• Cain-Gingrich Debate Recap: You Won! No, YOU Won! No, We Won!


    When your great-grandchildren have the American History 101 microchips implanted in their forebrains they will learn about the event we witnessed last night: historic importance upon historic importance, as a scandal-plagued former fast-food executive and a formerly-scandal-plagued former Speaker of the House massaged each other's egos at a Tea Party fundraiser, just like Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. (":</ {^&," your great-grandchildren will tweedle on their iThinks, as they grasp the significance of the moment.)

    In case you "had plans on a Saturday night" or "have friends" or whatever, here's what you missed.

    * Iowa Rep. Steve King kicked things off with a slideshow about deficit spending, unenlivened by zingy graphics. (As everyone on the internet knows, the secret to a great slideshow is Kardashians, cute animals and/or foods that will kill you.) I fell asleep for a minute. When I woke up, Steve King was still talking. I ran over to the deli to get some coffee. Finally Steve King stopped talking (temporarily).

    * The first order of discussion: How great is Paul Ryan? No for real, how great is Paul Ryan? The greatest? The greatly-greatest? The greatliest greatest great in the entire Reaganverse?

    * It occurred to me that if the Ryan budget had passed the Senate last spring we probably wouldn't be having this debate. If only they'd known.

    * Newt repeated his line about "$70 to $120 billion in Medicaid and Medicare is paid to crooks." This is partially true! It would be a lot more true if he said that "about $70 billion in Medicaid and Medicare is considered improper payments, ie routine administrative errors, overpayments and fraud," but that is less of an adrenaline rush.

    * While we're on the topic of math, Newt called for the abolishment of the Congressional Budget Office, which he called a tool for expanding government because of the way its analytic models work. An hour later he cited CBO statistics to boast about his record in the House, so who even knows. (See also: his website.)

    * For Herman Cain, the complex question of entitlement reform boils down to one answer slogan: "It's your money." How will that work, for people who have already paid into the sys- It's your money. What about the- It's your money. Or, if you prefer: "When you treat it like it's your money, that's how you wean people off expecting that other people are gonna pay for it."

    * You know that old saying, if you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day, if you teach a man to fish, he'll use this story as an argument against government activity in the private sector for the rest of his life? According to Herman Cain, a young waiter–who was black, he hastened to add–once approached him in a restaurant and said "I want to fish." I can only assume this waiter is now running Herman Cain's health policy team.

    * Cain did have a strong answer to a question about choosing defined benefit plans or a premium support system: "You go first, Newt."

    * Newt wants to apply Lean Six Sigma to the federal government and outsource Medicaid/Medicare payments to American Express and IBM, who have been begging President Obama to let them use their existing private-sector technology to evaporate government bloat, only to be met with bureaucratic silence. Again, this is just trueish.

    * Paul Ryan is super-smart and soooooooo dreamy!

    * Early in the evening Newt said that he and Herman were "the two most radical candidates" in the race. Among the radical, principled stands these two out-there types took: Cain is "a firm believer in 'Let's solve the problem.'" Newt "believe[s] in health information technology." OKAY, WILLIAM AYERSES.

    * Speaking of technology, Newt illustrated his free-market approach by asking people to imagine the situation if a government bureaucracy stood between them and the purchase of a new iPhone. But later he added that "crooks" get so much federal money because they have iPads, whereas bureaucrats only have notebooks, so… what is the solution here? Tighter government regulation of iPads but not iPhones? Buy iPads for all federal workers?

    * Standard-issue welfare reform talk: Cain says "We gotta make people want to get off those programs," Newt says "There's a certain tough love that we need to adopt," which is not what he says to Callista when she's racking up bills at Tiffany's.

    * At the end the candidates were allowed to lob softballs at each other, so Newt asked Cain what his biggest surprise of the campaign has been (surprise, it's "the nit-picky-ness of the media," what with all its questioning and investigating and so forth). Then Cain, who had been waiting for this moment all night, asked Newt what his first assignment should be if he were Vice-President of the United States. "Well, I wouldn't go hunting," said Newt. Thanks, you've been great! They'll be here for… oh, maybe another three months!

    * Sorry, almost forgot. Since this was a "debate," we are legally obliged to find out who "won."

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    Yep, just add one more set of quotation marks to the twelfth word there, and that's about right.

    Photo by Lew Robinson/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
    Photo by Paul E. Tessier/Photodisc/Getty Images


    Tags: Debates, Health Care, Herman Cain, Medicaid, Medicare, Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, Republicans, Science & Technology, Social Security, Steve King, Welfare

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