Of Pauses and Princesses: Primary Debate Number Nine Recap

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gov. Rick Perry during a debate in Michigan. (Scott Olson/Getty)

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Lisa Lerer, political reporter for Bloomberg News, discusses last night's GOP debate - from Cain's defense of his character to Rick Perry's "oops" moment - and what it means for the field.

The ninth Republican presidential primary debate took place on CNBC last night, and it was a weird one.

The audience booed moderator Maria Bartiromo for asking if allegations of sexual inappropriateness might call into question Herman Cain’s character. Cain himself flatly denied all the charges, referring to it as “character assassination”, to audience cheering and applause. The moderators declined to press on, switching the subject back to the economy.

Lerer said the scandal doesn't appear to have hurt Cain, and has even been a money-maker for his campaign. Yet other than those moments addressing the allegation, Lerer said Cain seemed like a “non-presence” during the debate.

When the scandal came up he really didn’t command the room very much, as he had during previous debates, and that could be an even bigger concern for him in terms of his staying power and him being able to take out Mitt Romney.

That audience last night that so loved Cain may not accurately reflect wide-spread sentiment among Republican voters. Lerer explained that in a Republican debate there tends to be a large number of partisans, since those are the people most likely to be interested and have access to tickets. Yet she said for the most part Republicans do seem to be dismissing the charges of Cain's wrong-doing.

We have seen a circling of the wagons, certainly among conservative pundits. One thing that they’re doing, encouraged by the Cain campaign, which has done this as well, is attacking the women.

Some conservative pundits have spoken out against this blanket disregard. Linda DiVall, a campaign strategist for Bush, recently said publicly that she thinks that Cain should drop out of the race. Republican strategist and Mississippi governor Haley Barbour has said that Cain needs to address the charges rather than denying them. Yet others don’t seem to want the allegations even mentioned in a primary debate. Lerer said that’s indicative of the larger split on the Republican leadership.

In terms of the Tea Party types, the punditry, a lot of them have really gone after the women.

While Cain may have had a pretty easy time of things, Texas governor Rick Perry totally bombed. For an excruciating moment he searched to remember the name of the Department of Energy, finally petering out with a weak “oops”. Lerer said while everyone has had a moment of just going blank under pressure, this was particularly damaging to Perry.

It reinforces the narrative about him that he’s a bad debater and he’s not ready for prime time, that he’s not ready for the office and that he could not go up against President Obama, which is what the Republicans really want most of all.

Newt Gingrich had a strong debate, calling for the immediate firing of Ben Bernanke and an audit of the Federal Reserve. Lerer said his performance has led to buzz about him possibly being the next “not Romney”, though that might not be a good thing for Gingrich.

I think if that were to happen he’d face his own spate of problems. He hasn’t really been vetted in the media the same way. He has in the past, of course… but not in this campaign, the way those other candidates have been.

One thing that may haunt him is his previous work lobbying for Freddy Mac. He’s also had multiple marriages and may have personal behaviors in his past that would be unpopular with Republican.

There’s a lot of things that could come out about him that might turnoff Republican primary voters.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand, touted his “steadiness and constancy”, boasting of his marriage of twenty-five—excuse me—forty-two years. No flip-flops here, said Lerer, is his real message.

That’s the major charge levied against Romney, time and time again, and if he becomes the Republican nominee, which I think he’s positioned to do right now, that’s the message that we’re going to be hearing…when Democrats bring up his changes in position, I think that’s how he’s going to market himself.


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Comments [26]

Did Gov Perry's Teleprompter Break ? from GOP Marionette Theater

It's always disturbing to see puppets lifeless without their puppeteers...

Yesterday's GOP debate was no exception. What happened to Gov. Perry ?
Did his teleprompter break ?

Granted, his hair still was perfect, but if he had been a REAL actor, at least he would have learned his lines. Are we meant to believe that the GOP debaters actually believe the canned rhetoric that they chant ? Did Gov. Perry actually have any
ideas of his own - ideas that he passionately believes in - or are they all generated for him by his handlers ?

It is disturbing to see how empty of content
and ideas our politics have become.

Nov. 10 2011 05:17 PM
Margaret from UWS Manhattan

Clowns, ignoramuses, and the befuddled
even to the point of muddling
what there is to say,
looking forward to an election day.

Setting up a 'handle me' isn't worth talking about?
An attack is not equivalent to what's mutual;
and Clinton's way with the work
was no where near that far south.

