Thoughts about the GOP debate last night?


Consider this to be a sort of open thread, since I don’t have a lot to say about last night’s debate in Des Moines. I only put up 19 Tweets (not counting a couple on other topics) during the whole thing, which for me is like being unconscious or something.

But to get us started…

  • Trump’s absence did not elevate the discussion. So, you know, he’s not the whole problem.
  • Cruz started out acting like this was his personal stage and he was welcoming people to it, but then got all whiny when that turned out not to be the case.
  • I’ve decided that I know who Ben Carson is. He’s the kid who almost never gets into the game, and when he does they put him in right field, where he spends the game dreading the possibility that the ball might come to him. When a late swing by a right-hander produces a high pop fly in his direction, he’s like “Oh, no! A foreign policy question! Everybody’s looking at me, and they know and I know I’m going to flub it!”
  • Did you hear Carson say, “saber-rabbling?” Others on Twitter told me they did. Did Cruz really say “vigorousness?” That one surprised me because he likes to do impressions of JFK, whose favorite word was “vigah.” (His impressions are OK, but he confuses Jack with Bobby.)
  • I still think that Jeb Bush may be the safest bet if one of these guy has to occupy the White House, but he just cannot connect. It’s not just that the GOP electorate has gone nuts this year and is looking for crazy. Even without that, he’d be struggling. He doesn’t seem to be able to say anything in an engaging manner. He is just not good at this. As I Tweeted at one point, “As a speaker, Marco Rubio is everything Jeb Bush is not.”
  • I didn’t know who the blonde woman was until about halfway through. I thought she kinda looked like the one Trump hates, but the hair really threw me. Then I felt dumb, even though I never pretend to keep up with TV news personalities. (Also, in my defense — I don’t look at the screen much during these things. I’m busy Tweeting or reading other people’s Tweets.)
  • A writer at Salon was very impressed with Ms. Kelly’s montages of past statements by Cruz and Rubio about immigration. I zoned out of it because 1) I know Rubio has changed his tune on the subject, and 2) I don’t care whether Cruz has or not, because he’s disqualified himself from my consideration in so many other ways. After all that, I wrote, “Did anyone else start thinking about just going ahead and going to bed during that duel between Rubio and Bush over immigration?.”
  • I keep wondering when they’re going to bring out the real candidates. As Lindsey Graham Tweeted earlier this week, “The is more believable and serious than the GOP primary for president right now.”
  • I covered the GOP debate in Des Moines (sponsored by the Register) in 1980. Ronald Reagan skipped that one, just as Trump did this one. It was a better debate. The conventional wisdom on it was that Reagan lost by not being there. (And indeed, Bush won the caucuses.) Nobody was saying that last night.
  • On alternate days I like to like Chris Christie. Last night wasn’t one of those times. He says too many stupid things in stooping to conquer, such as when he said he preferred officeholder who are “from outside Washington.” I mean, hey — everybody serving in Washington is from outside Washington. I did praise him, though, when he declined the opportunity to pander about that court clerk from Kentucky. So I stretched to give him a compliment:

That’s enough from me. What did y’all think?

34 thoughts on “Thoughts about the GOP debate last night?

  1. Karen Pearson

    Was I the only one who liked Kasich? While I didn’t agree with everything he said, he seemed sane, unlike some of the others.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      There are times when I like him. I like him on expanding Medicaid.

      He doesn’t seem like a contender, although he’s doing surprisingly well in New Hampshire.

      From the beginning, my top five have been, in alphabetical order, Bush, Christie, Graham, Kasich and Rubio. Four of them are left.

      I’m not crazy about any of the four, though.

      This is SO different from ’08, when I really liked McCain, and really liked Obama…

      1. Jeff Mobley

        I find your top five interesting; I think your list is anecdotal evidence of Rubio’s high “electability” factor.

        My perception is that Cruz and Rubio really differ on only a few issues, and not by as much as either would have us believe. I think their differences are mainly in style and personality. And while many lump Cruz in with Trump, in my view, they’re oceans apart.

        Having said that, style and personality are not unimportant. The ability to be winsome and inspiring while also being correct is crucial, in fact.

        For example, Cruz’s decision to complain about the questions was a huge miscalculation, for a couple of reasons. First, unlike in the CNBC debate, when he castigated the moderators for mistreating all of the candidates, this time it was all about him, poor old Ted the victim, which was lame. Second, the questions he was complaining about really weren’t all that bad, except for maybe the one that was basically, “Hey Marco, you have 60 seconds to say bad things about Ted”. I actually liked the video clips Megyn Kelly used to question both Rubio and Cruz (although just imagine what kind of clips she might have played if Trump had shown up).

        The point of all of this is that while Cruz complained, and then made a lame joke about leaving the stage that fell flat, Rubio made the most of the time he had. The only time he really struggled, in my opinion, is when Jeb chided him on immigration. Even then, it wasn’t that bad for Rubio, because he was arguing about immigration with someone to the left of his (current) position on the issue.

        The fact that Rubio is in contention for you, Brad, gives credence, in my mind, to the idea that Rubio really could appeal to independents while also bringing all the GOP factions together (aside from some Trumpsters, perhaps).

        I believe Jeb is a good man and that he was a good governor, but I just can’t get excited about him. Kasich isn’t the worst guy, but he irritates me. He usually sounds like he’s lecturing everyone, although I thought he did okay last night.

        I really like most of what Chris Christie says, but based on what I’ve learned about him over the years, I have concluded that he is an especially dishonest politician, and so I don’t really consider voting for him.

        Of all the candidates I won’t vote for, Rand Paul is my favorite.

        Let’s see, what else… Oh, Fiorina won the early debate.

        I just realized I forgot about Carson, which probably says enough.

          1. Jeff Mobley

            Oh, yeah, I do remember that!

            Almost as funny was that, in the run-up to a question for Carson, Chris Wallace made this weird metaphor about landing planes in the operating room.

          2. bud

            Carson had a really hard time of it in the debate, probably the worst performance of anyone so far. But he did say something that got me thinking. He brought up the tired old conservative canard – “political correctness”. Of course he’s talking about liberal political correctness. For example, you can’t suggest Islam is a violent religion. Invoking this term is supposed to inoculate the speaker from any accusation of rudeness. I would like to suggest there is another kind of political correctness – conservative political correctness. Let me offer a few examples of things that can never be said as they would offend the sensibilities of a “good” conservative:

            Israel is a bad ally of the US.
            A large military is not necessary for the security of the nation.
            Ronald Reagan was not a particularly good president.
            ISIL and other middle eastern terrorist groups are not much of a threat to Americans.
            Capitalism has many flaws as an economic system.
            Annual budget deficits are not a big problem for the economy.
            Taxes are too low for many people and businesses.
            Government is more efficient than big corporations.
            Modern conservatism is a failed political philosophy.
            Most positive change in America has taken place because of liberal activism.
            In God We Trust should be removed from US currency.
            The rapid phase out of coal production would not hurt the American economy.
            Low income voters who support the Republican party are low information voters.

            And I could go on. The point is simply that how one views the concept of political correctness is largely determined by ones political beliefs, not by any intrinsic over sensitivity to criticism.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          If I were going purely by debates, Rubio would be my guy.

          Except… I can’t shake the feeling that he’s president of the college debating society.

          It’s not just his youthful look. There’s something about his delivery — its rapid pace, his utter confidence in the rightness of what he’s saying — that makes him seem younger than his years. As though he hasn’t lived enough to be disappointed in life, or find out he’s not infallible.

          He reminds me of how cocky I was at his age — actually, much younger than his age. I think I’d mellowed a bit by 44.

          At that age, I had been editorial page editor for a year…

          1. Mark Stewart

            Seasoned. That’s having got past the inflection point where one has developed both talent and humility. Rubio lacks seasoning.

            He could get there; but being President isn’t the appropriate place to acquire that kind of street cred. One needs to arrive in office with that already in place.

            That is what is so annoying about Cruz; it’s clear that he is never, or just this side of never, ever going to attain that state of suaveness. He is – they both are – eons from that deftness of thought and action.

      2. bud

        Bush, Christie, Graham, Kasich and Rubio

        Bush – Don’t need the retread neo-cons from his brother’s administration. That probably makes him the worst candidate, including Trump, in the field.
        Christie – A bully with no real explanation for the bridge closing.
        Graham – See Bush.
        Kasich – Would have been an extreme right winger in the 80s but comes across as George McGovern in this crowd.
        Rubio – Was once considered a Tea Party darling but now regarded as establishment. What this says is if you ever try to govern you become tainted. Don’t like Rubio but really this is pretty unfair.

