As with some of the things Barack Obama said about trade in 2008, it’s uncomfortable when you have to bet that the presidential candidates of a major political party aren’t being fully truthful about their intentions.

In Tuesday night’s GOP debate, Charlie Rose asked the three top candidates what they would do to alleviate deadlock in Washington. Each of them gave answers that, if acted upon, would encourage partisan strife and, if carried out in full, wouldn’t adequately address the budget and employment.

Herman Cain said he would present his mathematically dubious 9-9-9 plan, which has no chance with Democrats. It will pass because “the American people” want it, he said. His candidacy seems to be based on the notion that life imitates slogans.

Rick Perry said he would open up America to drilling, which he said wouldn’t require congressional approval. So he’ll do whatever he can without Congress. Good luck with the checks and balances on everything else.

Mitt Romney said he would work with people in both parties who care more about the country than they do about getting reelected. And then he refused to consider increasing federal revenue as part of a deficit deal and later touted the ludicrous cut-cap-balance plan, which makes you wonder if he is one of those people.

The real answer is that, while both sides have their pathologies, the GOP can’t remain in thrall to the ideological fancies the candidates celebrated Tuesday night — that the government needs no extra revenue to complement spending reforms, even as the population ages and the cost of our entitlement programs rises; that the EPA and Obamacare are the biggest threats to the economy; that economic stimulus has created no jobs at all — and expect to govern effectively.

More on the debate from PostOpinions

Rubin: Romney laps the field

Cohen: Will Romney remain the top dog?

Dionne: Romney is in command now

Petri: Just nominate Mitt Romney, already

Bernstein: Perry is in­cred­ibly bad at debates