Well, the first of approximately 9,774 Republican primary debates happened last night. I don't plan on writing an analysis of each, but I think this one deserves acknowledgment because it was the first, and because it achieved the admirable feat of distracting from Jon Stewart's last episode of The Daily Show. What delicious irony that his finale was undermined and outshone by a bunch of Republican politicians on Fox News. I've got nothing against the guy -- he's a liberal partisan hack who was perfectly adequate at reading jokes off of a teleprompter -- but I just appreciated the dynamic.
I should note that I didn't watch the earlier debate -- it's just not healthy or natural for any human being to consume five straight hours of political rhetoric in one sitting -- so I won't have much to say about the candidates who participated in it. I hear Carly Fiorina performed well, which I don't doubt. She seems to be sharp and articulate, but she's also a sharp and articulate former Sen. John McCain aid and Jesse Jackson fan, who has sharply and articulately endorsed embryonic stem cell research, the DREAM act granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, President Barack Obama's stimulus, and the Wall Street bailout. She was likewise quite sharp and articulate when she called abortion a "decided issue," and explained that she would have voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor, a radical pro-abortion Supreme Court Justice, because she doesn't believe in imposing a pro-life litmus test on Supreme Court nominees.
So, yes, she is very good at arguing, but the problem is what she's arguing for, and whether you can trust her to argue for the same thing from one day to the next. Also, there's the matter of her business record, which includes being the CEO of Hewlett Packard, overseeing it for five years as the company fell apart and lost half of its value and thousands of its employees. She might have a plausible explanation for this unfortunate stain on her resume, but the fact remains that it was very successfully used against her when she was handily beaten during her failed bid for Senate in California.
[sharequote align="center"]One problem with debates: Voters forget they aren't hiring an Arguer-in-Chief[/sharequote]
These are just things for Republican voters to consider. And it highlights one of the inevitable problems with debates: If a candidate is really good at them, you start to forget that we aren't hiring an Arguer-in-Chief. I like to think that I'm pretty good at arguing myself, but it's the only thing I'm good at, so you don't see me running for president (I can't anyway, what with my age and my lack of funds and my extensive felony record). Arguing is great, and it's important to be skilled in that area if you want to make it on the political stage, but we're looking for people who can govern, too. We already elected a guy whose only area of moderate talent was campaigning, and look how that turned out.
Let's not make the same mistake again.
Now, some thoughts:
1. I'm not going to talk about Donald Trump first, although I guess I am talking about Trump first by talking about how I'm not going to talk about Trump first. Anyway, Ben Carson. I like Ben Carson. I don't like all of his positions, but he's strongly pro-life, pro-family, pro-Constitution, and he's developing a tax policy that, while not as good as abolishing the IRS, is still better than what we have.
He didn't get a chance to say much in this debate, but when he did, particularly later on in the evening, he was fresh, coherent, sharp, witty, and insightful. When asked about race relations, he gave a downright profound answer -- rare in politics, or anywhere else -- saying that when he operates on a brain, he gets to see what really makes a person who they are. And this coming from a black man who grew up in the ghetto, rose out of poverty, and became one of the greatest surgeons to have ever lived. He struggled through racism and adversity that few can imagine, yet his message is not petty and vindictive like that of the biracial fellow currently occupying the White House. Carson has, instead, something powerful and unifying to say. After eight years of a Al Sharpton-esque charlatan deliberately stoking tensions and encouraging race riots, Carson's message is all the more urgent.
And that speaks to why I really like the guy. Beyond the issues, beyond even his incredible and inspiring personal story, beyond his smart responses in a televised debate, I believe that Dr. Carson is a good man. I can't really know for sure, but based on everything I've seen, including the fact that he's been married to the same woman for 40 years, and the fact that he hasn't flip flopped on every imaginable issue, and the fact that he's the only guy in the field who's literally saved the lives of countless people, especially children, I have arrived at the rather safe theory that Ben Carson is a man of character and integrity.
