Small World: Debating the debate


Henry Precht

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

I invested three hours when I could have been asleep during the second Republican debate last week. I hope you will pardon me and understand why, now rested, I am using it as the basis for this column.

As I think back over the 11 participants and three moderators, I have one overriding question: Are these the best that the most potent political party in our democracy can come up with? If we subtract predictable sloganeering, which was widely used as a substitute for thought, there were only two and a half candidates who appeared to go into the background details and consequences of their answers. The two deep thinkers were the two medical doctors, Paul and Carson. The half score went to Jeb Bush who, trying to think up something original, quickly enough ducked back under the cover provided by the party clichés beloved of the party’s base. The rest were often phrase-turning parrots.

Before the debate, I had high hopes for Governor Kasich, whose background in Congress and as a popular leader of Ohio made me think that I might vote for him. But he appeared nervous, long-winded, less than forceful (perhaps a virtue in that strident crowd) and (perhaps because no one attacked him) his story never came across. I suspect he will fade from the scene. Too bad. Decent, intelligent candidates need to be encouraged to come forward. (I looked in vain for someone who would measure up in terms of balance and wisdom to either of Maine’s two senators.)

For the rest, if you took away Iran and Islamic terrorism — which the non-thinkers often in ignorance conflated — and Planned Parenthood — which went totally unexamined — the non-thinking candidates would have appeared as deflated tires, unable to move their cause forward and present a comprehensive picture of how their presidency would operate.

The moderators reeled out manufactured personal conflicts; they ignored serious questions. Rather than ask pointed questions themselves, they quoted criticisms of candidates uttered by others in the race. Why, one wonders, did no one ask Governor Christie about the traffic shenanigans in New Jersey administration? Nor quiz any candidate about the source of his or her funding and the price expected by donors for same? Nor was there a peep of analysis from anyone about the Syrian/Iraqi refugee crisis in Europe?

The CNN goal, it seemed, was, first, entertainment, second, information. If you noticed the little one-liners highlighted in red, they always had to do with chuckles or put-downs, never with words that were thoughtful and creative.

Plainly, the intended stars of the show were Trump and Fiorina, both outspoken with hardly an original word that deserved praise. It was outrageous when the female ex-executive said flatly she had met Putin and would not speak to him again about troubles in the U.S.-Russian relationship. Is it presidential material to expect a rival nation to grovel before out military power?

Then, there were the candidates who some time ago had their moments of fame, faded, yet still appeared as viable candidates. Doesn’t ex-governor Huckabee have a media job? Does he need to campaign or was his appearance just a way of staying in the shadows of the limelight for publicity. And, the fact that Governor Walker didn’t earn a college degree showed; unlike Presidents Lincoln or Truman, he had his lessons and canned phrases rote learned but added nothing to them.

Poor Hillary Clinton and President Obama. You would think they were the authors of all the troubles that afflict the Middle East and might be found seated at the feet of Ayatollah Khamenei, chanting “Death to America.” No discussion of George Bush’s unnecessary war in Iraq and the consequences thereof. (His brother said his action “made us safe.”)

Right now, if handed a ballot, I would cast it for Rand Paul above all the higher poll-ranked Republicans or any Democrats presently in sight. Only he, for example, would discuss the substance of the 14th Amendment and the citizenship rights of children born to illegal aliens on U.S. soil. Only he was willing to speak frankly of the unhappy consequences of our past ventures in the Middle East. Only he might be trusted to think for himself and guide this country in directions that would not be reduced to bumper sticker slogans. Wonkish? Probably.

Just what we need!

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.


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