Friday, August 7, 2015

The Fight for the White House: The First Debates


Hurrah! The first Republican debates!

And it a fun format, too!

First off, we had The Kiddie Table, where those candidates who didn't really manage to register in the polling at all could happily pretend that they were all grown up and important. And they really did their best, appearing dressed up in fine clothing and wearing their most serious faces and appearing to be as presidential as any toddler might possibly be.

The Trumpster
And to be fair, there were some rather good toddlers there, too. In fact, they almost all performed rather well. As kiddies go, they were well-mannered and pretty convincing. If you were looking for youthful abrasiveness and puerile fisticuffs, look elsewhere.

And The Kiddie Table also had a real winner. It wasn't Jindal, or Santorum, or even Perry. Instead, it was (surprise!) Carly Fiorina. She, more than any of the others, came across as calm, assured, and quite in command of the situation.

Of course, this was the Kiddie Table, and the questions asked of her and the others weren't too difficult.  She wasn't, for example, asked about her time as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, which ended with her forced resignation at a time when HP's debts had dramatically increased and its stocks had lost about half their value (gulp).  She faced no such hurdles and, whilst I do believe that she deserves more attention than she has been getting, it is also true to point out that further time on stage may not prove to be quite as flattering.

One final remark when it comes to the kiddies, just for fun. At the end, when making his closing arguments, Santorum happily stated that "you don't have seven children unless you're optimistic about this country." What he didn't mention, however, was that he is opposed to birth control, going as far as to decry a 1965 Supreme Court ruling (Griswold v. Connecticut) that struck down a ban on the use of contraception by married couples. Now, if having seven kids was a matter of choice, rather than a consequence of  simply having sex, wouldn't that sort of derail his own principles a bit? Ah well, never mind... It was the Kiddie Table, after all.

Did I mention abrasiveness and fisticuffs? I did, didn't I? Well, we got those too. The thing is, though, that all that happened at the Grown-Up Table, where the we got to watch how a real kid operates. And not a cute kid, or a smart one. Oh no, we got the best possible viewing imaginable: the spoilt and silly kid, getting justifiably wackamoled and becoming increasingly contrary and, as a result, amusing.

The kid's name is, of course, Donald Trump, and what an extraordinary mixture of thick-headedness and bullying he decided to display! It really was something to behold.  It seemed he was trying to be tough-talking and anti-establishment; in doing so, he only managed to prove that he is the very epitome of everything most conservative voters hate. I gave money to politicians, he stated proudly, and they did what I asked. I used the law and had companies declared bankrupt, and I made loads of money, even as hundreds of employees lost their jobs. I flip-flopped all over the place - that's just how versatile I am!

In short (the message appeared to be) I buy people to do what I want. I sack people because it makes me richer. I abuse others and am proud of it. I have no principles at all, except the principle of me.

There are those out there who support Trump because, as they put it, he "says it like it is". That's fine, and  these people will probably flock towards the Trumpster in even greater numbers after the debate. Those, however, who were actually listening to what he says, instead of how he says things, might find (now or in the near future) that they do not like him at all. I know that if I were a god-fearing, conservative, principled American, I would absolutely loathe everything Trump stands for.

Of course, to make things all the more hilarious, he then went on to attack one of the moderators in a series of after-debate tweets where he petulantly complained the moderator just wasn't "nice".

It was all vintage stuff, really. And it really makes you wonder what Trump is actually up to. To paraphrase the Big Mac: he can't be serious...

As for the rest at the Grown-Up table? Well, there's not much to say, really. They hung in there, with varying degrees of success. No-one really shone (although some needed to); no-one bombed (except, to my mind at least, perhaps Carson). It remains quite surprising - even inexplicable - how tentative and uncertain Jeb Bush seems to be, but in the end, I'm not sure it really matters.

After all, when all the Trumpness has (alas!) blown away, Bush may yet emerge, Romney-esque, as the Anointed One, and there may be little that the likes of Walker or Rubio can do about it.

Could it turn out differently? Of course, but we'll have to see.

The next debate will be on September 16th.

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