I had vowed not to watch last night’s GOP debate. There was no chance it would be in any way illuminating, only a painful waste of time. But the temptation was too strong—maybe some kind of masochistic impulse—and I watched…for a little over half an hour, when I decided I had been right in the first place.

In fairness, I must acknowledge that there were actually two (2) moments of reasonableness during those 30-odd minutes.   I practically fell out of my rocker hearing the very first candidate opening statement, by Rand Paul: not only was it entirely unobjectionable but eminently sensible. Paul urged Americans not to award the terrorists a victory by giving in to fear and curtailing our liberties. He got some tepid applause. Jeb Bush provided the other moment of reason when he criticized Donald Trump for alienating the world’s Muslims, whose support we critically need in the fight against ISIS.   Trump responded by pointing out how badly Jeb’s campaign was going.

Since I can’t give you my own impression of the rest of the debate, I’ll link you to a couple of bloggers who had the stomach to watch the whole spectacle. The Washington Monthly’s Nancy LeTourneau pronounced ISIS the winner, given the lengths to which the candidates went to inflate the ISIS threat to the homeland, the better to lambaste Obama and Clinton. LeTourneau summarized the whole debate as consisting of three messages:

(1)“be afraid…be very afraid,” (2) various levels of “bomb the sh*t out of ISIS,” and (3) “Obama and Hillary are a disaster.”

In a more conventional vein, Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum gave a capsule evaluation of the various candidates’ performances. Here are some excerpts:

“…Ben Carson was terrible. He really needed to show that he wasn’t a complete nitwit on national security, and he failed spectacularly. He was obviously out of his depth and had no clue how to answer even the simplest questions….Donald Trump [asked about the nuclear triad]…produced one of the night’s most fatuous lines: “I think for me, nuclear, the power, the devastation, is very important to me.” Jeb Bush tried manfully to needle Trump, but the poor guy just can’t pull it off….Marco Rubio did his usual thing: he produced tight little canned responses to every question. I don’t like this approach, but I suppose it sounds coherent and forceful to some people….Ted Cruz probably did well, though he struggled with several questions. Does he really think we can carpet bomb only “the bad guys” and no one else?

In short, no surprises.




  1. John Duggan December 16, 2015 at 10:26 am

    Thanks for the links Tony. I found the one by Kevin Drum at Mother Jones the most useful.

  2. John Duggan December 16, 2015 at 10:52 am

    The Fifth Republican Debate Ends In A Nine-Way Draw

    By Nate Silver

    16 December 2015

    FiveThirtyEight at ESPN

  3. Jeffrey Herrmann December 18, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    The Franklin Pierce Univ. poll released yesterday shows that in New Hampshire Cruz, Rubio, Christie and Bush are all at 11 +/- 1% while Trump is at more than double that — 26 %. Although it doesn’t reflect the latest debate, the roughly one-fourth of Repugnicans still favoring him in late December have had more than enough opportunities to be repelled by Trump, but they are not. At some point you have to think they are Trump’s BFFs and will never forgive the Repugnican Party if it denies him the nomination. Yet it is inconceivable that the Repugnican donor plutocrats will let the nomination go to Trump. Cruz can dream that the embittered Trump BFFs will embrace him by default, but I doubt many will. So how many of Trump’s followers will sullenly just sit this one out, come November? It’s got to be looking better for Hillary.

    • tonygreco December 18, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      I used to think it inconceivable that the nomination could go to Trump–certainly, the Republican “establishment” will do its best to stop him. But the nominating process is really quite democratic–the possibilities for manipulation are limited. If Trump maintains his lopsided popular lead over all the others, it would be very hard to deny him the nomination. But Nate Silver, who is far more expert than me, puts Trump’s chances at less than 20%. (See the link provided by John Duggan in the previous comment.)

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