August 7, 2015
Last night’s first Republican debate of the 2016 Presidential election campaign season left no clear “winner” — but Donald Trump unquestionably stole the show. From a public relations perspective, he did a brilliant job not only of staying on message, but even turning the tables on moderating “journalist” Megyn Kelly when he felt her line of questioning was out of line. However, despite hitting several balls out of the park — including finally calling out the elephant in the room over the oppressive blanket of political correctness that’s been stifling real debate now for decades — Trump still didn’t offer voters any specifics on his policies.
Still, none of the other nine candidates — with stronger political track records, longer public service resumes, and detailed policy positions (misguided as some of them may be) — managed to change the dynamics of a race that Trump continues to dominate.
So how did the other candidates do?
The only other real high point of the night (indeed, the only actual “debating” that happened) was the heated exchange between privacy rights advocate Rand Paul and national security hawk Chris Christie, over Paul’s objection to the NSA’s collection of phone records of innocent Americans. It was arguably difficult for Paul — indeed, anyone — to mount a serious debate against someone like Christie, who wrapped himself in the flag and shamelessly climbed on the backs of 9/11 victims, seizing the opportunity to highlight his work as a federal prosecutor who has “prosecuted, investigated and jailed terrorists in this country after September 11th.”
Still, Paul could have been a bit more prepared. He weakly shot back, reminding votes of the fact that Christie hugged President Obama after Super Storm Sandy. But Christie held onto that flag even tighter, retorting that the hugs he remembers are the ones he gave to the family members of 9/11 victims. Christie was clearly locked and loaded for bear. Paul looked like he just showed up expecting he could wing it. Epic fail.
What about the others?
Jeb Bush appeared wishy-washy, looking particularly weak when he tried to align himself with the struggles of the Middle Class (yes, that really happened last night). Remind us again, Jeb, how many millions is Mummy and Daddy’s estate worth?
John Kasich managed to hold his own — until he opened his mouth — saying in not so many words that while he loves homosexuals (even if his own daughter turned out to be one), he would still prefer to discriminate against them because he’s just an “old-fashioned guy”, so that presumably makes it all OK. And judging from the applause, that appeared to play well for the home team. (Have we really come a long way, Huffington Post?)
Senator Marco Rubio also gave a strong showing (particularly according to political writers at Bloomberg who apparently didn’t actually WATCH the debate), staying on message, even if that message is getting a bit dog-eared and tired. Yes, we know you come from poor Cuban parents, Marco. But seriously, you need new material. Clinging to the accomplishments of your PARENTS may have landed you in the Senate, but it won’t get you into the White House. (Oh wait — maybe it can. George W. Bush. Never mind.)
And then there was Scott Walker. I expected a lot more from the anti-woman, anti-labor governor who managed to put the screws to his own public workers, while spinning the accomplishment to make it sound to voters like he eviscerated their collective bargaining agreements for their own good. As it turns out, apparently, he’s more of a one-trick pony (OK, maybe two tricks) who appears to be a bit light between the ears (Memo to Governor Walker: Egypt is not part of Israel).
The candidate who did particularly well in articulating his message was Mike Huckabee. It’s just too bad that his message is so darned … scary. (Read more here about the weird legal theory on abortion that he shares with Marco Rubio.)
And speaking of scary — let’s not forget Ted Cruz. Does he like anybody?? Is he angry because he’s really a Canadian? (Aren’t Canadians supposed to be nice, anyway??) It’s no wonder why his campaign logo is in the shape of a flaming red teardrop.
Finally, last but not least (or maybe he IS the least) — there’s Dr. Ben Carson. He made some very thoughtful points (not to mention some strange ones), but damned if I can remember a single thing he said (without resorting to Google) because none of his responses appeared to make any real sense.
And frankly I was still distracted by Rand Paul’s hair.