Last Night’s Nasty Republican Debate

Southern charm did not rub off on these candidates

W.J. Astore

One word describes last night’s Republican debate from South Carolina: nasty. That’s the word Donald Trump used to describe Ted Cruz (transcript here), and that’s the word that best describes the tone of most of the debate.  Ben Carson and John Kasich, as usual, tried to take the high road, but Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush joined Trump and Cruz in the mud-slinging, tossing accusations about who’s lying and who isn’t, who’s insulting whose family, ad nauseam. (According to the LA Times, the candidates together made 22 accusations of lying; all that was missing was the old expression we used as kids, “Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!”)

As far as content, there wasn’t much new.  The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia touched off a dishonest discussion as to what President Obama should do about his empty seat.  Pretty much all the candidates suggested the “lame duck” president should not nominate a replacement for Scalia (thereby abdicating his Constitutional duties). According to them, Obama is such a polarizing figure, and so untrustworthy, that he should leave to the next president the duty of nominating a new justice.  It was all nonsense, but it illustrated the patent dishonesty of politics as practiced in America today.

As I listened to the debate, the content and tone reminded me of the mean and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge before his conversion.  Again, there was much talk of deporting illegal immigrants, of blowing away our enemies (especially the Islamic State), of protecting gun rights, of ending Obamacare, of lowering taxes on the rich, all to be done in the name of our Lord.

Some media headlines from the debate coverage: “Jeb Bush attacks Donald Trump” (New York Times); “Sparks Fly at Rowdy Republican Debate” (NBC News); “The Gloves Come Off” (CBS News).  Yes, much heat was generated, but precious little light.  A dispiriting exercise, the debate illustrated the bad faith of the leading Republican candidates, as well as the rot within and across our entire political system.

If you missed the debate, consider yourself fortunate.

8 thoughts on “Last Night’s Nasty Republican Debate

  1. I did, and I’m glad!. Its not even so bad its good anymore- its just bad… A real St. Valentines Massacre. Makes you wish their Parents had eaten their Young esp. Trump & Bush…!


    1. Reminded me of a food fight in a high school cafeteria. It seems fun until someone throws a slice of lousy pizza in your face.


  2. It was remarkable that Trump was the only candidate who clearly stated that the Iraq War was a disaster destabilizing the Middle East and he implied that Bush43 had lied about the WMD threat. Even he referenced his surprise that Nancy Pelosi took impeachment off the table which shows both parties are complicit in destroying or damaging accountability in government. Hillary Clinton has never admitted the Iraq War was a disaster destabilizing the Middle East. Rather than characterizing it as nasty it seems it was a heated debate which is what you want instead of fabricated niceness because at least one candidate reflected reality while the others played political party over country by ignoring foreign policy failures. It is interesting that on the issue of approving the Iraq War both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have similar or even exact viewpoint.


    1. That’s a good point, Henry. Yes, I have to give Trump credit for being against the Iraq War and for his bluntness in calling it a disaster. I also give him credit for rejecting the idea George W. Bush “kept us safe.” As he noted, 9/11 happened on Bush/Cheney’s watch. It is indeed amazing how Bush/Cheney have largely avoided blame for 9/11. Imagine if Al Gore had been president during 9/11. Republicans would be denouncing him and the Democrats for “the worst defeat in American history.” You never hear that criticism coming from Democrats about Bush/Cheney and their culpability in downplaying the threat of Al Qaeda in the months leading up to 9/11.


      1. The U.S. hasn’t suffered an asteroid strike or a volcano eruption since 9/11/2001, either. So you’ve really got to give Deputy Dubya and Sherrif Dick their just due as “defenders of the realm.” Clearly, what hasn’t happened hasn’t happened because no evidence exists — or ever could exist — demonstrating conclusively why it hasn’t happened. A neat dialectical trick. Get it? A complete non-sequitur, but oh so useful when it comes to dodging responsibility for falling asleep at the switch while on duty. Naturally, I covered all this sordid history in verse a decade ago. So for Jeb “Yo no tengo futuro” Bush, especially, I give you:

        Deputy Dubya’s Droopy Diaper Rap

        You fell asleep on watch and let some bad guys blow us up,
        And when you woke you swore to pay them back.
        You then attacked a country that had never done us harm
        Which seems to indicate it’s brains you lack.

        You needed made-up reasons that you thought the rubes would buy.
        You swore Saddam Hussein had done the crime.
        You had Ms. Rice warn darkly of some sprouting mushroom clouds
        In little less than forty minutes’ time.

