Guy Benson

Here's video of one of the testier exchanges from last night's debate, which the Examiner's Phil Kelin calls the "defining moment" of the evening.  Just before the clip starts, Rick Perry defends his characterization of Social Security as a "Ponzi Scheme" for younger Americans.  Note the bit at the beginning about not trying to go back and undo what was a fait accompli decades ago:
 

Well, I think any of us that want to go back and change 70 years of what's been going on in this country is probably going to have a difficult time. And rather than spending a lot of time talking about what those folks were doing back in the '30s and the '40s, it's a nice intellectual conversation, but the fact is we have got to be focussed on how we're going to change this program.

And people who are on Social Security today, men and women who are receiving those benefits today, are individuals at my age that are in line pretty quick to get them, they don't need to worry about anything. But I think the Republican candidates are talking about ways to transition this program, and it is a monstrous lie.  It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you're paying into a program that's going to be there. Anybody that's for the status quo with Social Security today is involved with a monstrous lie to our kids, and it's not right.


And with that, Romney jumped down Perry's throat -- prompting a spirited response:
 


As an observer, I'd like to split the baby.  Rick Perry is right on the substance.  Mitt Romney is right on style.  The eventual Republican nominee needs to be able to offer genuine, responsible criticisms of a broken entitlements system without making Democrats' fearmongering strategy much easier.  This tightrope act underscores the calue of a guy like Paul Ryan.  As I wrote last night, I wish Romney wouldn't attack Perry from the Left on this point, but Romney's campaign is already demagoguing hardcore. That's a shame.

I'll leave you with a clip of Rick Perry's answer to a question on the death penalty.  NBC's Brian Williams wonders how Perry sleeps at night as the chief executive of a state that leads the nation in executions.  Couldn't some of those violent felons be innocent?
 


Williams followed up with a question that might as well have been, "aren't you horrified by the cretins who just applauded sentencing convicted murderers to death?"  Even as an opponent of the death penalty, it was obvious to me how aloof and out-of-touch Williams' questions must have sounded to the vast majority of Americans who support capital punishment.


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography