Observations On The CNN Republican Candidates Debate

Is it the debate, or the Burger king Commercial?

Is it the debate, or the Burger king Commercial?

1. Whoever decided that presidential candidates debates require  patriotic songs to start them off should be shunned and mocked. This simultaneously over-sanctifies the event and trivializes it. This is a serious enterprise, but not that far removed from a an interview on “Meet the Press,” and it’s also not a variety show.

2. With Wolf Blitzer’s competent, respectful, fair and benign debate moderation last night,  media and liberal pundit defenders of the disgraceful CNBC inquisition should admit they were defending the indefensible.

3. Ted Cruz had a terrible night, meaning his arrogance,  cynicism and dishonesty were exposed and nobody trapped him into it. His talking over the moderators after they repeatedly told him to pipe down was outrageous. His long, evasive non-answer to the question about why he refused to level the same criticism of Trump in public forums that he has made in private appearances was like a parody of a double-talking pol. Cruz’s plan, it’s obvious to see, is to avoid alienating Trump’s base so he can snap it up when The Donald finally starts imitating Michael Richards in his career-ending stand-up meltdown or does something similarly self-destructive. At this point, that plan appears irresponsible and cowardly. Cruz is the best qualified candidate to take Trump apart, because he has the rhetorical tools and requisite ruthlessness to do the job right. That means that he has an ethical obligation, not just as a Republican but also as a citizen, to remove this ugly blight from  the political scene before he does more damage. Yet he refuses to do it.

There has been a lot of talk about what disqualifies a candidate to be President. Cruz’s refusal to take on Trump when he knows how wrong and dangerous he is disqualifies him.

4. One half a measure of kudos to poor Jeb Bush for at least trying to point out Trump’s lack of thought, civility and substance. I don’t believe he’s capable of doing a better job than he did, but it wasn’t nearly sharp enough, because Jeb isn’t nearly sharp enough.

Last night may have been the only time in my life that I wished Newt Gingrich was on a stage.

5. Did everyone notice that Trump at one point following a Jeb jab did a spontaneous imitation of the guy imitating Trump in that Burger King commercial?

6. Rand Paul, who barely made the main debate, continued to preach his irresponsible refrain of isolationism, this time employing the dishonest euphemism of “regime change,” which really means, “don’t fight anybody, don’t try to save foreign citizens, don’t try to make the world safer, don’t lead.” I expected him to start singing  Simon and Garfunkle’s “I am a Rock.” No doubt about it, removing dictators is risky business, and sometimes it backfires, especially if we don’t do it right. Getting rid of the Taliban was, however, a matter of principle and responsibility. The U.S.’s “regime change” in Germany and Japan worked out rather well, I’d say. When the Iranian people were ready to overthrow their repressive theocracy, President Obama ignored their cries for support: this is Rand Paul’s idea of ethical world leadership.  He got a national audience for his essentially pacifist manifesto, now he should go home, home to the Senate, where the deer and the ideologues play. He, more than all but one other candidate on the stage last night ( and I don’t mean Trump) does not deserve to be called a serious candidate.

7. The other unserious candidate is Ben Carson; it’s just that he is too slow and egotistic to realize it. The real question is, how could anyone else take him seriously after his sleepy, vague, meandering comments last night? How can anyone, other than the deluded doctor, think that his experience talking to children needing medical treatment—really, that whole monologue was unbelievable— has any relevance to the Presidency whatsoever? How can anyone, watching the smoldering wreckage of President Obama’s administration, extol the virtues of the “citizen statesman,” as if this was an 18th century agrarian society and we should trust a smart farmer to drop his plow and rush from the fields to negotiate with the King of France—or in Carson’s case, a not-so-smart surgeon to drop his scalpel and negotiate with Putin? Governing isn’t just a profession, it’s a craft. Leadership isn’t a hobby, it’s a specialty, as well as a talent. This–what is he, an idiot? A nut? A hoax? A parody of the surgeon with a God complex?—man really thinks that leading the most powerful, contentious, challenged democracy in the world is one of those jobs anybody can do without training or experience! He really thinks that, after Barack Obama has spent his entire administration showing why that isn’t true.

8. After the polls show that viewers thought Trump “won” last night—you know they will—I want someone to ask one of the dolts who thinks that to explain their reasoning. He said nothing. He repeated the same generalities–we don’t win, he’ll be tough, he builds things, this or that policy was a “disaster”—without articulating a single specific policy position that wasn’t gossamer vague or a rationalization. His meanderings about what “shut down the internet” means proved that Trump doesn’t know squat about the internet. His explanation for why he would kill the families of terrorists was Bond villain reasoning. His query, “They can kill us but we can’t kill them?” articulated the Cro-Magnon level of his “reasoning”: is Trump aware that the United States imposes different ethical restrictions on its conduct than terrorists impose on theirs? No, he isn’t.

