|A FEW DEBATE NOTES 18 Jan. 2016||| Print ||
A FEW DEBATE NOTES
18 Jan. 2016
Did you watch the last Republican Party presidential candidate debate? What do you think? It was pretty good theater, wasn’t it? I thought so. I only fell asleep for thirty minutes. That’s not too bad.
There were four very significant errors in the performance that need to be pointed out. These are things to think about. They’re telling incidents that everyone should have picked up on, but maybe some didn’t. I’ll take them from the bottom up, the lease significant to the most. Of course, as always, this is only my less-than-humble opinion, and you’re quite free to disagree to whatever extent you will, short of actual violence.
Who were the perpetrators of the errors? Ben Carson, Chris Christy, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. You thought for sure I would include Donald Trump, didn’t you? The Donald didn’t make a mistake in the debate. No, instead he did something intellectually dishonest and managed to get completely away with it. No one called him out. No one mentions it today. In fact, he’s gained significant praise instead of derision.
From the bottom, then a few words about Mr. Trump.
Ben Carson tried to be funny, making a crack intended to highlight the fact he was largely ignored through most of the two hours. He erred in alluding to being asleep. That was something he should not have said. I couldn’t help but yell, “NO!” at the TV when I heard it. He fed those who think he was at least half asleep, and that he’s always that way. Self-deprecation is great, but feeding a negative preconception isn’t. I hope Carson understands and doesn’t do something like that again.
Chris Christy fell short in his defense of Marco Rubio’s personal attack. He refuted Rubio’s allegations, but too generally. He has very good come-backs to use, yet he went “Christy light.” The audience would have benefitted from more complete explanations and truth. It’s true Christy used to be pro-choice. He hasn’t been for 20 years, though. Christy also has never donated to Planned Parenthood, and he’s signed six state budgets in a row that have no Planned Parenthood funding. The rest of Rubio’s points were true at one point or another in Christy’s past, to one extent or another, but are no longer relevant. I make no secret that I’m not a Christy fan, but right is right. Christy is the governor of one of the bluest states in the nation. It’s hard to say exactly how conservative he is. He has to deal with a Democratic-controlled legislature. That’s monumental, really. He could have drowned Rubio with a more complete and thoughtful answer. Why didn’t he?
Marco Rubio erred greatly in attacking Christy. He wasn’t wrong in the generic sense, but he was in specific. He didn’t vet his information to see how current it was. Rubio made himself look childish. He handed Christy a loaded gun, then looked sheepish when Christy shot him with it. It was a sophomoric gaffe. But, the good news for Rubio is in the rest of the debate he acquitted himself very well. If he learns a lesson from the night, it should be to not pick on the toughest guy in the room, and especially not with accusations easily refuted.
Ted Cruz took on Donald Trump in a way no one should ever try. I’m sure he’s the one in his camp who though up that “New York values” tar-brush. I’m also sure he did it primarily because he thought it would convey well throughout the country, except for New York. He probably believes there was no way he could carry that bluest-of-blue states anyway, so it was actually a safe way to skewer Trump. But, it fell flat. It was destined to fall flat. It’s never wise to appear to disparage whole populations. What was he thinking? He handed Trump a very sharp sword, pointed to his heart, and said, “Hey, Donny, I double-dog dare you to stick me with this thing.” Really? I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. He would have been far better off if he’d just said, “Donald Trump is a creature of his environment, and his environment is a city that elected a pure socialist for their mayor, after having the rabidly anti-Second Amendment Michael Bloomberg for far too long.” Straightforward commentary was what was best, but that’s not what he did. When Trump started in on his “Twin Towers / 9-11” rebuttal, Cruz actually applauded and smiled. What’s up with that? Even the best of us has bad moments. This was the worst moment for Cruz.
Now, for The Donald.
Donald Trump did his usual, generalized and obscure campaign pitch. It’s extraordinary, really. There’s just too little substance to it all. I can understand the whole tapping into the nation’s anger thing, but I don’t understand why no one seems able to penetrate Trump’s shield. For every one of his proposals and arguments there are logical questions that would reveal inherent flaws. Yet, no one seems able to frame the right questions or to penetrate the Trump defenses. It’s amazing.
In this debate Trump’s best moment was when Cruz assailed him over his New York values. Did Trump offer a logical refutation? No, he did not. Instead he wrapped himself in a New York City flag and invoked the memory of 9-11 and the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers. No one seemed to catch that it was an illogical, demagogic response. What did that event have to do with the point Cruz was trying to make? It was a red herring; a diversion. Cruz attacked, The Donald did a head-fake to the left, then ran to the right, knowing he’d draw all the opposition along behind him. It was a great tactic that only worked because Cruz failed to point out how illogical Trump’s statements were as responses to his attempt to brand Trump as a recently closeted liberal. The main point was clear – if anyone is a RINO it’s Trump, yet the point didn’t register.
The Pundit Class has sounded off on the debate. The corporate Republicans seem to have given up on their man Bush. Most of their focus was on Rubio and Christy. Either of those two guys will do as their nominee. Most pundits seemed to be in agreement that there are only four viable Republican candidates: Rubio, Christy, Cruz and Trump. They dismissed Carson. They largely ignored Paul, as they also ignored Huckabee, Santorum, Kasich, and Gilmore. They seem to recognize the Quixotic nature of Bush’s campaign and appear ready to take his saddle away. They treat Fiorina’s campaign a bit differently; not ignoring her, but not giving her much credibility. If the voters pay too much attention to pundits, this is exactly how the story will unfold.
Here are the questions I believe are relevant. Will Donald Trump’s neo-populist quest continue to be validated? Will Cruz grow a bit and regain the laser-like strategic focus that got him to this point? Will Rubio figure out how to concentrate his strengths and peel off support from those who are sure to abandon their campaigns in the next few weeks? Will Christy learn how to frame his positions and record in ways that will gain attention and respect from voters outside of the northeast coast? Will Bush go home already and understand he’s just not an effective campaigner? Will Carson and Paul quit the trail with the understanding that it’s just not their time? Will Huckabee, Santorum, Kasich, and Gilmore just go home and understand 2% means they’re only wasting their time and other peoples’ money? Will Fiorina get tougher and give up the “I’m a mom, I’m a woman, I’ve made tough decisions . . .” shtick?
As I said, this is pretty good theater. But, it’s almost game time. It’s time for the A-Team to step up and the B-Team to find the bench and stop cluttering up the field.
That’s how I see things.