Tag Archives: GOP debate


There are two meanings of the word “performance,” and America’s two political  parties have each embraced one of them. 

One definition is “to perform a task”–in this case, to govern. Like President Biden, most contemporary Democrats have concentrated on that definition. I have previously posted about the effectiveness–the performance– of what Republicans dismissively label “Bidenomics,” and others are beginning to report on those positive outcomes as well. 

Robert Hubbell quoted the New York Times for news that direct investment in manufacturing  had doubled between 2014 and 2021. Also, “per the report, foreign direct investment “in the computer and electronics sector rose from $17 million in 2021 to $54 billion in 2022.”

Jennifer Rubin noted that the President has begun running ads touting the effects of his economic policies.

Respondents keep telling pollsters they are pessimistic about the economy and think we are in a recession, perhaps a reflection of the incessantly negative media coverage. However, as the mainstream media catches up with economic reality (admitting we likely will avoid a recession) and as public and private investment running in the hundreds of billions of dollars works its way through the economy, Biden stands ready to explain how his agenda — “Bidenomics” — brought us from fears of a pandemic recession to recovery. With unemployment and inflation in decline and wages rising, the public finally might be more amenable to hearing an uplifting message.

Performance=doing the job.

Then there’s the other meaning of “performance”– “to act for an audience.” That’s the definition chosen by virtually every Republican candidate for public office. The audience they are performing for is the MAGA cult that has replaced what used to be a political party. 

Performance in that latter sense ignores the hard work of policymaking , instead appealing to the grievances of the intended audience–and dismissing the policy preferences of the wider American polity.

I didn’t watch the first GOP debate, but I’ve read about the candidates’ embrace of  positions held by a distinct minority of Americans. As Robert Hubbell summed it up, in addition to pledging support for Trump if he is the eventual nominee, even if convicted,

 the candidates espoused other outrageous positions: climate change is a hoax, support for a national abortion ban, blaming teacher unions and single mothers for the problems in education, proposing invading Mexico with US special forces, and cutting aid to Ukraine. None of the candidates provided an actual proposal for America’s future, other than Ramaswamy’s line, “Drill, frack, burn coal, embrace nuclear.”

I’m bemused by voters who support candidates having no obvious experience with– or understanding of– government, as though  the skill of managing the enormous complexities of that task can just be picked up on the job. If we needed any proof of the wrongheadedness of that belief, the ongoing performance (in both senses of the word) of the GOP’s looney-tunes culture warriors should provide it.

Perhaps instead of “debates,” we should hold public examinations of candidates for public office. We could focus on whether they understand what the duties of those offices are–and aren’t.  (Here in Indianapolis, the Republican candidate for mayor seems to think he’s running for sheriff–his ads give no indication that he understands there are other dimensions of the job.)

Take a look at the positions embraced by that pathetic crew of presidential candidates–positions that disclose their utter ignorance of the proper role of government and the daunting complexity of many issues presidents face. Their lack of intellectual integrity is appalling enough, but their willingness to ignore international law and medical science, disrespect teachers, and deny the reality of climate change disqualifies every one of them for any public office.

As Rubin reminds us, it’s a fearful worldview.

We have become so used to Republicans railing about elites, critical race theory, transgender kids, immigrants, IRS stormtroopers, the FBI and more that we become acclimated to a terribly dark, frightful view of America. 

That “dark, frightful view” runs from local politics (our Republican mayoral candidate’s ads describe my city–which is actually pretty vibrant–as a dystopian hellhole) to federal candidates assuring the MAGA cult that they can return America to an imagined “yesteryear,” when–glory!!– men were men and women were barefoot and pregnant.

Hubbell reminds us that GOP performance has an upside: most Americans reject the party’s few positions (on abortion and climate change, by twenty to thirty percentage points). These  positions ought to render them unelectable in a general election.

Democrats should convert every negative, destructive, mean-spirited notion espoused on the debate stage into a positive, productive, forward-looking message about Democratic accomplishments over the last three years. 

The key, as always, is turnout: the  GOP cannot win a national election–if the rest of us vote. 

