The Debate of the Century

Fantastic news for America - and many of us watched it live.

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.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments

They are just out of the gate in a 15 month race. A lot comes down to staying power. Watch the donations both total and by the number of individuals. Bush has the largest total donations, but possibly one of the smaller number of overall individuals donating (big money but not a lot of voters). He with the biggest purse doesn't necessarily win, but he with no money, and no followers (Graham) can't even get on the ballot. I note in this quarter, Ted Cruz is actually ahead of Bush in fundraising. If you haven't donated to your favorite candidate(s), then perhaps it is time as they say, to "put your money where your mouth is".

August 10, 2015 8:22 AM

Unless your favorite candidate is Trump, anyway - he seems both willing and able to shell out the entire $1b a campaign costs without needing any help from you and me. What else could he do with his money that would be more fun?

August 10, 2015 12:03 PM

Not so. Trump may be worth $5 billion or more, but not in cash. Campaigns require lots of cash, and fast access to it, so that you can buy air time, fund events and pay staffers. Campaign staff don't work for free, and placards don't make themselves.

Given what financiers say about his investments, it is highly unlikely that Trump has any more than $80-100m in cash, and there are doubts that it is even that much. His personal retirement portfolio, which is not immediately available but demonstrates the cash he plays with, is about $170m. Again that is not immediately available and has severe penalties if it's liquidated.

He will need just as much in electorate-wide contributions as everyone else. He can certainly get deep into the primaries on his own cash but that's about it. Once the big events and TV/radio ads start, he won't be able to keep it going entirely on his own. Not unless he sells a lot of stock, or a building or two, between now and then.

August 10, 2015 12:38 PM

I did a quick Google to provide some 3rd party references. Here's an article from Politico from about a month ago on the topic:

It's almost exactly what I said.

The low estimates are $70m and the highs are about $300m but that includes every last piece of cash he has access to some of which are liquid assets. Would he really want to put every last bit of capital he has access to into this? I highly doubt it.

And even if he did, he wouldn't come close of what is necessary by even a half

August 10, 2015 12:42 PM

What's also interesting on this subject (sorry, you touched a nerve of mine re: the political/business dynamic in all this) is that Trump is directly driving his brand value down the more he continues the political campaign.

Much of the $10 billion net worth figure he uses is based on his own self-defined brand value.

At one time, there was definitely a value to "Trump". Luxury, quality, attention to detail: all a part of it. He had a wing of his website where one could talk to his team about licensing details, etc. There were a rash of successful "Trump University" type products that used his image and marketing team, but had very little to do with his actual presence or involvement. In fact, Trump University itself has been labeled a scam by the NT Attorney General.

Point being, the brand values requires a certain glitz and glamour that everyone, including his most ardent followers, now have to admit is all but gone. The current political campaign probably didn't steal all that value. The previous political campaign took a little as did some of his public antics and name-calling tirades.

Forbes says that the brand value is currently $0 because of how toxic his name is in the corporate world. The Macy's/Univision/Farouk/NBC/ESPN/PGA/Serta/Perfumania/FAA/PVH/ThinkFoodGroup dump-Donald incidents certainly seems to back that up. Nearly everyone that (a) had large licensing/partnership deals with him and (b) were large already without him have dumped him. It's quite a long list.

As he continues along this course, the brand value will not only stay at $0 but will become embedded there forever as this chapter defines his legacy.

This furthers my belief that the Clinton/Trump conspiracy theory is nothing but hot air. There's no way someone of Trump's ego and clear love of money would destroy so much of himself just to further a couple of yesterday's politicians.

August 10, 2015 1:13 PM

I just did donations to several candidates that I would like to remain in the race (Trump, Farina, Cruse, and Walker). Trump's donation site promised to match my donation dollar for dollar with Trump's own money. It is good that he is asking for donations, because that gives us numbers on potential supporters (voters). I hope one of them will make it to the top, but I can't do that. They have to win it for themselves against some very stiff odds.

August 10, 2015 3:20 PM


That's a good list, but no Carson? What's the good Doc gotta do to get your cash?

August 10, 2015 3:22 PM
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