Last night I decided to subject myself to the Republican debate, mostly because I'd spent the last one watching the Mets game and was missing my favorite reality TV show. This election has already entered surreal territory, and last night took it even further. Here's what we learned:
Rubio is slick in the Dubya mold
Watching the debate I'd have to say that Rubio "won." I don't mean that he made the best arguments or anything, only that by the standards of what Republicans want, he did the most to get their support. Above all, Rubio is slick. He knows exactly the right lines to mouth to get the crowd going. I could actually see him as a new Dubya, and that scares me. He is smooth enough to fool your garden variety moron "undecided" voter into thinking he's on their side. He comes across as "likeable" in a way that would play into sexism in a debate against Hilary. Like Dubya, the media seems to have an obsession with playing nice with him. Speaking of...
Fox has gone all in for Rubio
Rubio got a succession of softball questions so easy that one of them caused him to chuckle to himself. The debate was on Fox Business, and as we know, Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes have a history of using their media voice to promote politicians that they want in power. Obviously Carson and Trump are unacceptable to them, but Jeb! has floundered as the establishment favorite. Now that Rubio has jumped up in the polls, it looks like Murdoch and Ailes have made their choice.
Jeb's desperation broke Trump's spell on deportation
As much as I mock Jeb!, he was actually responsible for a moment of human decency last night. He took Trump to task for his deportation plan, calling it both ridiculously impractical and inhumane to immigrant families. Back during the summer the candidates were too chickenshit to dare defy Trump, but Jeb!, desperate for a boost, attacked him head on. Trump seemed deflated and tired, perhaps a bit bored. I get the feeling that he just wants to go play golf now that his campaign is going to require actual commitment. I doubt he will be a factor come Iowa.
Magical Reagan thinking still exists on taxes and spending
One of my favorite moments of the night was when Rubio was actually questioned in his budget plan, since he wants to cut taxes while drastically increasing military spending. Showing his smoothness, Rubio completely dodged the question by beating his chest and saying that America will never be weak. Of course, he pretended that doesn't have a cost. That reminds me:
Rand Paul brings up good points but is there to be a foil
Rand Paul really pushed Rubio on this as the one Republican who acknowledges the reality of America's imperial overreach and the price that comes with it. Rubio relished this, since it allowed him to show strength against the one naysayer on stage. The other Republicans seemed to use Paul as a punching bag, proclaiming that America would not relinquish its leadership role. They love having him around to burnish their love of the military industrial complex. It almost makes me feel bad for him.
Ted Cruz is a classic bullshit artist college debater
Of course, I'll never feel bad for Ted Cruz. Something about him sets me on edge more than the average person, and last night I finally figured it out. Much has been made of Cruz's past as a college debater. I used to be one too, in fact I once competed at the same tournament as him (the world championship of parliamentary style debate at Princeton in 1995). Cruz's debate style is bullshit artistry. He can make all the garbage that comes out of his mouth sound smart because he speaks with absolute conviction. The weak minded mistake this for intelligence. I remember a lot of debaters like this, and they would drive me nuts when I had to go against them. They never ceded ground, they never broke their mask, and they loved developing straw man arguments. They could say shit that just wasn't true, but made it sound good. Cruz's know-it-all superior tone is familiar to me and now that I know where I've heard it before it is especially annoying. Speaking of bullshit:
Republicans get away with saying some insane shit
Despite the absence of Huckabee, there were some crazy ass assertions. Speaking of Cruz, he discussed he economic plan, and like a lot of bullshit artist debaters, used evidence that wasn't actually evidence. He cited other times that his economic approach had worked, including under Calvin Coolidge! Never mind that those policies generated massive inequality and ended in a horrific Depression. Nobody called him out on it, not even the moderators. Trump had his own howler when he defended deportations by recalling those that took place under Eisenhower. Of course, he didn't mention the name of that initiative, which was named "Operation Wetback." As the name implies, it was cruelly violent to undocumented immigrants, based in the assumption that they were less than fully human. At least Trump's deportation scheme was challenged. This was not the case for Carly Fiorina, who actually had the gall to say that she had "fought to protect jobs" as a CEO. Yes that's right, the same CEO who fired 30,000 workers. Not only did she have the chutzpah to say those words, nobody, not even Trump bothered to point out the ridiculousness of such a statement. It's all more proof of the funhouse mirror world of the Republican party, which would be hilarious if it wasn't so frightening.