Thirteen months left, and it’s already getting old. On the Democrat side, the only real question is whether Barack Obama will allow the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton. There is no love lost between the Obamas and Clintons, and Obama’s loyalty is only to himself, but it’s hard to imagine that he would loose the DOJ on her, even if anyone at the DOJ still retained sufficient integrity to prosecute a slam-dunk case against her.
On the Republican side, the most recent CNBC debate in Boulder, Colorado, provided what may be a taste of things to come. We’ll be fortunate if anyone is still watching–or cares–in ten months.
I nearly tuned it entirely out. I probably should have. In any case, I’ll provide only my general impressions rather than writing a literary epic on an uninspiring subject.
John Harwood: Supposedly authoritative white anchor guy
Becky Quick: Stereotypical blonde women’s advocate
Chad Quintanilla: Stereotypical Hispanic advocate
All Three: Democrat hatchet persons with bylines. The tenor of the questions was essentially: “Why are you such a vile hypocrite?” “How can you hold such awful ideas?” “Why do you hate all the usual victim groups,” “Why are you such a terrible person?” and “Why don’t you attack the jerk next to you for me?”
Once upon a time, reporters and similar types at least tried–their righteous indignation acts were never convincing at the best of times–to maintain a façade of professional balance. They haven’t bothered for years, and this bunch didn’t make the slightest attempt. If each one of them were being paid by the Clinton campaign, their questions would have been little–even no–different.
John Kasich: From the start, he was very loud and aggressive, particularly toward the other Republicans. His attitude was pretty much “I’m the man; I did stuff in Congress and in a state.” He drew no audience response at all. He has no chance, but he’ll hang on as long as possible, if only because the media likes him–he’s their current pet republican.
Mike Huckabee: A good speaker and fast thinker, and a man who has the advantage over some of the others of having spent years thinking about and formulating his policy positions. He’s beaten the Clinton Machine for 26 years–ask him, he’ll tell you again–and thinks keeping our promises to seniors a moral issue. That rung true. Also ringing true is he’s had his chance, several of them, and he’s generating less enthusiasm than ever before. He’ll hang on as long as possible.
Jeb Bush: Based on the audience response, and his own demeanor, what is he doing on that stage? He actually hurt himself. He looked uncomfortable and desperate. He viciously attacked Marco Rubio over missing senate votes due to campaigning, picking up a broken sword dropped by one of moderators after Rubio broke it in half seconds earlier. Rubio was ready for him and just flattened him, leaving Bush awkwardly standing here, limp and helpless, the color drained from his face. Bush obviously had been practicing that attack and was going to make it regardless of the context or the timing, and he did, at the worst possible time. He made himself look like he was helping the moderators, and walked right into Rubio’s trap.
The idea of one politician attacking another over missing votes due to campaigning is inherently dopey anyway. Bush will hang on as long as he can, and he has the money to make a mess of things, but absent a miracle, he’s no longer in the top tier, and won’t be again.
Marco Rubio: Various pundits are praising him, declaring him the undisputed winner. Nah. He presented himself well, and did well by attacking the media, and counter attacking when Becky Quick tried to suggest cashing in a retirement account–a matter that isn’t illegal, immoral, or uncommon for any American–was somehow unsavory. He had probably the best line of the night: the Democrats have their own Super PAC: the mainstream media. That one hurt, and brought down the house. He did only a little less well with the observation that Hillary was revealed last week as an epic, and particularly sordid, liar and the media proclaimed that a wonderful week for her.
He was certainly in the top two or three of the debate, but I still don’t trust him for a moment on immigration. He’ll give away the country. In that, he’s no different than Jeb. He helped himself and made no mistakes.
Donald Trump: He was much more restrained and less bombastic than in his previous debates, and is beginning to actually look somewhat presidential, though his makeup was off and his face looked reddish-pink throughout the night. He spent quite a bit of time railing against Super PACs, which is something no one else touched–it really seemed out of place–and also repeatedly nailed the moderators and their Dem talking points. They attacked the several bankruptcies of his businesses, and he handled it easily and calmly–as he as done in every debate; one would think these idiots would get tired of asking the same question and getting nowhere with it–threw the moderator’s bias back in their faces throughout the debate. When Quintanilla tried to claim that the debate was always set for two hours, Trump jumped on it, and the audience roared.
He made several positive comments on Second Amendment issues, but it’s clear they were off the cuff, and not conviction. He’s not trustworthy on that. Trump didn’t dominate this debate, and didn’t take the bait of attacking others. He didn’t help himself, but didn’t hurt himself either.
Ben Carson: He’s an accomplished surgeon and a thoroughly decent guy. He’s also a man who has not spent a lifetime thinking about his beliefs and formulating the policy stances any president needs. Much of Ronald Reagan’s success was due to the fact that he was a thoughtful man who wrote, thought and changed his ideas over time, not as a political flip flopper, but as a pragmatic conservative recognizing better ideas and fundamental truths. Carson is missing much of that, and whenever he tried to talk specifics, such as economic or tax policy, I was embarrassed for him. He too nailed the moderators and the crowd booed them. He tossed out the idea of getting rid of all government subsidies, but it was clear that in this as all else, his thinking and convictions were an inch deep.
He will not be the nominee. One can’t make up a lifetime of conviction and depth in a year, but he’ll keep enough romance alive to possibly make it to the convention.
Carly Fiorina: Damn, I like her. She’s smart, and actually spoke far better about policy and specifics than anyone else onstage. When the idiot moderators attacked her on her tenure at Hewlett Packard, she knocked the answer out of the park, as she has whenever attacked on that derailed track. They never learn–or care. When she was hitting a home run with the observation that every Clinton/Obama policy has been horrible for women, the moderators desperately kept trying to interrupt her, determined to protect Hillary.
The Dems really are afraid of her, and when she said she’d slaughter Hillary in a debate, no one in the hall doubted her. Unfortunately, she won’t get the chance, but she’s prime Vice Presidential material. Unfortunately, she won’t get that either because she can’t deliver any swing states, though it would be fun to watch the media burst into flames over a Hispanic and a woman Pres./VEEP team.
Ted Cruz: He continues to be a superb public speaker and debater, and always wins on points. It’s hilarious to hear republicans attack him because he isn’t one of the boys, while simultaneously braying that we have to change business as usual. If the other’s hits at the media were hand grenades, he was a nuclear weapon, provoking unrestrained approval from the audience, who absolutely agreed that the moderator’s questions were a prime example of why Americans don’t trust the media. He also hit well on working women’s issues, pointing out, like Fiorina, that women have suffered badly under Obama and big government. He advocated auditing the Federal Reserve, and ending qualitative easing.
Unfortunately, the number of candidates and the format don’t allow any time for substantial issues or convincing explanations. He helped himself, and is easily in the top four.
Chris Christie: He did well. He spoke well, had a command of the issues he addressed–as brief and surface as the format made them–and was very good on the politicized Obama DOJ, bringing up the FBI director’s comments about the Ferguson Effect, and said he’d support cops if president, just as Obama does not. That was reasonably convincing. I was particularly impressed when he took up the fantasy football question–perhaps the most moronic question ever asked a political candidate. Jeb Bush actually admitted he played fantasy football regularly, lamely saying it wasn’t gambling. Christie instead called the moderators on the question.
I was particularly annoyed when he put himself in the climate change camp, by saying he’d adopt an “all kinds of energy” policy, and kept talking about “investments” in solar and similar pipe dreams in a manner reminiscent of Barack Obama. It was a reminder that Christie really isn’t a conservative. Many pundits are praising him, but I doubt he gets anything out of this debate.
Rand Paul: He actually sounded rational on budget reform and on the Federal Reserve, but he was asked few questions, and looked put upon when answering them. Unlike previous debates, he didn’t get the opportunity to say something bizarre, like the crazy uncle who seems positively normal, until you have the chance to listen to him long enough, and then the tin foil in his hat to keep out alien brain modification waves comes up. He’ll hang in as long as possible just to keep his cult of personality going, but he has even less chance than John Kasich. Unlike Kasich, the media doesn’t much like him.
The Undercard Candidates: I didn’t watch their debate. I won’t watch their future debates. There will be no miracle that will propel any of them into the top tier, to say nothing of to the nomination.
The sooner this field can be winnowed down to three or four, the better off the nation will be. I fear, however, that too many of these people lack the common sense and decency of Rick Perry, and will not bow out until they so damage the people that do have a chance, Hillary will be unbeatable.