The Closing Arguments For America’s Future Before The New Hampshire Primary

Just 10 hours after the debate Saturday night sponsored by St. Anselm College and ABC News, there was another debate put on by NBC’s Meet the Press and Facebook. They’re trying to pack in as many debates as possible before the New Hampshire primary Tuesday.  You can watch the Meet the Press Republican Candidates Debate in its entirety at
What follows below is my “retelling” of the Meet the Press debate yesterday morning, an attempt to nutshell the various arguments in a more accurate and humorous way that both captures the rich theatre of the absurdthese debates offer, and will stir up some discussion and rethinking.  While some of these are verbatim quotes, they’re mostly my perception of what the candidates generally meant.

I can’t endorse any of these guys. I am a left-leaning independent guided by the social justice messages in the Bible, and I don’t feel represented by either the Republicans or the Democrats; I can’t, in good conscience, support either side of this duopoly right now.  Both donkeys and elephants seem increasingly broken and corrupt.

But, to all primary voters, especially New Hampshire voters, please consider these closing arguments carefully, because the plans discussed may shape America’s future.  These six candidates are talking about big ideas, from changing Medicaid, Medicare and other social programs, to energy policy to economic policy, and, my funny retelling aside, this is super important because it could change the direction of the United States and your standard of living. I really care about the critical, often life and death, issues they are discussing. For that reason, I’m a policy wonk.  I hope you will use my “translations” of the debate below as a springboard for exploring and learning about the important issues Americans face.


Meet the Press Republican Candidates Debate, January 8th, 2012
A translation

First question from David Gregory: Romney is leading. Why do you other guys think he shouldn’t be the Republican presidential nominee?

Gingrich: “because of his moderate record, he’ll have a tough time debating Obama; they have very similar plans for America.”

Romney: “I’m very proud of my conservative record; it’s a beautiful thang. in Massachusetts I cut taxes 19 times and ordered the state police to start arresting illegal immigrants… That is some true conservatism right thurr”

Willard "Mitt" Romney, debating
Presumptive front runner for the Republican presidential nomination, Willard "Mitt" Romney, debating, January 8th, 2012.

Real screenshot I took from yesterday’s debate. NOT photoshopped!

Santorum: “if you are so proud of your record, why didn’t you run for reelection in Massachusetts? I ran in a 71% Democratic district, it was hard but I brought people together around love of Rick Santorum without giving up conservative principles. Mitt didn’t even try…and he ran to the left of Ted Kennedy in ’94…. Governor, you’re a wussy and a quitter.”

David Gregory: but Santorum, you yourself endorsed Romney for president as the true conservative in 2008

Santorum: only because fearful of John McCain

The candidates are talking to each other for once, really mixing it up.

Romney: “that isn’t accurate, Santorum. Too many things to refute one by one, but I will say this.. Career politicians like Rick Santorum don’t understand this, but I didn’t want to run again to get reelected in Massachusetts because it’s not about a political career, it’s about being a selfless hero for change. It’s about making a difference. no, wait wait wait, don’t interrupt me RickRoll, it’s still my time… ”

Santorum: “so, you’re not going to pursue a second term if president?”

Romney: “politicians shouldn’t stay in Washington and then become lobbyists, that stinks… they should go home. Term limits are good. no, no, of course I would run for reelection as president, of course…”

Gingrich: “you get to overrun your time because you’re the front runner, but can we please cut the pious baloney that you’re not about a political career? You ran for Senate in ’94 and lost or you would’ve been serving in the Senate all this time with Rick Santorum, and you didn’t try to run for a second term as Governor because Massachusetts hated you, your opportunistic self was out of state 200 days of your gubernatorial term running for president! While you were governor, shamelessly running for president! You’ve been running for office for YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS, don’t try and front! Just level with the American people!”


*audience applause big*

Romney: Mr. Speaker, I’m all about citizenship. My dad was a governor when he was 54 years old. My dad said ‘son, don’t get involved in politics to pay your mortgage, but if you’re wealthy you have an obligation to run for office and make a difference.’ (see noblesse oblige). Now, I never thought I’d run for office, but in 1994 I hated seeing Ted Kennedy run unopposed, I thought, gee willikers, he’s pushing the policies of the liberal welfare state! So I felt I HAD to run. Now, I didn’t mean a word I said in 1994. I was wise enough to know that I didn’t have a ghost of a chance of winning. I told the fellas at work ‘BRB —don’t move my chair.’ But I was proud Ted Kennedy had to take out a second mortgage on his house to beat me. I’m proud that I fought for what’s best for America. I love this country.”