As with Carson and Hillary supporters, those who think this man should be President has forfeited the privilege of having their opinion respected.

9. Trump did finally say that he would not run as a third party candidate, which is the ethical position. Of course, his words on this and any other matter are worthless.

10. The John Kasich watch, also known as “Watching what some hoped would be an impressive moderate Republican continue to prove that their hopes were rash and misplaced”:

  • He only said “guess what?” once last night, a vast improvement…
  • He still waves his arms around like the evil android in “Alien” after his tube got messed up, and
  • He uttered the night’s most unprofessional, meaningless, pandering line of the night not uttered by Donald Trump: “It’s time that we punched the Russians in the nose.”

11. Chris Christie was asked if there was a no-fly zone and a Russian fighter breached it, would he shoot the plane down. Unless you are Barack Obama, there is only one answer to that question: Of course. That’s what a no-fly zone means. It’s like a red line, just to pick an analogy out of the air. If you aren’t going to stop planes from flying, you don’t set up a no-fly zone! Chris Christie gave not just the right answer, but the only answer. And Rand Paul said that the answer meant Christie was the candidate to start World War III.

His dad must be so proud.

12. Marco Rubio and Chris Christie emerged as the most articulate, honest and admirable candidates. Christie deserves special respect for describing Obama as a “feckless weakling.” I wish he had slammed Trump, but he didn’t really have an opportunity; instead he correctly mocked the ridiculous and revealing pissing match between Rubio, Cruz and Paul over who had voted against which Senate proposal that went nowhere anyway. I’m trying to think of a Senator without additional executive or military experience who knew how to be President. Only three Senators have moved directly from the Senate to the White House: Harding, Kennedy, and Obama.

It is not an encouraging list, and that is not a coincidence.

26 thoughts on “Observations On The CNN Republican Candidates Debate

  1. Christie impresses me more and more each time I hear him speak. In my opinion he is the ONLY one in the group that is truly Presidential in all aspects of the term.

    Christie will take a some heat for the women dropping off the kids at the bus while the men go off to work comment, but the underlying concept that was the core of the comment will likely be ignored by his opposition and they will attack him ad nauseam with the women vs men deflection.

  2. Trump’s continuous trivializing of others opinions, both with his words and mannerisms, reminds me of what “intellectual” Liberals do all the time; it shows a complete lack of respect for others, it’s unethical.

    What’s clear to me is that Trump is fully engaged in using the worst of the worst Liberal campaign tactics and he’s put them on a continuous IV stream of steroids.

    I don’t know of any other way to explain this; it’s as if Trump is a caricature of what the Liberals think Conservative ideology is all about not what true Conservative ideology is all about. Trump is playing the only part in a well written and well directed Broadway stage show and the world is the audience. When the foot lights go down, what we should know is that it’s all been a modern-day Shakespeare farce stripped of all humor.

    I think Trump’s Republican caricature campaign is pushing more support towards Hillary than Hillary could possibly drum up herself – she’s uninspiring, she’s boring! With Trump’s Republican caricature portrayal of Conservatives, it sometimes looks like Trump is campaigning against the Republicans which will allow the Democrats to win by default; is that the goal?

    I’m concerned that Trump might actually accomplish his goal, the problem is, I’m not really sure what the hell that goal is.

    • I said…

      “What’s clear to me is that Trump is fully engaged in using the worst of the worst Liberal campaign tactics and he’s put them on a continuous IV stream of steroids.”

      I’d like to reword that to…

      “What’s clear to me is that Trump is fully engaged in using the worst of the worst Liberal tactics in his campaign and he’s put them on a continuous IV stream of steroids.”

      There, that better represents my opinion.

  3. Before I begin a long winter’s nap: At this point I am convinced of the inevitability of election to the White House of Tyrannosaurus Deceivus maximus (who I formerly referred to as T. Regina). It’s just as well. What lies ahead for the country in the next few years, I wouldn’t want even THIS cycle’s slate of GOP presidential hopefuls to take the blame for.

  4. Jack,
    “His dad must be so proud.”

    Snarky and irrelevant. If you don’t like him, fine — but let’s not act as though he’s got no business opening his mouth or that there aren’t those that do (not me, mind you — I can’t vote).

    Your remarks are no better than all the idiots who claimed, at the start of the Iraq Invasion, that Bush was simply “finishing what his father started.” Or Oliver Stone for portraying him as an idiotic daddy’s boy.

    This isn’t the Bible, there aren’t generational curses, sons don’t live for the pleasures of their parents.

    Happy (belated) Chanukah!

