Monday, August 15, 2011

2011 Iowa Republican Primary Debate

I wanted to post this on the night of the debate or the next day, but finals got in the way.  Even though the debate is well behind us and certain events have occurred which make writing about it now seem silly, I still wanna post.  Besides, I took notes and they should be put to good use.

The Winners
Mitt Romney
Let me be upfront: I don't like Mitt Romney.  To me, Romney associates far too closely with the political, who don't seem to fully grasp what's going on, let alone how to fix it.  I don't trust him to make principled stands when the going gets tough.

That said, Romney put up a good performance in the debate, and even though I don't like him, I had to admit that he came out of it looking pretty good.  RomneyCare once again proved to be his weak point, and he took a bit of damage when it came up, but in the end it wasn't enough to really turn the debate against him.  Indeed, while his competition fought and bickered amongst themselves or with the moderators, Romney stayed above the fray and kept his sights set on Obama.  Performance aside, Romney did better than was required.  As the "frontrunner", Romney doesn't need to win people over, he just needs to keep people from jumping over to another candidate.  I believe that Romney not only accomplished that, but may have persuaded some votes his way, or at the very least eased some conservative concerns over his candidacy.

Rick Santorum
Santorum isn't the candidate who gets a lot of attention (and he reminded us of this several times in the debate), but he capitalized on the debate and gave a strong performance.  He came across as a leader and a strong conservative who knew exactly what he was talking about.  His strong performance stands out all the more when compared to his previous, forgettable debate performances.  Just about every question he got asked got a good answer and his performance against Ron Paul was particularly satisfying.  It was refreshing to see a candidate getting just as riled up as I was when Paul blathered on about how Iran has every right to a nuclear weapon, and his reasoning for rejecting abortion in the case of rape was particularly good.  
Unfortunately, this probably won't change too much for Santorum.  He's not a particularly well known candidate, and at the end of the day the media won't give him much attention.  However, Santorum may not win the primary, but he certainly won this debate in my opinion.

Herman Cain
One of the complaints against Cain after the last debate was that he was offering a lot of what he had already said in the previous debate, and wasn't being specific enough on his policy.  He certainly had no problem with that this time around.  Of all the candidates on stage, Cain seemed to be the one most comfortable with the economy.  He spoke about the economy plainly and with ease, but out of all the candidates he seemed to be the one with the best understanding of it.  Being an incredibly gifted rhetorician only made him seem that much more competent and trustworthy.  Unfortunately, the ease with which Cain handled the economy was absent when the questions turned to other areas.  He struggled a bit in other areas, but it wasn't so bad that it truly dragged him down.  In the end, he was still an impressive candidate.
The Losers
Tim Pawlenty
Pawlenty came into this debating knowing that it was his last shot to make something happen, and he was clearly trying to make that something happen.  From the start, Pawlenty went after Bachmann hard, but instead of effectively dismantling Bachmann with intelligent and well thought out arguments, Pawlenty put on a show that was both pathetic and disgusting.  His attacks against Bachmann felt personal, desperate, and rude.  Worse, most weren't even good, and Bachmann took full advantage of that by countering and often times putting Pawlenty on the defensive.  Despite his horrific show, Pawlenty did manage to land a few punches, but wasn't enough to redeem this disgrace.  Pawlenty is done.

As a note:  This was my opinion well before Pawlenty announced this.

Ron Paul 
 I don't like Ron Paul.  I really don't like Ron Paul.  But in the last two debates, Ron Paul wasn't so bad.  There wasn't anything there to like if you came into the debates disliking him, but he did well enough that you could believe some people were impressed with him.  This time, however, Ron Paul put his crazy on full display.  To be sure, you'll probably be impressed with how he can seemingly fit withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan into so many answers.  In fact, Paul seemed more interested in going on his rants than he did in finding actual solutions to problems.  The below video shows it best, watch his reaction after the moderators repeats the question:

Paul's all time low came when he argued that Iran should be allowed to get a nuke, and suggested that we shouldn't worry about Iran making a few nukes since the Soviet Union had 30,000 of them.  The Paulbots ate this nonsense up, but if Paul is serious about winning this nomination then he needs to win new people over.  Rather than tone down the crazy, Paul let his loony rants drive people off.  Thank God.

