. Still, it was a solid response, and put him on my meter for the first time today.
2:19pm Sam Brownbaspack doesn’t want to raise your taxes. That’s a brave stand to take at a Republican debate. Next, he’ll do a cameo in the Sex & The City movie, and come out in favor of strappy sandals.
2:21pm Tom Tancredo is the most honest guy up there right now, when it comes to spending. “Earmarks,” he says “aren’t even the problem.” It’s the mandatory spending that’s killing us. And he’s right. “You must look at Social Security and Medicare.” The sound you hear is applause from me, combined with the “whooosh” of his campaign going down the toilet. Sad.
2:23pm Rudy claims he cut taxes 23 times as NYC mayor. Can anyone tell me how many (if any) fees he raised? I know Bill Richardson got caught in that trap, so I’m curious.
2:24pm Romney tells us that the tax burden was lower in MA while he was governor, than it was in NYC while Rudy was mayor. Rudy shoots back with NYC spending went down 17%, and went up in MA 11%. Who has the real numbers? Meanwhile, they’re catfighting over the constitutionality of the line-item veto.
What’s missing? Any involvement at all from the third frontrunner, Fred Thompson.
2:25pm “I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have a Republican candidate who has actually beaten President Clinton at something.” Rudy, giving a funny (and possibly chilling) one-liner. Fred T tried to get in a line, but failed.
2:27pm Next question goes to Thompson, and it’s about job creation. His answer is a lot like his campaign — it’s aimless and general.
2:28pm It’s the Cold War II! Duncan Hunter can’t say “China.” It’s “Communist China,” just in case we forgot.
2:29pm McCain has got to stop talking about health care. It really, really makes him look old. And if you’re staring at a computer screen and hear him more than you see him, then he sounds even older.
2:30pm While Tancredo is ranting, I’ll say something general. Chris Matthews is on his best behavior tonight. No rants, no spittle, fair questions. Anybody want to start a pool on how long before that changes? I’ll put five bucks on “spittle,” no later than 3:05pm.
2:32pm Romney is fielding yet another question. How much of his great big fortune got spent tonight on CNBC? And to amend something I said earlier, he’s smoother than a smoothie smoothed over with fine-grit sandpaper, then sent out for further smoothing to Kruger Industrial Smoothing.
2:34pm I’m curious what Rudy means by “improving free trade agreements.” A trade deal either has restrictions — and isn’t free — or it doesn’t have restrictions — and it free. Or did I miss something?
2:36pm We’re more than a quarter the way through Fred Thompson’s debutante debate, and he’s been a wallflower all night long. His dance card has hardly any names on it. What we’re really seeing today is the Mitt & Rudy Show. Maybe things will change after the first commercial break, when — if I may switch metaphors — Fred’s corner man has to slap him awake.
2:38pm Thompson has tied in the Dubai’s big NASDAQ buy with “protecting our infrastructure.” Duncan wouldn’t sell American assets to Dubai at all. If not here, where does he want all those petrodollars to go?
2:39pm It occurs to me that five million dollars is not enough to win Ron Paul much attention from CNBC.
2:42pm Finally, a question about the AMT! Fred T says, “we shouldn’t confuse the wealth of government with the wealth of the nation.” In other words, ditch the AMT (or maybe bracket for inflation), and let people keep their money. Amen, brother. And his delivery was the best he’s done so far.
First commercial break. Time for second martini. Back after these unimportant messages.
2:47pm “All things considered, was the Bush policy in Iraq a good one?” Fred answers that we went in with too few troops and too little planning, but the surge seems to be working. That’s all conventional wisdom. If he doesn’t sound fired up on the big issue, then when will he?
2:49pm McCain says that, had he been President on 9/11, he would have not said “Go shopping!” Instead, he’d have asked Americans to volunteer. I would have walked across broken martini glasses to vote against McCain in 2000. Was I wrong?
