January 15, 2016 | I tuned in to the 6th Republican debate last night from Charleston, SC. Oh, my! The GOP has become a party of Little Red Hens. The sky is falling! The sky is falling! The sky is really falling!
And it's all the fault of Barack Obama and/or Hillary Clinton.
The so-called debate was all about bluster and bellicosity as most of the candidates puffed out their chests and tried display more belligerency than the others.
Cruz used the opportunity of a question about the economy to declare that "any nation that captures our fighting men will feel the full force and fury of the United States of America" [applause].
A few moments later, Rubio promised to revert to torturing our enemies, vowing that when he is president, "The most powerful intelligence agency in the world is going to tell us where we[sic] [ISIS] are, the most powerful military in the world is going to destroy them. And if we capture any of them alive, they are getting a one-way ticket to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and we are going to find out every thing they know." What else could he have meant?
There were a few moments of levity.
When Ben Carson was called on the first time, he replied, "Well, I'm very happy to get a question this early on. I was going to ask you to wake me up when that time came" [laughter]. Why is this guy even in the race? It's obvious he hasn't got a clue.
When Maria Bartiromo asked Ted Cruz about a NYTimes article about the "natural-born citizen" phrase in the Constitution, which has never been tested in court, and whether that might mean Cruz would be ineligible for the presidency, he retorted, "Well Maria, thank you for passing on that hit piece in the front page of the New York Times" [laughter].
Later, Trump got a laugh when he said he was disappointed about the question hanging over Cruz' elibility because he had been considering him as his vice-presidential running mate, Cruz came back with a zinger, albeit a very dark one: "I'll tell you what. If this all works out, I'm happy to consider naming you as VP. So if you happen to be right, you could get the top job at the end of the day" [laughter] Who knew Cruz could make a joke?
But mostly it was about offering a dark, sinister, nilistic counterpoint to Obama's State of the Union speech two nights before.
Christic called the speech "a fantasy land." He, and others, alleged that Obama had "let [the military] diminish to a point where tin-pot dictators like the mullahs in Iran are taking our Navy ships. The fact that our defense budget is bigger than the next eight countries combined was not enough, according to these guys. We need more ships, more guns, more soldiers, more, more, more!
Rubio claimed that "this president is undermining the constitutional basis of this government. This president is undermining our military . He is undermining our standing in the world. I like Chris Christie, but we can not afford to have a president of the United States that supports Common Core." Ouch! The republic is surely in danger because of the suggestion that there should be some things that all school children should learn!
Bush echoed a theme struck by everybody else: "at the end of the day we need to unite behind the winner so we can defeat Hillary Clinton, because she is a disaster."
Christie intoned, "[H]ere's my warning to everybody out in the audience tonight. If you're worried about the world being on fire, you're worried about how we're going to use our military, you're worried about strengthening our military and you're worried most of all about keeping your homes and your families safe and secure, you cannot give Hillary Clinton a third term of Barack Obama's leadership."
There was one moment in the debate when the moderators insisted on an answer to a question, and the answer was a genuine statement of policy that deserved to be explored.
BARTIROMO: Just to be clear Governor, where and when would you use military action?
CHRISTIE: Military action, Maria, would be used when it was absolutely necessary to protect American lives and protect American interests around the world. We are not the world's policeman, but we need to stand up and be ready.
But more attacks and counter-attacks were teed up, and the moment passed.
Now that the Trump-Cruz bromance is over, some sharp blows were exchanged in the debate. Cruz showed that he is formidable in a debate format, and for a moment he rocked Trump back on his heels with his discussion of the "natural-born citizen" issue, noting that some think that means that not only the person but the person's parents have to be born on US soil — which would disqualify Trump whose mother was born in Scotland. Yo mamma!
Rubio also had a strong night, but there is something very unsettling about him, performance-wise. He gives the unmistakable impression that all these arguments are memorized in advance, perhaps as part of a larger speech, and he just waits for the right cue to recite the passage. Nothing is ever spontaneous or genuinely responsive to a point made to him. I read once that Cruz also practices sentences and paragraphs for best delivery at an appropriate moment, but he is better at it than Rubio.
But in the end it is all very, very sad. These guys are the prospective nominees of one of the two major parties in the USA, and none of them excites. Trump incites but his ideas do not excite because he has none; he's all bluster and braggadocio. The two players on the stage with the greatest claim to "adult in the room" status — John Kasich and Jeb! Bush — simply do not have the campaigning skill to break out. They both need a merciless editor who can take a blue pencil to their verbose, meandering answers and cut them down to pithy bullet points. Both also need some sartorial guidance to cast off their Mr Rogers look, because they can't make it work.
I look forward to the great winnowing down that will come with the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, and the South Carolina primary. I expect that one or more of the remaining gaggle will drop out then.