Two. more. debates.

    There are surely more torturous pursuits than watching two Republican debates within a span of 12 hours – setting fire to one’s feet comes to mind – but I did manage to limn a few choice nuggets from the rhetorical detritus.Episodic moments, in no particular order:Mitt Romney said that he’s just a citizen-businessman who occasionally dabbles in politics for the greater good of his country. He said that “politics is not my career.” As evidence, he cited his decision not to run for re-election as Massachusetts governor in 2006: “Run again? That would be about me. I was trying to help get the state in best shape as I possibly could. Left the world of politics, went back into business.”Fortunately, Newt Gingrich spoke up to rebut Romney’s fiction. Every word in Newt’s response was true: “Can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney?…The fact is you had a very bad re-election rating (in 2006). You dropped out of office. You had been out of state for something like 200 days preparing to run for president. You didn’t have this interlude of citizenship while you thought about what to do. You were running for president while you were governor. You were gone all over the country…You then promptly reentered politics (as a 2008 presidential candidate). You happened to lose to McCain…Now you’re back running. You’ve been running consistently for years and years and years. So this idea that suddenly citizenship showed up in your mind, just level with the American people.”Not for the first time, I was left to wonder: When Romney lies, is he aware he is lying? Or does he sincerely believe whatever he happens to be marketing?——-  Newt referred to Romney as “a timid Massachusetts moderate,” as “someone who comes out of the Massachusetts culture.” For the next few weeks, it appears that Massachusetts is going to replace San Francisco as a Republican pejorative, as a knee-jerk synonym for unwholesome un-American values.——-Jon Huntsman, in a last-ditch attempt to kick up some dust before he bids bye bye, said that he was merely a loyal American when he joined the Obama administration as ambassador to China: “Yes, under a Democrat. Like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy. They’re not asking what political affiliation the president is…I will always put my country first.” Romney then scolded Huntsman for signing on to “President Obama’s agenda.” Whereupon Huntsman smacked Romney upside the head: “This nation is divided because of attitudes like that.”Of course, Huntsman’s nonpartisan pitch had a political purpose. He aimed it at the huge pool of independents who are permitted to vote in the New Hampshire primary. He could easily finish a respectable (but distant) third in the voting tomorrow night. Not that it would save him, however. The primaries go South after Tuesday. He’s toast down there.——-

    Romney said at one point: “John Adams, who wrote the Constitution…” Good grief. He now joins Bachmann and Palin as yet another Republican winner of the Sam Cooke “Don’t Know Much About History” Award. The truth is, John Adams was a diplomat on the far side of the Atlantic when the Constitution was written, and, if memory serves, there was a big problem with wi-fi and 3G during the 18th century, thereby rendering it difficult for Adams to send his PDFs. (Update: In fairness to Romney, the full debate transcript indicates that he was talking about the Massachusetts constitution. Which Adams did write. He said that Adams would’ve been “surprised” by the state Supreme Court ruling that decreed gay marriage to be legal under the state constitution. Hard to know, since Adams has been dead for 185 years. He’d be surprised by jet travel, too. And with respect to the gay marriage ruling, perhaps he would have simply stood by his written principles about due process and equal protection.) 

    ——-Why oh why does Rick Perry and his chest persist in taking up space and wasting our time? First he declared that we should send U.S. troops back into Iraq – a stance that not even grassroots Republicans could possibly stomach. Later he revived his idea about “a part-time Congress” – which, if ever instituted, would merely compel members of Congress to earn money in the off season by working for the corporate special interests. Go home, Rick. There’s always room for you at the gun range.——-Newt whined about how the Romney-friendly “independent” groups have been targeting him in a barrage of TV attack ads. Newt said, “I think you have to have fact-based campaigns.” But, the thing is, most of the attacks have been fact-based. Newt is easy to target because his flaws are so abundant.Romney, in response, took full advantage: “The ad I saw said that you’d been forced out of the (House) speakership. That was correct. It said you’d sat down with Nancy Pelosi and argued for a climate change bill. That was correct. It said that you’d called (congressman) Paul Ryan’s plan to Medicare reform a ‘right-wing social engineering’ plan. It said that, as part of a (House) ethics investigation, that you had to reimburse some $300,000. Those things are all true.”He managed to neatly reinforce Newt’s negatives. There was only one problem. Seconds before launching into his detailed litany of the ad he had seen, Romney had insisted: “With regards to their ads, I haven’t seen ’em.”As Perry would say, “Oops.”——-After Sunday moderator David Gregory quoted a Romney remark from 2002 – “I’m someone who is moderate and my views are progressive” – Romney insisted that he’s actually a conservative and that New Hampshire voters “have got my record as governor” to prove it. He thus provided his rivals with an opening big enough for a fleet of Hummers. Yet none took the opportunity to slam-dunk Romney for championing the Massachusetts health reform law – and the health coverage requirement that Romney had once proudly touted as a model for the nation.——-Rick Santorum was asked: “Washington is polarized. The country is polarized. And the American people are pretty sick of the fact that nothing gets done in Washington. Specifically how do you change that?”How would Rick Santorum – who was known back in the day as “Senator Slash” – end polarization in Washington? You’ve got to be kidding. No wonder he initially tried to dodge the question entirely, by launching into a lengthy putdown of Ron Paul. He did eventually return to the question, however. He reminisced about how he had worked with some Democrats on welfare reform back in the 1990s – but offered nary a single word on what he would do going forward.No surprise there. After all, this is the guy who, just one year before his 18-point re-election loss, declared on the Senate floor that the Democrats’ use of the filibuster to block judicial nominees was “the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942.”——-Romney sought to paint himself as a job creator and rebut the charge that he was a job-killing predator when he ran the investment firm Bain Capital. He said: “In the business I had, we invested in over 100 different businesses and net-net, taking out the ones where we lost jobs and those that we added, those businesses have now added over 100,000 jobs.” (Apparently he has upped the ante; in a debate last summer, he said the Bain businesses had added “tens of thousands of jobs, net-net.”)But fact-checkers have consistently disputed Romney’s job creation stats, which apparently omit thousands of layoffs at various Bain outposts. Indeed, the Washington Post fact-checkers concluded last year: “Romney’s record at Bain proves that he can produce staggering returns for investors, but it is unclear if that record tells us anything about his ability to create jobs. His campaign offered no definitive proof that Bain added more jobs than it eliminated while Romney headed the firm. For all we know, he pulled his ‘tens of thousands of jobs’ number from thin air.”But, on stage, none of Romney’s purportedly pugilistic rivals bothered to question his Bain claim. All told, and despite tracking polls that show a 10-point drop in Romney’s New Hampshire support, they did little to slow his seemingly inexorable march to the nomination. Last June, in the wake of an early Republican debate, I titled my post “Romney and the dwarfs.” Based on what I saw this weekend, that’s still my story and I’m sticking to it. ——-   I assessed the current status of the Republican race in my Sunday newspaper column. ——-I did another Live Chat today. The transcript is here. ——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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