2:51pm Non-English speakers can tell when Paul is talking about Iraq, because his voice goes up two full octaves. Also, he accused us of having an “empire.” And that our overseas “adventures” are bankrupting us. And yet — we’re still spending less on defense than we were in the ’50s or ’60s. And we’re not exactly imposing our will, ala Rome. Don’t let this man near foreign policy. Or a history class. Please.
2:53pm Huckabee is going to get together this weekend with Joe Biden to talk about Iraq. That could be fun.
2:54pm Fred sounds good talking about Iran and Osirik back in ’81. Although to be fair-but-cruel, I think the Osirik airstrike is the first hard specific he’s mentioned in the whole first hour of the debate.
2:56pm Mitt sounds strong — not just smooth — talking about Iran and nukes. I think the background noise was the steam leaking out of Paul’s ears, Tex Avery-style.
2:57pm “AAAA-AAAA-AAAAbsolutely!” Ron Paul’s first reply when asked if the President needed permission from Congress to attack a fleeting, strategic target in Iran. He’s pointing and screeching and he found a third higher octave. He makes me sad I used to be a card-carrying Libertarian. Less for what he said, than how.
2:59pm Most everyone else is tackling this question. And while responses vary, the other candidates at least sound sane. From all across the country, there are college students wearing “I Grok Spock” t-shirts, wondering if Paul will give them their fifty dollars back.
3:01pm Matthews mentions that Hillary is sponsoring legislation requiring the permission asked about at 2:57pm. Rudy ties it back to 9/11 — his signature move — and how a quick strike in Afghanistan in 2000 or so might have prevented 9/11. Paul tried to interrupt, but failed. His voice was so high this time, that my dog went nuts and wet on the carpet. I get the feeling this happens more than the Paul campaign lets on.
3:02pm Rudy makes sense on energy independence, and how it we could turn Iran into “a paper tiger.” What he fails to mention is, we’re not going to get there from here. Also, Rudy sidestepped the follow-up question about drilling off the California coast. You know what? Cali is going to vote Democrat next year, so screw’em. Drill, baby, drill!
3:04pm Brownback can’t tell the difference between a hybrid at E85 fuel. Oops. Now the enviros will never vote Republican.
3:05 Hunter: “You’d better drill every place you can.” Translation: “What VodkaPundit said about California.”
3:07pm Meanwhile, McCain tries to take both sides and “wouldn’t drill of the coast of [California/Florida/etc]” unless the people of those states gave permission. Fat chance.
3:09pm Loaded question for Brownback: “Shouldn’t we let the free market determine what happens with ethanol?” And the entire state of Iowa held its breath.
3:11pm Same question to Thompson, who claims that “ultimately it’ll be the free market [to decide].” And this man has actually spent time in Washington? Did he learn nothing while he was there?
3:13pm Mitt Romney is talking oil, but he could be talking Iran, Iraq, earmarks, pig knuckle subsidies, hairdressers… he just always sounds the same. I don’t think I could deal with that for four years.
3:15pm Ron Paul wants to cut all subsidies, and Lord knows he’s right. But all I could think was, “Will somebody please tell him to spend some of his five million on a suit coat that actually fits?”
3:16pm How do you bring confidence back to the economy? Mitt: “First, be confident.” Great answer, delivered like a Stepford Wife answering “Yes” to… anything.
3:17pm It’s still the Mitt & Rudy Show. On today’s episode, Rudy is taking on Hillary like they’re both already the nominees. And it works every time he does it. It’s the domestic version of his 9/11 judo.
3:18pm Hunter is trying to sell himself as a Reagan Republican, but when he talks trade, he sounds like Dick Gephardt, circa 1988.
3:20pm Tancredo: “Standing on principle is a wonderful thing. Too bad we didn’t do it when we were in the majority.” There’s the best line of the night, bar none.
3:20.5pm Second commercial break, third martini. Can I keep up this pace? Can I hear a hallelujah?
3:24pm To Fred: “Give specific steps” to fixing Social Security. “We’re eating our seed corn, we’re spending their money, we’re giving 110%, we’ll take one for the team, and also Mom, Uncle Pie, and Sam apples.” Also, maybe we’ll index for inflation. When asked for specifics, Thompson reached, once more, into his grab bag of homespun generalities. [“grab bag of homespun generalities?” -Ed. I’m drunk, OK?]
