I admit the GOP debate was kinda fun
I’ll give it to them. Fox tried to make this Republican candidates forum a debate but with ten people on stage given a minute to respond with thirty-second rebuttals, it was a press conference. Actually, it wasn’t even a press conference. It was like giving each candidate the chance to give a condensed stump speech.
For Republican voters this had to be like attending a concert featuring Kid Rock, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Hank Williams Jr., Kiss, Aerosmith and Lynyrd Skynyrd but they each only got to play one song. Still, it was a great spectacle. You couldn’t look away. It was like a ten car pileup. You had to just stop and rubberneck and take it all in.
Get the popcorn ready.
If anyone thought we’d see a kinder, gentler, more-measured Donald Trump then they don’t know Trump. In Trump-land everything is the most perfect, the hugest, the greatest, the most terrific ad infinitum. And Trump has no reverse in his gearbox. Apologies are for losers. The man stood on stage and teased that he could turn his verbal cannon on Megan Kelly, patted himself on the back for his companies going bankrupt four times while he’d never filed bankruptcy personally and admitted he bought politicians like slaves on an auction block.
The Donald doesn’t do shame.
Jeb Bush was boring. On the charisma scale he falls somewhere between Richard Milhouse Nixon and Ben Stein. He comes across exactly like you’d expect a member of an upper crust political dynasty educated at the best schools with the proper breeding. He probably still has the crusts cut off his sandwiches by the help. He presents a resume of accomplishment as governor of Florida but behind that there seems to be no compelling reason for him to run other than he’s a Bush and that’s the family business.
Neurosurgeon Ben Carson was there. He didn’t say anything controversial. Lobbed a softball question on race relations he responded in the typical racial colorblind pablum that only works in Fantasyland and in front of conservative crowds. No one went after the politically inexperienced gadfly. His opponents seem content to let him raise his speaking fees and maybe land a radio show before bowing out of the race in a couple months.
Mike Huckabee seemed to be doing the most to try to stand out on a stage dominated by Trump’s shadow. When touting a consumption tax he weirdly pointed out that it would also hit pimps and prostitutes. He went after the Iran deal saying “When someone points a gun at your head and loads it, by God you ought to take them seriously.” I was left thinking why would someone put an unloaded gun to your head and then load it? Huckabee has a folksy charm best shown by his ending joke when he set up a line implying he was referring to Donald Trump and then revealed his target as Hillary Clinton. But when Huckabee tries to out-Trump the Donald, he just sounds (and looks) Nixonian. That’s right, two Nixon references in one column!
New Jersey Gov. Chris Krispy Kreme… I’m sorry, that’s juvenile. Chris Christie was in his usual fighting shape. He was combative and robustly defended his record being a conservative Republican in a blue state. With less candidates Christie could really provide fireworks and illuminate differences between he and his opponents. He seemed ready to go toe to toe with anyone and that’s the Christie people know. Still, Republicans are turned off by the fact that he hugged President Obama during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. And Christie pandering to conservatives will lose him many of the moderates who initially supported him.
And though it may be true that Christie’s father worked in an ice cream factory, as one fat guy to another, don’t mention food in your remarks, Chris. Just avoid food.
Senator Ted Cruz was probably effective for his voters. But there’s a snarkiness about him that’s just off-putting. For me, he comes across as someone who has been planning to run for president his whole life. It’s as if he looked at a 2009-2010 list of what Tea Partiers loved and tried to check every box. His latest escapade with making machine gun bacon was so contrived and ridiculous that it probably did work for his substance-challenged sycophants. On the debate stage he postured and mentioned bills he’d introduced, bills that were never designed to pass but to just add to his resume’.
Senator Marco Rubio came off as more polished than we’ve seen him in the past. There was no sipping of water while looking like a boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. His boyishness will probably work for him if he ends up on a debate stage next to Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Of course substance matters but it was like Barack Obama standing across from John McCain. Who represents the future and who represents the past? Maybe it’s true that he’s running for the vice-presidency. He’s flip-flopped and floundered on immigration when, as a minority, he should own this issue. Still, his performance here was strong.
Senator Rand Paul touts himself as a “different kind of Republican.” Paul is maddening because, like his father, he does have the ability to draw people who not only wouldn’t be following a Republican but also wouldn’t be following politics. He’s been outspoken against foreign wars in the past and has championed civil liberties. While it was refreshing to hear Paul talk about going to Detroit, Ferguson and Baltimore trying to expand the party, he comes to the party with a somewhat blemished record when it comes to matters of race. Paul was the first to go after Donald Trump so it shows he’s got stones.
Governor John Kasich brought a combination of experience, gravitas and optimism to the party. He even admitted… gasp… that he attended a same-sex wedding (which has to make him a vicarious sodomite, devil-worshipper or at least bi-curious in the bubble-wrapped minds of the base of the party.) Of course, his heartfelt sentiment, experience compromising with Bill Clinton and talk of bringing the country together immediately disqualifies him for the nomination. Nice try with your disdainful pragmatism, John.
I’m sure I left someone out because there was like six-dozen people on that stage trying to uncork their one-liners whenever they got a chance. And the preliminary debate… Okay, I didn’t see it. But commentators are praising Carly Fiorina’s performance like she’s the Ronda Rousey of politics.
Even having a debate with the candidates who were lower in the polls puts them at a disadvantage. Perhaps it would’ve been better to have a more even split with nine candidates in one debate and eight in the other. And instead of using poll positions, it would’ve been better to have a random draw of who lands where. How can those people lower in the polls hope to gain supporters if they’re relegated to an admittedly lesser, preliminary debates that no one attends?
I’ve had some fun with the candidates but this was a good start, as unwieldy as it was. Though we may poke fun at Trump and I’m having some laughs as someone who hasn’t voted for a Republican in 15 years, these debates however they are constituted are important. And the record viewership is one sign of a healthy democracy. At the end of it all, this is a serious decision the American people will have to make.