        Dick Cheney spoke of spies who may have met one night in Prague
        Discussing who-knows-what? or when? or how?
        He claimed that all this nothing added up to something big
        That justified attacking Iraq now.

        Don Rumsfeld claimed to know just where to find those awful bombs.
        He said he knew exactly where they were.
        That none had ever come to light disturbed him not at all;
        For dreams, not facts, made better sales allure.

        And Colin Powell played along and told the world untruths
        In service to a man who oft betrays;
        And now no thinking person who resides on Planet Earth
        Believes a single word that this man says.

        Your CIA did what it does, whatever that might be;
        And spent more billions finding zilch to fear;
        But undeterred you pressed ahead until the spooks agreed
        To tell you everything you longed to hear.

        The Pet Press pundit sycophants fell quickly into line;
        For “access” they had sold their souls for free.
        You gave each one a nickname in return for which they swore
        To overlook your rank stupidity.

        The Congress went along and did precisely not one thing
        To cure us of our doubts about their worth.
        They swarmed aboard the lemming liner, “Gulf of Tonkin II,”
        And led us once again to rue their birth.

        So came the night of green-hued TV pictures from “The Front”
        With breathless claims of “Shock and Awe” profound
        That really only lulled and bored the viewers back at home
        Impressing no Iraqis on the ground.

        You and your team, of course, converged to watch the main event;
        To stomp and cheer each way-cool boom and bang.
        You had photographers snap pictures of you gettin’ down
        And doin’ that studly Texas hamster thang.

        With manhood issues unresolved, you pranced and leaped about
        With every adolescent urge fulfilled,
        You launched three dozen missiles at a Baghdad neighborhood
        Yet never cared to wonder whom you’d killed.

        And don’t you think that forty missiles seem a little much
        To cut the heads off three Iraqi men
        Who, anyway, were somewhere else when all the bombs arrived
        And not where you supposed them to have been?

        That word “decapitation” sounded swell not long ago
        But now only reminds us of your lies.
        Some folks have lost their heads, all right, just not the ones you planned;
        Just those who drive your trucks and cook your fries.

        So things have gone from only-bad to worse-than-that and more
        As GI coffins come home late at night;
        And billions run into the hundred-billions off the books
        Which makes those foreign lenders quake with fright.

        You started spouting Jesus jive because you think it sells
        Among religious folks who live in dread
        Of terrorist hijackers crashing into Red State barns
        And working people organized and led.

        To you, the Middle Ages sound like just the place to reign
        With hopeless people waiting for their doom
        Who every thousand years or so take off their clothes and climb
        Up on their roofs to wait for what? and whom?

        You learned to watch the NBA and do that high-five dance.
        You’ve learned your three-word mantras through and through.
        George Tenet taught you how to ‘slam-and-dunk’ and jockstrap-sniff
        But still you’ve never grown to more than you.

        Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2005


      2. Bill.

        I recall a remark from a reformed con man that went something like this: “For a con to work, the mark must want to believe.” Was Ahmad Chalabi a con man? You bet. Was GWB a believing mark? Ditto. I also note GWB’s desire for vengeance. What else could he have meant when he stated, “He [Sadam] tried to kill my father.” Christian GWB forgot Paul’s lesson to the Romans (Romans 12:19).


        1. How true, Walt. There’s some complex psychology going on here, I think. Bush/Cheney didn’t keep us safe on 9/11, and let’s recall the anthrax alert that followed. Americans were genuinely scared. Into the fear marched Bush/Cheney. We will make the world safe! First, we’ll go to Iraq and get Saddam’s WMD. Then it’s on to Iran … and who knows where else. North Korea? It was also part of the “Axis of Evil.”

          And of course Bush/Cheney had plenty of enablers in the military-industrial complex, nodding their heads and praising them for their toughness as profits related to higher defense spending soared.


  3. You’re correct in pointing out the Bush/Cheney avoided blame for 9/11. I think they avoided criticism because they fabricated a threat from Iraq to divert the nation from the horrific destruction of the World Trade Center killing nearly 3000 people including hundreds of New York city policemen and firemen and injuring thousands. Evidently, it is inconceivable to Americans that Bush/Cheney would deliberately invade Iraq on a plausible pretext to deflect from their malfeasance. Also most Democrats in Congress authorized the Iraq War giving more credence to Bush/Cheney. Bernie Sanders performance in the last debate with Hillary Clinton clearly showed he was not fooled or persuaded to vote for the Iraq War. Bernie Sanders in the last debate showed extraordinary depth and understanding on foreign policy far exceeding Hillary Clinton.


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