Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times about last week’s first Republican debate, “For while it’s true that Mr. Trump is, fundamentally, an absurd figure, so are his rivals. If you pay attention to what any one of them is actually saying, as opposed to how he says it, you discover incoherence and extremism every bit as bad as anything Mr. Trump has to offer. And that’s not an accident: Talking nonsense is what you have to do to get anywhere in today’s Republican Party.”
My fear is people around the world who may have listened to what was billed as a serious debate could actually believe one of the participants would become the leader of the free world and commander-in-chief of the U.S. military. That has to be a frightening thought.
During the George W. Bush era, Americans oversees were questioned about the crazy things he was doing and many replied, “Don’t blame me — I didn’t vote for him.” What is both sad and scary is that in comparison to those on the stage during either the early debate, or the debate among the top 10, George W. Bush actually looked pretty good.
There were a few memorable lines. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said, “If we simply go by someone’s resume, Hillary will be elected.” Then there was Carly Fiorina who said, “I know more world leaders than anyone running except for Hillary.” I guess Fiorina met a few when she was in the process of destroying Hewlett-Packard or helping to destroy Lucent.
Donald Trump at center stage blustered his way through the debate, which was anticipated. Clearly he was responsible for the huge audience the debate attracted, which by some estimates was 24 million people. That huge audience included many like me who watched simply to see a train wreck and we weren’t disappointed. This wasn’t actually a debate, but a circus. As those 10 men stood there before the debate, each having about 10 minutes to say anything, they had to listen to some of the inane comments made by the panel of questioners when one panelist spoke the truth asking, “Isn’t this awkward?” It was definitely awkward but more than that it was embarrassing.
One of the interesting parts of the so-called debate was the questions that were pointedly asked of one or two participants while others weren’t given time to comment. So you never had one issue on which you could compare the answers of all 10. I am sure for some of the participants that was a blessing since it was clear many of them wouldn’t have been able to answer coherently. The audience was allowed to applaud for their favorites, which took up some of the two hours, a saving grace for the Republican Party, as there was less time for answers.
We really need to find a better way to run our elections. These campaigns are much too long and there is much too much money in them. Many of these candidates have ‘sugar daddies’ funding their Super PAC, which will keep their campaigns going even after they have no statistical chance of winning.
There are still 15 months until the election. We will be hearing some of these same people debating many more times. Democrats will start their debates in October and there will be six of them. So the country and the world will have many more times to judge these candidates.
But clearly the Democrats were the winners of this debate. We know now it was the most watched primary debate in history, which means millions of people were treated to this embarrassing spectacle of candidates clearly not ready for prime time. I kept waiting for Donald Trump to turn to one of them and say, “You’re fired.” Guess the closest he came to that was his put down of Megyn Kelly, which he continued after the debate with a sexist and disgusting rant.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist.