Some thoughts, all cynical and sour, about the Republican debate
I sat through all two hours of the debate among the Republican primary candidates, although I was irked by Larry Elder's absence. Having said that, he didn't miss much. It was like watching a junior high school debate, complete with the cool kids asking stupid questions and the geeks fighting on the stage. I hated every minute of it, thought it was embarrassing for all involved, and found it insulting to the American voters.
If you want details about questions and answers, you'll find them elsewhere. These are just my impressions.
As is the case every election cycle, the format is appalling. It caters to the media's assumption that voters cannot hold anything in their brains for more than a minute or two. They think we're stupid, and the format is set up to cater to that. It's cruel to legitimate candidates to force them to address complex issues in one-minute sound bites, and it deprives the American people of important information. It's such a degradation of real political debate.
Within that appalling format, I couldn't be less impressed with Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum. Their questions were shallow and, considering that it was their format, they had no control over the candidates. I also disliked that they thought it was smart to open with a question that saw them playing Oliver Anthony's "Rich Men North of Richmond." Yes, I understand that the song has resonated with Americans. However, if each candidate gets only one minute, don't waste time on a song.
Image: Republican debate. YouTube screen grab.
Regarding the candidates, I came away thinking that Vivek, DeSantis, and what's-his-name from North Dakota managed to look the same or better by evening's end. The fact that I can't remember what's-his-name's name, though, is a reminder that, while he had a couple of good answers, he's fundamentally a nonentity who just looked better in comparison to some of the others on the stage.
Nikki Haley is a shrill, establishment harridan who kept playing the woman card. Speaking as a woman, I was not impressed. When she ridiculed Vivek Ramaswamy's lack of foreign policy chops, all I could think of was that she's someone who supports Biden's foreign policy. What's that say about her chops?
I also disagreed profoundly when she said Ukraine is our friend. As far as I'm concerned, Ukraine, one of the most corrupt nations in the world, is a friend only to politicians and defense contractors (a point Vivek made). And when Pence went on a rant about Putin entering NATO countries, I wanted to yell at him that it's America that ignored a promise never to push NATO right up to Putin's doorstep. I'm not defending Putin or Russia. This is a war that would be best ended if both countries lost. What I don't want to see is America get sucked in.
Vivek made a few good points that deserve to be noted. He's right that he's the candidate best situated to reach young people and minorities, two groups that Republicans consistently fail to reach. He's the only man who had the courage to say that anthropogenic climate change is a hoax and to promise to stop funding Ukraine and start funding the American border. He's right about fatherlessness and the lack of stable, nuclear families as a large part of the crime epidemic. And he's right to promise to pardon Trump should he be convicted.
Most importantly, every person on that stage other than Vivek believes that you just need to take the government and steer it correctly to fix things. They remind me of American communists who promise we'll be nothing like the Soviet Union. "Communism," they insist, "was just never done right." Every candidate essentially said, "Big government can be done right." Vivek is the only one who understands that it can't, that it is fundamentally antithetical to liberty.
DeSantis tried to stay above the fray (wise) and had strong answers about education and the rule of law. Chris Christie bloviated about the rule of law, but DeSantis is the only person on the stage who has fired corrupt prosecutors.
Speaking of Chris Christie...ick. No more need be said.
Mike Pence came across (to me) as a nasty bully who simultaneously dislikes Trump while taking credit for Trump's (not Pence's, but Trump's) policies. He's also clearly terrified of Vivek, which I found interesting.
Asa Hutchinson is bland, locked in the 1980s, and lost every bit of credibility he might have had when he cited the two professors who claim Trump is banned from office because of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. The professors are NeverTrumps whose animus blinded them to the law, and Hutchinson is...well, least said, soonest mended.
Burgum (that's what's-his-name's name) was the only one who got the abortion question right: Dobbs honored the Constitution by holding that only the states have a say about abortion. End of story. Every other GOP drone claiming the feds should do something about it was wrong and harmed the GOP's ability to win a general election. All of them should have been marched off the stage for their answers.
I also watched 30 minutes of Trump's discussion with Tucker and was reminded that, while I loved Trump's policies, and enjoy his sense of humor, I find him very boring. He's way too repetitive. I don't need to hear five times in two minutes that we sold the Panama Canal for $1. It's an important point...once, maybe twice.
I'm very disheartened.