Republican Debate Reaction, 3/12/2013

A few quick thoughts on the first GOP debate featuring candidates Gabriel Gomez, Michael Sullivan, and Dan Winslow (through the filter of a faltering computer and two hungry kids looking for dinner).

I thought the discussion of prosecutorial discretion brought on by the Aaron Swartz case was very interesting and I hope to hear more of it. Sullivan brought important perspective as one who has been both a DA and the US Attorney for Massachusetts. This is an interesting issue for the candidates because the GOP is generally ‘tough on crime” but also sensitive to government over reaching into the liberties of the people and I thought the answers of Dan Winslow in particular reflected the sensitivity of the Swartz case and questioned the proliferation of actions we deem criminal in our society. But on the matter of prosecuting corporate wrongdoers, did Sullivan say that you can’t put corporations in jail; you have to go after the people? In other words, ‘corporations are not people, my friend’?

Sullivan drew a lot on his experience as a former DA and US Attorney and that is a strength. Winslow did the same with his experience in all three branches of government, as a judge, legislator, and counsel in the executive branch to ‘he who should never be named’ (former Governor Mitt Romney of course). Gomez emphasized over and over that he is not a career politician like those politicians down in Washington where everything is broken (though he did try to become a five month politician, applying for the senate seat now held by Senator Mo Cowan). Gomez subtly reinforced the notion of himself as an amateur in politics by deftly appearing to have no idea what he was talking about most of the night. Or maybe he was sincere.

All were shaken by Newtown, none would go very far on guns. Gomez had a good moment on background checks. Winslow tried to narrow the question down to something he could deal with and not offend GOAL, and that didn’t go so well. Tough issue for the GOP in Massachusetts.

Winslow impressed the twitterverse by informing us that retweets are not endorsements. Gomez wasn’t bad on immigration, but I wish he had offered the first part of his answer in Spanish. That would have impressed.

Sullivan in favor of term limits because if you can’t get job done in 12 years you should go.

Not to be outdone, Gomez in closing focused on when he gets to senate he will set to work on term limiting the place. This plays to his outsider approach and in Massachusetts GOP may be a strength, as primary voters will be disgusted with Washington. But really, you are going to Washington to devote your efforts to assuring that you and your new colleagues can’t stay very long? Come on.

Winslow’s closing thrilled my former students in Massachusetts Politics because he referenced our state as a city upon a hill, ‘the eyes of the world are upon us.’ We start each semester reading Winthrop’s Model of Christian Charity speech, so I appreciated the city upon a hill play.

Most impressive performance of the night was by Stonehill College Professor and contributor , debate host Peter Ubertaccio. Better than Gregory, Lehrer, Keller, etc.


About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
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