There was lots of punching up at Rick Perry at last night's Republican debate, the first time the candidates had a chance to confront him. And they were all pretty peeved about his executive order to have girls vaccinated against HPV.
Ron Paul, in addition to playing the role of the nutty guy on the corner who said that federal regulations were responsible for 9/11 and that a border fence might just be used to keep us in, also slammed Perry for the vaccine order. He described it, mumblingly, as "misfit," and said, "Forcing 12-year-old girls to take an inoculation to prevent this sexually transmitted disease, this is not good medicine... It's not good social policy," without elaborating. He also criticized Perry's use of an executive order. (He was eventually overridden by the legislature.)
Santorum and Bachmann jumped in too, saying that it was offensive to parents to force them to vaccinate their daughters (they avoided saying it would turn them into mini-sluts).
Perry replied that he was "like the pinata here at the party." He did say that he should have done it differently, but that "I don't know what's more strong for parental rights than having that opt-out."
"I hate cancer," he went on. "Cervical cancer is caused by HPV. We wanted to bring that to the attention of these tens of thousands of young people in our state....At the end of the day, I will always err on the side of saving lives."
Unless those lives have been marked for government execution! Perhaps the ugliest moment of the night was the wild cheering of the crowd when Texas's 234 death row executions were mentioned. In fact, Brian Williams asked Perry if he struggled to sleep at night at the thought that one of them might have been innocent. Nope — Perry's faith in the judicial system was unshaken, and everyone cheered again. Williams asked Perry about the applause. "I think Americans understand justice," he said.
So-called "social issues" were on the back burner last night, something Chris Matthews asked Rick Santorum about after the debate. "No Republican on that stage really, including you, really wanted to focus on those hard social moral issues," Matthews said, adding, "You never turned it to same-sex. You never turned it to Don't Ask Don't Tell."
Santorum responded that no one asked him.
Matthews shot back, "Nobody wanted to bring them up, Senator! It seems like your party believes that you can't win this general election if you talk about same sex marriage."