    • Neil, it’s a legitimate comment. The Bushes were not distinguished by a formal, common ideology, hence the comment. Or do you think Rand came by a rigid, reality-free libertarian philosophy independent of his father. Daddy Ron, infamously, has suggested the the United States should have stayed out of World War II, hence I surmise that Rand’s absurd comments about “regime change” are chips off the old block. Do you really dispute that?

  5. ‘I want someone to ask one of the dolts who thinks that to explain their reasoning.”

    For the record, I think he won. Did he deserve to win? No. That;s easy. You’re right, he doesn’t say anything material, he’s arrogant, pompous, bombastic and condescending. He’s a cartoony caricature of what should be on the stage. But he’s also at 42. Historic rules don’t apply to Trump, he won because he won, and his polls will reflect that. If he can get up there with as xenophobic a policy as “Ban Muslims” and come away with a BUMP in the polls is damn near untouchable. I’m building a bunker with a moat full of hydrochloric acid. Because it’s cold here, and I don’t think that’ll freeze.

    • Well, that’s a legitimate version of “win,” but not what I meant by win. He won by not losing, he won by not losing ground he had already. He won in the way Kennedy won the first Nixon-Kennedy debate, where Nixon stuffed him on substance but Kennedy gained in stature by being on the same stage and not having a 5 o’clock shadow.

      By win, I mean delivering the most presidential performance to an objective, intelligent observer who knows something about what being President means. But your point, sadly, is correct.

    • How do you even measure “winning a debate”?

      A) These aren’t really debates anymore, as a real debate is “won” when one side concedes to the other that their arguments and solutions are superior than their own.

      B) These are more or less really complex and weird job interviews, so I suppose the best metric for “winning” would be whose poll numbers received the greatest boost, then the question becomes, is it a proportional measurement or an arithmetical measurement…that is to say:

      If Candidate X goes from 5% to 10% and Candidate Y goes from 8% to 14%, does X win because he increased by 100% while Y only increased 75% OR does Y win because he increased by 6 whole points whereas X only increased by 5?

  6. From far away, Marco Rubio seems to be the most viable republican candidate. He seems like a nice enough guy and fairly competent. But he’s too young and has no executive experience and, in that regard only, is way too much like our current President. Disheartening.

  7. I watched the debate closely last night. I admit it — I don’t get the appeal with Rubio. He doesn’t seem very experienced, and he also doesn’t come across as very intelligent. That — along with the fact that he’s not great with money — has to be his downfall.

    I thought Trump was more subdued — we’ll see the kinder, gentler Trump now that he didn’t get official support from the evangelicals in Iowa.

    Carson terrifies me. Go back and hear his rambling comments about killing children rather than death by a thousand cuts. Chilling.

    I thought Rand did well. He made a good point about government spending at the end.

    Christie is doing better,

    Cruz? He seemed less evil last night, but I still hate him with every fiber of my being.

    The most interesting thing about last night for me is that no one attacked Rubio directly except Cruz. Do all the other candidates want to preserve Rubio as a potential VP choice?

    • We’re pretty close. I do think the Rubio checkbook/credit card criticisms are ridiculous, though. What relevance do they have, other than showing that for once someone running for President isn’t a tycoon? How could anyone be more irresponsible with money than the last two Presidents? The issue with Rubio is 1) he has about as much experience as Obama had, and 2) he looks like he’s 12.

      • My understanding is that he used the wrong credit card to pay for a significant amount of stuff. Then he had to pay back the money. So, it’s not that he’s bad with money, but more that he may have misused it.

        Well, and if you’re going to go for the personal …. check out the guy’s ears. I seriously can’t look away — they are mesmerizing.

  8. The really disheartening thing is that on occasion, the Orange Ozymandias (to borrow one of Christopher Buckley’s magnificent turns of phrase) actually has very very reasonable things to say every now and then, like his statement about our rotting infrastructure, and admission that the past couple decades of U.S. middle-east policy, while well-intentioned, has failed to create anything resembling stability or western-style liberalism in the region. His statement that we can’t simultaneously fight the Assad-Iran-Russia triumvirate and the radical Sunni movement led by ISIS and Al Qaida was also astute. He’s a horrible human being whose ideas are overwhelmingly bat-crap-crazy, but during his good minutes he is capable of a distressing amount of good sense, married to the type of acerbic and arrogant wit that creates memorable sound-bytes and sticks in the mind of voters. If the many-worlds theory of cosmology is true, there’s some universe three doors down where The Donald is an amazing candidate who uses his demagogic skills for good instead of evil. I kind of want to live there.

  9. Christy I could live with despite his repeatingly mocking the Senate and letting us know that he was there at 9/11. Rubio is another matter: he still hasn’t explained why he flip flopped on dealing with the illegals flooding the country. I think Christy is really a law and order guy, but Rubio is a slick politician.

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