GOP Prez Debate Evokes Bevy of Far-Right Themes: States' Rights, Rapist Babies, Gold Standard and More
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At the Republican presidential debate last night in Ames, Iowa, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, soon to announce his candidacy for the nation's top spot, had a very good night. Never mind that he was nowhere near Ames; the weakness of his competitors was on full display as Perry's impending candidacy toyed with their brains. The debate was sponsored by Fox News, the Washington Examiner and the Iowa Republican Party.
If there was any doubt that the Republican Party is now firmly in the hands of far-right ideologues, last night's broadcast surely dispelled that notion. In fact, many of the themes sounded throughout the evening appeared to come right out of the platform of the Constitution Party, the hard-core, theocratic party founded by Christian Reconstructionist Howard Phillips.
Candidates discussed the right of fetuses conceived in rape to be born, a return to the gold standard as the basis for U.S. currency, and the proposed abolition of the Federal Reserve, all tenets of the Constitution Party platform. Rounding out the Reconstructionist agenda was a question to Bachmann about her adherence to the doctrine of "wifely submission," advocated by several right-wing Christian sects, which she dodged by saying that the term simply meant mutual respect between husband and wife. (AlterNet's reporting on the influence of Christian Reconstructionism on Bachmann's beliefs can be found here, here and here.)
Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minn., who did quite well in the first debate sponsored by CNN in June, came off as petty and nasty in her exchange with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney seemed to shape his answers around the news of Perry's entry into the race, even invoking the 10th amendment, a favorite of states' rights champions, in a discussion of health-care reform. (Perry famously suggested that Texas might secede under 10th amendment provisions because of government spending at the federal level.) The Constitution Party platform would seem to be in agreement with Romney's interpretation of the law as it pertains to
health care. a federal government role for health care, though the platform also condemns any kind of government role in health care, such as that Romney created in Massachusetts.
Asked to address his campaign-trail criticisms of Bachmann, Pawlenty walked back from his intimation that her migraine headaches impaired her ability to serve as commander-in-chief, but held to his assertion that her record of accomplishment in Congress was nil.
Bachmann defended herself fiercely, saying that she led the fight against health-care reform and raising the debt ceiling. "I introduced the Lightbulb Freedom of Choice Act," she added.
Then she went after Pawlenty, saying that he had introduced cap-and-trade -- the carbon-trading scheme that is part of the Obama energy reform plan and anathema to the Koch crowd -- in Minnesota, and supported mandated health-coverage in the state.
Pawlenty noted that Bachmann had not prevailed in any of the fights for which she claimed leadership. He then turned to her, saying, "If that's your view of effective leadership with results, please stop, because you're killin' us."
The Pawlenty-Bachmann exchange has pundits today coining the phrase "Minnesota mean" to offset the term "Minnesota nice" used by moderator Bret Baier when he set the two up to go after each other.
Pawlenty Sneers With a Smile; Gingrich Resents Questions
Pawlenty also took a shot at Romney, slyly citing the latter's wealth in a smart-alec answer to an opening question, in which he offered to come to the home of anyone who could find a specific Obama plan for a list of issues -- the war in Afghanistan and the financial crisis among them -- and cook them dinner or mow their lawn. "But in case Mitt wins, I'd limit it to one acre," he said.
Newt Gingrich looked ornery and defensive, accusing Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace and debate moderator Bret Baier of lobbing "gotcha questions" when they dared to ask him about the walk-out of his campaign staff, the $1 million debt his campaign has incurred, and his "evolving" stance on U.S. participation in the NATO intervention in Libya. But he, too, found something to love in the Constitution Party platform, appropriating the platform's assertion about making English the official language of government.
Gingrich did get in one truly substantive point, though, about the "super committee" created by the law that raised the debt ceiling, calling it "as dumb an idea as Washington has come up with." (Actually, hard to argue with that one.)
Santorum Lectures Ron Paul; Asserts Rapist's Right to Sire Child With Victim
Rep. Ron Paul, Texas, a long-time ally of Constitution Party founder Howard Phillips, reiterated his calls for a return to the gold standard for the backing of U.S. currency (unbacked currency is forbidden under the precepts of Christian Reconstructionism) and non-intervention in foreign affairs. Paul's assertion that the U.S. had no business in intervening in Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons brought forth a spirited attack from former Sen. Rick Santorum, Penn.
Santorum also reiterated his no-exceptions stance against abortion, including in instances of rape. "That child is an innocent victim. To be victimized twice would be a horrible thing," Santorum said. "It is an innocent human life, genetically human from the moment of contraception. We in America should be big enough to try to surround ourselves and help women in those terrible situations who have been traumatized already. To put them through another trauma of an abortion, I think is too much to ask. So I would absolutely stand and say that one violence is enough."
Santorum's response hardly comes a surprise. He is the only presidential candidate so far to grant an interview to Randall Terry [video] the former head of Operation Rescue, and the man who suggested that Dr. George Tiller, the abortion provider who was gunned down by an anti-abortion zealot while attending church, had gotten what he deserved. (Terry produces a low-budget TV show, which features a racist character, acted by Terry, called Reginald Bling.) Howard Phillips told me Randall Terry is his "dear friend"; Terry ran for U.S. Senate in 1998 on the Constitution Party (then known as the U.S. Taxpayers Party) line.
Santorum Takes on Tenthers, Polygamy
At the debate, Santorum seemed fixated on the term "polygamy," which he uttered as often as possible, presumably as a way to undercut frontrunner Mitt Romney, whose Mormon forbears once sanctioned the practice. As his vehicle for lobbing the term, Santorum argued against some of his fellow candidates' interpretation of states' rights, saying [video] that some things, such as same-sex marriage, must not be left to the states to determine. "This is the 10th amendment run amok," he said. "So if the states want to pass polygamy, that's fine. If the states want to pass sterilization, that's fine. No, our country is based on moral laws, ladies and gentlemen. There are things the states can't do."
Take that, Rick Perry, you Tenther you.
Huntsman Weak, Cain a Joker
John Huntsman, Jr., the former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China who was once perceived as a threat to the re-election chances of Barack Obama, seemed barely present at the debate. And Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfathers Pizza who is a frequent speaker at events sponsored by the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, failed to make much of an impression, and was left to defend his campaign-trail comments about Muslims and the purported threat of shariah law.
When asked to defend his campaign-trail comments that immigration problems could be solved with a 20-foot, barbed-wire electric fence, Cain replied, "America has got to learn how to take a joke."
Indeed, America, the joke's on you.
Highlight reel from TPM