MICHAEL BARONE: Some observations on the Tea Party/CNN debate | Campaign 2012
By Michael Barone
Sept. 12, 2011
A general observation: In a federal republic, in which none of the Republican candidates on the stage at the Tea Party/CNN debate are currently members of the United States Senate, and the only two members of the House of Representatives there—Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul—are backbenchers who often cast lonely votes in dissent; in such a country and such a race, where the candidates come from and what they have had to or have chosen to do makes a significant difference, and becomes a target for opponents.
Some specific observations:
The toughest attack on Rick Perry came not from Mitt Romney on Social Security, but from Michele Bachmann on his executive order requiring girls to be inoculated against the HPV virus. Bachmann got specific in charging Perry with “crony capitalism” because his former chief of staff was a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical company that made the vaccine. Perry manfully explained that parents could opt out of the immunizations, but Bachmann’s charge packed an emotional and intellectual punch.
Similarly, Perry’s strongest point came not on Social Security, on which he made the point that many others have called it a Ponzi scheme, but on his Texas program providing in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants. I had not realized that only four legislators voted against it, but I have noted over the years that Texas seems more friendly—in personal demeanor and in public policy—to immigrants, illegal and legal, than such supposedly more tolerant states as California. My observation is that liberal Californians tend to regard Latinos as valet parkers, assistant gardeners and construction laborers, while Texans of all political stripes—the many conservatives as well as the relatively few liberals–regard Latinos as Texans. Perry’s insistence that he wants these young people to be contributors to society rather than dependent on welfare seems a little contrived; but the underlying point is serious and worth considering. Texas has lessons to teach us beyond low taxes, light regulation and limits on tort litigation.