        In short, this bunch is akin to the four horseman of the apocalypse. Given the utter failure of the last “conservative” president I can’t understand why everyone is falling all over themselves to be the MOST conservative.

        1. Juan Caruso

          Yeah, Bud, Hillary, Clinton or Biden are far superior choices . Based only upon your thinly-veiled but highly persnal criteria I might have to agree with you.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I keep mentioning that book as a way of keeping myself accountable and making sure I finish it. I’ve been in a real slump on book-reading the last couple of years, mostly only reading things I’ve read before.

      I got four new books for Christmas, and I’m going to try to make myself read them all before I let myself reread any of my “comfort” books…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And how am I doing? Well… I’m up to the part where the battle’s actually about to BEGIN. My father-in-law’s (and Kurt Vonnegut’s) unit, the 106th Infantry Division, are sitting there in the snow along a quiet stretch of front, having no idea what is just a mile or two from them, and about to roll over them — all those divisions and panzers we had no idea Hitler even had.

        The guys in the 106th were so green, the veterans marveled at them. Some of them showed up on the front in neckties.

        I mentioned that to my wife, and she said that was probably her Dad. If there was one private in the whole ETO showing up with a tie on, it would likely be my late father-in-law…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Elvis Costello’s memoir, “Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink.”

          “Our Man in Charleston: Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War South”

          And… I’m drawing a blank — I can ALMOST see it on my bedside table…

          All were on my Amazon wish list, but I erased them when I got them…

          I’ll tell you later.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Then there’s the books I got for my birthday that I haven’t read, and the ones I got the previous Christmas I haven’t read, and on back several years. Quite a few books that I was interested in reading, and asked for, and received, and haven’t read… Huge mass of guilt…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oops! I mistakenly said Graham Tweeted this this morning:

    I SAW it this morning, but he posted it a couple of days back.

    One of the things I like about Graham is that he is a Republican who will post something like that.

    Try to imagine, say, Joe Wilson having the chutzpah and sense of irony to post something like that about his own party. You can’t…

  3. Scout

    My choices in order would probably be Bush, Kasich, Rubio, and then Christie (if I had to have a next) – but I really don’t like Rubio or Christie very much at all. I abhor Trump and Cruz and Carson, without any discussion. Rubio and Christie can say some reasonable things occasionally, but their manners turn me off. Rubio seems 35 and a know it all, and he ends all his sentences with the same cadence which doesn’t always seem appropriate and annoys me for some reason. Christie just seems like a bully (not as big a one a Trump, but enough). While Bush and Kasichs’ manners work for me, I get that they are going nowhere. I’m used to my choices not being popular. It’s kind of depressing.

    Have y’all seen Cruz’s ad where he says something like “If you wage jihad against us you are signing your death warrant.” Every time I hear that, I imagine a terrorist answering back, “yes, I know. That is the plan.” He just really doesn’t seem to get it. OK, I do get that he is not really talking to terrorists but to masses of people in our country who like who hear that sort of thing even though it doesn’t reflect a solution that would make sense in the reality of the jihadist mindset. It annoys me. Its like leading children around by promising them candy and telling them it’s nutritious. It makes me mad at both the people who let themselves be led and the ‘leaders’ who choose such tactics.

    Couldn’t Trump’s not showing up be criticized from the perspective that as President he will have to deal with personalities who potentially may annoy him and just choosing to not show up is generally not an option – not a good or responsible one anyway.

    The problem with Bush and Kasich is they are the closest things to grown ups there ,and grown ups are far less dramatic and not as much fun to watch.

    I actually respect Rand Paul more than most of those guys, but I just disagree with him on a lot of things. But he does seem smart and articulate and consistent to his own beliefs.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “Couldn’t Trump’s not showing up be criticized from the perspective that as President he will have to deal with personalities who potentially may annoy him and just choosing to not show up is generally not an option – not a good or responsible one anyway.”

      Yes, it could — by a grownup. But Trump’s supporters seem to be people who haven’t reached that level of maturity at which you realize that life to a great extent is about dealing effectively and constructively with people who annoy you.

  4. Phillip

    I see that today’s NY Times just endorsed Kasich for the Republican nomination. Final nail in his coffin, I guess.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      Kasich is like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. He’s been dead the whole time, he just doesn’t know it yet.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          Bro, that movie is from 1999. The statute of limitations on “no spoilers” has long since expired.

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