David Gregory: “Governor Romney, you’ve often called yourself a moderate. Let’s ask Ron Paul.”

Ron Paul: “How can anybody beat Obama without talking about spending and challenging imperial overreach overseas? This is how empires fall.”

Rick Perry: “The Tea Party understands that Obama has thrown gasoline on the fire, but the bonfire has been burning way longer than Obama’s term, and that it’s big-spending Republicans like Santorum who got us into this budget mess: I’m the candidate that will best lead the Tea Party to defeat Obama.”

David Gregory: “Governor Romney, how do you respond to past interviews when you described yourself as a moderate?”

Romney: “Look at my record as Governor of Massachusetts. As I watch government solutions fail, I’m more and more conservative over time.”

David Gregory: “Governor Huntsman, about policy, are you ready to demand painful austerity?”

Huntsman: “before I answer, let me respond to Romney. Last night he criticized me for serving my country. Attacking me for putting my country first and serving as ambassador to China under the Obama administration. Like my two sons in the United States Navy—they don’t ask what the president’s political affiliation is before serving—I’ll always put country ahead of party.”

Romney: “I think you serve your country by being a principled conservative, not by supporting Obama”

Huntsman: “attitudes like that, David, are why Americans are so divided”

*loud ovation of relief and approval*

Huntsman: “the American people are sick of it, they’re fed up with the partisanship and division, there is no trust left between the American people and their elected officials… We have had enough, and we need a new direction.”

17:27 mark

David Gregory: “name three programs you’d cut back to make the American people sacrifice. Real pain to balance the budget.”

Huntsman: “Well, Paul Ryan’s plan for Medicare ALL THE WAY! I think I’m the only one up here who would implement that in full, oh—sorry RickRoll—and no sacred cows… Medicare is getting rocked, and DOD is getting cut too.”

David Gregory: “not brutal enough. Name three programs where Americans will feel real pain, sir.”

Huntsman: “Across the board cuts in entitlements. And I’m willing to tell the higher income category they’re going to be cut off, Social Security and Medicare will be means tested…”

David Gregory: “Senator Santorum, same question: three programs you’d cut back to make the American people feel real pain. Real sacrifice to balance the budget—GO.”

Santorum: “Social Security, means testing—yes. And reduce benefits. Food stamps will be turned into block grants and given to the states completely. Medicaid: block grant that beast and send it back to the states. Public housing: block grant it and send it back to the states, and require work, everybody in public housing must work. And put a time limit. Those three programs, take them from dependency programs to transition programs to lift people out of poverty.”

Some relevant video sources on Santorum’s stated viewpoints on health care: Video: Santorum drawing parallels between Italian fascism and Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, during his Iowa caucus victory speech; also, Video: Insurers Should Discriminate Against People With Pre-Existing Conditions, Santorum Says: he said his daughter who has a disability is “very expensive to the insurance company” and thus her insurance should cost a ton. What about the non-millionaires, Santorum? You’ve made millions lobbying, so you can afford to privately insure a disabled child purely out of pocket, and that is great—I’d love you to adopt me; but what about everybody else facing disability?  Given current policies, only the uber rich can afford to insure a child with a “pre-existing condition,” i.e. a son or daughter born with a disability and not insured before the disability appears.)



David Gregory: “Speaker Gingrich, why are you hatin’ the Ryan plan?”

LOL Owl "Haters Gonna Hate"

Gingrich: “I like the Ryan-Wyden plan that just came out recently, because it gives seniors the ability to choose, a choice between traditional Medicare with premium support model, or new approaches, and it allows a transition in a way that makes sense. I find it fascinating how very, very highly paid Washington commentators and Washington analysts love the idea of pain, well who is gonna to be in pain?

*big applause*

Rick Perry: “The three programs to make reductions where Americans will feel real pain—Departments of Energy, Commerce, and Education.” *audience laughing*

Rick Perry: *answering actual question about government assistance from Facebook* “people don’t want government assistance, they want a job. We gotta create jobs, so people have the dignity of a job.”