Lying With Impunity

Okay, so here’s what worries me. A lot.

In the most recent GOP debate, we were treated to outright prevarication. Lies. Blatant untruths. The fact that politicians of both parties will lie (this certainly isn’t the first time!) is not what concerns me; what scares the bejeezus out of me is the fact that they can do so secure in the knowledge that very few members of their target audience will know enough to know that they are lying.

Let’s take a few examples.

Take Carly Fiorina (please!). She said she wants to “bring back the warrior class — Petraeus, McChrystal, Mattis, Keane, Flynn. Every single one of these generals I know. Every one was retired early because they told President Obama things that he didn’t want to hear.”

In the real world, Petraeus left to head up the CIA, and subsequently resigned after a sex scandal. Keane served under George W. Bush, and resigned in 2003. McChrystal was ousted after Rolling Stone reported comments amounting to insubordination.

Chris Christie boasted about his relationship with Jordan’s King Hussein–“When I stand across from King Hussein of Jordan and I say to him, ‘You have a friend again sir, who will stand with you to fight this fight,’ he’ll change his mind.” Small problem: Hussein’s been dead for 16 years.

Christie also criticized Obama’s “reckless incompetence” for allowing Russia’s “recent partnership” with Syria. That “recent” partnership goes back to 1971, when the USSR established a huge warm-water navy port in Syria. It’s been there ever since.

Several debate participants criticized the Obama administration’s “political correctness,” asserting that such “political correctness” prevented monitoring of social media and was the reason authorities missed “jihadist” postings by the female San Bernadino shooter. Except, as the head of the FBI has patiently explained, there were no such postings.

Factcheck has posted a lengthy list of GOP “misstatements,” ranging from relatively minor errors (as when Rick Santorum–who isn’t going anywhere anyway– said “10 years ago I put the sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program,” when he really sponsored a bill that largely codified existing sanctions) to more consequential assertions (for example, Lindsey Graham repeated the claim that the U.S. spends $350 billion “to buy oil from people who hate our guts,” although over a third of America’s oil imports in 2014 came from Canada, and another 9 percent from Mexico.)

A disquieting number of the misstatements made during the debate cannot fairly be labeled “lies” because those uttering them so clearly had no idea what they were talking about. (“Targeted” carpet-bombing? really?)

And therein lies the real problem. We have these embarrassingly unqualified candidates because we have large numbers of civically-illiterate citizens. People supporting Trump, Cruz, Carson, et al, apparently don’t know when they misstate facts, don’t know when proposals they are applauding (deporting 11 million Mexicans, only allowing Christian Syrians to enter the country, etc.) are impossible or unconstitutional or both.

I am convinced that the voters responding to the ignorance, nationalism and racism being delivered by the “clown car” candidates are a minority. Most Americans are better–and smarter– than that.

The question, however, is: who is more likely to vote?

“Winning” By Making Shit Up

There is evidently a consensus among the pundits that the “winner” of Wednesday night’s GOP debate was Carly Fiorina.

There is also a consensus among fact-checkers that virtually nothing she said was accurate–and in the case of her attack on Planned Parenthood, was manufactured out of whole cloth.

Of course, the GOP primary voters to which she and the others were throwing their red meat were highly unlikely to notice.

I don’t know what’s more terrifying: the GOP’s embrace of “look at me, look at me” Donald Trump (who is unable to answer any substantive question with even a modicum of understanding or gravitas, and who endorsed the discredited theory that vaccines cause autism) or Ben Carson (the “scientist” who doesn’t believe in evolution or climate change and hasn’t a clue what government does) or Fiorina’s obvious calculation that she can improve her prospects by being the female face of the war on women, even if that requires playing fast and loose with those pesky things called “facts.”

Probably the best summary of the debate(s) was offered by Gail Collins, who–in one particularly memorable phrase–compared Jindal and Santorum to “rabid otters.”

The one indelible “take-away” from the debate–at least for Hoosiers–is that today’s GOP sure isn’t the party of Dick Lugar and Bill Hudnut.

How does that car commercial put it? This isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile…