[Vision2020] State of the Republican Field

Art Deco deco at moscow.com
Sat Sep 24 08:48:28 PDT 2011



September 23, 2011
State of the Republican Field
At a few points in their careers as governors, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney used the powers of state government to help their citizens. Mr. Romney helped create a health insurance system to cover his state's uninsured population; Mr. Perry provided in-state college tuition for some illegal immigrants. At every presidential debate, however, each attacks the other for these accomplishments, unaware of how ridiculous they sound. 

Thursday night's Republican debate was a particular cacophony of illogic as all of the candidates pandered to a base that is frighteningly unrepresentative of most Americans who want their elected officials to work for the greater good. Mr. Romney blasted the tuition break for luring "illegal aliens" to the University of Texas. "That shouldn't be allowed," he said. "It makes no sense at all." (In fact, 13 states have decided it makes a great deal of sense, knowing the value of well-educated residents.) 

Mr. Perry, defending his policy, suddenly became the soul of compassion. "If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own," he said, "I don't think you have a heart." Mr. Perry's big heart may be genuine, but it also likely has something to do with his state's large Hispanic voting population. 

That heart seemed to shrink drastically as he struggled to explain why 26 percent of his state has no health insurance, the highest rate in the country. (The lowest rate, 5 percent, is in Massachusetts, because of Mr. Romney's program, which Mr. Perry dismissed Friday as "misguided.") Though a questioner suggested it was because the Texas eligibility rules for Medicaid were unusually tough, Mr. Perry inexplicably blamed the lack of a Medicaid waiver from Washington. 

All of the candidates seem to think that voters will not notice - or not be up on the facts - when they defend their use of government in one breath and then opportunistically denounce their opponent's use in the next. 

In the area of foreign policy, Mr. Perry let loose one of the most incoherent and frightening statements of the primary season - in response to a question about what he would do if the Taliban gained control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. His answer is difficult to parse, but he seemed to say that would never happen on his watch because unlike President Obama he would have sold F-16 fighters to India - Pakistan's nuclear rival - to assist the United States in keeping control of Pakistan's arsenal. 

Actually, India was pitched hard (but not for that reason) and earlier this year chose not to buy F-16s. Even if Mr. Perry had gotten that point right, his answer sounds more like a sequel to Dr. Strangelove than a thoughtful response from a potential president. That, however, seems to be asking too much from this field of candidates. 

Wayne A. Fox
wayne.a.fox at gmail.com
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