Sunday, November 13, 2011









Learning (!) From Bachmann and Santorum


There isn't much difference among the Repub candidates for President, at least among those who get invited to debate, such as the seven who appeared last night at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina (transcript here).

Oh, there is Jon Huntsman, the one candidate who believes that science is not a trick of the antichrist, but his dangerous economic views are straight out of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and he nonetheless has no chance of gaining the nomination. And then there is Ron Paul, who is antagonistic toward military adventurism, but otherwise has gotten to the right of the other candidates, an impressive acrobatic feat.

But there is a difference, even among the other five. We now know that Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich should pack up their bags, go back to Texas and Georgia, and never, ever pretend that they even want to be president.

Almost unbelievably, the two candidates who put them to shame last night were Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, when co-moderator Scott Pelley asked

Governor Perry, why is Pakistan playing a double game, saying that it supports the United States one moment and then supporting terrorists who are killing American troops the next? What's going on there?

After a response from the longest-serving governor in the United States, Pelley followed up, and Perry then stated

They've been doing this for years. Their political people are not who are in charge of that country. It's the military. It's the secret service. That's who's running that country. And I don't trust 'em. And we need to send clear messages. We need to do foreign aid completely different. I'm tellin' you, no dollar's goin' into those countries. As a matter of fact, if they want any American aid, any country, unless we say differently, the American manufacturing, big companies, small companies, going in to help create economic--

A minute and a half later, the National Journal's Major Garret asked of Newt Gingrich "....You have seen, at times, the proper role of the United States through foreign aid and other interventions. I want to know if you agree with-- Governor Perry about starting at zero?" The former Speaker of the House and alleged policy wonk replied

I'm absolute-- I mean, what he said made absolutely perfect sense. Why would you start every year-- and consider the alternative. You're giving some country $7 billion a year. So you start off-- or-- or in the case of Egypt, $3 billion a year. So you start off every year and say, "Here's your $3 billion, now I'll start thinking"? You ought to start off at zero and say, "Explain to me why I should give you a penny."And let me tell you, the fact that the Pakistanis-- (APPLAUSE) he didn't think about this. The Pakistanis hid Bin Laden for at least six years in a military city within a mile of their national defense university? And then they got mad at the people who turned him over to us? And we think those are the acts of allies? I think that's a pretty good idea to start at zero and sometimes stay there.

Make no mistake about it: neither Perry nor Gingrich knows much about Pakistan or cares much about Pakistan. Their responses were all about pandering, as audience applause reflected. Recognizing the unpopularity of foreign aid (especially in the abstract), a Washington Post blogger noted in April

In poll after poll, Americans overwhelmingly say they believe that foreign aid makes up a larger portion of the federal budget than defense spending, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, or spending on roads and other infrastructure. In a November World Public Opinion poll, the average American believed that a whopping 25 percent of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. The average respondent also thought that the appropriate level of foreign aid would be about 10 percent of the budget — 10 times the current level.

Compared with our military and entitlement budgets, this is loose change. Since the 1970s, aid spending has hovered around 1 percent of the federal budget. International assistance programs were close to 5 percent of the budget under Lyndon B. Johnson during the war in Vietnam, but have dropped since.

Americans generally believe the U.S.A. is overly generous aiding other nations which, given our GDP, is far off the mark. While Romney, Paul, and Cain were not directly confronted on the issue, Perry and Gingrich played to the crowd. Michele Bachmann, however, sits on the House Intelligence Committee and, commenting between Perry and Gingrich, informed her colleagues

Pakistan is a very difficult area, because they have been housing terrorists and terrorists have been training there. Al Qaeda, as well as Hikani, as well as other militias dealing with terrorist organizations. But I would not agree with that assessment to pull all foreign aid from Pakistan. I would reduce foreign aid to many, many countries. But there's a problem, because Pakistan has a nuclear weapon. We have more-- people affiliated with Al Qaeda closer to that nuclear bomb than in any nation. This is an extremely important issue.

A few moments later, Rick Santorum addressed the same issue and explained (in part)

Well, let me just stop back and-- and-- and say I disagree with a lot of what was said up here. Pakistan must be a friend of the United States for the reason that Michele outlined. Pakistan is a nuclear power. And there are people in this-- in that country that if they gain control of that country will create a situation equal to the situation that is now percolating in Iran.

In her response, Bachmann couldn't resist criticizing President Obama over Israel and Santorum for his part seemed all too comfortable with the regime in Islamabad. But no matter. Given a golden opportunity, they chose not to trivialize the issue of nuclear power but instead to acknowledge the complexities of cutting off a nation at the knees. By contrast, Rick Perry is ignorant and Newt Gingrich irresponsibly opportunistic.

Contemplating the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Islamic terrorists, candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum demonstrated a basic understanding of a volatile region of the Asian continent, and Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich did not. If they had any sense of dignity, they would get out and get out now.







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