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Why the Reagan Library GOP debate sucked

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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 8, 2011 12:15 AM

Quick take…

Readers want to know who I thought “won” the GOP debate at the Reagan Library last night.

My answer: Twitter.

It’s where quick-fingered conservatives who actually care about conservatism freely debated and dissected the bone-headed questions and condescension of liberal D.C./N.Y. “moderator” Brian Williams, Politico staffer John Harris, and ethnic representative Jose Diaz-Balart of Telemundo throughout the MSNBC telecast. (Why not a minority journalist representing every race and ethnicity in the U.S. next time for a full Identity Politics-palooza!)

The questions ranged from the predictable (querying Perry about “low-wage” jobs created in Texas) to the hostile (Williams asking Perry how he could “sleep at night” based on his death penalty record) and calculated (Harris lobbing a softball invitation to Jon Huntsman to identify the “crazy” Republicans in the room). Transcript excerpts can be found here.

I have still not settled on a candidate. I’m not on any team. My operating question is not “Who are you for?” but “WHAT are you for?”

And: Does your record match your rhetoric?

What I found most striking and informative was not anything discussed in the debate — the immigration segment was superficial and platitude-filled, Perry’s death penalty answer was mainstream GOP red meat, the Perry/Romney Punch-and-Judy scenes were mildly entertaining, the global warming portion rushed and shaky — but what was left out.

The East Coast/Beltway-centric producers and journalists who put this debate on didn’t include a single question about the economic distress of Western states and the Rocky Mountain region. Not a word about Obama’s War on the West and what the candidates would do to undo the damage.

The top governance issue outside the Beltway — bloated public union pensions and benefits — warranted zero attention.

Not a word about the bloody Operation Fast and Furious scandal and who GOP candidates would put in charge at DOJ and ATF to right the wrongs and secure our borders.

And how about the undue influence of the profane, Tea Party-bashing, corrupted leaders of Big Labor on the White House? Nada.

I was glad to see a question about Rick Perry’s atrocious Gardasil executive order and glad to see several of the candidates (most effectively, Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann) challenge his reckless disregard for transparency, parental autonomy, and limited government. But there were zero follow-up questions about Perry’s Merck entanglements and the crony capitalism angle in general.

Debates are supposed to be illuminating, vigorous exchanges of ideas and vetting of records. (Unlike Newt “The Peacemaker” Gingrich, I find NOTHING wrong with internal battles between candidates over policy and ideology.) In the end, of course, politicians are all still…politicians. The Big Biz/Big Govt rent-seeking racket never ends.

It’s still worth it to put them up on stage and make them defend and explain their flips, flops, and double-half-twists.

But when the bobbleheads in charge of organizing the debate probably think Friedrich Hayek is Salma Hayek’s dad and are more concerned with pandering to Telemundo viewers than informing Republican voters, what’s the point?

***

Pet peeve: Why are the GOP front-runners all still bragging about their records “creating jobs.” Get it straight and be consistent. Government — federal or state — does not “create jobs.” Governors do not “create jobs.”

Private individuals, entrepreneurs, and companies innovate.

Private individuals, entrepreneurs, and companies take risks.

Private individuals, entrepreneurs, and companies create jobs. Create capital. Create wealth and prosperity.

Not government. Not governors.

If I could assign just one piece of mandatory reading to the GOP front-runners and the journalists who question them about jobs and the economy, it would be Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson — published in 1946 and as relevant as ever today in the era of monstrously expensive, bipartisan “public-private partnerships,” endless bailouts, and unholy alliances with Big Labor.

Here’s the Chapter One intro:

Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man. This is no accident. The inherent difficulties of the subject would be great enough in any case, but they are multiplied a thousand fold by a factor that is insignificant in, say, physics, mathematics or medicine-the special pleading of selfish interests. While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible.

In addition to these endless pleadings of self-interest, there is a second main factor that spawns new economic fallacies every day. This is the persistent tendency of men to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.

In this lies almost the whole difference between good such shallow wisecracks pass as devastating epigrams and the ripest wisdom.

But the tragedy is that, on the contrary, we are already suffering the long-run consequences of the policies of the remote or recent past. Today is already the tomorrow which the bad economist yesterday urged us to ignore. The long-run consequences of some economic policies may become evident in a few months. Others may not become evident for several years. Still others may not become evident for decades. But in every case those long-run consequences are contained in the policy as surely as the hen was in the egg, the flower in the seed.

From this aspect, therefore, the whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups…

This is exactly the kind of discussion GOP candidates should be having in the Reagan Library.

Instead, we get Brian Williams wondering how Republicans can sleep at night and John Harris baiting MSM/Obama tool Jon Huntsman to tag all the “crazy” witches in the GOP in the name of moooooderation and civility.

A Twitter user likened the Reagan Library GOP debate on MSNBC to the “Yankees network interrogating the Red Sox.”

Or more to the point: Imagine the Democratic presidential candidates submitting to a debate at SEIU headquarters, moderated by Rush Limbaugh, with Andrew Breitbart and me asking questions.

We live in bizarro times when that scenario is beyond preposterous, yet the MSNBC/Politico Reagan Library theater of the absurd is now a part of hallowed presidential election history.

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