Promise Them Anything, but Give Them Death
Just in case you sometimes get Mormons and Quakers confused, Mitt Romney cleared things up Monday night.
"Bin Laden got what he deserved," Romney, a Mormon, said at a Republican debate in South Carolina. "A bullet in the head."
The crowd, as debate crowds sometimes do, went wild.
The audience assembled in Myrtle Beach, S.C., at a Fox/Wall Street Journal debate seemed so amped up even before the debate began, in fact, that I thought they were going to have to string up chicken wire to protect the candidates.
The primary is Saturday, and it is generally agreed that if Romney wins — it would be his third victory in a row — the Republican nominating race effectively will be over, just 18 days after it began.
So spirits are running high, and all the other Republicans are running hard at Romney.
This was the 16th time the Republican field has debated, and the object for the moderators was similar to the previous 15 debates: Get the candidates to snarl and snap at each other, because snarling and snapping is a lot better TV than a discussion of Iran's possible closing of the Strait of Hormuz (which didn't come up).
Romney's opponents have been hoping ever since he began leading in the polls that he has a glass (if not crystal) chin and that it will shatter after a few quick punches.
And the evening did not begin well for Romney.
"Mitt, we need for you to release your income tax, so people can find out how you made your money," Rick Perry said. "The people of South Carolina have to decide whether they have a flawed candidate or not. We cannot fire our nominee in September. We need to know now."
Romney simply ducked the punch, but later in the evening, a moderator made him answer. Romney replied that he would "probably" release his tax returns in April — a point at which he hopes to have the nomination already wrapped up.
Other punches were thrown, but they were glancing blows. Rick Santorum favors letting felons who have served their time get back their right to vote.
But the Republican voting population of South Carolina is only 2 percent black, and so it didn't cost Romney much to disagree. "I don't think people who have committed violent crimes should be able to vote again," Romney said. "That's my view."
There was some applause, but the crowd didn't get into real cheering until death raised its zany head.
The candidates were asked about launching an attack into Pakistan, as we did with the killing of Osama bin Laden, and Newt Gingrich, a historian (as he never tires of reminding people), brought up America's seventh president, Andrew Jackson.
"Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear idea about America's enemies," Gingrich said. "Kill them."
This excited the members of the audience so much, I thought they might burst out of the debate hall, charge down the coast and shell Fort Sumter again.
In the past months, Republican debate crowds have also cheered for the execution of 234 people in Texas under Perry (a number that afterward rose to 235, so don't say Perry isn't doing his job) and letting a person without health insurance die rather than treat him for free in an emergency room.
So the best thing a Republican candidate can do is promise them anything — as long as it involves somebody dying. Monday night, Ron Paul said: "Maybe we ought to consider a golden rule. Don't do to other nations what we don't want them to do to us."
He was roundly booed.
The evening dragged on for more than 90 minutes, and the only real humor came when Romney complained about campaign finance laws, saying, "McCain-Feingold is a disaster."
Maybe I'm the only one who laughed, but I found it hilarious that Romney had failed to mention that when he appeared with John McCain at event after event in New Hampshire recently after McCain endorsed him.
The press likes to pick winners and losers after these debates, but after this one I just felt relief. Relief that these guys won't be debating again.
To find out more about Roger Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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