imageI wasn’t able to watch the American Principles Project’s Palmetto Freedom Forum in Columbia, SC live yesterday since I was out with my family enjoying Labor Day.  So I recorded its broadcast on CNN and watched it last night.  Regardless of the criticism that this forum has taken this week, unjustly in my opinion, I think it was an educational event.

One thing that I find lacking in many debates is that candidates are often not asked similar questions so you don’t have any basis for contrast.  This particular forum alleviated that, not that every candidate received the exact same question on every topic, but for the most part they did.  This forum, since the panel (made up of Iowa’s Congressman Steve King, South Carolina’s Senator Jim DeMint, and Dr. Robert George – the founder of American Principles Project) questioned each candidate individually you were able to hear more substantive answers.

The only problem I had with the venue is CNN’s coverage.  They broke in and out and you didn’t get to hear each candidate’s segment in its entirety.  This wouldn’t have been as bad had they covered the exact same question for each candidate, but that wasn’t the case.  For example,  I didn’t get to hear Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s answer on taxes or former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s answer on religious liberty in relation to the state of Illinois’ discrimination toward adoption agencies that don’t agree with adopting to homosexual couples.

CNN did their viewers a disservice in my opinion.  I was also disappointed by Texas Governor Rick Perry’s decision to not attend, but I do understand that his state is in a middle of a major crisis with wildfires that have run rampant in his state this summer.  When I mentioned this to a few people this afternoon though I heard, “haven’t they been having fires all summer long?  What’s changed?”  It’s hard to second guess, but Governor Perry needs to be vetted in an environment such as this and not have constituents rely on stump speeches.  I was happy to see that Governor Romney somehow miraculously discovered the time to attend the forum yesterday after originally saying he wasn’t participating.

Congresswoman Bachmann went first.  I believe that this venue helped her tremendously.  I’ve had issues with her not demonstrating appropriate depth.  I have felt that her speeches of late, and even debate performances have been lacking substance.  I didn’t get that feeling yesterday.  I thought she did a masterful job laying out the appropriate role of the federal government.  She gave specific answers to the question what she would downsize.  I especially liked her answer about axing the Department of Education.  She listed specific points of things she would do as President to help create a better environment for job creation.  Namely implement a 0% rate on the repatriation of U.S. earnings made overseas, focusing on private sector solutions, initially lowering corporate income tax by 20%, and by offering a moratorium on Obamacare.

She did an excellent job explaining the separation of powers, and her belief that Congress can in fact act on the 14th Amendment and enact legislation that would bypass Roe v. Wade.  She also took a swipe at Governor Romney by saying that state health care mandates were unconstitutional.  It was a strong performance by the Congresswoman.

Herman Cain did no harm with his performance, but I’m not sure he did enough to satisfy those who aren’t convinced he’s a serious candidate.  He did have the best one-liner of the afternoon when answering Congressman King’s question if we were still that “shining city on a hill” that Reagan (and Jesus) talked about.  Cain said, “Yes we are still that shining city because last time I checked, nobody is trying to sneak out of America, but instead people are trying to sneak into America.”

He shared his outline of his immigration plan yesterday.   During his speech in Pella, IA earlier this summer, he said he’d unveil it when he was elected.  He said he opposes amnesty, that we need to first secure the borders, we need to enforce current laws, we need to better promote the current pathway to citizenship, and then empower the states to do the job that the federal government has been unable or unwilling to do.  He said he’d be in favor of a merit-based immigration system.

I found it interesting that he would take on the Supreme Court with the application of the 14th Amendment to pre-born children.  I like that answer, but it seems to contradict his stated federalist position on abortion.  He also made an interesting comment regarding the Federal Reserve.  He said that the President needed to ask Congress to limit their authority, that they were doing things now that goes beyond their original purpose.  He said that we need to get back to sound money, and while he was in favor of a gold standard he said there are other ways to accomplish that (but didn’t elaborate).

I thought that former Speaker Newt Gingrich would do well in this type of venue, and he didn’t disappoint.  He gave, in my opinion, the best answer related to the separation of powers and the proper role of the judiciary.  He welcomed a challenge by Congress on Roe v. Wade utilizing the authority given to them by section 5 of the 14th Amendment which reads that “The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”  Which includes section 1 of the amendment which says that “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Gingrich said that Thomas Jefferson warned that the Supreme Court left unchecked could become an oligarchy.  Speaker Gingrich noted that the “Supreme Court is supreme in the judicial branch which is the third branch mentioned in the Constitution.”  He pointed out that Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers said that the judicial branch was the weakest branch.  He said that Congress can limit jurisdiction of federal courts, and this topic needs to be part of the national debate.

He laid out several steps to what his job plan would be:  Repeal Dodd-Frank, restructure the EPA, repeal Sarbanes-Oxley, restructure the FDA so it helps get products to market, no tax increase in 2013, zero out capital gains tax, lower corporate taxes to 12.5%, 100% expensing, abolish the death tax, and bolster domestic energy development.  He gave specific points to his immigration plan, and regarding placing a limit on legal immigration he said it would depend on the economy and the ability for people to assimilate.  Gingrich said, “if we are not a melting pot we can’t afford to have many people come here.”

Texas Congressman Ron Paul said the short list of things the Federal Government should keep is much shorter than the list of things he thinks should be cut or devolve back to the states.  He said that the Federal role of government is to provide sound money, a national defense, and a judicial system.  Talking about how many federal police agencies there now are he said, “the people should carry the guns, not the bureaucrats.”

He acknowledged the President does have limits to he or she can do.  He discussed his common themes of auditing the Fed, and returning to sound money.  Regarding his jobs plan he said that we need to repeal 70 years of bad economic policy, get rid of income tax and capital gains tax.  He also reiterated his foreign policy position that we need to not stretch ourselves too thin.  Paul said we should stay out of entangling alliances, and cut foreign military aid.

He is in favor of a Balanced Budget Amendment, but feels the current version needs more restrictions and doesn’t believe that the GDP is a good measurement of economic growth.  Most of what Congressman Paul had to say was yesterday was fine until he had some back and forth with Dr. George over the 14th Amendment in terms of its application to the pre-born.

Congressman Paul said that the 14th Amendment didn’t repeal the 9th or the 10th Amendment, and that the federal government didn’t try murder cases, states do.  Dr. George asked what if a state violated due process or said they wouldn’t prosecute murders of people of a particular class what then.  Congressman Paul reiterated his position that the Feds shouldn’t get involved and the states are capable of taking care of this issue.  It would seem that Congressman Paul forgot that Jim Crow laws, segregation, lynchings, and the like took place in the South.  Congress exercised its Constitutional authority to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Life, liberty and property rights are inalienable rights protected by our Constitution therefore it is a Federal issue when states fail to act.  Where have the preborn been given due process?  Congressman Paul is just plain wrong on this issue.

Governor Romney also didn’t impress me.  He said he’d repeal pieces of legislation that Congressman King listed.  He said, “regulation is necessary to make a free market work,”  But he didn’t really specify what the line is, and how we was going to help reduce regulations.  Regarding the 14th Amendment he said that he would appoint strict constructionalists to the bench, but that the decision about abortion needs to return to the states, Romney said.  He said he wouldn’t challenge the Court on Roe using the 14th Amendment because he said he wanted to avoid a Constitutional crisis.  Aren’t we already in one?  His explanation of Romneycare was a non-starter.  It wasn’t a bad performance outside of the section on the 14th Amendment.

All in all, I have to give the afternoon forum to Bachmann and Gingrich.

Update: Organizers of yesterday’s event invite Governor Perry for a follow-up discussion.

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