Here’s a link to the transcript, which makes for interesting reading and a different experience than viewing it on the tube.
The short version of my thoughts is simply this: Fred Thompson, when he wants to, makes a strong case for himself and his economic policies. He did that tonight by being specific and, in my opinion, was the winner tonight.
For example, Mike Huckabee talks about economics at this level:
Eighty percent of all our jobs, Chris, comes from small business in this country, but the environment we’ve created, too much taxation, too much regulation, too much litigation, is a result in job migration. We lose jobs that go overseas that we ought to be keeping here.
If that’s populism, then I’m guilty, because I think if you understand the struggle of a lot of American families, our party had better wake up to that. If we don’t, we’re going to lose, not just those families.
And there’s nothing wrong with that statement. But consider Thompson’s:
I’m a little bit concerned that we would wind up with a consumption type tax and an income tax later on. You’d have to have a constitutional amendment to make sure that that did not happen, and that’s unlikely.
I think that we ought to move toward a flatter tax. That’s why I proposed a move in the right direction toward reform, something that can actually get passed, unlike a lot of the things that we wish would happen that never will.
I think that a person ought to be able to fill out their taxes the way that they traditionally do, if they want to, or have an alternative along the lines of the House Republican plan that’s been tested and it’s revenue neutral that would say basically this: if you have an income of $100,000 or less as a couple, $50,000 as an individual, you’re at a 10 percent bracket and if you have over that, you’re at a 25 percent bracket, and that’s it. And you get a personal deduction, but that’s it, and you could have your choice.
When it comes to economics, Thompson just seems more prepared, more specific, more competent, than any of the other candidates.
Specifically note Thompson’s concern about Huckabee’s “consumption” tax plan and the possibility of a secondary income tax being added after the fact. That is the voice of experience talking, one that deserves to be listened to.
Thompson scored also on the topic of social security:
I have the only plan having to do with Social Security of anyone at the table, number one.
Everyone says it’s a big problem; nobody puts anything on the table to do anything about it.
I’ve suggested that it’s going bankrupt. I mean, the alternative with regard to Social Security is losing Social Security as we know it. So it’s a plan to save Social Security.
We’re promising future retirees something we can’t possibly deliver. We’re promising future retirees more benefits than what current and past retirees have gotten.
I think that a president’s got to be willing to go over the heads of the Democrats and be able to look into the camera, tell the American people what the situation is, and suggest what we’ve got to do about it.
Guiliani made some good points again, particularly when speaking about his welfare to work record, something that he said moved 670K people off of welfare and back to work, a remarkable accomplishment in a city that is over 80% Democratic. Guiliani gave another good performance but could not rise to Thompson’s level.
John McCain spoke several times about his patriotism, his love for American, and how hard he has and will work to defend this country and he deserves to be recognized for that.
McCain’s strong suit is defense and national security and he also deserves a cheer for speaking aloud what few other politicians in any country dare to say:
And I think I bring the experience and the knowledge in order to make the judgments that are necessary as we face these transcendent challenges.
We’re in two wars. We face the threat of radical Islamic extremism. We also have to restore trust and confidence in government that’s been badly eroded.
Guiliani said the same thing too, but the points go to John McCain for using the “I” word twice on national TV.
Mike Huckabee, as mentioned, was often short on specifics, something he can afford to be with momentum going his way at the moment. It’s also plain that he detests Mitt Romney; hopefully this will not escalate into a full-blown mudslinging campaign.
Responding to Romney’s statements about his record on taxes and commuting sentences of prisoners, Huckabee said:
…one thing I do know is that the people of my state apparently like the way I governed, because they not only kept reelecting me — and I think that’s significant when you’re a Republican in a state where 90 percent of the elected officials are Democrat.
But when I left office with a surplus and with better schools, better roads, better health care, better natural resources and a better job market, I know this, my approval ratings were still some of the highest of any elected official in my state.
Huckabee’s immigration plans came under some scrutiny that was needed not so much for the plan, which calls for closed borders and all illegals to return home and “get at the back of the line, as much as Huckabee’s claim that it will not adversely impact children of said illegals. His plan plainly will hurt them and he ought to know that he needs to admit as much.
Mitt Romney could use a dose of reality too in that 12+ million illegals simply cannot be made to leave. Can’t happen. Won’t happen, regardless of the rhetoric. John McCain is clearly right – and realistic – on this point while Romney and Huckabee are grandstanding.
In my view, Thompson made the best statement on the immigration issue as well:
We can’t be dependent upon the next generation or another 12 million of illegals, as the governor says, living in the shadows with less education, many of whom do not speak the language, in a time when our entitlement programs are already overburdened, at a time when people are talking about disparities of economic conditions, and the fact that education plays a large part in that.
It’s not good for our country; it’s not good for them.
And when I hear a president of Mexico chide us for enforcing the border, you know, I would say to him: What does it say about the leadership of a country when the exportation of their own citizens is an economic necessity? They need to look at home at their own policy.
In the end, McCain had nothing to say in his closing statement while Huckabee summarized well, salvaging what was mostly another play-it-safe performance:
I think another thing is consistency with the principles of our party, which is that we believe in lower taxes, less spending. We’re a party that believes in the sanctity of human life.
That’s important to us; it’s a critical issue.
Consistency on defending the Second Amendment and state’s rights, also believing that mothers and fathers raise better kids than governments do. Governments shouldn’t interfere and let parents raise their own kids.
And there are other principles, but I think the other issue is the practical experience, having actually run a government for a long period of time, doing it in such a way that your voters re-elected you, but doing it in such a way that, at the end, you actually solved problems.
But this was Fred Thompson’s night, at last. Congratulations to him.
For those to whom it is an important issue It’s worth noting that Huckabee, Romney, and Thompson all plainly stated for the record that they are pro-life candidates. None of the Democratic candidates are, obviously, support for abortion being a liberal litmus test.