Recently, I was scheduled for a flight from Boston to Ft. Lauderdale. The flight was delayed for 2 and a half hours, with the result that I was going to arrive at my destination at midnight. I had already spent several hours reading as I waited for my flight, so in light of this lengthy delay (and the 3 hour flight itself), I decided to do something I don’t usually do: watch TV on the flight.
The airline was Jetblue, so there were 36 DirecTV channels available. I chose CNN to see what was happening in the world (alas, if only the BBC were offered on these planes). To my surprise, they were covering the Republican National Security Debate.
Now, I’m not a big fan of political labels. Back in my freshman year of college, a friend of mine accused me of “not taking a stand” because I could not say what political party I supported. This was mostly due to the fact that I had no idea what it meant to be a Republican versus a Democrat. Foreign student confusion aside, I didn’t relish the idea of being labeled after a political party you think screws up a bit less than another party. And after witnessing the US political shenanigans of the past 5 years, I think I stick to that opinion more than ever. However, I am now more enlightened as to what exactly each party values and which beliefs each holds. And while I can’t say I’m a Democrat, my liberal leanings leave me more often then not making fun of or gaping in horror at the GOP, depending on how less or more serious I find the issue, respectively.
However, last week’s Republican debate was quite informative. Although I had closely followed the election campaign back in 2008 (highly intrigued by the whole Palin affair), I realized as I sat in my 24F seat on Jetblue this past Tuesday evening that I don’t really know much about each of the current Republican contenders (except that I am firmly against Michele Bachmann for her incredible irresponsibility in implying that the HPV vaccine Gardasil can put young girls at risk for mental retardation, a wild allegation that, given her incredibly public position, I find inexcusable.
Anyhoo, while you can find the video of the whole debate here, and a tidy account of the evening from the NYT here, below are my hastily scribbled notes from watching the Republican debate live (if anything strikes you as interesting, you should definitely look up more online about that particular candidate’s comment/opinion):
The topic being discussed when I flipped on the little TV was racial profiling at airports, specifically whether Muslims should be especially targeted.
-Herman Cain asserted that “We have to kill terrorists first”, an interesting choice of words. Incidentally, I saw (on the Jetblue flight coming back to Boston), The State of the Union with Candy Crowley on CNN, and witnessed how Cain tried to pass off what seems to be his support of profiling as what he calls “targeted identification”. Essentially, he stated that he wasn’t in favor of discriminating against people by race, religion, or ethnicity in order to guarantee greater national security, but rather by “identifying patterns of people…who try to kill us, blow us up, you get the idea”. Not identifying characteristics, but patterns. Right. Also, he strikes me as a pompous jerk who is unable to state anything concrete, but that’s beyond the point.
Next the Republicans covered Pakistan.
-Perry stated Pakistan “can’t be trusted” and that the US shouldn’t “send a dime” to them. Bachmann, on the other hand, asserted the US shouldn’t stop aid now; an American presence is vital in the face of Pakistan harboring nuclear weapons, and the US must continue to exchange intelligence in light of that. Hate to say it, but that does make sense.
-Romney asserted that the US should not stop involvement in the Middle East. In the offensive/patronizing language characteristic of die-hard Republicans trying to assert how down-to-earth and un-PC and “real” they are, Romney went on to brashly say that “We need to bring Pakistan into the 21st century, or the 20th century for that matter!” among hearty chuckles from his fellow conservatives. Barf.
Next up was Israel and Iran.
-Cain stated that he would militantly support Israel if Israel chose to take military preemptive action against Iran if Israel had “a credible plan”; he especially noted how a concrete plan was vital in light of how Iran’s mountainous terrain would make such an attack incredibly difficult.
-Congressman Ron Paul, (who, incidentally, completely opposed airport security profiling), stated that if he were President, he would not have the US help Israel in such an attack because doing so would be the “stupidest idea in the world”. His position is that the US should stay out of the way of other countries, should stop miring itself in foreign conflicts, and should not commit to any such military enterprises; the US should be cautious about its willingness to go to war.
