TV news is probably the least efficient way to inform yourself that anyone could find. At the end of a half-hour news program, you've garnered as many actual facts as could fill maybe a paragraph of a printed page.
The same is largely true of campaign speeches - it's usually sufficient to glance at the highlights, or at most, skim the transcript. Politicians are the masters of saying nothing at great length.
Last week's Republican primary debate bore no resemblance to this norm; it was unlike any other debate your humble correspondent has ever watched or studied. In some ways, it was perhaps the most gripping debate since the Lincoln-Douglas debates before the Civil War. Candidate Reagan had some magnificent moments in his debates, but never before have two full hours been filled with hard-hitting, contentious, clear, "bold colors" of political fact and policy.
Even the relative wallflowers, in any other debate of the past, would have wiped the walls with their opponents. Imagine Ben Carson using this line against Walter Mondale:
I'm the only one who has removed half a brain, but if you went to Washington, you'd think someone beat me to it.
The truly astonishing thing is, this wasn't the best line of the evening, not even in the top ten! Each and every candidate proffered hard-hitting points and real solutions.
A debate is not always about the one right answer; it's the means by which voters make up their own minds. Gov. Chris Christie's fiery exchange with Sen. Rand Paul powerfully and with crystal clarity exposed the tradeoff between liberty and security.
Gov. Christie, as befits his past as a prosecutor across the river from the Big Apple, is profoundly concerned with keeping his constituents safe from terrorism. Sen. Paul, from flyover country where terrorists rarely appear, is understandably more worried about an all-powerful Big Brother government than a few losers named Mohammed. America needs to have this debate; thanks to Christie and Paul, we now know the terms on which to do so.
Of course, neither Christie nor Paul put forward the true source of the problem - but not to worry: Sen. Ted Cruz boldly spelled out the root cause:
We will not defeat radical Islamic terrorism so long as we have a president unwilling to utter the words "radical Islamic terrorism.”
As he tends to do, The Donald stole the show, but he did so by making a whole string of pungent points that had the audience cheering and the elites fuming. He especially irritated the elites at Fox News who are so often cast as the voice of Republicans. They are, but they are the voice of establishment Republicans, they don't speak for Republican voters.
In his characteristic way, Trump showed them the contempt that so many rank-and-file conservatives only wish they could:
I think the big problem this country has -- is being politically correct. And I don't frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn't have time either... What I say is what I say. And honestly Megyn, if you don't like it, I'm sorry.
She may not have liked it, but the audience lapped it up.
It's good news for America that this debate was apparently the highest-rated primary debate of all time. As The Donald so succinctly pointed out:
If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration.
This is not totally true because Ted Cruz has never been shy on the subject. Without Trump's megaphone, though, immigration certainly wouldn't be front-and-center the way it is now, so it's only fair that Trump himself was front-and-center at the debate.
In watching the performance, it seemed not so much a debate as a talent show for high office. Nearly every participant would be superb as a cabinet official. Can't you see Scott Walker as Secretary of Labor, Dr. Ben Carson as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Ted Cruz or Chris Christie as Attorney General?
With Rand Paul's fantastic explanation of why he wants to cut aid to Israel - he loves Israel but thinks we shouldn't be giving anybody money that we have to borrow from the Chinese - just think how much better as Secretary of State he would be than John Kerry! And with that attitude towards borrowing and spending, how about Secretary of the Treasury?
Mike Huckabee - now that's a hard one, his skills are so wide-ranging and zingers so hard-hitting, maybe he should be White House Press Secretary? Chris Christie, though, is a natural for Homeland Security, or if you're being cynical, the Department of Transportation.
If we have to have a federal Department of Education, it would be ideal to have as its Secretary someone like Jeb Bush who doesn't think it ought to exist. We need a leader for the Department of Commerce who actually believes in commerce, so why not Donald Trump?
Even John Kasich, with whom we profoundly disagree on many issues, put forward logical, rational, well-reasoned arguments for his actions on welfare and taxes. We still aren't persuaded, but we have to respect his fervor.
There can be no doubt: as hoped, the Republican Party has by far the best roster of candidates for the top slot in our lifetimes. Usually we're lucky to have one superstar; today we have a half-dozen and the next tier are almost as good.
The list will, of course, be winnowed, and in due time we'll all decide which one is best. For now, let's revel in finally having an overabundance of talent, while the Democrats can't find anyone who doesn't belong in Federal prison, a nursing home - or both. And, as Gov. Huckabee would say,
Of course, I’m talking about Hillary Clinton.
Over the past five years, the editors have been secretly working on a book that summarizes the fundamental viewpoints of Scragged.