Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Republican Debate: Reflections and Links

On the way home last night I passed by the home of some Republicans who said, "Come in and watch this." The "bottom card" Republican debate was just wrapping up. I had the opportunity to see the nine leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination.

They didn't have to drag me in by the elbows. They didn't even have to bribe me with food. I write about these people; I was glad to have the chance to study their nonverbal communication on TV. However, let's just say that a debate about terrorism, foreign policy, and war, in which the candidates seemed to be competing to show how hawkish they can be, has to have been the debate I've been least qualified to judge since...oh, say 1976, when I fell asleep during the first half-hour.

Hawkishness is the main reason why I've never identified as a Republican. (So help me. Reince Priebus's e-mail inviting me to declare myself one came in while I was typing this. I filed it. I'm a fiscally conservative, socially liberal Independent.) I'm not a bleeding heart; I'm not saying we can just love ISIS into becoming decent human beings. There is such a thing as a justified war. Nevertheless, however idealistic or naive or girly it may be, my idea of a justified war is not carpet bombing. It's more like Faulkner's "You whip the big ones and I'll whip the little ones."

If I vote to send our young people to war, then I'm accountable to the country, to the extent that if the Tashfeen-ghoul hadn't written herself off, our military would have the right to shove a pistol into my hand and say, "Don't put it on the conscience of some nineteen-year-old boy that he had to kill a woman," and it would be my duty to blow Tashfeen's precious little hidden face to bits. Unless she was quicker on the draw and killed me first. And spend the rest of my life, if I lived, looking over my shoulder for relatives of hers, too. (This attitude toward war might not realistically be the best use of our national resources, but it is a dang fine way to keep older people from getting enthusiastic about sending the young to war.)

I don't like the idea of carpet bombing even though I know that, in cultures that take blood feuds seriously, the babies I want not to blow up are likely to grow up thinking it's their duty to kill Americans. How many Arab-types are we going to have to kill? Where will it end? Was this really a culture we wanted to declare war on, back in the 1990's? We need a change from the present administration, but...must it be merely a switch back to the one before?

I'm puzzled by the polls asking who "won" the debate. Nine people talking in two-minute soundbites? How can you say one of them won? What's the point system here?

* I think the one who had the opportunity to say the most good things, although he stumbled and sputtered on a few of them and probably deserves to lose a few points for saying some of them out of turn, was Ted Cruz.

* However, the one I'd most like to vote for is still Ben Carson. Even though, when he called for a moment of silence, I was thinking "Senator for Maryland, please," and when he complained about not getting as many questions as Cruz and Rubio got, I was thinking, "Let's Talk About Whining," and when he talked about a doctor having to do things that hurt children, I was thinking, "Ouch. Ouch. Owwwch." On the whole I think he has the most realistic, levelheaded, balanced, fiscally conservative and socially liberal plans, and (despite the gaffe about the scholarship) the highest individual credibility. And it doesn't hurt anything that, unlike the other candidates, he can't count on being even more qualified eight years in the future. I think some of the other candidates have more natural talent for debating; that doesn't make them better candidates. My only question about Dr. Carson continues to be whether he wouldn't really prefer being U.S. Senator for Maryland.

* The one who raised my opinion of him furthest was John Kasich. I hadn't seen or heard much of him before; in the last picture I'd seen he still had dark hair, and I didn't recognize him with the grey growing in. He's a good debater, and worked in what ought to be all Republicans' mantras (bringing the jobs home, building coalitions) more efficiently than any of the others.

* The one who lost the most points, in my opinion, was Marco Rubio. How can any human being support the Patriot Act? If you can't fight crime without spying on people, and thereby also making it possible for our national enemies to spy on those people, you should leave fighting crime to someone who has a better strategy. I like Senator Rubio. In some ways I liked him better on television; his boyish grin reminds me of Terry Kilgore's, so there was that "You go, homeboy!" emotional thing going even though he's not my homie. I think his support for the Patriot Act was incongruous with what he said in American Son, unworthy, and evidence that he's still very young and has a lot of time to get his act together.

* Carly Fiorina is a class act. A real trouper. She's the least qualified of the candidates and appears, on paper, to be a token, but I'm impressed by her natural talent. But also...as I'd say to former Vice-President Cheney, as I've said about Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden...she's been ill. Americans get overwrought when their President has a cold, or spends six hours in bed for routine surgery. Being thin, with a narrow face, is great for anyone who's going to be on television, but the sound of Candidate Fiorina's voice, plus her thinness, makes her seem brittle. I'd have serious concerns about her surviving four years in the White House. I think she should be running for a seat in Congress, where she can take a day off now and then.

* Rand Paul...well...I think his looks work against him with a lot of people, and that's too bad, because he's a good man, a good writer, a reasonably good Senator, and he was speaking for me throughout the debate. Don't real Republicans hear the compassion, or don't they want a President who has compassion? I want to vote for him. I don't think this is the year, though, because of something one of the Big Fat Jerk candidates said during a moment of unparliamentary cross-talk. He is still a junior Senator who hasn't sponsored a major successful bill. No fifty-something wants to hear "Wait, do a lower-paid job, be a supportive apprentice to an older person who's doing the job you'd like to do now," as I well know, but...I keep coming back to, "Senator Paul undoubtedly has time to rack up experience points. Let the oldest candidate go first, please."

* Jeb Bush...meh. I've been saying we shouldn't elect him because, if we do, we'll have a war. Seems like a lot of people want a war, anyway. Well, if they do, Jeb Bush is their man. He has connections in the U.S. military, the C.I.A., and also in the Arab world. He can give us another expensive, yet "successful," war against another tiddly little Middle Eastern country. If that's what we as a nation want, or what some other country, naming no names like China, Russia, France, or Germany, wants to push us into...It's not what I want. If Republicans want war, they want Jeb Bush, and I'd trust him to get us through a war with less damage than any of the Democrats, for sure. I respect him. I'd support him. I would so much rather respect and support him in any other situation than another war with blood-feud-minded Arab-types.

That leaves two Big Fat Jerks who should, in my opinion, just go home and be quiet. The less I have to say about either of them, the better I'm pleased. A big, beefy guy has to work harder than is really fair to come across as a thinker and leader we should respect, rather than an ox. The fatter of these two candidates came across as an ox with a vicious streak. What he was doing, standing in the place where Governor Huckabee (who is a good debater) should have been, I cannot imagine. Yankee bigotry against Southerners, I suppose.

The mouthier one...made me angry, because I was not the only person these Republicans had invited to watch the debate. Another guest, who's been a good wife to one of my cousins for many years, had totally fallen for the #BankruptcyBillionnaire's line of hogwash. How do you feel when you see a well-known liar in the act of deceiving a less informed person whom you like? It would be a violation of this site's contract to tell you what I was thinking. A censored version would be "What a boon to humankind it would have been if this lousy creep had been born without a tongue."

Lying is a job skill that's highly valued in some circles in Washington, as Colonel North told us back in the 1980's. I lived in Washington and can say, as sincere praise, that my husband was an honest, trustworthy man who had good lying skills. In wartime lying is an especially valuable skill; the Bush clan have superb lying skills, and why deny that that's one of their big assets. So there may be those who imagine that Trump's vulgar, self-interested lies, e.g. his wedding vows, indicate a talent a presidential candidate ought to have. I think there's a world of difference between the self-interested lies a man tells when he's greedy for sex or money, and the public-spirited, disinterested lies a better kind of man--the kind who's relatively honest about sex and money--tells when the truth might cost his country lives in war.

However, I noticed something about Trump's lying skills during the debate. Some of youall must have noticed this too, although so far no correspondent seems to have mentioned it. A practiced liar learns fairly quickly to control visible mannerisms that tell us whether he's lying or not. Controlling his voice is all but impossible--in order to keep his voice from rising a few tones when he's lying, a liar just about has to have convinced himself that the lie he's telling is true. Skilled liars choose words carefully in order to say things that are at least half true; unskilled liars (who aren't ordinarily dysphasic) often blurt out words that give away their lies. When the Rump was booming on about carpet bombing, his voice was low. He really wants to kill masses of people, including babies. When he was saying "Not...out of the question" in reply to the question about whether he'd run as a spoiler if not nominated as a Republican, his voice rose noticeably. He is not seriously campaigning as a Republican. He is a spoiler.

And Trump also...despite his ability to deceive people whose fears and/or social class consciousness have been manipulated, or who want the financial rewards of being his temporary wife or employee...he also lacks professional-grade lying skills. He not only let his voice tell me that his pledge not to run as a third-party spoiler was an out-and-out lie; he also worded his reply in a way that should have told everybody that. He gives himself away, when he's lying. He's not C.I.A. material, and in wartime, when lying is justifiable and necessary, he'd be a disastrous President.

Those are my thoughts. However, in academic debates where honesty is not in question, the traditional scoring method is different from a random observer's reflections. Academic debates are scored based on facts. Several of the Republicans stumbled over words during the debates; some of them misspoke--and in academic debates, misspeaking costs you. So here, fed to this web site by Glenn Beck's merry band of fact checkers, is a quick list of the Republicans' errors of fact:

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/12/16/ap-fact-check-republican-debaters-go-astray/

They caught Ted Cruz in more errors than the others because Ted Cruz made more significant statements of facts than the others; this factor should be weighed into any scoring process youall care to use.

Here's Reason.com's pick of the highlights:

https://reason.com/reasontv/2015/12/16/vegas-gop-debate-3-best-and-worst-moment

Katie Pavlich's report interests me because her reactions were so different from mine:

http://www.townhallmail.com/gnwqcfhkqqldckqkdkcghdjttmdttkmhnngfpclnmntlyt_zswmzbmmwrw.html?a=&b=

A lot of the polls are still going on today; more reports will undoubtedly show up in tomorrow's Link Log under Politics.