09.12.11

Best Moments From the Tea Party Debate

Call it “GOP Idol”—Mitt Romney and Rick Perry argued Social Security while Newt Gingrich took on President Obama. Watch the best moments from tonight’s CNN Tea Party debate.

The Tea Party Game Show?

Call it GOP Idol. The introductions at the CNN Tea Party debate seemed more fitting for a dramatic reality TV show than a serious political event. Wolf Blitzer shouted out each candidate’s name and job description as they walked out onstage individually, to thunderous applause.

Video screenshot

The Introductions

Social Security: Ponzi Scheme or Slam Dunk?

Rick “Ponzi Scheme” Perry promised with a “slam dunk guarantee” that Social Security will be there for seniors who are currently expecting it. However, he stressed that the program still needs to be reformed. “Obviously, we are not going to take that program away,” he said. Perry also pointed out that Mitt Romney wrote in his book that if people made such a program in the private sector, it would be called criminal. Ron Paul wants to allow all young people to opt out of Social Security to “go on their own.” Asked if he agreed that Social Security should be called a Ponzi scheme, Herman Cain said, “I don’t care what you call it, it’s broken.” Jon Huntsman said nothing should be off the table for reforming Social Security, but also pointed out that Romney called it a “fraud” in his book. Rick Santorum said he was talking about reforming Social Security way back in 1994 and that he has been “leading the charge.”

Video screenshot

Perry and Romney on Social Security

Newt Lashes Out Again

Asked whether the other candidates are scaring off voters with their Social Security talk, Newt Gingrich said, “I’m not particularly worried about Gov. Perry and Gov. Romney frightening the American people when President Obama scares them every single day.” Gingrich argued that Obama should not have implied that he could not guarantee that Social Security checks would be sent, saying the president should not have the power to “threaten” people. “President Obama twice said recently that he couldn’t guarantee delivering the checks to Social Security recipients,” he said. “Now why should young people who are 16 to 25 years old let politicians have the power, for the rest of their life, to threaten to take away their Social Security?”

Video screenshot

Newt Lashes Out

Romney, Paul Hammer Perry on Job Growth

Romney and Paul both attacked Perry on his jobs record. “If you’re dealt four aces, that doesn’t necessarily make you a great poker player,” Romney said, adding, “There has been great jobs growth in Texas: under Ann Richards job growth was 2.5 percent a year, under George Bush it was 3 percent a year, and under Rick Perry it’s been 1 percent a year.” Paul took issue with Perry’s taking responsibility for job growth in Texas, saying that 170,000 of the jobs added were government positions. The congressman added that, as a Texas resident, his taxes have doubled during Perry’s tenure. But Paul said he did not wish to offend the governor, noting, “He might raise my taxes or something.”

Video screenshot

Bachmann Comes Out Swinging on HPV Vaccine

Perry once again came under fire over an executive order he issued mandating that sixth-graders get an HPV vaccine. “At the end of the day, this was about trying to stop a cancer and at the end of the day, I am always going to err on the side of life,” he said. Bachmann suggested that a drug company made millions off Perry’s executive order. The governor responded that he did receive a $5,000 contribution from Merck and that he raised about $30 million as a result, adding, “If you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.” Bachmann responded, “I’m offended for all those little girls and their parents that didn’t have a choice.”

Video screenshot

Bachmann: ‘This Is It!’ on Health Care

Bachmann also went on the attack over health care, suggesting that she was the candidate most committed to repealing Obama’s health-care law “Waivers and executive orders won’t cut it,” she said. “If you could solve Obamacare with an executive order, any president could do it and any president could undo it.” She targeted Romney’s health-care plan in Massachusetts, saying, “No state has the constitutional right to force a person as a condition of citizenship to buy a product or service against their will.” Later she added, “The only way to eradicate Obamacare is to pull it out by the root and branch to fully repeal it,” and she emphasized the importance of the upcoming election, saying, “2012 is it! This is the election that’s going to decide if we have socialized medicine in this country or not… We are never going to get rid of it unless we have a president committed to getting rid of it.”

Video screenshot

Huntsman Calls Treason on Perry

The Texas governor, asked about his views on immigration, said that while the federal government has been an “abject failure” on securing the border, the idea of building a wall “800 miles to Tijuana” is not realistic. Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman took issue with the comment, saying, “For Rick to say that you can’t secure the border, I think is pretty much a treasonous comment.”

Video screenshot

Huntsman Calls Treason on Perry

Santorum’s ‘Illegal’ Gaffe

One viewer asked what the candidates planned to do to attract Latino voters. In an attempt to zing Perry, Santorum confused the term “illegal” with “Latino,” replying: “What Gov. Perry’s done is he provided in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Maybe that was an attempt to attract illegal voters—I mean Latino voters.”

Video screenshot

Santorum’s ‘Illegal’ Gaffe

Would Bachmann Also Try Bernanke for Treason?

We’ll never know, because she refused to answer when questioned on the topic. Instead she responded, “As president of the United States, I would not be reappointing Ben Bernanke,” and began to talk about her resistance to the bailout. When asked again, she said, “That’s for Gov. Perry to make that decision. My decision is, I would not appoint Ben Bernanke.”

Video screenshot

Would Bachmann Also Try Bernanke for Treason?

Seven Kids, Churchill’s Bust, and a Harley 

Because moderator Wolf Blitzer was determined to get to the issue on everyone’s minds, the final question of the night concerned what the candidates plan to bring to the White House. Santorum said he would add a bedroom and beds because he and his wife have seven children. Gingrich said he would create more space in the White House “by kicking out all of the White House czars the first day.” Paul said he’d bring a “bushel basket full of common sense.” Perry promised to bring “the most beautiful, the most thoughtful and incredible first lady that this country’s ever seen.” Romney promised to restore the bust of Winston Churchill that used to sit in the Oval Office. Bachmann said she would bring the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Herman Cain vowed to bring a sense of humor to the White House, “because America’s too uptight.” Last of all, Huntsman promised to bring his Harley Davidson and his motocross bike.

Video screenshot

Tea Party Debate—Final Question