What to say about tonight’s Republican debate?
The audience was utterly promiscuous with applause and booing. Whom they cheered and whom they booed, bore no relation to what the candidates said. They booed Trump in one breath, they cheered him in the next.
They were also the whitest audience this side of a Franklin Graham State Capitol Rally. Will it matter that Trump kept insulting them as the donor/special interest class? Not likely. They are. They know it. It’s how they got seats. It’s why the candidates suck up to them.
Let’s review the candidates next:
Marco Rubio did better; his canned speeches seemed less canned. He was the only one to cross himself at the moment of silence for Justice Scalia. Scalia is the Mount McKinley of this week in the campaign- the greatest man in history. Still, Rubio’s gesture confused me. He changes religion the way Ben Carson changes clothes. He’s been a Catholic, a Mormon and a Southern Baptist. Jeb's a Catholic, too, but he didn't. Kasich's a Seccesh Anglican who left the Worldwide Communion over The Gays.
Rubio and Ted Cruz both picked up an odd meme about how the Senate should not fill Scalia’s seat because it’s the first time in eighty years that a lame duck president has a had a nomination. No one explained why 1936 is such a dividing line. All told, seventeen justices have resigned or died in election years, big whoop. The last time it happened- 48 years ago, Ted Cruz said- was when President Johnson nominated Justice Fortas to be Chief Justice to succeed Earl Warren, and the nomination got held up because Fortas had what were, for that time, some glaring financial conflicts of interest. Standards have fallen since then.
The moderator noted that Ronald Reagan got the apostate Anthony Kennedy confirmed in 1988 and the crowd booed. Whether this was because they thought Dickerson was rude, or that reality just so sucks, I cannot say.
So, anyway, 80 years. Some kind of Karl Rove political trivia game question about FDR and the court-packing plan of 1937? Avoiding having to talk about Justice Charles Evans Hughes resigning from the court to accept the 1916 Republican nomination for president? Who knows?
Rubio said his test of mettle in a crisis was voting against a presidential request for authorization to use force against Syria in a Senate committee in 2014. It came on short notice, and it was really hard. Rubio defended President Bush 2 for keeping America safe- as Donald Trump brayed, after he didn’t on 9/11. Rubio shrieked back that 9/11 happened because Bill Clinton didn’t kill bin Laden when he had the chance, and he thanks God every day W was president and not Al Gore. That's dog whistle talk for old white donors. Rubio wants a big child tax credit “for private school tuition, or a new backpack.” About halfway through, Rubio started developing his Nixonian flop sweat. Marco Rubio says if the next president is half the president Ronald Reagan was America will be even greater than Reagan made it, a statement which was a remarkable combination of false modesty and casting God as an underachiever.
Rubio said Cruz couldn't have heard him say what Cruz said Rubio said on Univision because Cruz can't speak Spanish. I can, too, Cruz replied, can you tell me the way to the train station? I need a toothbrush and a library card.
Ben Carson began his answer to every question with an answer to some previous question, then asked people to go read his website. It has what he thinks on it, which is easier than explaining it himself. Supreme Court justices didn’t used to live so long so maybe we need to rethink lifetime appointments, and that is what to do about replacing Scalia. Somewhere, Sarah Palin’s antennae must have started quivering, hearing a doctor talk about the trouble with people living too long.
Carson said his claim he has gotten more 2 a.m. phone calls than the other critters shows he had judgment. Plus he often responded by doing things no one had ever done before. He said his tax plan is fairer because even the widow will have to cough up her mite to have some skin in the game. A guy making $10,000 will have to pay $1,000 of that. A guy making a billion will have to pay $100 million. Having $900 million left over seems the better part of that fairness deal, but that’s just me. Speaking of finance, there are too many regulators wandering around looking to penalize Wall Street executives for making money, and so the answer to the crash of ‘08 is that we should have had less regulation. A few bad bank people should have something done to them, but not yet. Free college is a bad idea, and the national debt keeps interest rates too low for poor people to raise themselves up with passbook interest on savings. He has studied the Middle East and if we do things that kill even more civilians- trying not to, as the president does, is “asinine thinking”- it’s just collateral damage. He closed by quoting Josef Stalin, whom Carson said divined the secret of bringing America low- undermining our morals, our patriotism and our spiritual life. It’s the sort of bromide that reeks of “meme”, and Ben is nothing if not a sucker for easy to remember junk from Facebook. Stalin died sixty-three years ago. His empire collapsed in 1989, six years after the quote first appeared in a letter to the editor of the newspaper in Lawrence, Kansas. For 27 years scholars have searched in vain to find it in Stalin's archives. And he had yooooge archives.