For some reason, we don't talk about character and integrity when discussing our presidential picks. Maybe it's because we just assume they're all scumbags, but I think it's more that we, as a culture, have grown quite shallow and childish in recent years. I'm sure this isn't a new phenomenon, but it's evident that most Americans vote entirely based on which man or woman repeats their own views back to them the loudest. We call this "voting on the issues," but we forget that we're not voting for some abstract, disembodied collection of opinions. We are voting for a human being. And all of those opinions are meaningless if the human being articulating them is, despite his ability to soothe you with the sound of your own ideas, actually a lying, cheating, conniving, degenerate phony.
[sharequote align="center"]For some reason, we don't talk about character and integrity when discussing our presidential picks.[/sharequote]
I think we ought to start considering a person's character as we contemplate making them the most powerful mortal creature in the known universe. If they have no character, then all of their words are guaranteed to lead to nothing but more tyranny and despair. It would take, at this point, an exceptionally virtuous person to inherit the vast powers of the modern presidency and not be morally destroyed by them. But if the person is already corrupt and comprised going in, we're screwed. There's no chance of anything good coming of it.
So, character. I like Dr. Carson because he has character. At the moment and subject to change, I think Ted Cruz is the best choice -- he has integrity, the conservative bona fides, a command of the issues, and a great chance at winning -- but I like having Carson on that stage.
2. I respect the fact that Fox challenged the candidates. You'll never see MSNBC or CNN or any other outlet go after Democrats the way Fox interrogated these Republicans. But, in the end, I was disappointed in the broadcast. From my count, they brought up abortion once and the Planned Parenthood scandal once. On both occasions, the line of questioning went right to rape and incest. Once again, another election cycle where, apparently, the entire matter of protecting unborn life will revolve around the rarest of circumstances.
I want a candidate to be pro-life without exception, but if the media were honest (pause for laughter), we would spend much more time discussing the preponderance of cases, rather than harping exclusively on the hardest ones. And why did rape come up in the Planned Parenthood question at all? Planned Parenthood is selling baby parts, and rather than asking each presidential hopeful what they plan to do about it, Fox instead asks them about rape? Ridiculous.
Republican presidential candidates (L-R) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and John Kasich take the stage for the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
3. OK, Trump. The man was a disaster and an embarrassment, but then that's his charm. He's really cornered the market on the whole "incoherent train wreck" shtick, so I suppose he played his part splendidly. And now the brave and bold and courageous Trump is running around crying that the debate moderators "behaved very badly" by asking him tough questions.
For the record, the questions weren't that tough. They asked him whether he'd run third party if he doesn't win the nomination, and he said he might. This was an unpopular answer not because it was elicited by some gotcha trick, but because a Trump third party run would absolutely guarantee a Hillary Clinton presidency. Given that Trump is a lifelong liberal who's been bankrolling the Clintons for years, it has crossed my mind more than once that this whole thing is a Trojan Horse ploy to get Trump's good friend, Hillary, elected. If Trump runs third party, that will absolutely confirm my suspicions.
I'm not against the idea of an independent party in principle. In fact, in principle I like it and I've strongly advocated for it in the past. But this time around there are some good potential choices on the Republican menu, and more importantly, I really don't know if this country can survive four or eight years of Hillary Clinton. The fate of the nation hangs in the balance, and we can't afford to make a game out of it. Trump has all but announced his intention to hand the presidency to Hillary Clinton if Republican voters don't comply with his demands, essentially blackmailing us by threatening to put a tyrant in office if we don't give him what he wants. If that isn't enough to disqualify him in your book, then I have to assume you just don't understand the gravity of the situation.
One must also wonder whether they want a president who pouts like a bullied little schoolboy whenever someone asks him a question he doesn't like. Trump, a 70-year-old man, spent much of last in the midst of a Twitter temper tantrum, upset that Megyn Kelly asked him about his habit of calling women names like "fat pig, dog, and disgusting animal," and telling them they "look pretty on their knees." He got off a funny line about Rosie O'Donnell in response to this question, but when pressed, he practically broke into tears, before erupting into another rant about how he's "politically incorrect." Later, on Twitter, he called Kelly a bimbo.
