The second primary season Republican debate took place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. It didn’t disappoint. It was, as one commentator ventured, the Super Bowl of politics.
The matinee sported the least popular candidates, cobbling together a meager one percent in the polls (two are at … zero). The debate, however, was probably the more substantive of the two sessions. (Alas, as beautifully as CNN had staged the Presidential Library, the rendition of the national anthem was G-d awful. Apparently, they could not find a decent singer in Simi Valley, although, according to Yelp, there are plenty performing arts and opera studios in the vicinity.)
CNN certainly put Fox News to shame. Unlike the first primetime Republican debate, in Cleveland, Ohio, where anchor Megyn Kelly took center stage and singled out Donald Trump for a splenetic attack; CNN’s Jake Tapper (moderator), chief political correspondent Dana Bash, and Hugh Hewitt of the Salem Radio Network, concentrated the debate on the issues and the individuals behind the lecterns. (As always, nothing their in-house studio pundits predicted or advised prior to the debate transpired.)
Ms. Bash briefly did a Kelly, when she attempted to tap Jeb Bush’s anger over a quip Donald Trump had once made about Jeb’s Mexican wife influencing his perspective on immigration. Trump refused to grovel. This was good. However, he did show contrition over unkind cuts he had made about Carly Fiorina’s face. Fiorina could have cracked a smile (or maybe she couldn’t, given the possible nip-and-cuts to The Face).
Fiorina—whom media types like moron S. E. Cupp keep calling “Carly,” for some reason—is indubitably a clear and logical thinker, with a facility with the English language. What a shame that her words are those of a consummate neoconservative who wants to commit the country to a buildup of a military that is already the largest in the world, America’s, and an arms race with China and Russia.
The matinee featured two senators and two governors: the sitting senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, and the former senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, as well as the sitting governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, and former New York Governor George Pataki.
Pataki, it was noted, had refused to take the Trump Pledge, saying that even if Trump were the Republican nominee, he, Pataki, would not support him.
Jindal’s introduction bears repeating:
“I don’t have a famous last name. My daddy didn’t run for president. I don’t have a reality TV show. I’ll tell you what I do have, I’ve got the backbone, I’ve got the bandwidth, I’ve got the experience to get us through these tough times, to make sure that we don’t turn the American dream into the European nightmare.”
When challenged about his violation of Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment—against attacking fellow Republicans—Bobby Jindal responded speedily to say Donald Trump, whom he has been savaging, was neither a Republican or a conservative and would eventually implode. About the man currently in office Jindal’s remark had me laughing:
“Obama has declared war on trans fats and a truce with Iran. Think about that. He’s more worried about Twinkies than he is about the ayatollahs having a nuclear weapon.”
Jindal on immigration: Without assimilation immigration is invasion.
Lindsey Graham’s case of War Tourette’s is only getting worse.
Ask him about immigration and the answer is: We’ll fix it by going to war against ISIS.
Ask him about the economy and the answer is: 10,000 American boots on Iraq’s blood-soaked soil.
Ask him about the year of the political outsiders and his chances as an insider and the answer is: Let’s get on with winning a war, any war. Give me waaaaaaaar.
Follow up with, “Why do Republican voters view your service in government as a liability and not an asset?” and Graham replies: “Obama is making a mess of the world … I am so ready to get on with winning a war …”
With Lindsey, all roads lead to war.
It didn’t help that Graham derisively paired libertarians with vegetarians when appealing to the different constituencies that would warm to his war-all-the-time Tourette’s.
Graham is the consummate globalist. He did, however, surprise by declaring that birthright citizenship was “bastardizes citizenship.” Unlike equal-opportunity fencer Scott Walker who perceives a problem on the Canadian border, Graham, who decried birthright tourism, conceded to never meeting an illegal Canadian. Too true.
American and European governments have settled comfortably into a pattern of using the funds they extract from their overburdened taxpayers to promiscuously promote the welfare of citizens the world over. This flouts the mandate of every government! In this context, Santorum made a very important point relevant to all the communities currently being flooded by the decree of D.C., Brussels and Berlin:
“This debate should not be about what we’re going to do with someone who’s here illegally; this debate should be about what-what every other debate on every other policy issue is in America. What’s in the best interest of hardworking Americans? What’s in the best interest of our country.”
That’ll be the day.
As was the case with the Republican candidates in the previous election cycle (Mitt Romney included), no foreign policy learning curve is evident among this crop.
Indeed, by the time the two grueling sessions ended, well into the night, all 15 Republican candidates—bar Rand Paul and, to a degree, Donald Trump—had asserted that American exceptionalism lay in leading the world not in technological innovation, comity, commerce and as exemplars of individual rights—but by projecting America’s military power the world over. Somehow, the candidates viewed the US government’s bankruptcy as having no bearing on their unanimous plans for an arms race with Russia and China and renewed military offensives in the Middle East.
Rand Paul came as close as possible to the libertarian ideal on all wars, the drug war too: refrain from a rash foreign policy, engage with Russia and China, talk to the Mullahs before you “bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran” (a jingle popularized by jingoist John McCain), leave drug policy to the states (not ideal, for consumption is to be left to the individual, but better than most). To not have signed on to the bombing of Assad was a good thing. Have we learned nothing about the perils of toppling dictators, only to see the rise of barbarians worse than their predecessors?
That was Rand Paul. He did alright.
Sadly, Trump fell for the Hugh Hewitt gambit: Instead of standing with Ron Paul’s foreign policy (and capturing the Left), Trump went on to condemn the Republicans on the podium for their (short-lived) wisdom of voting against the bombing of Syria.
Rand Paul and Donald Trump excepted, all subscribe to the hackneyed lies about the root-causes of Middle-East instability and why the region’s populations are on the move (naturally, the magnet of western welfare went unmentioned): They assert Bashar Hafez al-Assad needs to be removed, when in fact he was the source of stability in Syria, much as Saddam Hussein was in Iraq.
If Assad is the reason Syrian, Iraqi and Libyan populations are emigrating en masse (NOT)—then America’s lack of a more energetic involvement in Iraq and Syria the candidates consider the solution to the problem.
Neoconservatives are still in the business of creating their own parallel reality and forcing us to inhabit the ruins.
Unless in defense of the realm, Americans are not keen on more of the same foreign-policy folly. Let us keep our military mitts to ourselves. Let us defend our own borders. That, it would seem, is the prevailing sentiment among Republicans, although not among the establishmentarians who occupied the Reagan Library for the debate.
Oh, and did I mention that, while he’s demeanor was very good, Donald Trump made absolutely no attempt to show some familiarity with the issues? Trump might want to rethink this approach, for it belies the candidate’s claim to have surrounded himself with the best people possible, or to have good judgement.