Ted Cruz said two branches of government are in danger of not being owned by Republicans, and this endangers his daughters’ futures. We can win in Syria the way we did the first time in Iraq, only without the 700,000 ground troops. Cruz has picked up Carly Fiorina’s fallen standard and says if you go to his website you can see what a tax form the size of a postcard will look like. He wants a tax like Washington State’s Business and Occupations tax, a money grab so unfair you’d actually sympathize with companies having to pay it. But it means no income tax, and for the time being, voters still have to be pandered to. He wouldn’t say if he will use the government list of 800,000 people applying for temporary amnesty to jumpstart his deportations. When he kept calling out the “Rubio-Schumer Amnesty Law” (Bazinga! More New York Values!) and some audience members booed, he said, "I see the donor class doesn’t like that.” (See Donors, How Many F**ks They Give Based On How Fast They Left Christie To Buy Piece of Other Candidates, above).
John Kasich gets better and better with his reboot of Reagan’s 1984 Pacific Coast Highway vision for America debate close, and makes no more sense than Reagan did. Everything else he said was 400,000 new jobs, $8 billion hole to $2 billion surplus, solid credit rating, I balanced the federal budget in the last century and was on the defense committee for 18 years. In one flash of high-functioning cultural competence he called for a coalition of the civilized people of the world to go give the Muslims what for. “Civilized people respect women’s rights” except when it comes to abortion and equal pay. Ronald Reagan expanded Medicare coverage five times, and that was good. Obamacare expanded it once, and that was bad. He thought the other candidates acted like jackasses, which suggests my Uncle Fred was right always insisting even a blind hog can find an acorn once in a while.
Jeb! has not the Joyful Tortoise tonight, but he had his big boy pants on. He and The Donald continued their weird “I wish I knew how to quit you” thing. Jeb says Bushes know how to appoint Supreme Court justices, so wait til he is president. Because Clarence Thomas and Harriet Myers. Hedge fund managers should pay regular income tax rates, not capital gains rates, but to ease their pain we should cut income tax rates. He once said his dad and Ronald Reagan wouldn't be accepted by today’s GOP but what he really meant was that Washington doesn’t work.
The Donald offered his full complement of Mussolini expressions. He called nearly everyone a liar. He insulted the audience and Senator Lindsey Graham in it. He will deal with not cutting any entitlements by Eliminating Waste, Fraud and Abuse, the magic elixir of all budgets. If companies leave America he will slap them with punitive import tariffs because he will cajole Congress to do that for him one corporation at a time. Jeb Bush is so weak, Ted Cruz is a bigger liar than even Jeb Bush. Cruz is a nasty guy, a really nasty guy. Jeb, call your mommy. I didn’t actually say “pussy,” but I will stop with the profanity because it is easy to stop. Teacher, Jeb said he was going to pull down his pants and moon America- you did so! I was a very good student at a very good school. He shouted other speakers down a lot. Why is the area around his eyes so pink when the rest of his face is so orange?
Drinking game phrases:
Trump: I’m going to build a huge wall, and Mexico is going to pay for it. People are flowing across.
Jeb!: Servant’s heart, hardass policies.
Cruz: Day 1, tear Iran deal to shreds.
Kasich: The Lord wants us to double down and solve our own damn problems, but he will send power and money down to the states, where it will vanish.
Carson: Jazz hands. Always with the jazz hands.
Rubio: the New American Century.