Minds that don't go with the professionals to know
won't mind Earth, or the money, well.
Oceans all need help, and trees need to grow -
on both, Time is ringing a bell.

Imagine what we used to be,
and foster elements that agree
with what Founding Fathers planned for us to be -
from this morass, please set us free!

Presidential candidates - is that what they are!?
Have we really fallen quite that far!?
Help us - how do we get out of this
ignorant, non-functional abyss!?

Nov. 10 2011 02:38 PM

The Penn State Trustees did exactly the right thing. It is right to hold Joe Paterno to the highest ethical standard. I was appalled to read in the New York Times yesterday that the child molester was seen working out in the Penn State exercise facility as recently as last week. Unbelievable and despicable if true.

Nov. 10 2011 11:33 AM
Edward from Morristown

This was a horrendous crime which was allowed to continue because the football culture of the university demanded the protection of the program - and its huge income - at all costs.

But Joe Paterno is being scapegoated by the University Board. As an employee of the University he did what was expected of him in reporting the conduct of an underling he supervised, to those above him on the organizational chart. Had Paterno taken action on his own, he could have been accused of prejudicial action (either in support or against the employee). It was the administrators above Paterno who dropped the ball by not conducting an investigation and reporting the incident to the police. Those administrators dropped the ball. As far as Paterno was concerned, those above him MAY have conducted an investigation and determined there was no truth in the matter. If they did not conduct an investigation, it was their failing, not Paterno's.

Nov. 10 2011 10:44 AM
Burtnor from Manhattan

To John and the caller who blamed the media for Paterno's firing:

The coach is an educator who is required by LAW to report child and sexual abuse to the police. Paterno's behavior is criminal, as is that of the many people who knew about Sandusky's behavior at least since 1998. It's utterly appalling that everyone from janitors to security forces to the university president knew and did nothing. I have heard not one word of sympathy from Penn State for the abused children.

And that students and alumni (withholding donations) are protesting Paterno's firing is almost as despicable as the cover-up.
Is this what the sports industry has wrought? Is this what colleges have come to? Really????

See Dowd's NYT column:

Nov. 10 2011 10:42 AM
Victoria Ruggiero from Manhattan

Penn State board absolutely did the right thing in firing Joe Paterno.

In addition to being told by McQueary in 2002 that Sandusky, one of his former top coaches, raped a little boy, there's no way that Paterno was unaware — over the many years when Sandusky reported directly to him — of more of Sandusky's criminal behaviors and abuse of children.

Over the past decade, Paterno coasted on his reputation. One of Paterno's "famous" coaching methods was to follow up with his players in every area of their lives off the football field. IN 2002, WHEN HE WAS TOLD ABOUT THE RAPE, WHY DIDN'T PATERNO FOLLOW UP AND CHECK ON THE RUINED LIFE OF A 10-YEAR-OLD BOY?

It's all about money, plus sports being the opiate of the masses in America.

Nov. 10 2011 10:41 AM

The great American tradition of demonizing whistleblowers or any movement that might go against maintaining the status quo is alive and well, even here on an NPR forum.

That's right, don't fire Paterno, he was just passing the buck, probably what john and sheldon do their entire lives. Of course you won't give the benefit of the doubt to the people who have heard the grand jury testimony, but rather give benefit of the doubt to the man who admitted he had heard something of this and should have acted on it, and by his own admission might have acted on it if only he had heard the gory details.

Here is the statement issued by the Penn State Trustees

Nov. 10 2011 10:39 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

As I've said yesterday, Paterno reported 2nd hand information to the University, they failed to act on it. So by firing him, they are saying they are incompetent buffoons and the coach should have known that.

Nov. 10 2011 10:30 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

This is basic: With power comes responsibility. This man, this father, this highly revered man with enormous power who undoubtedly has exercised it for lesser violations, had credible evidence of child rape and did not have it thoroughly investigated and dealt with. He had to go, (and not when HE chose to go) for the morale and social contract of the school, as an example for the students (who clearly need it based on their subsequent behavior) and for reasons of school liability -- because it WILL get sued.
And I hate to say it, but I really believe that the status of these victims as "underprivileged" had a lot to do with the turn of events.

Nov. 10 2011 10:30 AM
Cory from Reality

Re: Paterno. Chain of command? This wasn't a violation of University policy. It was a felony. You don't report felonies up the chain of command. You report them to the police.

