excellent reviews of last night's Republican clown
Well, that was awful. The third and, sadly, not final 2016 Republican primary debate wrapped up a short while ago and it was, from start to finish, a roaring trash fire. The big storyline going into the debate was decline of Jeb Bush and the ascendance of Marco Rubio, and that narrative got a huge boost with this evening’s cacophonous disaster.
Early on in the festivities, Rubio was asked about his Senate absenteeism, which gave Jeb the opening he needed to spring the clever trap he’d been planning and publicly telegraphing. “You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job,” Jeb said. “There are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck in Florida as well. They are looking for a senator that will fight for them each and every day.” Rubio was ready, telling Jeb that the only reason he was attacking him over this is “because we’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.” The crowd went wild.
And that was it for Jeb. He came into the evening needing a standout performance, and the attendance jab at Rubio was clearly supposed to be his big moment. Rubio handled it easily and made Jeb look ridiculous in the process. From that point on, Jeb was his same uninspired self, mechanically reciting the bullet points of the record he put together in Florida a decade ago that no one really cares about.
As for Rubio, he’s going to be crowned the winner of the debate. He got his talking points in, he got the favorable contrast with Jeb he wanted, and he was helped out by the moderators, who asked him aggressive questions about his Senate attendance record and personal finances. Rubio, with the help of Ted Cruz and Chris Christie, used the tone and content of the questions to turn the crowd against the moderators and score some cheap digs against the “bias” of the mainstream media. [snip]
As for the rest of the field, there weren’t many surprises. John Kasich kicked off the debate by reiterating his complaint that candidates like Ben Carson and Donald Trump are ridiculous clowns, and then largely disappeared for the remainder of the event. Rand Paul was a nonentity, Christie got a couple of shouty tough-guy moments in, and Huckabee popped off some folksy zingers. Carly Fiorina spent the evening sermonizing about the evils of government without ever veering into specifics. Ben Carson somnambulated through the night and made clear that his grasp of complex economic issues is tenuous at best. Trump was Trump – nothing you haven’t seen before.
Ted Cruz, on the other hand, probably did do himself some favors. He got the moderator hate-fest rolling by ducking a question about the budget deal currently before Congress and instead listing off all the evil crimes of bias the CNBC personnel had committed to that point.Whenever the focus can be shifted away from the insane, unpopular positions of the candidates to a Republican Playbook 101 attack on a (laughably absurd) "liberal mainstream media," you'll get the Republican peanut gallery to erupt as it did in the studio and in Republican messaging guru Fred "Dunce" Luntz's buzz- o- meters. Besides any advantage to be gained by this "working the refs" strategy, it clearly stimulates endorphins in the conservative lizard brain. A know- nothing will likely remain a know- nothing as long as they refuse to entertain thoughts that upset their predetermined views and prejudices.
As far as the "mainstream media," what Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein advised in 2012 still applies:
Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?To which we would humbly add, "Who is deflecting tough questions by attacking the messenger?"
BONUS: The French Ambassador to the U.S. calls J.E.B.!'s jab at the 3-day French work week "bombastic nonsense." Mr. Ambassador, you have to remember he's a Bush.