Everyone Else
Michelle Bachmann
Bachmann came into the debate in a strong position. Before Perry entered the race, she was Romney's chief competitor, and was the frontrunner in Iowa.  Much like Romney, the status quo would be a sufficient enough victory for this debate, but she needed a win much more than Romney; especially with Perry's entrance.  Although Bachmann did well in her scrap against Pawlenty, she didn't walk away unscathed.  Most of Pawlenty's attacks were nonsense, but he did manage to point out that Bachmann doesn't have the most impressive record.  Indeed, one could argue that she's similar to Obama in 2008.  Bachmann didn't lose this one, but with Perry now in the race she will find herself in a precarious position.  At some point not-losing is no longer acceptable.
Jon Huntsman
Huntsman is odd.  I'm not quite sure why he's in the race to be honest; it seems like a waste of time for himself and for his supporters.  However, I will say that Huntsman put up a pretty decent show in the debate.  He wasn't the most memorable person stage, but then again he's not a "serious" candidate.  I came away thinking that Huntsman wasn't so bad, and I was especially fond of his stance on Civil Unions and Gay Marriage since it utilizes the same logic as my own.  It was nice having him there, but it'd be better if he wasn't there so other candidates could get more time.
Newt Gingrich 
Gingrich went into this debate as a man with nothing to lose, and acted like it.  When Gingrich didn't like a question, he went after the moderator, and he invoked the image of Reagan whenever he could.  He was angry and passionate, and it played pretty well.  A lot of people came out of this debate with him as a winner, but I couldn't put him in that column.  For one, I found his arguing with the moderator to be off putting.  I think the moderator has a valid question in asking Gingrich about his staff leaving him; after all, if you can't organize and run your campaign, how will you run the nation?  Gingrich could of scored some points if he handled it gracefully, but instead he decided to make it clear that he wasn't happy with the question.  He was later asked another question he didn't like, and went after the moderator again.  This time he seemed a bit more justified, but the act wore thin the second time around.

All of that aside, I really like angry Newt.  I don't think Newt stands any chance at all of winning the nomination, but I do enjoy his contribution to the debates.  
Romney is thinking about Cain for VP
One of the reasons I felt that Cain deserved to be listed as a winner was because of the rather odd boost he got from Romney.  At the start of the debate, Romney twice used Cain's name, and both times he was speaking positively and trying to make a distinction between them and the rest of the field by playing up their business experience.  I had previously wondered if Romney would select Cain as his VP since Cain is a favorite amongst conservatives (while Romney is not), Cain is popular in the South (while Romney is not), and Cain is an incredible speaker who would be an effective weapon in a campaign against Obama.  It seemed like that much more of a natural fit when you consider how attractive a businessman/businessman ticket would be in an election all about the economy.  This is just speculation, and Romney saying his name twice isn't a lot to go on, but it did reinforce my belief that Romney is strongly considering Cain for his VP choice should he win the nomination.

Pawlenty backing Romney?
During the debate Pawlenty was given another chance to attack Romney over ObmneyCare.  When he was last given this chance, he declined with catastrophic results.  This time around, he took it, but his attack was so soft that he seemed like he was a small child caught up in Romney's glory.  His behavior was all that much more noticeable when put beside his vicious attacks on Bachmann.  It seems pretty clear to me that Pawlenty really likes Romney.  With Pawlenty now out of the race you have to wonder if he'll endorse Romney. Of course, he could end up backing Perry for the same reasons. Regardless, there's no solid reason to think he will, but it's an interesting thought.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Quick Post on the Downgrade

Yesterday S&P downgraded America's credit rating from AAA to AA+.  We had held the AAA rating for 94 years, and losing it is yet another depressing sign of American decline. There are some pretty negative consequences for losing our rating, but I don't want to get into that.  If you're interested in the possible negative effects Hot Air has a pretty good write up here.

Instead, I want to just go over some things real quick.  First, lets look at S&P's reasoning for downgrading the US.  This little bit in particular.  Emphasis mine:

We lowered our long-term rating on the U.S. because we believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed and will remain a contentious and fitful process. We also believe that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration agreed to this week falls short of the amount that we believe is necessary to stabilize the general government debt burden by the middle of the decade.