Nov. 10 2011 10:24 AM

Newt Gingrich is just lying -- flat lying -- on the results of Reagan and Bush era tax cuts. Revenues went down. Gingrich knows that. He knows what he is saying is false. He's lying.

Nov. 10 2011 10:24 AM

@john and others of your ilk

Penn State trustees said they fired Paterno over what they heard in grand jury testimony. We have not heard that testimony. Likely it is very incriminating, for the trustees to have fired him. Why are you jerks making it out like you know they only fired him over media pressure? They have way more information than you do, and soon we'll probably hear much of that same information.

So just as you accuse the trustees of judging Paterno harshly, you also judge the trustees before you know all the facts behind their decision.

Nov. 10 2011 10:23 AM
The Truth from Becky

Concerning Paterno there is no "ONE" guilty party. The students at Penn State, disgraceful!

Nov. 10 2011 10:22 AM

When Perry said he'd be fine with executing an innocent, people cheered. Herman Cain is charged with sexual harassment, he's cheered. Penn State's Joe Paterno knew about charges of sexual abuse for _years_, and Penn State students _riot_.

Meanwhile, conservatives -- the very conservatives championing these abusers -- want cops to go in an beat up _peaceful_ Occupy Wall Street protesters.

And, on balance, the media sides with the conservatives. Consider the verbal abuse hurled at the Occupy Wall Street protesters for weeks. Consider the defenses of police abuses offered by Michael Bloomberg while condemning Occupy Wall Street.

Are liberals exempt from this? Hell no!

Look at the liberals defending Obama indefinite detentions and torture compared with those _same liberals_ condemning Bush doing _exactly_ the same.

The general problem -- a total unwillingness and hostility to self-reflection and self-criticism; persistent digging in, doubling down, on positions people hold dear. Understandable, but at some point untenable, or worse, indefensible. But this is exactly what we should expect in a country in decline, where people generally are on the defensive.

Nov. 10 2011 10:21 AM

The big winner from these debates is Bush. He's starting to look more centrist and brighter when compared to some of his fellow Texan politicians.

Nov. 10 2011 10:21 AM
The Truth from Becky

He should have written it on the palm of his hand! LOL Just more proof that he has no conviction to what he is saying, just talking points.

Nov. 10 2011 10:21 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Wow. The base Republican base.

Nov. 10 2011 10:20 AM
Chad Harris from UES

I'm a PSU alumis and I am disgusted by the action of these students. Joe Paterno gets a "hero worship" status not only on campus but throughout the state.

What has been exposed here is an "old boys club." Joe Paterno shoulda, coulda done more. He needed to go and these rioting students need to grow up.

Nov. 10 2011 10:18 AM
Billy from Greenpoint

My heart goes out to all those students protesting at PSU last night who were kettled by riot police and beaten, maced, and arrested just for assembling peaceably and speaking their minds.

Oh, wait.

Nov. 10 2011 10:17 AM

Brian, your smug attitude is way out of line. Paterno didn't rape anybody, and the extent of a "cover up" is certainly unclear. I expect better of you. Disappointing.

Nov. 10 2011 10:17 AM
Sara from Bushwick

Republicans - this is the same party that impeached Clinton for less than what Cain is accused of.

Nov. 10 2011 10:15 AM

Wow! Booing a woman for asking a man to explain the sexual allegations against him. I'm not saying Herman is guilty or not, but is this creating an environment where women can feel comfortable coming forward when these things happen?

Nov. 10 2011 10:10 AM
Ken from Little Neck

Leave it to college kids to think being good at football is more important that holding someone accountable for covering up rape. Disgraceful.

Nov. 10 2011 10:10 AM
bernie from bklyn

and let's hear it for maria bartiromo! brooklyn's own- represent!

Nov. 10 2011 10:03 AM
bernie from bklyn

wow, these debates are so entertaining in a sad, sad performance art almost, as rachel maddow says. it's almost unbelievable!
BUT 50% of this retarded country will vote for one of these morons....just listen to the reactions from the audiences at these GOP debates and that is representative of a huge chunk of the population in our wonderful, ignorant country.

Nov. 10 2011 10:02 AM

Funny that guys like Ron Paul and Rick Perry who are allegedly so against government have personally profited so much from being part of it...

What's not funny is Perry can't even remember the talking points the lobbyists have written for him.

Nov. 10 2011 10:01 AM

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