They assumed the stance of the Seven Dwarfs, not as a matter of physical but rather intellectual stature. Not one of the candidates for the GOP presidential nomination who debated Monday night rose to a point of seriousness in addressing the nation's grievous problems. Instead, they ever so playfully thumbed their collective noses at any possible meaningful government reaction to the mess that we are in. It was Herbert Hoover warmed over, leaving Barack Obama secure in the mantle of FDR whether he deserves that tribute or not.
Obama, who has been inconsistent and weak in reining in the Wall Street greed that got us into this deep economic morass, is now under no pressure from the opposition to improve his performance. The Republican knee-jerk reaction -- government bad, big business great, and don't dare say that the Wall Street scoundrels who created this crisis need a timeout -- gets Obama off the hook from legitimate criticism he needs to hear. As The Wall Street Journal headlined the non-debate: "Candidates Run Against Regulation."
It's as if the sound government regulation of the financial industry implemented in response to the Great Depression -- not its polar opposite, the radical deregulation fueled by Republican free market zealots -- was the source of our banking meltdown.
How dare these Republican candidates en masse ignore the truth that it was precisely the legislation that their party pushed through Congress, and that Democrat Bill Clinton shamefully endorsed, that launched the era of unregulated credit default swaps and mortgage-based securities that came close to destroying the entire economy. The failed policies involved are the cause of the 50 percent run-up of the national debt, 9.1 percent unemployment, an all-time high in poverty and the prospect of 50 million people being driven from their homes.
The Republican debate dashed any expectation that some populist candidate would rise from that side of the aisle, and in an honest way tap into voter resentment over the deep hurt that the Wall Street super-rich have put on ordinary Americans. Instead, the candidates made regulation the enemy, rather than the misdeeds that responsible legislation is intended to curtail.