-Someone asserted (maybe Bachmann?) that economic sanctions don’t work against Iran, especially in light of the fact that we haven’t bought oil from Iran in 30 years. Despite that, I will add it’s still important to remember that wherever the US gets its oil from, Iran is the 4th major world exporter of oil, and it could (if it was under attack) easily bomb one of the world’s most vital petroleum transportation waterways right off its coast.
-Perry stated the most effective sanctions would be those directed at the Iranian Central Bank.
Moving on to sustaining the US’s contribution of financial aid to Africa in light of the American economic crisis:
-Cain questioned the the effectiveness of programs in Africa and stated he would pull the plug on aid to any organizations which did not produce “results”.
-Ron Paul asserted aid has been completely useless in Africa. Uh, okaaay…
-If Romney stated his opinion on the issue, I missed it among the constant slamming of President Obama. I always find it suspect when a potential contender delights more in criticizing the current administration rather than illustrating why their hypothetical administration would be so much better. Also of note is that Romney stuttered quite noticeably in this segment.
-A random quote I wrote down (I’d have to double check who said it): “No bombing campaign which leaves a regime in charge”. Ok, good to know.
-Newt Gingrich stated “Foreign policy should be driven by economics”.
-Perry asserted (on some issue), “This wouldn’t have happened if I were president.” Big words, sir.
On the issue of illegal immigration in the United States:
-Perry asserted we need a “21st century Monroe Doctrine”, and that the border needs to be “shut down”. I’d like to know exactly what that means.
-Ron Paul boldly stated that the war on drugs as been a “total failure”, and that we should “cancel” it. Ah. He also stated that prescription drugs kill more people than illegal ones. While I highly doubt that is true, I must admit I’m highly interested in the discussions I’ve had with others about how some of the gravest problems associated with drugs are problems concerning the illegal nature of drugs and the subterfuge it creates and the underworld it thrives in.
-Cain called Mexico a “failed state”. Take that as you will.
-Former Senator Rick Santorum (who struck me as kind of a tool box) said he welcomed highly skilled immigrants, but not really anyone else. Romney seconded this by stating that the US certainly wants “chemists and engineers”, people skilled in “math and science”, only the “best and brightest”. I don’t know where my immigrant doctor parents fall on that spectrum, but it’s a little sad to know Romney and Santorum would probably have frowned on my parents bringing in one-year-old me to the US if they had known I was going to study English literature. Granted, my family and I didn’t come in illegally, but I am so sorry to disappoint the Republicans (Note: me being quite facetious about this correlates precisely to the level of emphasis the conservatives made about how they only want smart foreigners, and sciency ones).
-Newt Gingrich stated there should be an institution akin to a “World War II selective Service Board” to determine who deserves to stay in the US. His emphasis on wanting to “legalize” large numbers of illegal immigrants rather than grant them “citizenship” has gotten him in hot water with many Republicans. To be fair, it was nice that he emphasized that people who have families here, who have been living in the US for several years, should be treated with particular leniency in many cases. Most Republicans seemed to have disagreed.
Other miscellaneous comments included:
-Romney: Contrary to Obama who asserts how the US is not superior to other nations (read: who displays uncharacteristic humility, coming from an American), Romney considers the US to be an “exceptional” nation. Considering I chose to live here in the States, I’ll hold my sarcasm completely in check, just this once.
-Perry claimed China is not a “country of virtue”, and cited the gargantuan amount of forced abortions which occur every year as proof of that.
-Romney mentioned something interesting about Venezuela and Mexico harboring Hezbollah militants, but unfortunately the debate was already winding down by then, and he didn’t elaborate.
And there you have it: my first taste of the big-hitting Republicans’ views on the big issues. I’ll have to stay tuned to see which one is going to take on Obama, and what the US will look life if that person is indeed elected to office.