The Republican debate in Colorado unfolded generally as expected, though with two surprises.
First, the expected: the CNBC panel was nasty. Their narrative came straight from the DNC, which should surprise absolutely nobody. I’ve heard some folks say: “Who could have expected them to behave that way, they’re a business channel!”
Who couldn’t have expected them to behave that way? They have “NBC” in their name.
After the debate, Ted Cruz told Sean Hannity the candidates should be quizzed by Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh and Sean. He’s right — it’s time for a “New Media” GOP debate. Republican voters would hear their priorities raised in that sort of forum, not the priorities of Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Better still, add other new media outlets to the mix just like CNBC added questions from rolling CNBC reporters. PJ Media, National Review, Breitbart, the Daily Caller, the Weekly Standard, the Washington Examiner, Free Beacon and the Blaze could all produce more informative questions than the slurry we heard last night.
Another expected outcome from the CNBC debate: the Jeb Bush drain-swirl continues. Last night Bush called himself a “unifier,” in contrast to a “uniter,” something his brother repeatedly said in 2000. Is there something in the Bush DNA that longs to be loved by all sides? Who wants controversy while munching on spinach and goat cheese tartlets, sipping chardonnay with friends down at the basin?
The left has no tolerance for “unifiers” anymore. The United States has irrevocably moved into a new age of fragmentation, where energizing your supporters is more important than uniting the squishy middle.
Now, the unexpected and strange moments from the debate: the strangest was hearing the story of Marco Rubio draining his retirement account to buy a refrigerator. Wasn’t that a plot in a Beverly Hillbillies episode? As Rubio explains it, he was loaded down with expenses, his kids were getting older, and his refrigerator broke. We’ve all been there, Marco — but most of us hadn’t just signed million-dollar book deals while drawing a senator’s salary.
Most Americans wouldn’t consider absorbing the tax hit and penalty from draining a $68,000 retirement fund the wisest way to buy an appliance. Even Rent-a-Center seems more prudent. Naturally, a refrigerator bought with retirement funds won’t alter the fate of the republic; some on Twitter told me they did exactly the same thing. Fine, but it was a strange and unexpected revelation that one man who wants to be president had an odd sense of financial judgment when it came to a broken appliance. It had a Clintonian financial recklessness about it. Let’s hope that if he wins, he acts more prudently with the nation’s finances.
Perhaps the most unexpected element of the debate was Ben Carson’s dud performance. He performed as if someone pulled a random man out of line at Costco: “You! Run for President!” Carson was unfocused, equivocal, unsure, low energy, non-substantive, and at times seemed bewildered. He sounded like a man whose singular justification to run for president was that he confronted Barack Obama once at an event.
The last time I had anything to say about Ben Carson, I was accused of being a “liberal” by one of his supporters, which indicates they aren’t paying attention. To repeat, Ben Carson is a great fellow, brilliant and a good man. He had the courage to confront Obama. But Admiral Stockdale seemed more comfortable:
As far as I can tell, his supporters mention three main reasons for supporting him; I’ll note two.
First, he is an outsider. Sure — but so are others on that stage. Some of them even know how to laser-target their attacks. Carson, as I’ve noted, has made serious blunders in the last few weeks, indicating he doesn’t quite have the basics down. The trick for voters who want an outsider is to find an outsider who has the toolkit to win. It seems, based on his unexpectedly weak performance, that Dr. Carson isn’t that person.
The second reason many support Carson is that he proudly campaigns on the fact he is a Christian; others are drawn to his observations on the wisdom of electing a Muslim president. While the two aren’t the same thing, they are related in explaining his support.
Take careful note that Carson himself opened the door about the role of his religion in making him qualified to be president. His decision to do so may invite a narrative that Carson would rather not have, especially in Iowa with so many Catholic voters.
Lest you deem that raw speculation, Donald Trump seems to have already noticed.