I spent a delightful Saturday afternoon and evening visiting with my daughter, son-in-law, and his relatives, meandering along the California coast, stopping to go to the beach at various points and wandering in a grove of magnificent giant redwood trees before ending the night with a dinner. The ocean was rough, and I saw something I had never seen before, which was that as the waves hit the beach, they produced a large amount of foam that stayed around, like a bubble bath.
Hence until Sunday morning, I was happily oblivious to the drama surrounding the sudden death of Antonin Scalia (though one of our party got the news headline on their phone) and the Republican debate which, according to Jesse Berney, seems to have been even wilder than the previous one, if that is even possible.
I’ve been in a roomful of six-year-old girls trying to organize themselves into an unrehearsed singing and dance performance, so I consider myself something of an expert on total and complete chaos. Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate set a new standard.
It wasn’t just Donald Trump’s constant insults and interruptions directed almost exclusively at Jeb Bush, who had no idea how to respond. It wasn’t just Ben Carson’s insistence on answering not the directed at him, but the one several questions back (and doing a bad job at that). It wasn’t just Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz battling viciously for second place.
On a night that began on a somber note with the death of conservative hero and unrepentant bigot Antonin Scalia, the debate quickly descended into a six-car train wreck. John Kasich summed the night up elegantly after a particularly childish Trump-Bush exchange: “I think we’re fixing to lose the election to Hillary Clinton if we don’t stop this.”
Indeed. There’s no doubt that Clinton and Bernie Sanders were the big winners of the night; this was by far the ugliest debate the Republicans have put on. It was so bad Republican pollster Frank Luntz tweeted, “the GOP is destroying itself tonight.”
Who knew Chris Christie would turn out to be the steadying hand of the Republican field?
The clips that I watched had the audience cheering and booing lustily and the crowd seemed to be very much in favor of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, which made me wonder if the party had stacked the deck in giving out invitations. Trump got wildly booed when he said the unspeakable, that George W. Bush was president when the events of 9/11 happened and hence the argument that ‘he kept us safe’ was rubbish and that he also made a mess of the Iraq war and lied about the presence of weapons of mass destruction.
Kyle Cheney suggested that Trump got hammered for his comments.
An all-out brawl broke out on Saturday night’s debate stage — with Donald Trump at the center of the melee — as the GOP candidates viciously tried to wound one another ahead of next weekend’s South Carolina primary.
Trump skewered Jeb Bush for standing by his brother and the Iraq War. Bush slammed John Kasich for supporting Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Marco Rubio and Trump called Ted Cruz a serial liar, and Cruz bit back, retorting that Rubio is weak on undocumented immigrants and Trump would nominate liberal judges.
Unlike in Manchester, New Hampshire, though, the fight seemed to inspire other candidates to stand up for Bush. Trump lost the audience in Greenville immediately. Attendees booed him relentlessly each time he slammed Bush, and then Rubio — who traded fierce attacks with Bush all week — jumped in to defend him
The particularly nasty debate came after a week of intensifying barbs among the six candidates. Cruz has worked to paint Trump as unreliably conservative, while Trump has hammered Cruz for what he calls “dirty” campaign tactics. Cruz has found himself assailed by other candidates as well for his votes against the defense spending bill, a prominent issue in military-heavy South Carolina.
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham warned those expressing outrage at Trump that millions of Republicans regret the Iraq war and see it as a disaster.
Ingraham told the hosts of Fox News that Trump was engaging in a risky but calculated strategy.
“He’s thinking that there are millions and millions of Republican voters who have had the luxury of time to look back on whether the war in Iraq was really a good idea,” she explained. “And all the money we spent, and all the men and women we lost. And I think a lot of Republicans — the establishment doesn’t like to hear this — millions and millions of Americans probably agree with Trump.”
“This was a disaster for the United States,” she added. “We’ve lost influence in the Middle East, we’ve toppled dictators who probably had their finger on the dice of what was going to be a flood of tumult. And he’s betting that people aren’t going to just reject the Republican Party of today, they’re going to reject the Republican Party of the Bushs’.”
“If they think they are going to re-litigate the Iraq war throughout the United States in this primary process and that’s going to end well for them, I don’t think it is.”
The reactions on Twitter suggest that this feeling of the Republican party disintegrating into chaos was widely shared.
Whatever Trump’s faults (and it is hard to keep count) I love the fact that he is reminding us about the Iraq war and who was responsible for creating that mess and pointing out that the absurdity of the mantra “George W. Bush kept us safe”, as if the events of 9/11 did not occur during his presidency. It may not win him points within the party but it needs to be said since even journalists refrain from pointing out these obvious truths. Trump has the ability to drive the media conversation and this one is important.