Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fear and loathing in Las Vegas

Trump vs. Bush. (Trump, shockingly, lost.)  Cruz vs. Rubio on immigration and funding for troops (both lost on the basis of their respective lies).  Even the kid's table debate was riotous, if only for Lindsey Graham's eye rolls, Princess Bride references, and made for teevee lines like "bring on the virgins".

But the main event did not disappoint.

Republican presidential hopefuls fought to out-tough one another Tuesday night in a raucous debate animated by fears of terrorism and disagreement over how best to prevent attacks like the massacres in Paris and San Bernardino.

Agreeing on the need to destroy the Islamic State terrorist group and eager to blame President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for its ascendance, the candidates quickly squared off in a series of heated exchanges over the line between protecting Americans and trampling their rights.

Yeah, about that...

It was a festival of fraud from Cruz.

His patented formula is a mix of repellent ingredients: misrepresentation of facts, baseless smears, exaggerated sincerity and pretended solidarity with the average person. If Cruz tells you it's raining, you can leave your umbrella at home.

Even fact-checkers were aghast at the mendacity.

TED CRUZ: "You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city."

THE FACTS: The Texas senator's conviction that the Islamic State group can be routed with an air campaign of overwhelming force is hard to square with the reality on the ground. IS fighters are holed up in a variety of cities, amid civilians, raising questions about how he could direct a carpet bombing that only singles out the enemy.

He was asked in the debate if he'd be willing to cause civilian casualties in Raqqa, a major Syrian city that has become de facto capital of the Islamic State group's so-called caliphate.

He answered yes, without saying yes.  Essentially the fear and hate of Trump was unleashed by all nine of these losers.

“Like all of you, I’m angry” is how Carly Fiorina began her opening statement. That sentence encapsulates not just last night’s two-hour debate in Las Vegas but also the entire Republican nominating contest thus far. Donald Trump himself was largely a non-factor in the candidates’ fifth and final showdown of 2015, but Trumpism was the dominant, animating force inside the Venetian Theatre.

Reaganesque the rhetoric was not. Trump catapulted to the top of the polls and has stayed there for six months now because he tapped into deep-seeded anger and frustration of the conservative base that the country is slipping away from them. Chasing the frontrunner’s success, the other leading candidates each tried to varying degrees to show that they get it, that they too are mad as hell and want to take the country back. There was little effort to play to the higher angels of the American consciousness. Instead, in the wake of attacks on Paris and San Bernardino, it often felt like the candidates were preying on the electorate’s fear, anxiety and sense of vulnerability.

Guess how many times the word 'guns' was used last night?

In a two-plus hour Republican presidential debate focused on "keeping America safe," candidates mentioned guns a total of three times — twice by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a long-shot moderate, and once by Jeb Bush, when he said, "America is under the gun to lead the free world, to protect our civilized way of life."

Before the debate began, GOP chairman Reince Priebus (rhymes with "Rinse Penis") spoke about -- seriously -- competence.

“You know a lot of people ask what does the Republican National Committee do?,” he asked the bored audience. “A competent national party. A competent national party that has its act together on the ground.”

“The one thing that we all need,” he continued, “and the one thing that every one of the candidates need on this stage is a competent national party. And it’s something that we’re all striving to do and working for every day.”

They have a long, long way to go.

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