When I review things, I try to make a point of not reading other reviews before I write, to avoid getting swayed by others’ opinions. Of course this means that I often miss things that more knowledgeable or discerning observers pick up on, but that is fine because different people are attuned to different things. But now I have had time to read around the topic and here are some interesting reactions.
David Graham had a good summing up of the night that begins as follows and is worth reading in full.
The fifth Republican debate had the feel of a Chekhov play—a cast of characters together on the same stage, but each involved in their own, only occasionally interlocking, conflicts. Near the center, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz squared off in a series of detailed, wonky disputes about the military and surveillance. Meanwhile, a bit to the side and largely unawares, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump tried to one-up each other. Off to the right, John Kasich, Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina vied to prove most willing to start a war. And nearly off in the wings, Rand Paul delivered a series of wry commentaries on the unfolding drama. (Ben Carson must have missed rehearsals; he had little to say.)
What unified the nine candidates on stage was their insistence that the Obama administration had failed to keep Americans safe, falling short in its efforts both stateside and abroad. It was a bleak, fearful debate. But the rivals offered disparate prescriptions for how to respond to this weakness, and were often vague. The main takeaways from the evening were that political correctness is bad and that most of the field, except perhaps Trump and Paul, are eager to deploy American troops to Syria and Iraq.
The reactions to the debate on Twitter were quite amusing,
It was a good night for making lists, it seems. Jesse Berney had the 10 weirdest moments of the night while Tim Dickinson noted the nine biggest burns delivered, while Sarah K. Burris counted off the top ten nonsensical moments
There was one moment last night that some people have noted and that is the response that Donald Trump gave to the question of which aspect of the nuclear triad of the US he would prioritize for modernization first. Trump gave an almost complete non sequitur in reply, and it was clear that he either did not understand the question or know what ‘nuclear triad’ meant.
Some observers like Jesse Berney and Kevin Drum are suggesting that this was the biggest howler of the night and by all rights should sink Trump’s candidacy since anyone not aware of the basics of the US nuclear arsenal has no business being president.
I noted the exchange at the time but did not think much about it. We are talking about Trump, after all. Any question that involves detailed or technical knowledge will be ignored by him because that’s how he rolls. He is the ultimate big picture guy and his answer dodging the question, though clumsy, was pretty much the kind of thing I expect from him and it will not matter in the least to his even bigger picture supporters.
As Graham said, “Five debates in, Trump doesn’t make any more sense than he did at the start, but it remains impossible to turn away from him. So far, Republican primary voters can’t or won’t.” And Billmon summed it up on Twitter: “Don’t know what people were expecting tonight. These are some of the dumbest pols in USA – dumbing down messages for an even dumber audience”.