After last night

The Republican presidential candidates’ debate in South Carolina last night must have warmed the hearts of Democrats everywhere. I would say you have to see it to believe it. I am posting a video of the entire event below. As usual, I want to offer a few thoughts and brief observations in the spirit of inquiry.

CBS hosted the debate. Moderator John Dickerson acted as a Democratic operative seeking to advance the Democrats’ position on the replacement of Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia’s death opens up the hypothetical opportunity for President Obama to make his final contribution to the fundamental transformation of the United States. It should therefore remind Republicans of the importance of nominating a candidate who can defeat Hillary Clinton in the coming election.

What was the Republican National Committee thinking when it signed with CBS to conduct this debate? CBS perpetrated the Rathergate fraud in the 2004 campaign. CBS News is now run by David Rhodes, brother of Obama national security adviser Ben Rhodes. Sharyl Attkisson’s memoir reviewing her years at CBS in the Age of Obama shows Rhodes to be running CBS News for the benefit of President Obama. CBS News should not have been part of the equation.

The ground rules recited by Dickerson at the outset limited the candidates to 60 seconds in responding to the questions posed. That’s become standard practice, but it is ludicrous. The moderator and others (last night, Major Garrett and Kim Strassel) formulate the questions and address them to a specific candidate. Another candidate mentioned (criticized) in an answer is entitled to respond. The ground rules produce the cat fights to which we have grown accustomed this year.

Last night Donald Trump achieved maximum obnoxiousness in his impersonation of Michael Moore. He seemed to be acting as an agent provocateur. His assertion as the leading Republican presidential candidate that President Bush lied us into war with Iraq is simply mind-boggling. He may have spoken on this matter with some forethought, but he appeared to be deranged. At this point he not only damages our public discourse, he damages the Republican Party.

I have thought this has become a two-man race between Trump and Cruz at this point. Trump, however, must view Jeb Bush as a threat in South Carolina and perhaps elsewhere. I doubt it, but maybe so. If so, I don’t think he helped himself in South Carolina last night.

I thought Rubio was good. Maybe he can recover from his performance in New Hampshire. It’s possible. I hope so. Last night, however, he repeated his same line on the Gang of Eight fiasco that he has used many times before. His line is that Ted Cruz is as bad as I was! I think that is a poor, poor argument, even among school kids. In this case it has the additional deficiency of being untrue. Rubio was the key Republican cog and tool of Chuck Schumer in the Gang of Eight.

John Kasich’s effort to stand above the fray had some appeal last night, but he’s not going to be the nominee. I cringe whenever he defends his expansion of Medicaid in Ohio. If he has a place to go from New Hampshire, it’s to Ohio-Michigan-Illinois primaries. Ben Carson is over.

The continuing division of the non-Trump vote among several candidates works to Trump’s advantage. Who among this crew has a reasonable prospect of taking it to Hillary Clinton? I have my doubts about all of them, but after last night I can say with certainty that it’s not Trump and that Trump is compounding the difficulty of the task.

UPDATE: Washington Times national security reporter Rowan Scarborough is the author of Rumsfeld’s War and Sabotage. He emails us this morning to comment on Trump’s attribution of responsibility for 9/11 to George Bush: “Recall the memoir of Clinton’s CIA director George Tenet: under Clinton the CIA was going into ‘Chapter 11,’ the NSA was going ‘deaf,’ the agency cut case officers and closed bases around the world — at the very time al Qaeda was planning 9-11.”

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