Meh Kind of Debate

Last night’s CNN debate fell flat.

After someone sang the national anthem – can we ever get just a straight rendition of it? – the candidates introduced themselves. Kind of silly.

Trump got hit up first by Wolf Blitzer. It then devolved into squabbling. It began to seem like a Thanksgiving Day dinner. You’re there with your family and it’s going OK. Then someone brings up something from the past or a current indiscretion. People begin to get dragged into it and then start taking sides. After a little while you wonder why you did it in the first place and just want to see it end.

Were there victors? Whoever you liked to begin with, you probably liked when it was over.

This piece in American thinker blog probably sums it up best for me.

C. Edmund Wright writes:

Man, I’m slap worn out. I realize that after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, national security and foreign policy were the appropriate themes of this debate, but almost three hours of it made for root canal and repetitive TV. Normally in the so-called “foreign policy” debates, there is still a good bit of discussion about what always ultimately decides these elections – the economy – but not last night.

It was all foreign policy all the time, and that played to the advantage of Donald Trump for a couple of reasons. One is that nothing in the race changed as a result, which is good when you are leading. It was almost an event without a storyline.

If there was a main storyline, other than its endless nature, it was perhaps that Trump reinforced his pledge not to run outside the Republican Party. This was very disappointing to CNN.

Another storyline is that Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash were childishly obsessed with starting a Ted Cruz-Marco Rubio war. They got some of that, and a brief but heated battle between Jeb Bush and Trump as a bonus, but proved once again that Reince Priebus and the Republican National Committee are simply not competent in organizing and sanctioning these things. Charlie Brown has a better chance of actually kicking Lucy’s football than the RNC does of picking acceptable moderators.

As for the Cruz-Rubio fisticuffs, it was a draw – but the tone of the questioning was still irritating. Time after time after time, Blitzer and Bash asked questions couched as schoolyard taunts and often ended these questions with “is he wrong?” Thank goodness numerous candidates took those opportunities to reinforce the idea that all nine adults on stage were infinitely more qualified than either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. On that, none of them was wrong.

In fact, for the most part, it was a very serious discussion about very serious issues by very serious people. And speaking of serious, that was just about the only thing Jeb Bush could say – serious, serious, serious. Jeb remains in serious trouble. Charles Krauthammer used the phrase “muffed and missed” on The O’Reilly Factor in describing Bush’s evening. Jeb is done, and has been for a long time.

Meanwhile, the budding Cruz-Trump battle from this past weekend over ethanol and big oil, not to mention the “bit of a maniac in the Senate” comment, was put on hold for the most part. This was a tremendous boon to Trump, because either doubling down or backing down on these issues would have been problematic for him. Other than one very short and polite exchange, he was not forced to do either – and thus emerged as a leader who did not get hurt. He dodged three bullets.

Who knows if Cruz can get those bullets flying again? I’m sure the American Petroleum Institute, who ironically sponsored debate coverage on both CNN and Fox, would at least like the ethanol versus oil debate restarted.

And as a final theme, there was a concerted effort by all non-senators to disparage all of the senators on the stage, reigniting a meme Scott Walker was pushing hard months ago. I don’t think it’s working now, either, given that single-digit candidates named Kasich, Fiorina, and Christie are the chief propagators of this sentiment.

Some other quick observations:

Rand Paul did a very good job defending his foreign policy. It will still not resonate with most of the Republican electorate.

Carly Fiorina was excellent on her answer about Vladimir Putin and Russia. She was also effective in her defense of the private sector. I wish we would hear more of that.

Chris Christie called Obama “a feckless weakling” – marking the irony of his hug on the tarmac that might have doomed us all to four more years of that feckless weakling.

While Bash and Blitzer were awful all night, Hugh Hewitt had the absolute worst moment of the night when he kept goading Ben Carson about killing “thousands and thousands of children” as collateral damage. The crowd loudly booed Hewitt, as they should have. To assume that thousands and thousands of children are going to die is just absurd.

Trump’s worst moment, not that it will matter, is when he went all “stimulus” and full Obama on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, insisting we should have spent that money on roads and schools and hospitals and so on. Fiorina called him on it, as once again Trump eschewed the limited government option. If he would work that theme into his campaign at least a little, he would be absolutely untouchable.

Did I mention that the debate was long?

Bad night for political correctness, which was effectively panned all night long by just about every candidate. This is a good thing.

When will John Kasich understand that no one is interested in a “can’t we all just get along” Republican candidate? Been there, done that – and didn’t like it.

Perhaps Ben Carson should have a strong latte before these events. He is a great man with a great story, but he just looks, well, sleepy at times. Perhaps San Bernardino and Paris have put his campaign to sleep anyway.

Speaking of coffee, did I mention that it was long?

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