The GOP Presidential Debates: A Waterboarding Alternative

This article appeared in Forbes on November 18, 2011.
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I think I’ve solved the problem of waterboarding. We can get rid of that technique in dealing with alleged terrorists and simply force them to watch the Republican presidential debates. If they don’t fess up given the prospect of having to watch additional debates, they’re probably innocent.

Cato Institute aficionados are well aware of how fiercely non‐​partisan we are (“we” in the royal sense). Nevertheless, I was deeply disappointed when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie opted not to enter the race. Not only did he have the unique advantage of being smart; I had a perfect campaign slogan for him: “Fat Chance in ’12!”

On the good news front we finally got our bilateral trade agreements ratified with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama. As far as I can tell, it’s the only thing to come out of the Obama administration that would actually create jobs. Perhaps that explains why he had no press conference to announce it.

Another reason to lament the absence of Chris Christie in the presidential sweepstakes is that none of the remaining candidates, certainly including Barack Obama, have the wherewithal to discuss the 800‐​pound gorilla in the room, namely entitlements. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid together have unfunded liabilities in excess of $60 trillion.

It seems as though Rep. Paul Ryan (R‐​Wis.) and Christie are the only pols out there who are willing to talk to Americans as though they are adults. Virtually all of the other so‐​called leaders of both major parties have their heads in the sand, pretending that what is an obvious fiscal crisis will go away if they just act as if it’s not there. Cato distinguished senior fellow José Piñera, architect of Chile’s wildly successful social security privatization scheme, could enlighten these leaders if only they would listen.

Fortunately, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s hard‐​core lobbying effort to have tens of thousands of U.S. troops remain in Iraq failed. Thus, President Obama’s now claiming that he is fulfilling the campaign pledge by promising to bring the troops home by the end of the year. Let’s hope he does.

That said, our friend Rep. Ron Paul (R‐​Texas) argues that we will continue to maintain a massive military force in Iraq. Certainly the world’s largest embassy there will require an impressive security force as it becomes target practice for various Iraqi factions. As for Afghanistan, don’t ask. After 9/11 we did the right thing in going into that nation and ousting the Taliban regime that tolerated al‐​Qaeda. Now, however, our efforts are utterly futile. Ultimately, we will leave (minus a few thousand more young Americans killed) and the non‐​nation of Afghanistan will revert to its eighth century tribal society, just as it was before we engaged in our nation‐​building there.