The 5 Stupidest Things GOP Presidential Candidates Said...In Just One Day

It’s not every day that one gets to hear the Republican Party’s top three presidential candidates deliver speeches to the same audience on the same day. The second day of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington offered a unique opportunity to compare and contrast the rhetoric trotted out to the most far-right wing of what is already a right-wing party.

We expected the race-baiting, as when former House Speaker Newt Gingrich reprised his reference to President Barack Obama as the prime purveyor of food stamps. And it came as no surprise to hear former U.S. senator Rick Santorum bash the science of climate change. Nor were we shocked to hear former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney promise to fire federal workers, given the Koch-led attack on public employees that has characterized the Republican agenda since 2010. But what was surprising was the sheer stupidity of some of the candidates’ assertions.

Now, you may say, well, denying climate change: Isn’t that stupid? Well, yes, but it’s also the smart advancement of a false claim that is cleverly designed to appeal to the ignorant -- especially ignorant people who resent any suggestion that the health of the planet may require some change or sacrifice on their part. Basically, a clever move on the part of the candidate.

No, what we’re talking about here is sheer, unmitigated stupidity -- stupid claims that, while advanced with the intention of moving a voter into the candidate’s column, are so ham-handedly formulated that the net effect is just stupid-stupid, as opposed to smartly stupid.

Herewith the five stupidest things the candidates uttered on Friday.

1. Rick Santorum: Wasting energy makes a nation great. At CPAC, Santorum suggested that in order to have a high standard of living, a nation should consume as much energy as possible. Now poised to become the Republican Party’s frontrunner in the presidential nomination contest, according to several new polls, including this one from the Pew Research CenterSantorum proved to conservatives that he’s no effete intellectual, and he’s not just another regular guy, either. He’s a regular, stupid guy who’s not afraid to say out loud what other regular, stupid guys are quite certain of: that when you see two things happening at the same, then one must have caused the other. Here, Santorum makes the case against energy conservation:

One of the favorite tricks of the left is to use your sentimentality, is to use your proper understanding that we are stewards of this earth, and that we have a responsibility to hand off a beautiful Earth to the next generation. And so they use that, and they’ve used it in the past to try to scare you into supporting radical ideas on the environment. They tried it with this idea, this politicization of science called manmade global warming.

You look at any country in the world...the higher the energy consumption, the higher their standard of living.

Ergo, if you want a higher standard of living, drive a gas-guzzler, and burn those Edison-era incandescent light bulbs with abandon.

2. Rick Santorum: Health insurance shouldn’t pay for things that are inexpensive. Santorum addressed CPAC just as news was breaking of the Obama administration’s revised rules regarding the mandatory provision of contraception under employer-provided health insurance plans that is part of the new healthcare law. The former Pennsylvania senator is known for his opposition to contraception of any kind, but to the CPAC audience, which probably comprised a number of birth control users, Santorum argued not against the morality of contraception, choosing instead to complain that it didn’t come at a high enough price to warrant coverage by insurance.

In fact, Santorum actually said that prescription birth control only costs “a few dollars” -- a patently false claim, since a month's supply of birth control pills can cost up to $50. But that wasn’t the stupid part. The stupidity came in when Santorum asserted that insurance was only intended for things that were expensive. By that logic, any hope of bringing down healthcare costs would disappear as people beg doctors for the most expensive option, so they don’t have to pay out of pocket for their treatment. Here's Santorum in his own words:

Ladies and gentlemen, we have seen this play out on the stage in the last few weeks. We’ve seen the president of the United States tell you what kind of insurance coverage you’re going to have, how much you’re going to pay, how much you’ll be fined if you don’t, but he’s now telling the Catholic Church that they are forced to pay for things that are against their basic tenets and teachings. Against their First Amendment right....In an insurance policy, they’re forcing them to pay for something that costs just a few dollars. Is that what insurance is for? Things that are not really things that you need insurance for...but forcing them even the more to do it for minor expenses...This is the kind of coercion we can expect.

3. Newt Gingrich: Undocumented workers should be tracked through FedEx. For a smart guy, Newt Gingrich says a lot of dumb things. No, we’re not talking about the moon colony or other Newtonian “big ideas,” which are not really stupid, they’re just phantasmagorical. But before CPAC, Gingrich served up some hot, steaming stupid, such as his plan for tracking undocumented workers. After asking audience members to raise their hands if they had ever tracked online the delivery of a package they sent by FedEx or UPS, Gingrich continued:

Between UPS and FedEx, we track 24 million packages a day while they’re moving and we allow you to find out where they are for free. That’s the world that works. Now here’s the world that fails: The federal government today cannot find 11 million illegal immigrants even if they’re sitting still.

Now, I have a simple proposal: We send a package to everyone who’s here illegally and when it’s delivered, we pull it up in a computer, we know where they are.

But wait -- wouldn’t you have to know where they are in order to send them a package? Oh, never mind, because Gingrich sought to innoculate himself by following that helpful suggestion with this:

Let me say for my friends in the news media that that was hyperbole; we don’t need a fact-check.

It may be hyperbole, but that doesn’t mean it’s not stupid.

4. Newt Gingrich: Unemployment insurance a violation of the Declaration of Independence. Gingrich, in another of his “bold ideas,” proposed making the unemployed enroll in a “business-led training program” in order to collect the unemployment benefits for which they and their employers have been paying premiums across the course of a worker’s career. He continued:

Never again should we pay somebody 99 weeks for doing nothing. In 99 weeks, you can earn an associate degree. I mean, think about the total waste of human capability when you teach people to sit at home for 99 weeks. It’s fundamentally wrong, and a violation of the Declaration of Independence commitment that we have the right to pursue happiness.

5. Mitt Romney: ‘Severely’ stupid. Once viewed as the inevitable Republican presidential nominee, Romney’s road to the nomination has stalled several times, as he’s lost four state caucus contests and one primary to Santorum, and another primary to Gingrich. The problem seems to be that the right-wing Republican base doesn’t trust Romney’s conservative credentials, which are rather newly minted. As governor of the liberal Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Romney implemented a state-mandated healthcare system that is not unlike the Affordable Care Act signed into law by Obama -- a plan vociferously derided on the right as “Obamacare.” So Romney came before CPAC determined to make the case that he was a true conservative.

But in that effort he tried too hard -- and stumbled. It wasn’t the 25 times he used some variation of the word “conservative” in his speech that amounted to stupidity, but rather a single adjective. After laying out the case for just how conservative he was, even in the “very blue” state of Massachusetts, Romeny said:

I was a severely conservative governor.

Memo to Mitt: Right-wingers don’t think of themselves as “severe,” but you just told them that you think of them that way. Not real smart.

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