For most if not all, they do understand it. But the GOP primary
electorate, after years of misinformation on taxes, doesn't. As my
colleague points out,
Michele Bachmann seems to have a tenuous grasp on how all this works
too. My guess is that Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, and Tim Pawlenty are
lying, and as president would take that 10 to 1 deal in a heartbeat --
and that Michele Bachmann would really walk away from it. Ron Paul? It's
hard to say. Unlike so many in the GOP, I think he really does care
about deficits, but he doesn't tend to pander either.
Other thoughts about the debate:
-- Michele Bachmann is the logical candidate for everyone who believes Fox News commentators and Rush Limbaugh. For her, compromise isn't a necessary or inevitable part of federal politics. Were that premise correct, what argument could conservatives offer against her?
Of course, most of them know better, and in one of her answers, Bachmann actually revealed, without quite admitting to it, that when forced to compromise, abortion is the biggest issue for her, and fiscal matters are subservient to that issue. It's a perfectly defensible position, and GOP voters should know that a President Bachmann would prioritize her social conservatism to her fiscal conservatism in the negotiations, implicit and explicit, that she doesn't acknowledge will be necessary for her to accomplish any of her agenda. Is that what the tea party wants?
- Newt Gingrich's attack on the moderators was noteworthy mostly because
it showed Fox News personnel being criticized in exactly the same way
as a "mainstream media" broadcaster would. There were some silly "gotcha" questions, as in every presidential debate, and undue attention paid to conflict rather than policy substance. That said, the moderators did an above average job relative to past performances by broadcast journalists.
If the American people want better questions, one method would be to
take debates away from the subset of journalism where pleasing hair, the
ability to read seamlessly from a teleprompter, and a knack for
creating dramatic tension are core job qualifications. The resulting
debates might be less watched.
- To me, the most off-putting moment perpetrated by the moderators was when Ron Paul was shouting about wanting to end foreign wars. Chris Wallace and Bret Baier mugged for the camera, as if to signal their mutual embarrassment that a candidate would get earnestly upset and passionate. That unhinged Ron Paul, getting all angry and losing his cool again. And in the game of national politics, it is unusual for pols to show normal human emotion. But for someone like Paul, who doesn't regard our foreign wars as part of "politics as game" -- who very earnestly believes that they're resulting in needless death, destruction, and trillions of dollars squandered -- it isn't at all bizarre to get a bit passionate talking about war of all subjects.