Here are things that Republicans suggested eliminating or privatizing in last night’s debate: FEMA, NASA, the EPA, the Federal Labor Relations Board, Medicaid and food stamps. Herman Cain promised not to appoint any Muslims who want to kill Americans to his cabinet. Michele Bachmann supports states rights on gay marriage, but also supports a constitutional amendment outlawing it. Newt Gingrich faults big government for the lamentable absence of manned stations on the moon. Rick Santorum wants to “a system of discipline” to “punish” gay soldiers, which suggests that his problem with pornographic Google results is not likely to abate. Tim Pawlenty views Iraq as “one of the shiniest examples of success in the Middle East.”
In this crowd, Mitt Romney seemed almost statesmanlike, even though he says he’s willing to blow up the world economy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. At least he admitted that Sharia law will not soon be coming to America, about as brave a concession to reality as we’re likely to see from this field.
He and Bachmann were the winners last night. Romney came off as relatively serious and reasonable, and benefited from the fact that Tim Pawlenty wimped out when invited to take on his health care record. Bachmann, who announced her candidacy during the debate, probably gained more from the proceedings than anyone. She was charming, charismatic and far better spoken than Sarah Palin, to whom she’s often compared, has ever been. Of course, she doesn’t believe in evolution or global warming, thinks homosexuality can be cured and warns of a plot to merge the United States with Canada and Mexico, but in today’s Republican Party, none of that is particularly controversial. It’s going to be a long seventeen months.