So basically, we lost our credit rating because we couldn't balance our budget or make considerable gains in doing so.  Since Democrats seem to only favor tax increases on the wealthiest 10%, and its mathematically impossible to balance the budget even if you tax the top 10% by 100%; it follows that Democrats don't want a balanced budget like those extreme and stupid Tea Partiers (Or that they're actually in favor of raising taxes on everyone, but using their rhetoric against them is so much more fun).  In other words its their fault, and I don't think its unfair to outright say that.  One side recognized that the budget needed to be balanced, entitlements represented a problem, and proposed realistic solutions.  The other stuck to unrealistic demands for a mixture of ideological and political reasons.  Oh and refused a deal that cut much more and may of saved our credit rating. 

There's a status I saw making its way around facebook that sums it up pretty well:

The United States of America has had a AAA credit rating since 1917. That rating survived WWI, the Great Depression, World War II, The Korean War, Vietnam, Jimmy Carter, 9-11, and those "unfunded" wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It couldn't survive less than one term of the current White House occupant's misguided policies." -- Michael J. Fell

Its beautiful in its simplicity, and try as hard as some liberals will, this -will- be blamed on Obama.  Democrats may find a way to escape blame, and Republicans may inevitably get some blame, but Obama will be the one who gets the worst of this.  One of the arguments I've used on people who voted for Obama is that they elected him to make things better, and regardless of what mess Bush left him, he failed.  Philip Klein makes that same argument for why the downgrade is going to hurt Obama:

But there’s another reason why Obama won’t escape blame for this. Obama was elected president at a time when Americans felt the nation was in decline, and his central job was restore their faith that our best days were ahead of us, as President Reagan did after the Carter era. Whether you think he was dealt a poor hand or not, the bottom line is that the sense of decline has only deepened during the Obama presidency, and the first-ever downgrade of U.S. credit, whatever its ultimate financial implications, is yet another symbol of that decline.

The rest of his article (linked above) makes other good arguments for why this will fall on Obama, so give it a quick read if you're interested.  Hopefully America sees it the same way and this adds to the momentum conservatives are building as we head toward 2012.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Poor Omens for Taiwan

Earlier I wrote about the unnerving growth of Chinese military might, and how it was foolish to call for major cuts in defense spending.  In that post I went over the Chinese development of anti-carrier missiles and how China had, in ten years, gone from badly losing an air war in the Pacific to defeating America.  Now Taiwan has more bad news:

The edge the PLA has over the Taiwanese armed forces is becoming increasingly overwhelming, the Taiwanese military says, and within a decade, the PLA won't have a hard time forcing Taipei into accepting unification by military means if necessary. 
PLA stands for People's Liberation Army, the armed forces of China.

The article is worth a skim, particularly the beginning and near the end.  It also talks a bit about how Taiwan didn't protest over two Chinese fighter jets that may or may not have crossed the "centerline", but I'd ignore that part as it seems unimportant next to the other bits. 

Basically, the Taiwanese don't have much going for them.  In fact, it seems the only thing that they have working in their favor is America's support, but the article can't even leave us with that.  Near the end of the article we're given this rosy scene:

On numerous occasions and to little avail, Ma Ying-jeou has requested the US to authorize weapon sales. The platform Taiwan seeks the most urgently - F-16C/Ds to replace its fleet of aging aircraft - is unlikely to be sold to Taipei as Washington fears the deal would lead to a significant deterioration of US-China relations.
What's so important about Taiwan anyways?  Who cares if China invades Taiwan, and why should America be willing to confront China over a tiny island republic?  Well for one, I don't think America should be particularly comfortable with the idea of a democratic, industrialized nation being forcibly absorbed into a repressive, communist one, especially when those people look to America to defend them, and America has long done so.  Moral arguments tend to not be terribly popular in cases of foreign policy though, so the other reason is that the fall of Taiwan would signal a huge decline in American power, both regionally and worldwide.  China would only make a move on Taiwan if it felt that America couldn't, or wouldn't, protect the island, and an American retreat on Taiwan would signal to the rest of Asia that, despite any rhetoric we may be spewing after the fact, a power shift just occurred in the region.  Governments that once relied upon America for protection or support will have to either reconcile their difference with China or find new allies.  The former seems far more likely than the latter, and in the end, America will find its ability to influence events in the region severely limited.

Talking about "interests" and "power" in places thousands of miles away probably seems vague to most people.  In the end would Americans be willing to send boys to die for the free people of Taiwan against the repressive, communist Chinese mainland?  No.  Americans aren't even willing to send boys to die for things that are obviously American interests, let alone for something that seems to be more of a "Taiwanese interest".