Steve Benen: …. The candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination are a pretty scary bunch …. the two-hour display on CNN last night was a depressing reminder of what’s become of the GOP in the 21st century. That said, maybe it’s just me, but I’m starting to find the audiences for these debates even more disconcerting.
Wolf Blitzer posed a hypothetical scenario to Ron Paul, asking about a young man who makes a good living, but decides to forgo health insurance. Then, tragedy strikes and he needs care. Paul stuck to the libertarian line. “But congressman,” the moderator said, “are you saying that society should just let him die?”
And at that point, some in the audience shouted, “Yeah,” and applauded.
…. note that in last week’s debate, the mere observation that Perry has signed off on the executions of 234 people in Texas, more than any other governor in modern times, was enough to generate applause from a different GOP audience.
…. There’s a deep strain of madness running through Republican politics in 2011, and it appears to be getting worse. Those wondering why the GOP presidential field appears weak, insipid, and shallow need look no further than the voters they were choose to pander to.
Dana Milbank: The applause identified Rick Perry as the crowd favorite when he took the stage in Tampa for Monday night’s Tea Party debate, greeting his lesser rivals as “fellas”. But two hours later, those fellas – and a gal from Minnesota – had made some serious progress toward exposing the broad-shouldered Texas governor as an empty suit.
… The lowest point for the man atop the polls came when Michele Bachmann accused Perry of cronyism, suggesting that he forced girls to receive the HPV anti-cancer vaccine because his former chief of staff was lobbying for the vaccine maker, Merck, which also “gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor”.
Perry answered with his trademark boastfulness: “It was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them. I raise about $30 million. And if you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.”
…. On the defensive from beginning to end, Perry resorted to the time honored tradition of making up stuff. When Romney took issue with Perry’s previously-expressed views that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and unconstitutional, Perry had a comeback: “Governor, you’re calling it a criminal — you said if people did it in the private sector if would be called criminal. That’s in your book.”
The crowd cheered this rejoinder, which would have been effective if Romney had indeed written such a thing. An electronic search of Romney’s book, “No Apology,” found no use of the word “criminal” in relation to Social Security. What he wrote was quite the opposite, saying that if bankers raided trusts the way politicians raid the Social Security trust, “they would go to jail.”