Thursday, September 17, 2015

Seeking Redemption--Having Watched the Republican Debate

I have an urge to go find a confessional. Why? Because I just spent almost 3 hours of my precious remaining time on earth watching a (so-called) debate between the Republican presidential hopefuls. Masochism is certainly a sin, isn't it? But I will try to justify this exercise of watching a once great party brought low by sharing my observations and attempting to obtain some insight into the thoughts--however deceitful or irrational--on display during this time. I'll keep my observations short; while greater than tweet-length, not too deep. 

The CNN hype at the beginning: "round 2", the "main event", and "you don't know what might happen tonight".  Appalling! American political discourse put on the level of a boxing match. This may be on par with the level of thought, but it's not the way we should be approaching the selection of a presidential nominee. 

At least Donald Trump had the good sense not to do the marriage & kids thing. Are we supposed to be selecting spouse-in-chief? Father (or mother Carly) knows best? 

Ben Carson used the word "portend". Awfully high-brow! And Trump used "braggadocious".  (At least that's how I think you'd spell it.) 

Trump is such a blow-hard, so full of bombast. Is anyone else reminded of Mussolini by his preening and facial gestures? (Not to mention the bombast.) 

Paul called out Trump for his "sophomoric" behavior and "junior high" name-calling. Rightly put, at least if we consider it benign, but perhaps it isn't. 

I can see why Ben Carson would appeal to many. He's a blank slate for the most part with conservative instincts and a thoughtful demeanor. You have a sense that if elected, he'd try to do the right things (although I don't think his ideas of what those right--even far right--things would be.)

I am shocked--shocked!--to learn how weak and puny our military is. We're pushed around by everyone! We should spend more money on our military and make it strong! Someone should tell the other nations of the world how weak we are, they seem to believe otherwise. Does it have to do with the fact that we outspend something like the next 12-15 nations combined on the military? 

The debate "moderator" and two questioners let the bullshit slide right past them without  so much as a mental bleep. 

Bush & Rubio, both from Florida, were willing to admit Hispanic connections (marriage, family) and to speaking Spanish. Refreshing given the high degree of xenophobia otherwise at play. 

Trump & Fiorina shared each other's failings in business. Why on earth do we persist on believing that somehow business people would make outstanding political leaders? You have to climb the greasy pole in most any organization (unless family-owned), but other than that, politics and government are very different from running a business. 

One point of Huckabee: he seems to be advocating a consumption tax, which might not prove a bad idea. (See economist Robert Frank on this idea.)

Republicans love foreign policy because each seems to thrive on the fantasy of tough talk and military deployment (sane words from Rand Paul providing a welcome respite from that nonsense.) Unreality pervades all politics, but at some point, it gets too close to real. 

Trump almost admits to his ignorance. Not as humility--I challenge you to find any humility in this man--but almost as a "so what?" moment. I can buy the right advisors! 

Huckabee referenced "the enemies within"? Is he yearning for the paranoia of the Cold War? It's a really scary phrase. 

Several of the candidates sounded as if they were running for president of Israel. News flash: you're not. Israel is an ally whose interests often overlap with ours, but whose policies (especially given the current government) are not necessarily in line with those of the U.S. The job of the president is to define and pursue the interests of one nation and one people: the United States. This doesn't mean non-cooperation or going it alone; quite the contrary. But friends don't enable friends to do stupid things or things contrary to our vital interests. 

Ted Cruz wants a bust of Churchill back in the White House. Why not that of FDR, the great American president? And I think Cruz, if he ever bothered, would find Churchill a supreme realist (mostly), not an ideologue of the Cruz-crazy ilk. 

All the candidates invoked the god Reagan as they all want to act so differently than he acted (raising taxes, negotiating with foes, "soft" on immigration, etc.). How our words sing praises to our deities as our actions mock them. (Of course, Reagan did this, too.)

Some pandering to resentment. Someone rolled out the old "those who play by the rules" chestnut. But the magnet of resentments, Trump, appeals to resentment with a dog whistle outside of the debate forum. 

I missed a bit of the debate (happily called away to Skype with my daughter), and so I missed the part about climate change, the polar bear in the room that Republicans choose to ignore. And then (and I'm glad my public health daughter missed this), they went off on vaccines. Did Dr. Carson not scream? Enough on these topics alone to never vote for these guys or gal.

In fairness, Kasich seems rational and qualified. By far. Paul is refreshing on foreign and military policy. Rubio bright but limited. A kid. Carson a fine man, but not a vibrant political or policy thinker or leader. (It takes both.) 

But mostly I'm sad that the once great party has regressed to the Know-Nothing party against immigrants, science, diplomacy, and real economics. Sad for our nation. 

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