Now, I couldn't care less about political correctness, but actually, it is a problem that Trump says these things about women. Put aside the fact that Hillary Clinton could hang this around his neck and beat him silly with it. On a more fundamental level, a real man doesn't talk to women, or to anyone, this way. We have reached a very sad moment in the history of the conservative movement when a desperate, vulgar, juvenile brat can be hailed by the "values voter" constituency as brave and courageous because he calls women fat pigs and tells them to get on their knees. And to label such things merely "politically incorrect" is infuriatingly absurd.
Rick Santorum was politically incorrect in the earlier debate when he compared the Supreme Court gay marriage decision to Dred Scott. Ted Cruz was politically incorrect when he defended his charge that the establishment leaders in his party are liars. Scott Walker was politically incorrect when he bravely stood by his pro-life convictions, making no exceptions for rape or incest. Mike Huckabee was politically incorrect when he came out against allowing "transgenders" to serve openly in the military, explaining that our military "isn't a social experiment." Rand Paul was politically incorrect when he aggressively defended the Bill of Rights. These were politically incorrect statements. They were also true, necessary, honest, and gutsy. They had substance and meaning. When we talk about wanting someone to be "politically incorrect," this is what we should be referring to, not a puerile old man degrading women and calling an accomplished journalist a "bimbo" because she dared to make him feel uncomfortable.
That's not the behavior of a politically incorrect man. That's the behavior of a man with no character. And Trump has no character. None.
He's also a man of no specifics, who continues to gain support despite having failed to ever actually answer any question he's been asked. He declined to offer particulars on his immigration stance, while Marco Rubio put him to shame by giving an informed, competent, and meaty answer on the subject. Trump also ducked inquiries into his business record, defending the fact that he screwed over his lenders by pointing out that lenders are "not nice." And because the world is insane and nothing makes sense anymore, this was an applause line.
Trump lied when asked why he's given so much money to the Clintons, claiming he only donated hundreds of thousands of dollars over many years so that Hillary would go to his wedding. He doesn't even bother telling believable lies, I guess because he counts on his supporters swooning over his revolutionary strategy of being openly dishonest about everything.
Trump boasted about being a man of no principles who bribes politicians, and puffed up his foreign policy credentials by declaring that he had the incredible "vision" to oppose the Iraq War a year after it started. He had no answer when asked about his previous liberal positions, and he couldn't explain his own admission that he "identifies more with Democrats." In a stunning moment, Trump -- an alleged conservative at an allegedly Republican debate -- defended his past support for government-run healthcare, extolling the virtues of Canada's socialized medicine scheme. Trump is a big government liberal who thinks single payer healthcare "works well" -- but, hey, at least he's politically incorrect! And he's rich! Sure, he inherited his wealth, but man is he funny when he insults fat women! Let's make him president!
Because that's what we want in a president, right? Hilarity and entertainment. We don't want character, consistency, principles, or integrity. Totally boring, man. We just want to be amused, that's all. Our civilization is on fire, and we want someone to play the fiddle and dance for us while it all burns to ash.
Trump is not an honest man, or a good one. He doesn't have the courage to stand up against even the slightest challenge, and he has no discernible platform or plan. He lacks the ability to explain his conservative ideals, because they don't exist, and he can't give any specifics at all, because they don't exist. Whatever his meager and inauthentic positive attributes -- "politically incorrect," not an establishment guy, expresses the "frustrations" of the American people, etc. -- there are other candidates in the race who possess these same characteristics much more convincingly.
You want someone hated by establishment? Ted Cruz.
You want someone who isn't a politician? Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina (her downsides notwithstanding).
You want a fresh face who can beat Hillary Clinton? Well, there's everyone I just listed, plus Marco Rubio and Scott Walker.
You want a guy who isn't afraid to get angry and take it to the opposition? Nobody's done that better than Rand Paul.
You want politically incorrect? Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum.
I'm not endorsing all of these people or telling you to vote for them, I'm just letting you know that the anti-establishment, politically incorrect, non-politician, angry, frustrated, bold and combative bases are all thoroughly covered this time around. Trump's services are not needed.
But, then, if you just want someone who will make a good show of it while our country collapses and our children's futures are cannibalized in the chaos, I admit that nobody is better suited for the task than Donald Trump.
Contact Matt for speaking engagement requests at Contact@TheMattWalshBlog.com. For general comments, use MattWalsh@TheMattWalshBlog.com.
TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.