Sunday, November 1, 2015
Yet another public breakdown
Once again the "bad guy" in the debates was the journalist. It doesn't seem to matter whether it is Megyn Kelly, Jake Tapper or John Harwood, they all are equally vicious in the GOP candidates' minds. Yet, it was CNBC that the RNC chose to vent its fury upon, threatening to break its ties with NBC for what Reince Priebus saw as major disrespect given the candidates by the accusatory questions that were put forward.
The Republican National Committee should be thanking CNBC for deflecting attention away from what was yet another pitiful showing by the presidential wannabes, which even John Kasich decried in the fantasy tax proposals that were being offered by his fellow candidates. He angrily stated "we cannot elect someone who does not know how to do the job." Right now, that's pretty much everyone on stage with the possible exception of Kasich.
Almost all the GOP candidates have fallen prey to the reality show the nomination process has become, in part due to the format that makes the main debate stage only open to the top ten polling candidates, leaving the remaining four to duke it out on an "undercard." It also doesn't help that this election cycle has become more about personalities than it has issues, with Donald J. Trump taking center stage.
Even Fortune magazine was upset by the direction the debate took when it was Trump who managed to score points, and not Kasich, when it came to fiscal responsibility. Trump chose to discredit Kasich's accomplishments and criticisms by claiming the Ohio governor was in bed with the Lehman Brothers, rather than answer for his own pie-in-the-sky tax cuts that would only further balloon the national debt. In this reality show format, bravado trumps any form of rational debate.
Paul Krugman wrote in a recent op-ed that a "grifter" mentality has swept the Republicans, insulating themselves from any outside criticism by appealing almost exclusively to the base of their party through the most extreme conservative news outlets. Even Fox News has become outside the circle when Donald Trump took exception to Megyn Kelly's line of questioning in the first debate and pitched a very public temper-tantrum with Roger Ailes.
After the dust had settled, Chris Christie did note that Republicans need to be ready for tough questions and should have tougher skin. Of course, he wasn't very happy with the line of questioning himself, complaining at one point of the rudeness Harwood had to constantly interrupt his response to the question. This coming from a guy who was recently kicked off an Amtrak train for refusing to keep his voice down in a "quiet car."
One can only marvel at the headlines the Republican presidential candidates are generating. Each time one of them is forced to defend his incredible statements, he doubles down on them even when there is absolutely no factual basis for his claims. Rubio continues to push the same line that the House select committee on Benghazi has revealed Hillary Clinton to be a "liar," long after it has been debunked by every respectable news source. But, you won't hear anyone of his fellow candidates challenging him on the position out of fear of losing the base of the Republican Party, which also firmly believes Hillary Clinton is a liar, thanks to the good folks at Fox and other alternative conservative news sources.
The GOP candidates are determined to stick with the same talking points, beating Benghazi like a dead horse. Anyone who chooses to stray away from them does so at his own risk, which leaves once credible candidates like Rand Paul and John Kasich looking like fish out of water on the debate stage. On the undercard, you do see candidates like Graham and Pataki making a case for global warming and offering more fiscal minded alternatives to the fantasy tax plans being presented in the "main event." Pretty soon you can expect to see Kasich and Paul on the undercard, if they don't drop out of the race all together.
Maybe if the Republicans could find a way to get rid of Trump, some normalcy would return to the election cycle but I doubt it. You have "apprentices" like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee ready and waiting for the Trump legion. You also have the enigmatic figure of Ben Carson, who for some unknown reason has struck a chord with the Republican electorate and would more than likely fill the vacuum created by Trump's departure.
The biggest problem is that the Republcans' presumed top two candidates, Jeb Bush and John Kasich, have failed to create a spark with the electorate. Neither has shown himself to be particularly charismatic, and Jeb Bush has tripped all over himself on the debate stage, looking hopelessly inept. Even Mary Matalin is "flummoxed" as to why Jeb is doing so badly, but oddly enough seems to be casting her lot behind Ted Cruz, who is no friend of the Bush family.
I don't know what the answer to the problem is, but taking it out on the news media only makes the GOP look like bunch of whiners. You can only deflect attention away from the dearth of ideas for so long. Eventually, you will need a candidate who offers a clear vision that will attract voters beyond the base of the party. Marco Rubio may be that guy, but until he cracks 10 per cent it is hard to take him seriously in this Republican reality show.