Having watched both the Republican happy hour debate on Thursday afternoon and the big show on Thursday, I have mostly irreverent thoughts on what I saw. Meaning no offense to anyone, I have a few notes and queries that I want to offer in good humor and in no particular order. I’ll start with Trump in the big show, go back to the happy hour debate, and then finish up with a few more notes on the big show.
Trump came into the big show with a lead in the polls and was rightly asked the first question by Bret Baier. Bret asked him whether he will commit to supporting the Republican nominee for president. Good question! Trump responds that he will commit to supporting the Republican nominee for president if he is the nominee. In the annals of great quotations, this deserves a spot alongside General Sherman: “If nominated, I will not run, if elected I will not serve.” Trump: “If nominated, I will support the nominee.”
Trump did not come across as a happy warrior in the debate; he seemed angry. He is still working through his anger following the debate. The New York Times reports that RedState has rescinded his invitation to appear before their gathering in Atlanta as a result of a tasteless remark he made about Megyn Kelly. He is embarrassing himself and his supporters. The hot air continues to leak from his balloon.
The Republican field includes a variety of fresh faces. It also includes some faces that have not curdled, but are certainly no longer fresh. Indeed, we struggle to recognize them. Among them are George Pataki and Jim Gilmore. We recognize Rick Santorum, but his face isn’t fresh either (no offense). I wonder whose voice they hear calling them to run other than their own.
Jim Gilmore reminded us that he was serving his one term as governor of Virginia on 9/11. He seems to think it is a qualification to serve as president. Unless you are Rudy Giuliani, we don’t care. You didn’t do anything to save the day. If you were serving in office on 9/11, your time is past.
Geroge Pataki reminded us that he was serving in office as governor of New York on 9/11. Does he too think this is some kind of a qualification? Forgive me for repeating myself. Unless you are Rudy Giuliani, we don’t care. If you were serving in office on 9/11, your time is past.
George Pataki reminded us that he defeated Mario Cuomo in the New York gubernatorial election of 1994. If you defeated the father of the sitting governor of New York, your time is past.
One of the FOX News moderators in the happy hour debate reminded us that President Obama’s first executive order provided for the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. The candidates were then asked what their first executive order would be. I can answer that! My first executive order would be to prohibit ads for catheters on FOX News.
Carly Fiorina scored big time in the happy hour debate. FOX News moderator Martha MacCallum is smart and winning. She was beautiful the last time I saw her morning news show, but she seems to have had some kind of a makeover and emerged as a bombshell. Coming out of the happy hour debate I have my ticket: Fiorina/MacCallum. Or MacCallum/Fiorina.
After Donald Trump, according to the polls, Jeb Bush is supposedly the big dog in the Republican field. Whose voice does he hear calling him to run? Aside from the donor class, what is the constituency for his candidacy within the Republican Party? Is there anyone who is enthusiastic about a Bush candidacy? He last ran for office 13 years ago. I still admire President Bush, but he left the Republican Party in a rather large hole at the time he left office. Is Jeb Bush really the man to help Republicans climb out of the hole and regain the office? I doubt it.
In the big show Bush appeared halting and hesitant. I sympathized with his nervousness. If one didn’t know that he is the big dog, however, one would have thought that he was at the bottom of the first tier. He certainly did not distinguish himself as a star among the top tier of candidates. He was workmanlike at best.
Rand Paul struggled to make an impression. He seeks to persuade us that he is an authority on the Constitution in general and the Fourth Amendment in particular. I don’t think so. He proclaims himself a different kind of Republican in seeking the votes of the young and diverse. Good for him; Republicans need to seek votes wherever votes are to be had. I can agree with Paul that he is a different kind of Republican. As far as I am concerned, however, he is not different enough from his father. He is an isolationist who understands how unpopular a frank avowal of isolationism would make him.
Mike Huckabee established as a candidate for president in the Republican field of 2008 that he is an able debater. His highest and best use at this point is not as a candidate for the presidency. His highest and best use would be service as a debate coach for any of the other Republican candidates.
In the happy hour debate, Lindsey Graham was sad. He was mournful. He looked like he was struggling to cope with tragedy. In the big show, John Kasich seemed about to burst into tears whenever he touched on his personal background. Maybe Huck can offer to throw in some counseling with debate prep.
Ben Carson is an extraordinarily impressive man, though he appeared overmatched as a candidate for president. His closing remarks were nevertheless utterly brilliant. They were funny. They were touching. They credibly advertised his professional accomplishments. They disparaged the political class in Washington while reminding us that he is an outsider and, yes, a brain surgeon. He subtly reminds us that whatever he needs to know he can learn. It is impossible not to like him. Indeed, it is impossible not to admire him.
John Kasich claimed to have balanced the federal budget. This while serving in Congress. Chris Christie claimed to have fought terrorism. This while serving as a United States Attorney. Grandiosity is not a mortal political sin, but it isn’t endearing. Do these guys not realize how grandiose their claims sound? The guy who claims to have separated twins conjoined at the head could modestly back it up.
The current or recent governors — Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, John Kasich — and two of the incumbent Senators — Ted Cruz and Mario Rubio — are impressive candidates. Rick Perry’s record blows me away, but he could use Huck as a debate coach. Rubio is a brilliant political talent, maybe the most talented in the field, but he burned a lot of capital with folks like me when he teamed up with Chuck Schumer on the Democrats’ immigration bill. Ted Cruz may be the smartest guy in the room, though Ben Carson and Marco Rubio could teach him something about likability. Along with Carly Fiorina, who should join the big show next time around, this is an impressive field.
NOTE: I have corrected the last paragraph to try to get my intended listing of names right.