David Gregory: “Romney, what about tax policy. Warren Buffet vs. Grover Norquist, who’s right?”

Romney: “Democrats want to take more of your hard-earned money so they can continue to grow government. We want smaller government. We gotta cut spending. Obamacare—gone. Like Rick Santorum said, Medicaid, Food stamps and Housing have to be turned into block grants and sent back to the states”

Huntsman: “No more tax loopholes and deductions. They encourage the lobbyists, and the convoluted tax code is dragging our economy down.”

Gingrich: “I can work with Democrats to get big, important things done. I have a long record of getting things accomplished under Reagan and Clinton.”

Romney: “in Taxachusetts, my legislature was 85% Democrat! Top that, Newtie! I still made friends and got really important things done.”

David Gregory: “Ron Paul you can’t get but one bill passed in 20 years in the House of Representatives. How do you expect to get anything done if president?”

Ron Paul: “I couldn’t get anything done because Congress is broken and completely out of touch with the American people. But I can build coalitions with people around freedom and the Constitution! And have. My plan gives people their freedom back, eliminates the federal income tax and rolls spending back to ’06 levels. The special interests getting special privileges and bailouts may feel pain, but the American people won’t be feeling pain.”

Santorum: *truly creepy grin* “Ron Paul can’t get anything done in Congress, but as president he could bring all our troops home as he has promised. He would create power vacuums all over the world and danger danger danger, fear fear fear!

Ron Paul: “We can’t afford 900 bases overseas!”

Huntsman: “The American people have lost trust in their elected officials. I’m the only candidate who will focus on ETHICS IN GOVERNMENT SERVICE. Campaign finance reform! if elected president, I will travel across the country stumping for term limits, and for closing the revolving door of members of Congress going right out and becoming lobbyists. There is no trust. We have to act.”

Rick Perry: “I’m an outsider and I’ll cut spending, cut Congressional salaries in half, send ’em back to live in their districts to live under the laws that they pass, and then a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.”

Andy Hiller WHDH-TV: “Energy prices are $4 a gallon for heating oil, and people in New Hampshire are suffering. House Republicans have proposed cutting the funding for federal home heating assistance in half, or entirely. Should the LIHEAP program’s funding be restored?” (See Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program—LIHEAP)

Huntsman: “yes, funding, but to get prices down we need a diversity of energy sources, break up the monopoly oil has on home heating.”

Ron Paul: “subsidies are bad economics, they use government force to take wealth from some and redistribute it to others. very harmful economically… good politics, yeah, but bad economic policy.”

David Gregory: “Governor Romney, what about the social safety net?”

Romney: “Poverty should be a state matter. Federal bureaucrats are terrible at managing these programs and little money gets down to people who really need it.”

John DiStaso, New Hampshire Union Leader: “Santorum, what about gay rights.”

Santorum: “I can be against the gay legislation and still be respectful of gays.”

John DiStaso: “what do you all think of Right to Work laws?”

Perry: “i’m lovin’ it”

Romney: “it’s crucial we destroy government unions as well”

Santorum: “I didn’t vote for the right to work thing because unions are important in Pennsylvania, but I would be good with a national right to work law that makes labor policies uniform in every state.”

Gingrich: “Massive oil drilling everywhere!”

Romney: “Obama has been anti-investment, anti-jobs, anti-business.”

Romney: “Natural gas, baby. Clean, cheap, awesome…let’s build a national natural gas network!”

Rick Perry: “We have a president that’s a socialist. I don’t think the Founding Fathers wanted this country to be a socialist country.”

Huntsman: “The American people are sick of the nastiness. They want a leader. I’ll attack the trust deficit as much as the budget deficit.”

*lots of meaningless personal bickering between Gingrich and Romney*

Santorum: “the decline in marriage is the cause of the economic problems in America. We need social conservative programs at the federal, state and local levels promoting abstinence and marriage in order to rebuild this country.”

Ron Paul: “as president, I’d use the bully pulpit to preach the gospel of liberty!”

Ron Paul, debating
Ron Paul, debating in the Meet the Press Republican Candidates Debate, January 8th, 2012

screenshot from the final moments of the debate

THE END—please comment below

you can check my source, the debate—in its entirety—at