Both Sides Now: If Debates Are the First Primary, Is Gingrich Winning?

11/20/2011 09:26 pm ET | Updated Nov 28, 2011

By Mark Green

Both Sides Now is adopting the Little League "mercy rule" so as not to talk about whether Cain has been groping for both answers and women. But the influence of debates, resurrection of Gingrich and Obama-ites under oath are important topics for both sides. Also, after the crackdowns, will the 99 percenters and income inequality occupy our minds? Our policies? (Click below for full show.)

*On Debates as Nominating Conventions: Why the 400-percent increase in audience for the many GOP presidential debates? Ron Reagan and Mary Matalin agree that they've become the latest reality TV series attracting voters to see who will rise or implode.

Mary says that viewers are curious since there was no strong frontrunner early on... and that she is not worried that fringe attendees and candidates will taint the eventual nominee. Speaking of Romney, Ron goes on offensive to observe that a) he's the apparent Rodney Dangerfield of the GOP ("nobody likes Mitt"), and b) the debates have exposed a woeful field "bereft of ideas... on book tours!" Mary counters that the "Seven Dwarfs" of 1992 was not an all-stars lineup, either. Ron counter-counters disdainfully, "They never said evolution is just a theory."

*On a Flawed Gingrich: Newt's poll vault is as surprising as Bachmann's, Trump's, Perry's, Cain's... but will it be more enduring? We stipulate that he's quick-witted, fluent, and commanding in the debates. So far, Republican Idol. But what about, as Ron puts it, his "characterological" problems (too much infidelity, jewelry, nastiness, malfeasance, etc., etc., etc., etc.)? Can he get away with his that-was-then/this-is-now apology tour?

Mr. Reagan, who knows something about Republican nominees, believes that Gingrich can't be the party stand-bearer -- "unless Romney suffers some unexpected calamity" -- because voters don't like people whose "first impulse is to lie." Mary teases liberals who try to laugh off the ex-Speaker's chances. But isn't taking nearly $2 million from Fanny and Freddy while castigating them for the economic meltdown a disqualifying hypocrisy? She notes that primary voters will care more about his substance, values and experience and that all Washington politicians are hypocrites... and all successful presidents have big, personal flaws. (Your Host resists the temptation to ask her to detail President Reagan's big, personal flaws.)

*On Attacking Iran: What can the Loyal Opposition say about a foreign policy that appears to be successful and popular (OBL, Libya, drones, pirates...)? After a decade of misery in the Middle East, is it smart for a Mitt Romney to talk about militarily attacking yet another Arab nation?

Mary thinks that there's a split opinion on Iraq/Afghanistan and that, in any event, America should be more aggressive in preventing Iran from going nuclear. The Administration has been plenty aggressive there, replies Ron, with covert ops, cyberattacks, multi-lateral sanctions; also, the U.S. would not and should not resort to the military option, although Israel might.

*Are Solyndra and Fast and Furious Stumbles or Scandals? This week both Energy Secretary Chu and AG Holder were under oath and fire answering tough questions about bad decisions. With Republicans pushing hard, are we here dealing with watergates or witchhunts?

Mary agrees that occasionally government has to invest in emerging technologies like renewables but implies that the green in Solyndra may have more to do with campaign donations. Ron replies: as if the Bush-Cheney energy policies weren't influenced by the oil and gas industry.

Fast and Furious was "incompetent, not criminal," in Ron's view, though Mary implies that Holder lied under oath when he denied knowing anything until late in the game. The two discuss Bush43's "Wide Receiver" gun-walking program.

*Quick Takes: Occupy Next. Indicted Bishop. Chelsea Clinton. The two agree that Occupy Wall Street taps into very real grievances, with Ron hoping that, post-evictions, it becomes more of an organized movement than a location. In the wake of Penn State and a KC Bishop indicted for covering up child pornography, Mary wonders whether there's more such abuse or just exposure of it; Ron draws analogies between the Catholic Church and the Church of Sports.

Chelsea Clinton to NBC? Ron knowingly talks about how easy it is to get a job if your dad is/was president but hard to carve out a career on name alone. The two each agree that the other has real talent and TV careers. Mary offers a bravo to Chelsea because "she's a lovely, brilliant young woman who will be a leader of her generation and should enter politics."

*On the Radar: Ron tells us to watch out for John Edwards' criminal trial in January, with the issue turning on whether money to a mistress was a reportable campaign donation or a gift? (Prediction: a jury will conclude he was a jerk, not a felon.) Mary points out that the real turkey Thanksgiving week will be the Super Committee -- and when it fails to agree on a deal, all of 2012 will be about which party has the best vision for our fiscal future.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.

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