3:26pm Tancredo: Free trade agreements are too long, and let foreigners into our country which is bad for national security. It was his Ron Paul Moment.
3:28pm Now Mitt is taking on Hillary, thus returning us to the Mitt & Rudy Show. On the next episode, Mitt & Rudy agree: That woman is crazy and mean!
3:28.5pm Andrea Shea King asks, “Barack who?” I laughed out loud.
3:30pm If this debate were being held anywhere but Michigan, would any of these candidates be spending so much time sucking up to unions? (Ohio and Indiana excepted.)
3:32pm “I have been a union member. The Screen Actors Guild still counts, right?” Fred’s first gag of the debate! And it was nearly funny!
3:34pm We’re still talking unions. And if I may quote Evil Willow: “Bored now. Can I play with the puppy?”
3:35pm “Leave my mother out of this.” -Mike Huckabee or Brownback or somebody. Idea for the next debate: Snaps!
3:37pm I don’t know if something went wrong with the sound system, causing McCain to miss a question, but whatever happened, he looked deaf. And therefore old. And I’m not at all surprised anymore that he raised less money last quarter than Paul did.
3:39pm Thompson finally sounded strong, answering a question on how to help US automakers. His answer: Get trade agreements that let them compete, and relieve them of their health care burdens. The first part I understand. The second part made me think of HillaryCare.
3:41pm “If this situation becomes worse…” then Rudy would increase policing of the internet. Short on specifics, long on scary, scary threats. Rudy’s instincts are just wrong, wrong, wrong when it comes to the internet. Strangely enough, it was Old Man McCain who came to the defense of our cool, new technologies.
Third commercial, still on the third martini. But at 3.5 ounces each, can you blame me?
3:45pm Mike Huckabee on the SCHIP veto: “It was about posturing,” and, to paraphrase, “the Democrats beat us on the politics.” Sharp and honest — Mike loses again.
3:47pm Romney has a chance — right the hell now! — to tie in a question about Muslim Americans, with his own minority beliefs. And… he flubbed it. He spoke in generalities, sidestepping the fact that he’s LDS and knows a thing or two about being in the minority. He could have made a real moment here, but played it safe.
3:48pm One of those Huckabee/Brownback guys reached into his memory, but couldn’t pull out the name “Greenspan.” Now there’s a major flub.
3:49pm Again, McCain looked deaf, missing a question. What’s up with that? Is it McCain or the sound system?
3:50pm Ron Paul says he won’t promise to support his party’s candidate next fall. Why doesn’t he just declare himself a Libertarian (again) and get it over with? I’ll tell you why: Because as the one anti-war Republican candidate, he gets a lot more attention than he would as just another nutty Libertarian.
3:52pm “Is London going to replace New York as the financial capital of the world?” Asked of Rudy? Talk about a softball question — and yet the gal asking it made it sound like she was throwing him major heat. Well, Rudy basically gave her the New Yorker Single Finger Salute.
3:54pm Mitt got the same question, but gave an answer including subsections of Sarbanes-Oxley. Given the chance to step out of the Stepford mold, Mitt flubbed it again.
3:56pm “Hey, Fred, who is the Prime Minister of Canada?” Can someone please tell me who this idiot woman is on the panel? And why she thinks she’s so tough? She’s making Matthews look good, which is like making Quasimodo look like Cary Grant.
3:58pm “McCain, how would you catch bin Laden?” What, he’s supposed to be Rambo? Mark 3:56 as the time when this debate got just plain stupid. I think everybody is tired, especially the panel.
3:59pm Matthews: “Would a third party option be good?” Again — what kind of question is that? Good for whom? I think what happened was, the debate went fast than anyone thought, and now the panel has reached deep into the bullpen for more questions.
4:00pm Thompson jokes, “I think these debates were getting a little boring without me.”
If only that were true, Senator. If only that were true.
I’m done, but I’ll have a wrap-up later at Pajamas Media. Watch for it.